Bodum has done it again… in spite of themselves. The Bodum Mocca Brewer ups the ante on the traditional Italian stovetop espresso maker in much the same way that the eSantos Vac Pot raised the bar for the traditional vacuum coffee maker. At the same time they’ve made such a mess of marketing the new brewer it’s a wonder they’re actually selling any of them. (I’ll get to that in a bit…)
You’re no doubt familiar with the Bialetti stovetop espresso maker — you may know it as a moka pot — long the staple of little Italian grandmothers, everywhere. Dead simple and robustly made, it’s not unusual for these little coffee makers to be handed down from one generation to the next. ‘Course, they’re cheap (read, inexpensive) enough it’s an altogether sentimental thing. You can buy one for your stovetop, buy another to use exclusively on camping trips (they make great camp coffee) and buy one for Nonna to have as a spare and you’ll *still* get change for a 50 dollar bill.
That’s not to say there isn’t room for improving the traditional stovetop espresso maker. Firstly they’re a bit of a bugger to clean (all those corners in the octagonal base can prove tricky,) and over time — depending on just what kind of water you’ve got — the aluminum can oxidize. Still, it’s nothing some elbow grease and a pot or two to re-season things won’t fix. However… you do need a stove-top. Or a hot-plate, or — did I mention? — a campfire. Finally, if — like me — you don’t *have* a little Italian grandmother to school you, it can be a rather haphazard learning experience to know just when a traditional stovetop espresso maker is finished brewing. And, er… messy, too.
Bodum scores on all three marks: materials, heat source, and — maybe most important — making the brewing process transparent. Quite literally, as it happens.
Let’s begin with materials. The Bodum Mocca sports a stainless base — a *round* one — that’s easy to clean. Like the eSantos, it features a corded base that uses induction to heat the contents of its cordless pot, and the base features electronics that turn the espresso maker off — automatically — when the brew cycle is done. Finally — and again like the eSantos — the Mocca makes really good use of heat-safe polycarbonate so you can *see* the brewing cycle. It’s not just a coffee brewing appliance, it’s kitchen-counter theater! (And it doesn’t really need a kitchen… which makes this an office- and travel-friendly accessory.)
The result? Identical in every way to what you’d achieve with a traditional stovetop espresso maker… rich, dense, strong espresso-style coffee. With crema. A wee little bit, anyway. Stovetop espresso makers *do* brew under pressure, but it’s not quite the same as what you’d get with a pump-driven espresso machine, and that’s okay. So long as you understand the analog is to Bialetti, and not to say, La Marzocco, then you’ll be perfectly content with the Mocca.
Which brings us to Bodum’s problem. It would seem the folks tasked with marketing this coffee maker didn’t really understand it’s analog, themselves. Consequently, they simply labeled it as a six-cup coffee-maker. For good measure — and blissfully unaware they were talking about an espresso maker — they added, “24 ounces.” Its actually capacity, of course, is rightly measured in cups of espresso, or about 7 to 8 ounces of brewed espresso coffee.
Worse, they continued to market the Mocca just this way on their own web site until only just a week or two ago… and because web marketers steal product copy all the day long it remained likewise unchanged on virtually every one of their online retailers. (Today I note the product is no longer in Bodum’s online catalog. Perhaps they’ve finally realized their error and have taken it offline to correct it?)
Marketing issues aside, there’s a lot to be said for this nifty little brewer, not the least of which is the great coffee it makes. This style of coffee can manifest hidden qualities of given bean… those subtle tones that might typically play bit parts and secondary roles are suddenly at center stage. I’ve just tasted the complete set of Green Mountain’s Special Reserve series all over again — yes, I’ve kept some bags of each bean in cold storage — and I’ve found new and interesting flavors in each.
At the same time, I’ve also found coffees that prove stubbornly one-dimensional. That’s not a surprise, really… a great many single-origin coffees lose their composure when pulled as an espresso shot. Same difference.
If you’re in the market for an espresso maker — and if inexpensive and user-friendly are qualities you admire over E61 group-heads and naked portafilters — you may very well be thrilled with the Bodum Mocca. I think even Nonna would approve.