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Dec 28, 2008 02:47 PM

Problem with stove top espresso maker

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?

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  1. 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

      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

        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

          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. 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

          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.

          1. re: jaykayen

            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


              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 -- 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

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

                1. re: jaykayen

                  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."

                  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

                    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

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

              2. re: katspjs

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

            2. 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:

              1 Reply
              1. re: Mawrter

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

              2. 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

                  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

                    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.