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Confessions of a Brikka Lover
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Enkerli
Senior Member
Enkerli
Joined: 1 Aug 2004
Posts: 715
Location: Montreal, Qc
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: (At cafés, not at home)
Grinder: Hario hand grinders
Vac Pot: (Moka Pot) Bialetti Brikka
Drip: Steep and release pour-over
Roaster: iRoast-2
Posted Sat Mar 18, 2006, 12:28am
Subject: Confessions of a Brikka Lover
 

Oh.
These forums are as deceiving as an iceberg. Been looking at stuff on CG for a while (and registered as a "member" a couple of years ago) but still hadn't fully realized the level of activity and breadth of information found in these forums. Been missing on all the fun!

Anyhoo...
Have always been a moka pot lover. Started drinking moka pot coffee regularly at age 16 (in 1988) and haven't stopped since.
Almost never had press pot coffee, rarely drank drip coffee, have had espresso at cafés in different places (Switzerland, Montreal, Northern Italy, Southern France, Prague, Vienna, different parts of the U.S., Bamako...).
To my own personal taste, moka pots are a great brewing method. In fact, to my own very personal taste, most of the time a good moka pot coffee beats a decent espresso. To go even further (to the extreme?), my best espresso experiences have been pretty much on par with my best moka pot experiences. And moka pots produce more consistent results.

Now, the Bialetti Brikka 2 cup moka pot. Yes, it's been discussed here.
"Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup"
And it's been reviewed extensively. My own review wasn't that good but it did get me some interesting PMs.
http://www.coffeegeek.com/reviews/vacpots/moka_pots/Enkerli
This post isn't really about reviewing the Brikka. But ramblings from someone who loves moka pots.

Posted this enthusiastic description to the Home Coffee Roasters Digest after an especially pleasurable coffee experience with a freshly roasted blend of Zimbabwean and Columbian beans (don't have more info handy) brewed in my Brikka 2 cup:

Initial smell was incredible, right out of the Brikka. A mixture of sweetness, acidity, mustiness, milk/yogourt, hazelnut... The coffee has an amazing body, almost syrup-like. Lively, acidic, complex. Some wine. Not really much fruit. A tad bit of "green" taste, probably from insufficient degassing time. Very opaque, even with just a bit left in a white cup. Lingering taste. Woody in an almost lambic-like oakiness. Some smokiness. Fresh sensation on the tongue. Seems quite potent. Very tasty. Much of the aroma has died down fairly quickly but what remains is still very nice.

Whether or not that description had any accuracy, it brings back some sensory memories. And these are very pleasant ones.

My point is probably about coffee as a way to appreciate life. There's been a fair bit of talk about "proper" this and "best" that. Can understand the principle of a "god shot" (and the "waiting for god shot" title was really good). But is it the only thing we're trying to do?

To get even a bit more personal. My knowledge of coffee isn't that of a professional. For a while, though, the "I live coffee" tag seemed fitting to me. That is, until finding out that some really knowledgeable coffee people use "I love coffee" and that there seems to be a gradation going up from "love" to "live." Blame the fact that my native language is French.
Have been talking coffee with different people, including a few pros and aficionados but mostly with the typical "layperson." Funnily enough, the owner of a small café seemed surprised to hear me talk about Yirgacheffe and Harrar! Don't even *$-lovers know about these?
Anyhoo... There seems to be a wide range of people who enjoy coffee. The "dangerous thought" is that maybe, just maybe, they all deserve to live and even, well, be themselves. Yes, even the Maritimer who can't live without Tim Horton's in a paper cup. Or the owner of a café chain who cares more about profit than taste.
One thing my experience tells me is that it's often easier to get people to appreciate new things if those new things are added experiences and not simply a matter of increased sophistication. It's hard to get an opera lover to appreciate the subtlety of West African oral literature if the only thing we do is say that it's good and well-done. But there's something deeply touching about getting someone, regardless of prior knowledge, to appreciate something new, whether it is a different musical genre, a taste in food, or even rapport with another human being.

Now. Back to moka pots. Yes, it really does tie in! In my head, at least...
It seems that every time someone talks about a moka pot, they try to compare with espresso. It does make a lot of sense, given people's experiences. But it misses the point. A shot of espresso can be an extremely pleasurable experience. So can a cup of moka pot coffee. Especially in an appropriate context. At an appropriate time. With interesting people. Thinking interesting thoughts. And having appropriate expectations. Comparing moka pot coffee with espresso is setting up expectations. And, actually, vice-versa. To a moka pot lover, a barely decent espresso can actually be an annoying experience. If that moka pot lover compares espresso too directly with moka pot coffee. Which one is best? Well, it all depends on what you mean by "best." Seriously.

