The alarm is going off again—it’s 6:30am and you’ve already hit the snooze button twice. As you begrudgingly exit the bed and stumble around your bedroom you realize that, once again, you forgot to program the coffee maker the night before—and you need to be dressed and out the door in the next thirty minutes. This is the start of my typical day and where the Bialetti Mukka Express cappuccino maker should come in.
I first saw the Bialetti Mukka Express around the holiday season of last year and kept it on my radar. A quick cappuccino without having to clog my countertop or deal with the upkeep of a full size machine appealed to me. About a week ago I found a model on clearance at TJ Maxx and decided to give it a try.
The Mukka Express comes in two flavors: cow and brushed aluminum. The model I purchased, Cow, also came with a nifty little Biscotti aluminum container. I saw no mention of this on the manufacturer’s website, so I assume this was a packaging variant for a specific retailer.
The lid of the biscotti container has small perforations in the underside and what sounds like a silica-type substance inside the lid itself. I assume this is to keep the biscotti (conveniently not included) fresh and dry.
As for the Mukka Express itself, all of the parts have a nice, sturdy feel—aluminum body and base and a heat-free handle. Nothing feels particularly fragile or breakable. There were complaints I read online that water leaks through the threaded connection of the base and top when it boils, but I only experienced that once and it wasn’t particularly severe. On subsequent uses, I just made sure the threads were clean and were connected as tight as possible.
After a several-minutes struggle with the not quite clear directions and vague pictures, I had a pot of cappuccino ready in about fifteen minutes from box to stove. I will admit the little device definitely has that going for it—brewing is a quick and simple process.
For use, the upper half (cow) unscrews from the base. The base is filled with one cup of water, espresso is added to the grounds chamber, then the top gets screwed back onto the base. Once the two pieces are connected the top is filled with milk and an interior pressure valve is set. The Mukka is now ready to be put on a medium high heat (gas, electric, or ceramic). From here, the gadget is pretty much a glorified percolator. The water in the base boils, pushes through the grounds, and travels up the center core of the base. Once the espresso reaches the top of this core, the pressure valve raises (emitting a “pop”) to allow the espresso out, and the espresso and milk mix and begin the froth. Strangely enough, it actually sounds like a frother on a full-size espresso machine.
So how is the coffee? Unfortunately, it left a lot to be desired. Although it does provide the froth and the look of a cappuccino, the final product has a taste of used coffee grounds or wet cardboard. To add insult to injury, it also left behind an unpleasant aftertaste of burnt coffee. The manual states a user should make and discard several pots in order to “season” the maker prior to normal use. Ten cups later, I still fail to see any pleasant difference between the first cup and the last. Additionally, since there are no temperature controls, I more often than not ended up accidentally boiling the milk—giving me a sticky film on top of my coffee.
I really, really wanted to like this thing. So, just to make sure it was truly the coffee maker I was tasting and not my beans, I conducted a side by side comparison and taste test: the Mukka Express versus a full size countertop espresso machine. I used Peet’s Coffee French Roast, freshly ground (espresso grind) from whole beans.
The Express is on the left, the full size maker’s cup is on the right. The only real visual difference was that due to the brewing method, the Express had a muddied look—with the foam and espresso mixed. Once sipped though, it was clear that the Express was going to lose the battle big time. The full size maker retained all of the flavor and richness of the espresso beans in its cup, making a delicious creamy and foamy cappuccino.
Would I recommend the Mukka Express? Probably not–at least not at the full retail price point, and not unless you take your cappuccino with a pile of sugar in it. It could be something neat for a college dorm room since it is compatible with hot plates (in addition to gas and electric stoves).
In the end, I was looking for a quick and easy cappuccino, but that convenience is overshadowed, for me at least, by the taste.