A well executed, attractive, complex brewer that consistently makes excellent coffee.
Positive Product Points
Well designed Well built, fit and finish good Small footprint Consistently good coffee No issues with 'bloom' interfering with the process It always brews at the same temperature
Negative Product Points
The assembly is complicated If one of the three seals is not carefully aligned, it won't work Replacement filter-papers from Krups are too expensive
My first impressions of the Krups Moka Brew were that it was unusual looking, that the fit and finish of the unit was excellent and that it was attractive as it sat in the kitchen next to the coffee grinder. It is a good ‘conversation piece’ when folks walk through my kitchen.
My first impressions in its use are that it is a bit complicated to set up, to fill the coffee basket without spilling the coffee everywhere, to put in the right amount of water and to make sure that all the seals are correctly aligned.
Let me explain what’s going on in this appliance from the point-of-view of a one-time designer of steam power plants:
At the bottom you have a boiler, made of stainless-steel, in which there is an 800 watt heating element. (The boiler section is beautifully made and shows off well to my kitchen-tourists.) There is a cover-plate on the top to seal the boiler and prevent steam from escaping.
On the right side of the boiler space you will see a piece of stainless-steel tubing that dips into a low-point on the bottom, goes up through the right support (arm) and goes into the top seal.
That seal connects to a hole in the top cover of the carafe. That cover also makes a seal with the coffee basket. Water that enters the cover first goes to a shower-head that distributes the water evenly over the grounds, under pressure.
After passing through the grounds and the filter, the water (now coffee) exits the filter basket through holes, into the glass carafe. There is NO seal between the filter-basket and the carafe. As the carafe fills up, the displaced air is free to exit via the pouring spout. The glass carafe is never under pressure.
So, I fill up the little boiler with 40 oz of water and place the cover plate on the seal. I put coffee in the coffee basket and place that cover plate over the coffee basket seal. I place the coffee basket (and cover) on top of the glass carafe. I slide the covered carafe assembly into position on top of the boiler cover and under the top seal. Then I close the locking lever. That locking lever tightly closes all three seals with the glass carafe sandwiched in the middle. We are now ready for business.
All that sounds TOO COMPLICATED. However, after the first couple of pots it becomes OBVIOUS. With the parts in front of you on the kitchen table it is easy to understand. Just make sure all three seals are centered before closing the lever.
Anyway, I turn on the power. The element heats the water and after 5 minutes it starts to boil. Steam pressure drives the hot water up the little tube, through the top seal, through the shower-head and into the bed of grounds. It goes through the grounds under pressure and exits through the holes at the bottom of the basket, entering the glass carafe as brewed coffee. When the pressure gets too high, a pressure-switch (I think) inside the boiler turns off the power for a few seconds, allowing the pressure to be relieved, and then turns the power back on to restore pressure. This happens over and over again throughout the brewing cycle. In due course the boiler is emptied (and the carafe is filled with coffee) at which point …I’m done and I turn off the power switch.
Then I push down the red safety button and slowly raise the locking lever to relax pressure on all the seals. I slide the carafe, cover and all, out of its space. Without bothering to remove the cover I pour the contents of the carafe into a Thermos server, or into coffee mugs as appropriate. I don’t play with the cover or the grounds basket until they have cooled.
I have covered ‘fit and finish’ and ‘function’. Now let’s get down to ‘results’. Does it make good coffee?
My standard of excellence is the Aerobie Airopress. My recipe to prepare a 9 oz mug is as follows: I grind 25 grams on my Baratza Maestro Plus, set at 16, coarser than espresso, not quite ‘clumping’ and finer than drip coffee. I use 180F water out of my hot-tap. I stir for 20 seconds before plunging. The result is wonderful, strong, fragrant coffee with no bitter/sour over-extraction character.
What conditions should I have set with a new brewer, right out of the box? From many reviews in CoffeeGeek, the consensus was 36 oz of water and 50 grams of coffee. I left my grinder set the same, on 16.
Ten minutes later I had my first pot. It was, in a word, great. It was at least the equivalent of the Aeropress and a bit more complex and better balanced. There were no unsatisfactory indications.
There is still stuff I don’t understand. The Aeropress uses double the coffee (100g for 36 oz). And it uses cooler water. And, it has a very short steep time. It is clearly ‘under extracting’ a large amount of grounds. The Moka Brew uses minimal grounds (50g for 36 oz). And it uses hot water, around 205F. And it steeps for around 5 minutes. How could they produce similar tasting results? I’ll have to leave that for the experts to answer.
Finally, is it ‘cool’?
Close your eyes and imagine this: There you are, with this elegant, complex machine, Chief Operating Engineer ...raising steam ...hand on the throttle (uhh, the locking lever). Is that cool, or what? But whatever your brewing fantasy, the Krups Moka Brew makes hot coffee. On the last 2 pots it was 197F at completion.
I bought it from The Green Beanery in Toronto, Canada. There were no issues with the purchase.
Three Month Followup
After 3 months of use, I still have occasional problems with the bottom seal. Things work best if I just slide the carafe in and pay no attention if it sits slightly to the left (or right) between the two supports. The weight of the carafe will place it correctly and the bottom seal will ...seal.
Although I like a moka brew (somewhat stronger than drip coffee) my family prefers it less strong. I get what resembles 'drip' by reducing the charge to 40g for 36 oz of water. But it's great 'drip', as good as I get from the barista in my local espresso bar. And I'm still amazed that so little coffee yields four 8.5 oz mugs. As I said before, I need 25g for 1 mug in my Aerobie Aeropress.
One interesting characteristic of the Krups Moka Pot is that as it brews it is disgorging 'crema' or something. At one point, there is half an inch of foam in the pot (which has dispersed by the time the brew is complete). I'm convinced that is 'bloom', the CO2 expansion you get whenever you brew fresh roasted coffee. In a drip maker the bloom can get in the way by preventing the grounds from getting wet and mixed into the brewing 'pond' of water in the filter. In the Krups Moka Brew the entire brewing space is pressurized and the bloom, washed down, appears as foam.
In conclusion, the Krups Moka Brew is more complicated, can have the bottom seal not made up correctly sometimes and is a bit more work to clean after brewing. OTOH, coffee quality is predictably good, it is capable of variation to individual tastes by using 40, 45 or 50g of coffee, it automatically deals with bloom problems, it has a small footprint on my counter, looks great and ...it is half the price of the Technivorm.
One Year Followup
The only issues I have after a year of use are minor niggles that have nothing to do with the coffee. I get pot after pot of great brew. I have learned to make up the seals unerringly each time. Having the bloom 'wash down' is an advantage, not a curiosity. My son's Bunn, when he makes a full pot using my fresh-roast ...often overflows the filter because of bloom issues.
50g of grinds almost fills up the coffee chamber. Getting the coffee into the chamber is fiddly without overflowing the chamber. I currently use the wide-neck funnel from my Aeropress. And then I use the small plastic measuring cup from my rice-cooker to smooth and slightly tamp it. Still, I overflow the chamber half the time. If that chamber were 1/8" higher it would make loading it easire.
Getting the spent grounds out of the chamber is also fiddly. I need a great big knock-box. I currently use a small paper plate and have to whack it several times to dislodge the puck and filter. I am concerned that some day I will knock it too vigorously and break the handle of that chamber.
As I said, these are 'niggles' and have no effect on the quality of the coffee produced.
If my Krups Moka Brew were to break I would just buy another. The quality of the coffee it produces and its ability to deal with the bloom problem in fresh roast are far more important than anything else.