Bialetti's Brikka moka pot makes this comparison with espresso even more problematic, in some cases. The Brikka produces a fair bit of pressure. It emulsifies coffee in a way which resembles espresso's crema. The 2 cup produces about the same amount as a double espresso. And it's made by an Italian company. So it invites comparison with espresso.
As it turns out, to me at least, Brikka coffee does have some espresso-like characteristics. It does concentrate some of the coffee's flavours and produces a complex cup (even with single origin). But as compared with espresso, it's much less sensitive to many of the factors which would distinguish a great barista from a good one. The grind does matter but the acceptable range of grind is quite broad. Channeling doesn't seem to be much of an issue. Degassing may cause a few off-flavours but isn't as much of an issue as with espresso. Temperature control is pretty direct (especially on a gas stove) but matters less than with espresso. There's a rather wide range for the amount of coffee grounds that can be used in the pot with the same grind. In my experience, a Brikka pot made with less than 10g of grounds can produce 100g or more of very flavourful coffee. On average, the body of most moka pot coffee in general and of Brikka coffee especially is fuller than that of the average espresso. And a moka pot hides several flavours/aromas.
So, in a way, a Brikka cup is a bit like a ristretto. Not everybody likes ristretto. But those who like it might like it a lot.

None of this is meant to say that Brikka coffee is for everyone. Those of us used to moka pots can have a lot of fun with the Brikka pot. Some open-minded espresso lovers might like it too. The main thing is, it has its place in the grand scheme of things.

(In case you wonder, these ramblings were not the effect of a coffee overdose or the influence of any other substance. It's just my natural craziness. Don't worry, it's not contagious!)

 
Alex
http://enkerli.com/
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kbuzbee
Senior Member
kbuzbee
Joined: 2 Feb 2006
Posts: 567
Location: Mentor, Ohio
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Pavoni Europiccola
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso Preciso
Vac Pot: Cona D
Drip: I don't drip
Posted Sat Mar 18, 2006, 6:18am
Subject: Re: Confessions of a Brikka Lover
 

Thanks Alexandre! What a wonderful post to read first thing in the morning. I haven't talked to many people with a lot of experience with a Brikka. It is something I've been pondering for a while. For me, morning ritual centers around 2-3 shots from my Europiccola. They are wonderful, rich, creamy, full and delicious. Part of me wants to try a Brikka but I don't want my faithful La Pavoni to feel slighted. Maybe someday travelling.... Anyway, appreciate the ramblings.

Ken
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Enkerli
Senior Member
Enkerli
Joined: 1 Aug 2004
Posts: 715
Location: Montreal, Qc
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: (At cafés, not at home)
Grinder: Hario hand grinders
Vac Pot: (Moka Pot) Bialetti Brikka
Drip: Steep and release pour-over
Roaster: iRoast-2
Posted Sat Mar 18, 2006, 7:51am
Subject: Morning Coffee Notes
 

And your reply, Ken, is a wonderful thing to read while sipping my first morning coffee. It's a bit too bright and has a type of lingering bitterness in the aftertaste (not overpowering and in fact somehow refreshing). But it's a nice way to start the day.
Speaking of morning coffee. Some people associate coffee with a morning ritual. And espresso-making can be a nice part of that ritual. But in terms of tasting, doesn't it take us a little bit of time during the day before we can adjust our taste buds to new sensations? Isn't there some thing about having moka pot coffee early in the day, espresso later on, and milk-based coffee drinks still later?
It might be a misunderstanding on my part but it's my experience that espresso is best if it's not my first tasting experience of the day.
To me, the sound of a moka pot (not necessarily Brikka) and the lasting aromas of moka pot coffee are the best way to wake up.

To each her/his own, right?

 
Alex
http://enkerli.com/
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kbuzbee
Senior Member
kbuzbee
Joined: 2 Feb 2006
Posts: 567
Location: Mentor, Ohio
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Pavoni Europiccola
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso Preciso
Vac Pot: Cona D
Drip: I don't drip
Posted Sun Mar 19, 2006, 8:41am
Subject: Re: Morning Coffee Notes
 

Enkerli Said:

Speaking of morning coffee. Some people associate coffee with a morning ritual. And espresso-making can be a nice part of that ritual. But in terms of tasting, doesn't it take us a little bit of time during the day before we can adjust our taste buds to new sensations? Isn't there some thing about having moka pot coffee early in the day, espresso later on, and milk-based coffee drinks still later?

