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Bialetti Mukka Express Review

on August 15, 2009 9:00 am

MukkaExpressLarge

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.

DSC_0017

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.

BiscLid

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.

CapMaker

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.

Lower

Upper

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.

CU_Cap

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.

SidebySide

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.

 

Product Information

Price:$89.99
Manufacturer:Bialetti
Pros:
  • Makes a quick cappuccino; easy cleanup; convenient; portable
Cons:
  • Tastes dull and cardboardy; no temperature controls

Comments

  1. 1
    Hai Vu says:

    Thank you for a good review. I am sure many people will benefit from this review.

  2. 2

    The issue is this is a standard moka pot. It isn’t meant to produce cappuccino. Nor is it meant to make espresso (though it is commonly misnamed an espresso maker, as yours has been).

    Try this with a medium roast coffee and no milk. I think you’ll find it will make a delicious, strong cup of coffee (not cappuccino or espresso).

    These products are much more appropriately named a stovetop coffee maker.

    You don’t need temperature controls because of the way it works: the water inside the pot lets off vapor, which expands and pushes the water up through the coffee, through the spout and into the upper chamber. When the coffee maker starts “gurgling” then remove it from the heat. I’d suspect that is why you are boiling your milk; when it is gurgling what you’re actually doing is superheating the water in the chamber, thus overheating the unit and boiling the milk.

  3. 3
    Moi Ici says:

    I bought one of these a year or so ago and was really disappointed with the cappuccino it produced. In fact so disappointed that after a few uses I just boxed it up again. In reply to Tyler, this cost me about 99 euros and it said “cappuccino” on the box and I was assured by the cafe that sold it that it made great cappuccino and great espressos. It did neither and it costs about 50- 60% more than a regular coffee (stovetop) pot. A total rip off. Do not make excuses for the marketing of this product. Mine did not have the extra biscuit box.

  4. 4

    I agree with Tyler. When the boiling water is bubbling through, remember, it’s also pushing through the grounds, which have already been used.

    I have a small coffee maker like this, and it makes a great cup of strong coffee (I use Sumatran coffee for an added earthy taste). It’s an interesting idea to have it froth the milk, but that’s an art in itself, and needs a good wand, clean steam, and cold milk in a cold pitcher.

  5. 5
    Morgan Bornstein says:

    Tyler, Smythe–good suggestion, I should have tried it this way! However, I have so many other little gadgets that make a great cup of regular coffee as it is, and for that price I’m probably not going to keep it around. It was a blast to try out though and it would really a neat little thing if it delivered on its promise.

  6. 6
    Ian says:

    My wife, who’s fussy about her coffee, has had one of these for a couple of years and really enjoys the coffee. Certainly much better than hand foaming the milk.
    It doesn’t always foam well – haven’t worked out why although fresh milk seems to help – but a couple of tips – use a dab of oil (cooking!) on the seal on the bottom of the cow to improve the seal and make sure you clean the valve properly, by running water through it to get a jet out of the little hole, every time you use it as it gets clogged easily – don’t take it off too soon unless you want high pressure steam coming out but don’t leave it too long either. (Early on we had a couple of replacement valves which our local cook shop supplied free of charge)
    I take my coffee black so haven’t tried it but do use it a lot and clean it afterwards…

  7. 7
    Ben S says:

    My advice: just get an Aeropress ( http://www.aerobie.com/Products/aeropress_story.htm ) and be done with it :)

    It doesn’t froth milk, but like Smythe said, that is an art unto itself.

  8. 8
    Morgan Bornstein says:

    Hey Ben, yeah I LOVE my Aeropress, that’s my preferred coffee gadget (at the moment ;) )

  9. 9

    Just to clarify, I am absolutely not making excuses for this product. This company is obviously cashing in on the current portrayal of Starbucks as “Fourbucks”, and marketing a make it yourself version for less money in the long run.

    There is a market for a $99 cappuccino maker, but a moka pot with a larger reservoir for milk and coffee is not the way to do it.

    The problem is the ONLY way to make a decent cappuccino is to make it with a cappuccino machine.

  10. 10
    Moi Ici says:

    Tyler, agreed!

  11. 11
    Gina says:

    I purchased this product, ignoring some of the negative reviews on the difficulty of use, etc., assuming that as a well-educated person, I could use it. Hey, I even roast my own coffee beans. I have had the Mukka Express for three years and drag it out periodically, determined to master it. Inevitably I have milk and/or coffee everywhere. I have tried lower heat, higher heat, fastidious cleaning of the gaskets, etc. Nothing works. Save your money. For what you pay for this little pot, it will buy A LOT of coffee from Starbucks!

