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Problem with stove top espresso maker

katspjs Dec 28, 2008 02:47 PM

I bought a stove top espresso maker and when I first began using it things were great. But after the first few weeks it stopped brewing all of the water through the coffee. I did some searching on the web to see if I was doing anything incorrectly. I had been using a high heat setting, and had been waiting for all of the gurgling noised to subside, which seemed to be the only iffy actions I could change. But I still am having problems. Now I have lowered the heat and open the lid to see how the brewing is going. I seem to have to cut the heat totally off and turn it back on to get the brewing process to complete. But still have times where the brewing doesn't complete.

The pot is not a Bialetti. Any ideas on what is going on?

  1. Becca Porter Dec 28, 2008 02:49 PM

    I use med/med-high heat. The gurgling sound usually signals it is ready, I try to pour it immediately.

    My SS pot holds on to a bit of the water. I think it probably prevents the pot from overheating.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Becca Porter
      katspjs Dec 28, 2008 03:08 PM

      I have changed the heat to medium. And based on internet research which said the gurgling signaled readiness I thought that would work, but it hasn't fixed the problem. Many times now the water is gurgling, but only about a fourth of the coffee has brewed into the upper chamber. That is when I tried turning the heat off then back on. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

      1. re: katspjs
        Becca Porter Dec 28, 2008 03:28 PM

        Could it be that you are over filling the chamber? I think in the past, my husband has filled it with water above the indicator hole thing, I have had that same problem.

        1. re: katspjs
          regnsparke Sep 13, 2010 08:18 AM

          Do not press down the coffee when you fill it. just level off. Some coffee is harder to brew than others.
          If I grind the beans too fine and tap the basket or press down on the grinds with really fresh beans I get the same result. Lots of noise and no happy juice.

      2. c
        chipman Dec 28, 2008 03:25 PM

        Are you sure there is a tight fit between the top and bottom chambers? If there is any leak at all the pot will not work.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chipman
          katspjs Dec 28, 2008 05:58 PM

          Thanks for all the replies so far. I did read the instructions about the overflow valve and do make sure the water is not above the hole. I also read on the web about making sure the top and bottom are screwed tight. So I do try to make sure the connection is tight.

        2. j
          jaykayen Dec 28, 2008 09:05 PM

          What grinder are you using?

          7 Replies
          1. re: jaykayen
            katspjs Dec 29, 2008 04:43 AM

            Do you mean what grind of beans? I drink decaffeinated. The first coffee I used was from the grocery and was Medaglia D'oro and it was pre-ground. I didn't have any problem with this coffee. The second coffee I used was from a local shop and was whole bean that I had them grind for a stove top maker. This is when the problem started. I went back to the Medaglia D'oro and am still having the problem.

            So if it is the coarseness of the grind, what should I use?

            1. re: katspjs
              carswell Dec 29, 2008 05:20 AM


              Your grind is probably too fine. It should be slightly coarser than for filter and much coarser than for espresso (yet further proof that moka pots are not espresso machines). See www.ineedcoffee.com/03/coffeegrind -- your grind should probably be somewhere the first and second pictures. My guess is the shop ground for espresso.

              Coffee starts going stale within minutes of being ground. Grinding beans yourself, even with a cheap whirly blade grinder, will give more flavourful results than using pre-ground coffee. An inexpensive grinder will also give you some control over the coarseness (if not the evenness) of the grind and let you experiment and determine the exact grind that works best with your pot.

              1. re: carswell
                jaykayen Dec 29, 2008 12:16 PM

                I've heard it should be finer than filter, coarser than espresso grind.

                1. re: jaykayen
                  carswell Dec 29, 2008 12:50 PM

                  Yeah, some people -- including reputable people like Sweet Maria's ("fine - but not powdery, about the same as a fine filter drip grind") -- say so, but my experience is that coarser than for drip is what works best, at least in my pots. That looks to be true for another hound, too: "I used the medium grind (marked as plunger). I was actually worried that this would be too coarse, but it magically worked out fine." http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/557406#4050023

                  In any case, it seems likely that the original poster's current problem is too fine a grind. What the best grind is for his/her particular pot, only s/he can determine, probably by trial and error. Having a small grinder at home would make experimenting easier as well as produce fresher-tasting brews. And the coffee saved would probably cover the cost of a whirly blade grinder (vastly inferior to a burr grinder but vastly superior to stale pre-ground).