It might be a misunderstanding on my part but it's my experience that espresso is best if it's not my first tasting experience of the day.
To me, the sound of a moka pot (not necessarily Brikka) and the lasting aromas of moka pot coffee are the best way to wake up.

Posted March 18, 2006 link

Alexandre, you are so right about coffee being a morning ritual. Mine is actually more complicated than I described. I start by making a pot of Cona brewed Indian Mosooned Malibar coffee for my wife as well as a couple pieces of toast for her breakfast. I will usually have 2-3 glasses of water while this goes on. The aromas from the Cona pot and the cleansing of the water get me to a place where starting with one of those wonderful espresso pulls is precisely what my taste buds are yearning for. Now I can truely confirm your observations, on days where, for whatever reason, I simply start by pulling a shot, it is more like an assault on my palate. The wonders of the espresso work their way through but in true mafia style, "they make me an offer I can't refuse." I do like your version of the day however. It's something I could surely adapt to.... I did wander slightly in your direction today, connecting the autofrother gizmo to my Europiccola. (Now I have used the base steamer to froth milk but it usually gets a bit too warm by the time it is to the consistency I enjoy). I'd always discounted this thing - as I do most gadgets but this actually does a very nice job creating foamed milk making a very tasty Capaccino - a few hours after those delicious espressos. Now it's on to stage three, there's a piece of the Tiramisu I made the other day still in the fridge..... Hello!

Enkerli Said:

To each her/his own, right?

Posted March 18, 2006 link

That also is true but it's great to exchange ideas to the benefit of all.

Warm regards,

Ken
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Enkerli
Senior Member
Enkerli
Joined: 1 Aug 2004
Posts: 715
Location: Montreal, Qc
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: (At cafés, not at home)
Grinder: Hario hand grinders
Vac Pot: (Moka Pot) Bialetti Brikka
Drip: Steep and release pour-over
Roaster: iRoast-2
Posted Sun Mar 19, 2006, 3:07pm
Subject: Context
 

Gotta describe this one. Made with my silly little Saeco Via Veneto, but it's a thing of beauty. Maybe it's context.

Been eating a bagel with red currant (groseille) jam. Listening to Matébis and Charles Trenet.
Leathery, bit musty, notes of berries, woody, musky, some smoke... Still a bit of that bitterness from previous batches but it's now more of a freshness, crispness. Not sharp or harsh but not really that round either. Medium body, fairly little sweetness. Little acidity/brightness. Earthy. Bitterness fades away rather quickly but remains in the middle of the tongue.
Had to make myself a second shot. And it's just a bit different from the first one. Somewhat less leathery, a bit more smokey.
Ah... Nice!
The empty cup still smells smokey, leathery.

Anyhoo... This same blend. Roasted it a couple of days ago. Yesterday morning, its chicoree-type bitterness was a bit distracting. It did bring in a nice freshness to the taste, but was a bit too much. At least, as espresso. The Brikka version had much less of that bitterness, making for a more balanced and enjoyable cup. Today, this blend is ideal for espresso. Especially in the late afternoon.
...
Just used the same blend in the Brikka. Completely different aromas, flavours, body, mouthfeel. Much more like Dolfin chocolate. Bit peppery. Some roasty/toasty notes. No burnt flavour but a bit closer to that end of things.

Could probably explain my philosophy on making coffee at home. Not trying to produce the One True Coffee to Rule All Coffees. My barista skills aren't even halfway decent, my equipment is entry-level, my roasting knowledge isn't very deep, and my taste isn't sophisticated enough to produce The Espresso. But it's fun to experiment, to enjoy diverse experiences out of coffee. For this reason, my tendency is to blend arbitrarily, to brew in random ways, and to try coffee in any context.
Consistency is good. And trying to find out what is enjoyable about coffee can make it easier to get very good coffee more frequently. But the elusive goal of the One True Cup makes for a lonely quest. After all, even the best cup in the world can be completely spoiled by, say, someone smoking besides you!

Context. It's not just the fascination of a cultural anthropologist. Or is it a matter of causality. It's not that the right context makes for the right cup. It's that they go together well.
Music, temperature, company, thoughts, food, lighting. In my case, it's all about new experiences.
Coffee helps to put me in the mood. For anything.
Contrary to Mark Prince, coffee isn't all about "the taste" for me. Nor is it about the buzz so much. But everything counts. It's alllll good!

