Posted on 1 Comment

Review: The Bialetti Moka Pot

Like all caffeine hungry people, my search for the best coffee machine has been a long one. When Freud spoke about the ‘paradox of choice’ I have no doubt that he was talking about this very thing. The eternal question of how to make a good coffee from the comfort of your own kitchen without compromising on taste, price or usability remained a tough nut (or bean) to crack. So when a friend bought me a Bialetti Moka Pot a few years back I was, admittedly, sceptical but ready to give anything a try.

Bialetti Moka Pot


Based on the original Moka Express model created in Italy in 1933, the Bialetti is strictly
speaking a percolator although is seen as closer to an espresso maker because of the strength of the coffee it makes. Its three components include a thick-bottomed ‘water reservoir’ which sits on the heat, a ‘filter’ which holds the ground coffee and draws the water upwards and the ‘coffee basket’ where, after 4-5 minutes , the finished product comes flowing forth. This hob-top machine works with electric or gas and preferably in combination with a Bialetti diffuser which ensures even heating and prevents tarnishing of your pot.

A Design Classic

Owning a Bialetti has much to recommend it. Its well-made, strong frame means it runs rings around the competition in terms of longevity and durability (much to the consternation of my inferior brand owning friends). Multiple London moves, numerous camping trips and not just a few kitchen incidents later and my Bialetti is still going strong.

Bialetti Moka Pot Photo 5 - coffee pouring

User Friendly

It is also simple, straightforward and quick to use. First fill the reservoir with water to just below the valve, add your favourite grind to the filter then screw the coffee basket on top before placing on a gentle heat. It’s low maintenance (simply remove coffee and rinse), very low investment (RRP around £20) and is infinitely portable (nothing like a fire-side brew).

It Packs A Punch

But most importantly, and after a few practice runs, it produces a rich, dark, strong flavour which is utterly customisable depending on your chosen roast and bean. My Italian friend still delights in his morning ritual of preparing his Moka pot and manually piecing the components together, then waiting for the first scent of the coffee to come.

Bialetti Moka Pot Photo 3 - Coffee cup (with filter)


However the Bialetti, like all coffee machines, does have its dark side too. Its flavour can be unpredictable and sometimes downright unpalatable. At it’s worst the Moka Pot produces bitter, metallic tasting coffee that makes you wonder why you didn’t just trump for the instant (heaven forbid). The reason for this is usually down to using too thick a grind in the filter, tamping down the coffee too tightly so the holes are blocked and most importantly heating the pot too quickly so all the water evaporates before boiling point has been reached.

But with a little experimentation when making your coffee it is possible to improve results. Grinding the bean more finely (or choosing a different coffee), tamping it down gently in the filter and removing the pot at just the right moment (you’ll soon learn when) will all help to produce a more consistent and smoother cup.

If you had to choose…

So how does the Bialetti compare to other coffee machines both in its class and otherwise? Well this is of course a question of taste and expense. The French Press is a close neighbour which is similarly low cost and low maintenance (filter papers aside), however for espresso drinkers looking for that strong flavour the higher water content of the cafetiere will not compete favourably with the Moka pot.

Then there’s the auto-drip option which I have in my time enjoyed many a good coffee from. Against these machines the Moka pot, understandably, does less well. The Cuisinart Grind and Brew filter and auto-drip coffee maker is a great all-rounder producing a freshly ground, full-bodied cup with the option to choose the strength (something you miss on the Bialetti) and cup size (up to 12). Its thermal plate also ensures that leftovers are kept warm for hours.

The Low-Fi Choice

But when counter space and budgets are tight, the filter papers have been left unordered and the grinder uncleaned and blocked, the footloose and fancy-free Bialetti is still on my shelf waiting morning after morning to deliver the low-fi hit I need.

