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What coffee to use in my Bialetti espresso maker?

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If you have one of those Bialetti espresso makers--the kind that are standard in Italy for making espresso at home--what kind of coffee do you use in it?

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  1. I would just go to your favorite coffee roaster and ask for some advice. Peet's has a few beans that I like for espresso (notably "Espresso Forte" and "Major Dickinson's Blend"), but if you have a favorite coffee shop I'd say go ask them. Even if they don't roast and sell their own beans you can find out what they use.

    Oh, and I'm sure you know this, but be sure to grind you beans finer than you would for drip coffee.

    1. For me, the darker the better for espresso, but why not have fun and experiment with different beans, or blend your own? (I blend at least 3 kinds together, and always get raves on my coffee and espresso.) Don't grind your own, though - have the shop do it so it's fine enough.

      1. Well, there is an interesting debate to be had about where and when your beans should be ground. I shouldn't dare argue with the advice of coffee-drinker with a francophone name, but I think it should be acknowledged that we are dealing with a genuine tradeoff here.

        Coffee shops use burr grinders, which provide an extremely uniform grind and (I'm told) produce better flavor. You can get a burr grinder for home, but they are expensive and break a lot. That's why most people (myself included) have a blade grnder at home. Blade grinders do not get the same uniformity of particle size, but I don't see any reason they cannot be used to grind the beans fine enough for espresso. Burr grinders *are* better, *but* getting your beans ground when you buy them translates to a longer interim between grinding and brewing - which, all else being equal, is bad.

        So choose your poison: an uneven grind (and possible flavor damage), or your beans going stale faster. The right answer depends on your taste and how quickly you use up your coffee.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mhoffman

          mhoffman - you're right, of course, about grinding. It's just that I'm really clumsy and usually have coffee all over the floor and myself! Plus, re-calibrating the grinder for my Melitta, then my French press, and then my La Pavoni is beyond me, so I gave my grinders away to better homes. My coffees never have a chance to get stale since I use them in ice cream, granites, BBQ rubs, ganache, makeup (just kidding) ;-)

        2. O, to be a coffee bean in Claudette's kitchen!

          (Sorry, my out-of-date work browser won't let me use the "reply" feature.)

          1. The advice above is very good. So answer #1 is that you can use any variety of coffee that you want (it doesn't have to be the one called "espresso roast"). Answer #2 is that you could have your coffee ground at the shop (but tell them you are using a stovetop moka espresso maker), or you can grind at home. (Note that the correct grind for espresso depends on the way you are making the espresso, because different machines generate different amounts of air pressure. In particular, the stovetop moka is vastly different than the $2000-$4000 espresso maker at your local java shop.) I prefer to grind at home.

            But let me add a third option to the mix: many Italians that I know use the "bricks" of pre-ground coffee. Try Illy or Lavazza brands, which are excellent. These are preground for your exact brewing method. I called them "bricks" because the coffee is vacuum packed into the shape of a brick. Look for these in the coffee isle of a grocery good grocery store, or ethnic food market.

            1. I use Illy or Lavazza myself, but occasionally I do an espresso grind of Greenwell Estates Private Reserve 100% Kona (which can be ordered online)

              1. I usually use Gevalia. They have some very nice espresso makers, and I noticed that you lose a lot more flavor with other makers. Gevalia has light to medium to dark roasts. Also they have amazing flavors like French Vanilla and Chocolate Raspberry. I found some deals on their gift baskets too through www.lammazing.com for both espresso makers and boxes of coffee.

                I think they're the best for coffee and espresso makers, but that's just my opinion.

                1. Because stove top makers like Bialetti produce an excellent espresso, they’re popular everywhere. When I lived in Paris, everyone seemed to have one. Over the years I’ve amassed 8 Bialettis–really come in handy when making coffee for guests. Just line them up on every burner. The only thing that wears out is gaskets, which are easily replaced and can be ordered online. By the way, before storing empty Bialettis, make sure they’re completely dry–mold tends to form on the bottom half. I have burr grinders in both my city home and mountain condo, along with a couple of mills (those small grinders that use a spinning blade.) Serious espresso drinkers prefer burr grinders because they result in a much finer, more consistent grind. But they cost anywhere from $50 to $300. One caveat: never run a burr grinder empty–it destroys the burrs.

                  Coffee mills are much cheaper–between $15-$30. When using a mill I never grind beans longer than 16 seconds–beans overheat. Continually shake it whilst grinding, pause after 8 seconds to let beans cool, then grind and shake until 16 seconds have been reached. My beans are stored in an airtight container in the pantry–never the fridge or freezer. Although I've tried practically every brand of espresso and French roasts–both beans and fine grind–I prefer espresso. Interestingly, darker roasts have less caffeine. Right now I'm using espresso beans from Costa Rica. I also love Italian espresso coffee–illy or Lavazza–that comes in vacuum packages. But I think beans ground immediately before brewing make a better coffee. For purer water, I bought one of those filter water pitchers that easily fits into the fridge.