 
Alex
http://enkerli.com/
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kbuzbee
Senior Member
kbuzbee
Joined: 2 Feb 2006
Posts: 567
Location: Mentor, Ohio
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Pavoni Europiccola
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso Preciso
Vac Pot: Cona D
Drip: I don't drip
Posted Sun Mar 19, 2006, 4:52pm
Subject: Re: Confessions of a Brikka Lover
 

Alexandre, it IS interesting to see how coffee changes from method to method and day to day. I've managed to get such good espresso out of my little Europiccola that I've sadly let other methods languish. I plan to rectify that in the near future. I HAVE sharpened my skills on the Cona as my wife's coffee is of even greater interest to me than my own. But I used to enjoy Turkish Coffee, drip coffee, press pot etc. I think you are spot on saying that having a wide variety of methods available extends the experience available. Like you, I tend to blend by feel and have stumbled over several outstanding combinations in the way. I don't know about the One True Coffee search but I am guilty of focusing on the One True Method of Extraction. I do admit, between the Zass grinder and the La Pavoni the process is so hands on I feel a bit like of a throw back. No super auto push button, motorized operation here. The morning is quiet, calm and focused on generating the best beverage I'm able. Very Zen. I think a Brikka will fit nicely into the routine. I may have questions for you as things go forward.

Ken
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Enkerli
Senior Member
Enkerli
Joined: 1 Aug 2004
Posts: 715
Location: Montreal, Qc
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: (At cafés, not at home)
Grinder: Hario hand grinders
Vac Pot: (Moka Pot) Bialetti Brikka
Drip: Steep and release pour-over
Roaster: iRoast-2
Posted Sun Mar 19, 2006, 6:02pm
Subject: Tempting Equipment
 

Well, it's sure easy to lust over some pieces of equipment like your Cona and Europiccola. And it sounds like both require practise to get optimal results. Well, the La Pavoni especially. Which is quite nice, as it does emphasize the ritual dimension.
As a rather unmonied moka pot lover, though, my thing has often been that expensive equipment wasn't necessary. It might still be equipment envy on my part. Using a Starbucks Barista for a few months (living at someone else's place) did help me understand more dimensions of coffee. But going back to moka pots and this Via Veneto from a garage sale has brought me to yet another stage in my coffee life.
Yeah, it's rather contradictory. That's because there's an internal conflict going on in me. My love for moka pots isn't dependent on the lack of a proper espresso machine. In other words, the Brikka isn't a Sylvia (or GS3!) wannabe. Even with the best espresso machine, my love for moka pots would remain. But a more flexible espresso machine would sure be a nice thing to have access to!

We touch on the subject fairly often but the money involved in coffeegeekery can be rather significant for some of us. The Prince is surely right in saying that a good grinder is the first necessary investment but even that can seem to prohibitive to some of us. Because the grind is much less important in a moka pot, it is my conviction that it's easier to get people hooked on coffee experience through the use of a moka pot. And then, the Brikka makes that experience even more intense. Also, the learning curve for moka pot use is much smoother than proper barista skills, IMHO. In large part because the moka pot is much more forgiving. But also because the variables are easier to control. You can use the moka pot right away to make good coffee while some people can't make decent coffee in their espresso machines after a number of years.
But that might be a huge bias on my part. Can't brew a good pot of drip or press to save my life, for some reason. Weird, huh? Yeah, drip and press are easy to use. But for one who hasn't been used to them, they can be surprisingly challenging! My abysmal barista skills are impressive by comparison. Hey, even some good chefs are unable to cook the simplest things!

Having said this, there's also a ritual dimension to moka pot brewing. And you can get pretty intense in controling the few variables (been weighing grounds and water, for instance). So, again, it's kind of the best of "both worlds"...
Or it's good introductory equipment.

 
Alex
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kbuzbee
Senior Member
kbuzbee
Joined: 2 Feb 2006
Posts: 567
Location: Mentor, Ohio
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Pavoni Europiccola
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso Preciso
Vac Pot: Cona D
Drip: I don't drip
Posted Tue Mar 21, 2006, 8:49am
Subject: Re: Tempting Equipment
 

Enkerli Said:

...Also, the learning curve for moka pot use is much smoother than proper barista skills, IMHO. In large part because the moka pot is much more forgiving. But also because the variables are easier to control. You can use the moka pot right away to make good coffee while some people can't make decent coffee in their espresso machines after a number of years..

Posted March 19, 2006 link

Alexandre - your points of skill level and cost are both well taken. I am blessed to have a wife who thought I needed a La Pavoni and bought me one. I am thankful for her every day (not just for the La Pavoni - just to be clear).

It was no small journey to get to the place I am now, being able to regularly make great cups. I made the huge mistake of trying to do this on my own and finding resources like CG and Espresso Vivace (eventually) have made the process much more enjoyable.

