I Have a Dozen Moka Pots, but This Is My Favorite (No, It’s Not Bialetti)
The art of making coffee in the morning is more than just a quick way to wake yourself up. For myself and millions of others around the world, it’s a ritual and something that I take deep pleasure in doing.
Without spending a fortune on a fancy coffee machine, one of my favorite ways to brew coffee in the morning dates back to 1933 and is still used and loved today: the moka pot. My friends in Italy tell me that all families have multiple moka pots in their homes, and the cheapest and arguably most popular is still the original Bialetti, which was invented by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti. But as much as I love the Bialetti for its old-school charm, I love Alessi’s versions of the moka pot more — and there are many.
To go back in time for a little history lesson: Bialetti is the grandfather of Alberto Alessi, a third-generation Alessi. The family’s eponymous design house has worked with a ton of designers on modernizing everyday housewares, including coffee gear. While Bialetti (the man) has perfected the functionality of the moka pot to brew great coffee at home, Alessi (the brand) has definitely perfected the design to make coffee brewing more fun and, in my opinion, more delicious.
Just like many Italian families, I have multiple moka pots in my kitchen (almost a dozen and counting!) and my mood dictates which one I use. But the Alessi Pulcina stands out. The Pulcina (designed by architect Michele De Lucchi) has the same durability and functionality of the original Bialetti, but it’s slightly heavier and has a few extra perks that make even the most discerning coffee drinker appreciate it. It’s also at a more reasonable price — most Alessi items are quite expensive, as they’re coming from a well-known Italian designer brand, but the Pulcina is relatively inexpensive when compared to other Alessi moka pots like La Conica Manico. Currently, it’s on sale for about $80, making the price even more palatable.
After moving apartments, I found myself with an induction stovetop, which meant I couldn’t use most run-of-the-mill moka pots. You can imagine my glee when I discovered that the Pulcina works on gas and electric stoves, and even a tame fire pit if you dare!
Just like with all moka pots, the brewing process is simple yet scientific: Put water into the bottom chamber of the pot, place ground coffee beans in the metal filter, screw on the top chamber tightly, set the pot over a low to medium flame, and wait for the magic to happen. The Pulcina comes in 1-, 3-, and 6-cup sizes, and if you’re new to moka pots, it’s best to go with the middle-of-the-road 3-cup version — the large one serves 6 to 8, and it’s intense!
The classic moka pot has an hourglass silhouette and a hexagonal base, which helps with the brew and protects the pot from the flame it’s placed on. The Pulcina has a similar hourglass shape but the exterior is much more modern (signature Alessi!) and resembles steps to coffee heaven. The interior, on the other hand, is smooth, which allows for easy cleaning — or, should I say, easier cleaning. Similar to seasoned cast iron, aluminum develops a seasoning over time and imparts a certain flavor to the coffee so you should never use detergent to clean the inside. When the moka pot is cool enough to handle, unscrew the two chambers, toss the coffee beans, and rinse well with warm water.
Beyond the Pulcina’s modern look and the fact that I love adding to my moka pot collection, it simply brews better coffee. It’s designed to stop coffee production at exactly the right moment to prevent that bitter and almost burnt taste you’d get when using a moka pot incorrectly — ingenious! While there are no extra bells and whistles that I can see without breaking apart the Pulcina, I don’t experience that overly aggressive burst near the end of brewing like I do with my other moka pots, which I think leads to the bitter taste. The Pulcina’s sharp spout also stops the coffee from dripping out when pouring, too — a small but impactful design upgrade that doesn’t go unnoticed.
Even after a big weekend out with friends (another favorite ritual of mine), I know I can rely on the Pulcina for strong coffee without much effort or cleanup afterwards — a much-appreciated part of my morning routine.
Buy: Alessi Pulcina Espresso Coffee Maker, $78.71 (originally $90)