  12. 12
    Henk Ottens says:

    Appreciate the helpful review, Mr. Bornstein. I only wish I’d read it before falling for the sexy promotion by Biatelli. Actually I fell in love when a friend showed me her cow-version. I should have become wary when she told me she no longer used hers. The design and mechanism of the device intrigued me, but I’ve become increasingly frustrated and disappointed with the cappuccino from this cow. As have others, I’ve experimented with heat, milk, coffee, etc. Nothing makes any difference. The results are spotty at best, and never more than mediocre. Defeated and regretful, I’ve resigned to going back to my old cappuccino maker, the one with the frothing arm, and putting the Biatelli on the shelf where it looks pretty good. I don’t suppose there’s much point in trying for a refund. But the company should know that I shall not recommend its product to anyone.

  13. 13
    cara_mia says:

    There’s an instructional video on how to use this on Bialetti’s website. Here it is on youtube.

  14. 14
    Victor says:

    Hi, is it possible to make only coffee in Mukka. Say in the morning I would like to drink only black coffee and later a cappuccino. Is it possible to use without milk?
    thanks for the answer

  15. 15
    Morgan Bornstein says:

    Hi Victor,
    I believe the Mukka Express model is specifically intended for cappuccino (the instructions do not mention straight coffee without milk as a brewing option), but Bialetti does offer a vast line of stovetop and electric espresso makers: http://www.bialettishop.com/

  16. 16
    mima says:

    Victor,

    yes, you can use it with no milk for black coffee.
    Nut I second Gina, I could have written everything she has.
    I do regret buying it.

  17. 17
    J says:

    I found mine at a goodwill for $6. Works perfect. I was using a Krupps electric espresso machine and this tastes just as good. Medium heat is essential and good beans. Remember, almost all beans we buy in stores are already stale. Try to find a local roaster and use within 2 weeks of roasting. Or better yet, roast your own!

    I also clean my Mukka out completely every time I use it. Just wipe and rinse the bottom and I use soap and water on the top.

  18. 18
    Mai-Britt says:

    I do as J does, and before making cappucino I rince top and bottom in warm water which makes the milk foam! If the top is too cold the milk doesn’t foam well. We like our mukka express!

  19. 19
    G says:

    This machine takes a lot of trial and error but I can now produce a consistent acceptable cappucino. I have found that the amount of water used is crucial. If you use fractionally more water than that recommended for a latte, the amount of steam pressure released with the ‘popping’ of the valve heats the milk sufficiently without the need to keep the unit on the heat. This will contribute to less burning of the milk. Leaving the unit on the heat will burn it every time.

  20. 20
    Morgan Bornstein says:

    @G: Wow, I applaud your tenacity! Thanks for the tip!!

  21. 21
    Daniel says:

    I am using a proper Italian Espresso Machine and I would never ever buy something like the Mukka .This machines are not good for Cappucinos,they are only OK for short blacks.And you can taste the aluminium in your coffee.They will make a crap Cappucino.
    And if you want to make short blacks you can just buy the Standard Bialetti stove pot for much less money.
    Daniel

  22. 22
    student says:

    I second “D”s comment. It takes some practice.
    -low heat
    -grind beans yourself
    -use exact amounts
    -use cold water (not pre heated, that only works well with regular espresso coffee makers)
    -clean the valve well !
    We love our mukka express and so so our guests. Many times we have to tell them what kind of machine we used and where they can buy one. (that is why I went online today :-) )

  23. 23
    Angela says:

    How do you use the mukka without the milk if you just want to make a regular black coffee with it?

  24. 24
    Morgan Bornstein says:

    Angela: I never made just espresso or just coffee in the review process because this model seemed solely for cappuccino. That may or may not be true of the model, but everything on the packaging and instructions only mentioned cappuccino.

    That said, a quick glance through the manufacturer’s website turned up several models that can be used as straight out coffee makers. If the same is true of this particular model, I’d assume you would just omit the milk step and the straight espresso would collect in the top portion.

  25. 25
    Angela says:

    @morgan thank you for your reply. You are correct. while waiting for any response to my query, i tried to experiment myself. And yep, it works just as well with coffee alone. I simply used the ” latte” version where in you do not press the button down and simple not put milk. As far as i know, the latte is just coffee with warm milk. So again, to answer my own question, yes you can use It without milk.

    I appreciate all the comments on this thread. It helped me to be more concious of any activity with this equipment.

    Here is my take on this product, some of my experiences with mukka. If you’re not ready to read a long one, stop here. It’s an expensive product, might as well go to starbucks for your daily fix. If you want to know more, then carry on:

    The Valve

    The first time i used it, i had trouble taking it off until i realizes that the positioning was not correct. It is actually very easy to take it off and put it back on. if you have read the manual, you are supposed to simply follow the 0-1 bloccare/lock portion. Just PULL UP the button of the valve/aerator WITH the ring and correct positioning wherein the long part is pointing 0 and turn towards 1. The marks simply match the surface thus making it easy. Same in putting back on just reverse.

