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~A quick and easy way to make yourself a fresh expresso~ ******************************************** If looking for a quick, simple and reliable way to make yourself a fresh and steamy cup of expresso for those moments when nothing else will do, then read on as you could do far worse than invest in one of these hob based expresso makers. When looking for a suitable product I wanted something to make enough expresso to fill one or 2 normal sized coffee cups rather than the smaller more traditional expresso cups you can buy and after a look at what was on offer I ended up with one of the larger sized 9 cup Bialetti Moka expresso makers. I have found that in use the product is easy to handle, washes well and performs as required, giving you a slightly less fluffy/ creamy textured hot drink than you get with more bulky shop style machines. The general quality of the product is good, with the expresso maker being made from durable materials that react well with heat when in use in order to allow you to make a relatively quick expresso on the go. This larger sized version of the product works well when placed directly onto a gas hob as it balances well, with there being a slightly larger area to the base of the expresso maker meaning it sits over the burner with greater stability ( meaning there is less chance of knocking it over). ~Ease of use~ ************ The way you fill the expresso maker with both coffee and water in order to use it is easy to get to grips with, as the system works in such as way that you fill the bottom part of the expresso maker with fresh water first before having to handle your coffee. I have found that although the instructions mention filling this with fresh cool water you can speed things up a little by adding freshly boiled water form the kettle instead. This not only results in you having a nice hot expresso in less time than when filling with cool water, it can also give you a slightly smoother and less tangy/ bitter tasting drink as the end result as long as you keep and eye on things. Having used this with a variety of coffee products from various brands I have found that you can use this expresso with finer grades of coffee to give the more pleasing results if you like a smoother result. When using the expresso maker to fill 2 full sized coffee cups I tend to use my own judgement as to how much coffee I need to use using a teaspoon as my measure. Once filled with the right amount of coffee you can set the expresso maker on to the heat and allow it to do it's magic giving you 2 nice double expressos at the end of the cooking time. ~Hot stuff!~ ********** One thing to note when using the product with pre boiled water rather than cool water is that due to the metal make up of the product, parts of it can and do become hot to the touch. This means that care should be taken if using boiled water to fill the base of the product with as the outside of the casing will heat up even before you set the expresso maker on to your hob in order to use it. A clean kitchen cloth should suffice as light protection from transfered heat when fitting the parts of the expresso maker back together in order to use it/ or when taking it apart after use. Allowing the coffer maker to cool slightly before taking it apart to clean it will help too. There is also a nicely formed and easy to use handle fitted to the top part of the expresso maker that works well enough, although one again here there is a chance that it will become quite hot when the expresso maker has been placed over a hot gas burner. This means that you should take care when picking it up to pour from it straight from the hob and if it feels too warm to the touch, the same cloth used when filling with hot water prior to use can be used to help protect your hands should it be required. ~Cleaning~ ********* The pieces of the expresso maker fit well together when in use and are fairly easy to clean after use. I have found that a light soak in hot soapy water will keep any staining from the coffee used to a minimum, although 3 times out of 4 all that is needed is a quick wash and rinse. The aluminium used to make the expresso maker has a nice new appearance when the coffee maker is new out of the box, however over time this effect will dull a little and light scratches and scuffs do appear. These scratches and cuffs don't make for an unattractive look to my mind, as you end up with an almost brushed metal finish which I feel looks quite nice. ~Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble!~ ************************** When the expresso maker is in use over the heat it will bubble and splutter which is to be expected with this type of product and the only way to avoid making a mess on a clean hob is to keep the lid closed and keep an eye on things. There are pros and cons to keeping the lid down though as towards the end of the cooking time when most of the water has risen to the top chamber, leaving the lid down and the expresso maker over the heat for too long can result in a certain degree of expresso rising too far over the lid area. Over time with more regular use you do come to know how long is enough for the particular blend and number of cups you are making and can adapt to adjust your timings accordingly. ~How many cups of expresso can this make?~ ************************************ When thinking about what size of expresso maker to buy you do need to take in consideration the size of your coffee cups and number of persons requiring a hot drink. As this is a 9 cup product you may think it makes 9 cups of expresso, although in use I have found this is not the case if you are generous with your servings. If using this for 2 people who like a larger double expresso each in a full sized coffee cup then filling it up will give you a fair amount of hot steamy expresso for two. If using this with just 1 to 2 traditional smaller sized expresso cups, you can halve your water and coffee if wanted and still end up with 2 well sized traditional single expresso drinks. When using this for the same smaller sized expresso cups for between 3 to 4 drinkers you can fill the expresso maker and still end up with 4 generous expresso sized cups of coffee. ~Rating and price~ ************** With this product being a rather well known brand you can some times end up paying a little more for one of these expresso makers which is perhaps to be expected. I have seen these on sale from £15 to £20 when reduced in sales etc, up to £30 to £35 in some of the more exclusive and pricier up market stores that cater to more selective coffee drinkers. As with everything it is best to shop around as it is more than possible to pick up one of these even in this lager size for between £15 to £20. As far as rating this product goes I feel it is something that once bought and used, it should last for some time when well cared for, which is why I want to give this a 4 star product rating.