Review by Claire Moran

Posted on 2 Comments

Review: DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 4200.S

Rather than fill up Roasting House with many different coffee machines, we’ve asked coffee lovers to review the coffee makers they use to make their perfect brew at home. First up – the DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 4200.S


The DeLonghi Magnifica is an essential piece of bean to cup kit for coffee connoisseurs. Not only does it grind beans on the spot for an intense, rich flavour, it has a smart energy saving function too so you can save the planet while making your morning espresso, latte or cappuccino. With this in mind, here is a run down of the pros and cons of one of DeLonghi’s most popular models. If you are looking for a serious step up in your morning coffee, this machine could well be the investment for you.

A Great Option for First Time Buyers

If you are buying a bean to cup machine for the very first time, the DeLonghi Magnifica is the perfect choice. Compared with some of the best coffee machines out there, the DeLonghi Magnifica is exceedingly easy to use when it comes to making coffee. Simply switch it on, select from the one cup or two cup buttons and the machine does the rest for you. It is packed full of fantastic features that allow you to create a coffee that is full of flavour in seconds and is also affordably priced. It lets you know when it needs cleaning and even collects the grounded coffee in a separate compartment so that it can be emptied periodically.

Café Quality Coffee In An Instant

Freshness means a lot when it comes to making the perfect cup of coffee. One of reasons that this machine is so popular is its ability to create coffee of the highest quality at the touch of a button. It also uses freshly ground beans for each new cup of coffee so you always get the freshest taste. This bean to cup machine is an excellent choice for those who want that authentic coffee shop taste at home. With a milk frother and an adjustable spout to allow you to use cups of all sizes, this machine really does put you in control of your coffee.

A Tailored Coffee Experience

One of the standout features of the DeLonghi Magnifica is its ability to tailor your coffee experience to suit your individual requirements. Thanks to its high-tech features, you can adjust the quantities of both coffee and water to achieve the ideal coffee.  With the DeLonghi Magnifica, you can tailor everything from the temperature to the strength of your coffee. Espresso lovers will fall head over heels for the advanced boiler system that ensures you get the perfect temperature every time.


DeLonghi coffee makerHigh Performance Low Maintenance

With a 15-bar pump pressure, there’s no denying that the DeLonghi Magnifica is a high performance piece of kit, but is it low maintenance? This coffee machine is exceptionally easy to clean thanks to the fully removable brewing unit and built in drip tray. Not only does this machine practically clean itself the moment you switch it on, it boasts automatic descaling, cleaning and rinsing programs.

Style and Substance

Sleek and shiny, this machine is not lacking in the style department. Compact with a sophisticated silver finish, this design is versatile and will complement every style of décor. However, the DeLonghi Magnifica isn’t just a pretty face. It is packed to the brim with fantastic features that make creating the perfect cup of coffee a breeze. There are clever little features such as the plate on top of the machine that is designed to keep your cups warm and it is small finishing touches like these that really set the DeLonghi Magnifica apart from the rest. The silver finish makes it a popular choice, as it will look great wherever you decide to put it in your kitchen.

Any Negatives?

The DeLonghi Magnifica ticks almost every coffee lover’s box. However, if I were to turn my attention to the negative aspects, there is one slight drawback with this machine. The bean to cup model does make a cracking cup of coffee but it certainly isn’t quiet about it. The grinding of the coffee beans and the frothing of the milk does tend to make a racket but in my opinion that is a small price to pay for café quality coffee.

So, there you have it, a review of the DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 4200.S. In short, this is a serious piece of kit that brings the coffee shop experience into your own home without breaking the bank. With excellent results on all types of drinks, this machine boasts the perfect balance between quality and convenience. Have you tried the DeLonghi Magnifica? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


This is part of a series where we ask coffee lovers to review their home coffee making equipment – crowd sourced coffee maker reviews you might say. Want to submit a review? Email

Posted on 2 Comments

Park Bikeworks, Derby review


We had heard about Park Bikeworks a few weeks earlier from Twitter and were keen to try it out. Its free bike parking, showers, cafe, good food using local and seasonal ingredients, bike servicing, sports injury clinic, and cycling as a way of life all under one roof, sounded like our sort of place and the sort of place we had already imagined The Roasting House may turn into one day – a destination for bike and coffee lovers.

Only problem (for us) was the 50 mile round trip and the diminishing suitable daylight hours as we enter the autumn months but we were keen to make time.