That said - my little LaPa is a strick mistress and requires perfectly fresh coffee, perfect grind, perfect dose, perfect tamp, good pull, warm cup.... EVERYTHING must be perfect to get that cup. I have to say, most days I really enjoy the focus of this 'struggle' but there are mornings when I say "Wouldn't a fully automatic - just push the button machine be wonderful?" Not often. Maybe once or twice a month. And even on those days, the amazing coffee I get makes those thoughts simply disolve into a cup of crema. I suspect that none of these factors have to be perfect with your Brikka?? Would you even consider using 1 month old coffee in your Brikka? I can't get a decent pull with anything over 10 days old. I just toss it out.

As always,

Ken
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Enkerli
Senior Member
Enkerli
Joined: 1 Aug 2004
Posts: 715
Location: Montreal, Qc
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: (At cafés, not at home)
Grinder: Hario hand grinders
Vac Pot: (Moka Pot) Bialetti Brikka
Drip: Steep and release pour-over
Roaster: iRoast-2
Posted Thu Mar 23, 2006, 12:19pm
Subject: Re: Tempting Equipment
 

Ah, so, espresso making is your way to achieve flow. Fascinating!
One month old might be pushing it. Especially as a straight shot. And 10 days is the supposed duration of the CO2 layer on the beans, so oxidation is starting to happen at that point. Not sure the Brikka hides oxidation so well. But it does mellow out some of these aromas and flavours while emphasizing others.
My (secret) method is to blend older batches with newer ones, sometimes even with relatively old coffee. Even in my Via Veneto, it can produce interesting results as long as the proportion of older coffee isn't too high and that the result is a milk-based drink. In fact, and any professional would likely disagree, my impression is that a small proportion (say 5%) of older coffee in fact produces a better capuccino, especially if the base blend is a bit too edgy/bright/bitter/sharp/acidic/musty/fruity... It might be unenjoyable as a straight shot but would still make a killer cap. With a bit of orgeat syrup? Pure delight!
Well, of course, it's not our goal. Our goal is still to have the most complex shot with a very fresh blend, well-balanced, etc. But when it works, it works well.
So my advice would be to experiment with your Brikka using the same blend as you'd use with your LaPa and/or the same blend you use with your Cona. As fresh as possible from the roast, grind to the cup... Progressively add up a bit of coffee that you like less and see what comes out. There will be cups that you'll pour down the drain but if it's with coffee that you were going to throw away, so be it. The thing with the Brikka, though, is that flavours (pleasing or off) from previous batches will influence your cup, at least slightly. So it's best to start with the most interesting blend and then go down in perceived quality until you reach something less palatable. The Brikka is certainly more forgiving than your LaPa (anything is). But it's also less forgetful... ;-)

 
Alex
http://enkerli.com/
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kbuzbee
Senior Member
kbuzbee
Joined: 2 Feb 2006
Posts: 567
Location: Mentor, Ohio
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Pavoni Europiccola
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso Preciso
Vac Pot: Cona D
Drip: I don't drip
Posted Fri Mar 24, 2006, 6:11am
Subject: Re: Tempting Equipment
 

Enkerli Said:

Ah, so, espresso making is your way to achieve flow. Fascinating!

Posted March 23, 2006 link

That's a great way to say it. Actually there are two. The second being roasting. I find both making espresso and roasting beans to be very Zen experiences. You get totally focused in the moment and the process becomes the goal. That you get amazing coffee out of the process is just the logical conclusion. Not so much a goal as a result.

By the way, I'm finding the Brikka not so much like espresso as it is Mediterranean coffee. Greek or Turkish style. Now I have an ibrik as well and it is different yet but I have never gotten what I would call  _real_ Med coffee from it. I have to put it back on the stove one of these days but I think the Brikka is making what I expected the ibrik to make (I never noticed the similarity in those two names.... coincidence?? Hmmm...)

Anyway, it's good but, as I say, nothing at all like espresso. Where espresso is delicate and ethereal, the Brikka makes dark, brooding coffee. Both good but very different. And I agree with you, old coffee is equally bad in a Brikka as it is in any other brewing style.

As far as the process goes, I'm finding it:

  1. easier to set up warm up, get going than the LaPa
  2. less demanding of precision - as you'd indicated
  3. about the same between brews, not quicker or easier but no more difficult either. (it is actually slightly slower but since it brews a bit more that diffence is moot.)
  4. easier to clean and stow than the LaPa (slightly)

Like Turkish coffee I'm finding I like it better with a bit of sugar (Rapadura). Espresso is so naturally sweet I don't find sugar works in it. The darker nature of the Brikka benefits from sugar (to me)

Ken
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