                  Sweet Maria's tip sheet for moka pot brewing:

                  1. re: carswell
                    katspjs Dec 29, 2008 02:03 PM

                    I'm going to try a coarser grind and see how that works. Thanks for the suggestion as that is the only thing I have not tried yet.

                    1. re: katspjs
                      Becca Porter Dec 29, 2008 02:15 PM

                      I also use a coarser grind than for drip, in between drip and press pot.

              2. re: katspjs
                szmeterling Dec 29, 2008 05:12 PM

                may I suggest that for a grocery store, preground brand - Lavazza Rossa is the best I have found.

            2. Mawrter Dec 29, 2008 05:34 PM

              How full are you filling your coffee basket and how tightly are you tamping it?

              Here is an excellent page on how to use a moka pot: http://fantes.com/espresso-stovetop.html

              1 Reply
              1. re: Mawrter
                scubadoo97 Jul 22, 2009 08:26 AM

                As the link you posted stated, you do not want to tamp the gounds when using a moka pot.

              2. Zeldog Dec 29, 2008 07:12 PM

                I think chipman is on the right track. This has nothing to do with the grind or brand of coffee. A properly functioning espresso maker will empty the bottom bowl even if there's no coffee in the basket. Sounds like a problem with the rubber seal between the top and bottom bowls. Take it apart and have a look at the gasket. Is it charred? Are there imbedded coffee grounds preventing it from sealing properly? If the gasket is ok, has the safety valve (the little button on the side of the lower bowl) blown out? You can tell if you see steam coming out when you brew or if you scald your finger if you put it over the valve when brewing (not recommended). If all else fails, beat it severely with a hammer and swear not to buy that model ever again.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Zeldog
                  katspjs Dec 31, 2008 05:18 AM

                  The pot is brand new, so the gasket is brand new. I clean the pot and gasket after each use so make sure the grounds have been removed from the gasket after each use. I have not seen steam coming from the valve or from around the connection between the upper and lower chambers. So I think the valve is ok and that the chambers are screwed tight enough.

                  I have tried a coarser grind and had the same problem. Tried twice today to brew a cup of coffee and was unsuccessful. The coffee started brewing, but stopped with only about a third of the water used. I will make another effort with an even coarser grind, but I am beginning to think I may have gotten a dud coffee pot. They are such simple pieces of equipment for heaven's sake.

                  1. re: katspjs
                    marthasway Dec 31, 2008 08:47 AM

                    New gaskets need seasoning, as it were, to become properly seated. The first 5 or 6 pots should go down the drain or be used to water some acid loving plant. After that, things should be fine. I don't tamp, I round over gently. I have two one-cup pots that I use regularly, a stainless steel Bialetti that I've had for about 10 years and a cheapo moka-style aluminum that's probably not that old--I've burned up a few in the 28 or so years I've been making mud, as my father calls it, a habit I picked up having a Cuban-born roommate in college.

                    I use Cafe Bustelo or Cafe Llave in the green bag, when I can get it. I also unscrew the chamber and leave it to dry after each use, especially with the aluminum pot, to keep things nice and fresh. Enjoy your cafe; I like mine very sweet, Cuban style.

                2. Sophia. Jul 21, 2009 10:11 AM

                  I'm having a similar problem and I think it's because of my gasket. here's what doesn't make sense: the gasket seems to have enlarged and now there are gaps where it doesn't fit exactly flush, so coffee gets stuck and the pot doesn't seal properly. has anyone else experienced this? obviously I will just buy a new gasket, but it's not even a year old. is there something in general I should be doing differently?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Sophia.
                    divya Oct 26, 2009 10:47 AM

                    anyone still reading this post- please help
                    my moka pot gets some coffee grinds in the top chamber- which gets into my cup as it would be in the greek coffee making technique, as well- there is black slime leftover in the top chamber- after the coffee is poured out-
                    is this normal???

                    1. re: divya
                      carswell Oct 26, 2009 11:03 AM

                      Sounds like your grind is too fine. Try using a coarser (and possibly more even) grind.

