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The Brikka, like many stovetop espresso makers, has a lot of parameters that affect how the espresso turns out.

What are the best parameters for using the Brikka correctly? Which of these are more vital to getting the crema to stick around once you pour the espresso into the cup?

My current list is:

  1. Ground coffee particle size (compared to espresso machine fine or coarser)
  2. Amount of water filled in the bottom part
  3. Amount of coffee you put in the basket and compression - this one is supposed to be easy, fill it up without a hump and without pressing it down
  4. The fire size and strength under the Brikka - I use the smallest flame base, but using the smallish 2-cup Brikka it is a bit bigger than the base when on maximal burn.
  5. When exactly to turn off the fire under the Brikka
  6. When exactly to pour the coffee (it says right after the coffee comes out, but there is coffee still coming out of the nozzle if I pour it too soon).
  • That's quite a laundry-list! Have you tried some of these items? Do you ever have success with generating crema with a moka pot? This question and others tagged moka seem to suggest that it's really not possible unless you have pressures of a "true" espresso machine. See also this question for some information on heating strength. Welcome to Coffee! – hoc_age Dec 14 '15 at 17:47
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I think you gave a good overview of everything. Here's a few comments on your list that I find is most important from my own personal experience, and from this Bialetti guide.

  1. "Moka" grind is imperative. Most guidelines that I have seen recommend somewhere coarser than espresso and finer than drip (e.g., illy, Blue Bottle, and a bunch of blogs when searching "best grind for moka" or so). Finer and you might overextract and result in a bitter brew; too-coarse and the machine won't extract properly or develop any pressure in the bottom chamber.
  2. The amount of water is almost completely determined by the size of the moka pot. Fill nearly (but not quite) up to the over-pressure relief valve; looks a bit like a button. The moka pot is made to brew exactly that amount of coffee; no more, no less.
  3. (exactly as you said). Amount of coffee: filled to the top of the funnel, but not tamped.
  4. Heat: for a gas-flame-burner, as with any pot, matched to pot size is best. The flame being completely under and within the base is best. It should heat quickly, but the flame should not creep around the sides; you want the bottom to be heated only, not the sides and certainly not the top vessel! This is the reason for the shape of this and a cezve having a wide bottom.
  5. Turn off as soon as the machine starts coughing or sputtering. At this point the water level is below the bottom of the funnel straw, and no more (desirable) extraction will occur.
  6. Serve as soon as safe! Soon after the fire is off, it should stop sputtering. Best to pour and serve immediately thereafter.

and...

  1. One thing you didn't mention: it's best to fill the bottom chamber (carefully!) with already-boiling water (as in Blue Bottle guide, linked above.) This ensures that the water boils quickly and evenly, and minimizes the amount of (undesirable) "steaming" and heat prior to brewing to which the grounds will be subjected.

As for the crema, I've never been able to create crema with anything other than a proper espresso machine, as noted in this moka question I had linked.

  • There are a couple of things in your reply that only apply to the moka express coffee maker. As per the guide I received with my Brikka, the water level should be much lower than the pressure valve and can be measured with the guide line molded in the top container of the pot. Secondly, the water should be cold according to the guide. – beeb Jun 3 at 4:21
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I understand that the crema created by the Brikka is an approximated crema using the gasket's small opening. Sure, purists may not consider this tan, smooth film of microbubbles as authentic crema (akin to espresso makers), but it does do a good job creating it for a close mouthfeel.

I use my Brikka every day, and it creates the "Brikkrema" (as I'd like to call it) just fine [see the photo].

If you aren't achieving proper results, it could be the water, or the bean you're using. I've had instances where some beans wouldn't generate a great crema, as compared to other varieties. Factors could be the age, the containers their kept in, and all basically relating to the oils and the CO2 trapped in the bean shortly after roasting.

My Bialetti Brikka brewing...

...Post-brewing

The first pour also generates the greatest amount of Brikkrema

Subsequent pours also lessen the crema generated, as seen here... so try lessening the water amount a until you get a good mix of factors

The last photo shows a comparison between pours. The first pour (left) often providing the most crema from a brew, while the subsequent pours (right) may not have as much. It helps to spread the first pour over each shot if you have more than one shot to serve, and then pour the rest of the coffee along the side of the cup as not to disturb the cream on top. Sometimes, a brand new Brikka needs 3-4 brews before it begins creating its magic. But even so, if you aren't achieving your preferred result, try these tips:

  1. Try to lessen the water below the water line
    • start with a shot's worth of water then see what you get, then just increase to get a proportion you're happy with).
  2. Try filtered water
    • you'd be surprised how big a difference water quality can make.
  3. Change the bean you're using, until you get your desired results.
    • Some beans offer varying levels of crema, whether it's because of the CO2 content from the roast or just the overall nature of the bean.

Good luck! And don't worry, at the end of the day it boils (or brews) down to personal preference.

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