    The Taste

    well, i have some hits and some misses. But i enjoy the preparation itself more than just the mere drinking of coffee. So generally i would say regardless of the machine, making coffee is really an art and takes patience and tender loving care. Plus it makes you feel like a real barista.

    Yes, it’s trial and error but if you know your capuccino, you can adjust. I like it strong and dry (more froth). As far as i know, capuccino is 1/3 espresso, the rest is milk and froth. So i prepare my water half the cup, more ground coffee and more milk. It works for me. Also, yes, the more i use it, the better my coffee tastes.

    Drips Above the Water Chamber

    I fill the funnel filter with coffee first before i insert it in the heater unit to avoid spilling ground rcoffee on the edges. Making sure there are no bits of coffee on the corners and like a real barista i wipe the edges freem from coffee. I also screw the units together very tightly.

    Yes, sometimes it still drips (and this is one of the cons) but i tried to ignore it for a few minutes and still it continued to work on the frothing and everything it supposed to do. I suspected that it dripped because i put on too much coffee as i was trying to make for 4 people. But ordinarily when i make just for myself and put coffee just enough that it does not go over the edges, it works fine.

    Also keep the ground coffee loose. Do not press.

    The Price

    Well it IS expensive. Period. But i am a collector of coffee making paraphernalia and my mukka is a nice addition to it.

    So to sum up:

    cons-It has flaws which i have to adjust and live with
    Pros-I can make my capuccino so it saves me money i dont have to buy, atleast all the time

    For those who are planning to sell their units because they are not satisfied, well you need to see someting good about it if you have to convince your buyers. Who knows, you might change your mind ( or not, hahahahaha!…).

    So anyway, thank you for bearing with me and i hope this gives you some info, at least just a bit.

    Take care. Cheers.

  26. 26
    Angela says:

    P.s. i read somewhere and have been told to that for more froth use full milk rather than non fat or half- half.

  27. 27
    Morgan Bornstein says:

    @Angela: Wow, thank you for posting your experience and opinions! I’m a little amazed by the amount of interest this review/product seems to generate. From what I’ve gathered from the feedback, people who truly enjoy the process and take their time to learn the machine’s ins and outs absolutely swear by the Mukka and its whole line. Then there are people like me :)
    Keep the great feedback coming though, I love to read differing opinions and think it’s incredibly important to the whole gadget review process!

  28. 28
    Dan says:

    Anyone know where I can buy one of these mukka bot in the US? Preferably not online. I had one before as a gift but lost it during a move. I don’t drink coffee like crazy but remember this one produced good result the few times I used it. Aside from the Aeropress (which I refuse to buy because its made out of plastic), anyone have other recommendations?

  29. 29
    Morgan Bornstein says:

    @Dan: I found the one I reviewed at TJ Maxx/Marshalls/Home Goods. You could try there. William Sonoma also might carry them, though I think they primarily focus on the pod-systems now. If you like a strong cup of coffee, I recommend trying out a french press. It’s my new go-to brewing method of choice. Also you can try a chemex.

  30. 30
    vanessa contrino says:

    Thanks for the nice review, I decidied to buy one, but I think you just helped saving me money :-).

  31. 31
    Morgan Bornstein says:

    @Vanessa: Glad I could help! If you’re still in the market for an espresso/cappuccino machine, I recently reviewed a Krups machine that performed better (and was easier on the wallet) than the Mukka–http://the-gadgeteer.com/2013/02/22/krups-xp1000-solo-steam-espresso-machine-review/
    But if you’re just looking for a new coffee device, I swear by the Aeropress for single cups.

  32. 32
    vanessa contrino says:

    Hi, actually, I already have found the perfect device to foam milk with the most simple and cheap device that existe : http://www.redcoon.nl/B404795-Xavax-00111165-Milk-Booster_Melkopschuimers?refId=vergelijk . Been using it for years and it actually works perfect. I just thought It would be nice to try something new and I was caugt by the lovely cow design :-). Greetings from Belguim

  33. 33
    kim says:

    If anyone has the glass top version (vetro) of the Mukka that they want to get rid of…I would like it! :) Seriously.

  34. 34
    Jane says:

    I bought one of these 2nd hand and love it. Worked perfectly from the very 1st attempt. I have electric elements and used a low/medium heat like I do for my Bialetti 3 cup Expresso stovetop with Expresso ground beans and reduced fat milk. I’m sure it would be even better if used with full fat milk. Assembly and cleanup was easy. May not suit those who don’t like the taste of the stovetop Expresso method but it certainly made a better coffee than some of the cafés I have stopped at! Hope this helps some people who are thinking of using this product. It may take a bit of trial and error at first, but for those who are used to using stovetop espresso you will find this easy. From a fussy coffee drinker in New Zealand.

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