                      1. re: carswell
                        divya Oct 26, 2009 11:25 AM

                        many thanks carswell.
                        i buy lavazza( i think arabica), pre grind. never ground coffee myself
                        how do i do that- i have a coffee grinder- but do not how how to judge the grind
                        or shuld i go to a grocery shop- and use their machines- would u know which number on the machine..

                        1. re: divya
                          carswell Oct 26, 2009 11:35 AM

                          If the Lavazza is ground for espresso, it's a little too fine for a moka pot.

                          What kind of coffee grinder do you have? Whirly-blade? Hand grinder? Burr grinder?

                      2. re: divya
                        scubadoo97 Oct 26, 2009 02:02 PM

                        make sure your seals are in good shape. I have used an espresso grind when I've used my stove top and never had grinds in the top chamber.

                        1. re: scubadoo97
                          divya Oct 27, 2009 08:02 AM

                          motivated by the above suggestions)(thanks to all)- i tried this and it worked.
                          1. flipped the seal around- did not need to change it as it was not cracked/worn out
                          2. set a timer to 10 mins. med stove heat- and turned off after; that as the gurgle begins
                          3. did NOT tamp the coffee, just tapped it

                          Carswell- many thanks for increasing my grinder vocab.. i had to look up the different kind of grinders- LOL
                          whirly blade is what i have ( just getting started), do recommend one that I should invest in the future.

                    2. p
                      pccmd Sep 12, 2010 10:26 AM

                      Sorry this is soooooo late, but I've just searched for problem similar to mine. I have a Sur La Table unit which did well for a year then began leaking despite new gasket. Got new unit as gift, which has never NOT leaked.
                      I realized that I had changed grind....I do think it was the grind too fine, because when I changed back to coarser grind I returned to full output volume of coffee.
                      What did you ultimately find in your situation?

                      1. w
                        wkndchef Jul 8, 2011 09:03 AM

                        I'm having a similar problem with my Bialetti Moka pot. We got a 12-cup and use it every morning until we wore out the gasket. So we bought a new gasket (brand name) and filter plate. After installing them, the pot doesn't work. (Same coffee-Bustalo, same stove, same methods.) What happens is that the liquid does not come up the stem as it used to; now it comes out sputtering, superstrong and burnt. When you open it up, the coffee is wet.

                        Here are the things I have tried: screwed the pot down really hard; put in only 6 scoops of coffee with 1 cup water; used old filter plate; gave it multiple tries (maybe up to 10-15 now); ran with just water (it works fine); cleaned out the filter and basket really well to see if they were plugged.

                        I'm really stumped! Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. We've been drinking drip for a week now and starting to get a bit cranky.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: wkndchef
                          Becca Porter Jul 8, 2011 09:26 AM

                          Are you just lightly adding coffee, not tamping? I just fill it up to the top. The grind is a bit coarser than for drip. Make sure there are no grounds on the rim, or on the gasket. Fill the water just at the water indicator bubble thing. Med-high heat.

                          1. re: Becca Porter
                            wkndchef Jul 8, 2011 09:35 AM

                            Yes, I'm just lightly adding coffee and filling to the line. When I just put in 6 scoops, the coffee didn't even fill the basket. The coffee comes pre-ground by Cafe Bustalo and is the same coffee that worked like a charm for several years before we replaced the gasket. ???

                            1. re: wkndchef
                              Eiron Jul 18, 2011 12:02 PM

                              "... So we bought a new gasket (brand name) and filter plate. After installing them, the pot doesn't work. (Same coffee-Bustalo, same stove, same methods.) ..."

                              It sounds like maybe the new filter plate is causing the problem. Have you tried the new gasket with the old filter plate?

                          2. re: wkndchef
                            goyo1 Dec 21, 2012 09:42 AM

                            I had the same problem after I replaced the gasket, but not the filter in my Bialetti 6-cup. I also ran it through my dishwasher. I wonder if the dishwasher soap could have done something. I've tried cleaning eveything thoroughly, but it's only helped slightly. I've also tried an old filter, but it's about the same. I've ordered a new filter and gasket. Did you ever figure out what your problem was? Can the holes in the basket get clogged? I've tried boiling it in a vinegar/water solution and also running vinegar and then plain water through it. I've changed the filter once and the gasket about 3 times previously, without any problems.

                            1. re: goyo1
                              amethiste Jul 14, 2013 01:28 AM

                              Did you find a solution to this problem? I am having the same issue

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