I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I love coffee. Anyone that knows me well would have you believe I have a thermal stainless steel coffee tumbler surgically grafted to my hand. It’s my American Express — I don’t leave home without it. I don’t fiddle around and mess it up with cream, sugar, or milk. A cup of coffee, if done just right, is best au naturale. The saddest part of all this is that I’ve become accustomed to good coffee. I rarely order any at a restaurant since it’s usually weak, not made very well, and, to be blunt, tastes like dishwater.
Over the years I have tried many different methods of brewing the perfect Cup o’ Joe at home. In my experience, the regular “set it and forget it” coffee makers just do not cut it. Sure, they may be a little more convenient, but the quality of brew they produce is — in my personal opinion — just plain awful. Continually running out to the local Starbucks for a cup (or 10) of coffee was just out of the question. First, it wasn’t convenient to drive out any time I had the urge for a cup of coffee. Second, $3 a cup adds up! What I ultimately found allowed me to make coffee at home that put my local Starbucks to shame, saves me money, and allows me to feed my addiction for good coffee all at the same time.
If you enjoy a really good damn good cup of coffee, then you owe it to yourself to check out Bialetti. Why? Keep reading young coffee-lovin’ grasshopper…
Alright, let’s back up just a little bit so I can convey what brought me to discover the Bialetti line of coffee/espresso makers. Just over two years ago I purchased my last “set-it-and-forget-it” coffee maker, the Cuisinart Grind-N-Brew for $150. It had nice ratings on Amazon, and I was looking to kick the habit of purchasing a cup of coffee daily. Yes, I love coffee and have a serious caffeine addiction…stay with me. I used the Grind-N-Brew faithfully for months, but each morning I grew a bit sadder trying to enjoy what I found to be a truly poor cup of coffee. I added extra beans to the grind, and even double-brewed (where you take the coffee that was just brewed and pour it back into the coffee maker for a second run to get an extra boost). By the time it started leaking when I tried to make coffee in the morning, I had already been scoping out other brewers of all shapes, sizes, and styles.Then I found it. In a thrift store of all places. The Bialetti Stove Top Expresso maker for $25. My goal was to find a convenient, relatively inexpensive coffee maker that, here goes, makes a strong and tasty cup of coffee. Now, the Bialetti line is for espresso making — but, I find that it doesn’t pressurize to make true espresso. Oh, the debate can go on for hours…but here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter, because it makes a damn good cup of coffee 😉 The $25 aluminum Bialetti Stove Top maker easily beat my $150 Cuisinart Grind-N-Brew. The best coffee is made by using freshly ground coffee beans and filtered water. Stay away from that pre-ground Folgers. Sorry, folks, the Bialetti will make it sing — but it ain’t gonna “wow” you. I am lucky enough to live close to a Whole Foods, so I can pick up fresh-roasted coffee beans and use a separate burr grinder to prepare them (trust me, it makes a biiiiiiiig difference). In fact, I got so enamored with the Bialetti lineup that I purchased several. They’re well constructed (I have some that are aluminum, and 2 others that are stainless), and they will likely outlive me 🙂 Supposedly, most homes in Italy have these on-hand to readily whip up some caffeine love-buzz for family and friends at a moment’s notice. Now, the only “issue” I ran into was how can I make this awesome coffee when away from home or at work? Sure, I tried making enough to throw into a thermos — but some days I will be fine with one cup in the morning, and I don’t need to waste that precious black gold. Other days, however, there is nothing finer than a nice cup of espresso/coffee in the late afternoon. To add to my addiction, I also have an Aeropress (a great buy also at $25). I used this mainly at work, for a while. The problem was getting the water hot enough for the Aeropress. I was microwaving water and burning myself with the scalding water (you have to get the water between 195 – 205 degrees Fahrenheit) — not to mention the whole scenario of making coffee with an Aeropress at work resembled a science experiment gone awry. Making coffee with the Aeropress also uses quite a bit of coffee (in my experience), compared to the Bialetti, if I wanted to get a nice, bold taste. The end result, alas, was also a much smaller cup with the Aeropress. I still loved my Bialetti, but I don’t think I was going to be getting a stove at work any time soon 😉 — and using a Pyrex measuring cup to microwave the water wasn’t the most practical way to make my brew at work. After resolving that I was only going to have a great cup of coffee in the morning before work, I stumbled upon the Bialetti Easy Cafe electric model on the manufacturer’s site. The same Bialetti Electric Cafe features the same reliable Bialetti construction , with the addition of a mobile power base and a automatic switch-off function. There’s only one size available for the Electric Cafe model — 6 cups/10 oz). Now, the “cup” measurement is akin to an espresso size. One brew will fill half of my stainless tumbler that I use to keep my coffee nice, warm, and not on my clothes (it’s spill proof) ;). Making the coffee with the Bialetti Electric Cafe is a very simple process: 1. Unscrew the top from the base/reservoir. 2. Fill the reservoir (to the pressure valve line) with water — preferably filtered water.
I use a Brita pitcher for my filtered water, with great results. (Don’t worry, the water is clear 😉 . The reservoir gets some of the “coffee color” after longterm use from the coffee oils and the brewing process. Just don’t stick it in the dishwasher! Mild dish soap and water only.
3. Insert the permanent coffee funnel / filter into the water reservoir, and fill it with your freshly ground coffee.
4. Screw the top portion of the Bialetti to the reservoir. It’s a bit like a percolator, but the end result is soooooooooooooo much better (IMHO). 5. Here’s where the Electric Cafe model differs from all other Bialettis. Instead of putting this on your stove top and letting low-heat make your coffee/espresso, you simply put this unit on the electric base. As long as you have an electrical outlet, you are all set (green light shows she’s on 🙂 ). Just plug ‘er in and press the button on the electric base to begin brewing. 6. The entire brewing process with the Electric Cafe model takes about 5 minutes. When it’s done, you will see the light go red — and you also get an audible “beep” to alert you that your coffee is ready. The alarm/beep will continue until you press the button on the electric base. Your coffee will stay warm, if kept on the base, for ~20 minutes or so (that’s per the product guide, as, honestly, the brew goes right into a mug within 30 seconds of being done, and quickly consumed when I’m overseeing the brewing). This is what it looks like when the brewing process is all done. You even get a little bit of crema if you brew it right 🙂 Mmmmmm. Liquid Gold! Final Thoughts I’ve been putting the Bialetti Electric Cafe through its paces. I’ve used it at home, at work, and on a recent road trip. It worked great for travel — although I’m not sure how it would fare if I tried to take it on a trip where I needed to fly. I do not want the TSC confiscating my Bialetti! The only “down” side is the initial cost: $99.95. That’s right. You can get one of the stove top versions for $25 (up to over $60 depending on the size and whether you go with aluminum or stainless steel). The price is what may make or break a purchase like this one. Let’s be honest, it’s purely a luxury item — although coffee, for many of us, seems to be a necessity. Frankly, you can get a 10 or 12 -cup coffee maker for less money. If you are a coffee lover, however, your money is better spent on either the Bialetti Electric Cafe or the Aeropress. Since the Aeropress is $25, it is more cost effective up front. But, for me, the frequent use and the quality of coffee brewed is what makes the Bialetti Electric Cafe the winner. Since it is portable and convenient, I use it more frequently (you just need an electric outlet — and, unlike the Aeropress, I don’t have to microwave water or use a separate heating coil to get hot water). If you frequent your local Starbucks and throw away (er, spend) $3 per cup then you will find that the Bialetti Electric Cafe pays for itself very quickly. Did I mention the coffee is damn good? MSRP: $99.95 – Bialetti Easy Cafe What I Like: Makes great tasting coffee/espresso. The unit is portable and convenient to use. You can use it at home, work, or even while traveling. This is an item that any coffee lover would welcome into their home, office, or dorm room (I hear college students drink a bit of coffee). What Needs Improvement: The price. If this unit was $30 cheaper, I think it would be in the “sweet spot” pricewise. I have no reservations about purchasing it, or recommending it, but it probably isn’t for the “casual” coffee drinker or someone who is fine drinking instant (ewwww). Longterm durability of the overall unit may be questionable — while I have no doubt the aluminum water reservoir and top portion (where the coffee is collected upon brewing) will probably outlive me, I have some doubt as to whether the electric base will stand up over the years. I just hope I can purchase a replacement electric base from Bialetti 🙂 Bottom Line: For me, the Bialetti Electric Cafe simply rocks and an investment in my caffeinated well-being 😉