We found time on a whim the first Sunday in November 2014; a cool day, light breeze and only a small chance of rain. Knowing that Route 6 services the outskirts of Nottingham and it would take us straight there we packed up some cowboy coffee in a flask (grinds and hot water – no filtering which tends to make a bitter brew but we used light Sumatra beans to counter) and headed towards the nearest blue and red Sustrans signs to follow them west. Google suggested 2 hours for the journey but with a few wrong turns, a leisurely pace, and a coffee break, this took us a little over two and half hours from NG5.

Following Route 6 you enter Derby passing a BMX and pump track that the local youth were putting to good use, going through more parks and across a couple of roads you find yourself in the city centre. It didn’t take long to find Park Bikeworks, a purpose built three storey building.

The lower ground floor is where you enter with your bike. We hadn’t registered but the helpful person behind the counter said when we come back just explain we are non-members and they will be able to locate our bikes. It’s free to register and you can do it from their website and makes things a whole lot easier for them so do this before you go.


After leaving our bikes we headed upstairs to an open-floor café-cum-bike-shop. Hardwood flooring throughout and a well thought-out layout which let us glance at the fancy bikes but didn’t obscure or take over the café area. There was plenty of seating inside and out on the terrace.

Our immediate hunger was our first concern and with a choice of vegetarian options at a reasonable price we opted for the Fritatta & salad at £4.75 and Mushroom Burger at £6.50, for drinks we ordered Long Blacks (they call them Americanos). We decided to head for the terrace where the sun was shining and we could rest our legs.


Naturally our drinks arrived first. The coffee had a good crema but the taste was disappointing. Quite bitter suggesting to us that the blend they use is quite heavy in robusta and they are using pre-ground coffee. We did not see which coffee and roaster they used and they don’t seem to advertise this either leading to conclusion it’s probably a generic buy-by-bulk-purchase type. We added sugar (something we never do) and while discussing that our cowboy coffee should be more bitter, our food arrived.

Jpeg Jpeg

The food was excellent and really hit the spot. Enough to fill up the hole a 25 mile cycle ride can make. Finishing off our food quicker that what would have been polite in anyone else’s company, we sat a while and admired the cycle hub.

On the terrace you can see all human life with bikes enter. From the fisherman who looked like he may have had more drinks than fish bites on his outing to the lycra-clad who are just stopping in for a quick look in the shop or to use the facilities. I can imagine on a weekday Park Bikeworks is be very busy with commuters coming into the centre. Not having to carry a couple of heavy locks with you makes travelling by bike and using Park Bikeworks a no-brainer for transport in Derby. Case-in-point was the previous Friday evening in Nottingham centre we wanted somewhere to go for coffee and cake but because we didn’t have locks with us our only options were those with outside seating and still open. We did find one eventually but if a Bikeworks existed in Nottingham chances are we would have already dropped off our bikes and chosen from many of the wonderful cafes Nottingham has to offer and we could have chosen somewhere warm to sit.


The shop caters for every bike need. Mostly premium but quality brands and similar prices you would find in all bike shops. You may not find bargain of the century but you will find your preferred cycle area catered for with quality items.

After looking round the shop and putting all our will against the science of n+1, we decided to have a look around Derby City Centre. One affect of Bikeworks on Derby seems to be that there weren’t lots of bikes attached to street furniture. This helps remedy the false perception that some non-cyclists think a disproportionate amount of space is given to bikes. Likewise, people on bikes feel the frustration when cars are parked in facilities not designed for them when there is a perfectly good car park nearby and so pedestrians feel the same when bikes are in the way in places not designed for them.

Summary – build it and they shall come.

We came because they built it so that is proof enough. It’s brilliant in its execution of what bike advocates are crying out for: a destination for someone on a bike,  something we rarely see outside of London. It takes up fewer square metres than you may imagine and makes it one of the better cycling infrastructures in The North – which is either to say how good this hub is or how bad years of poor decisions on sustainable transport have been. But we want to focus on the now and we believe that if there were places like these every 10 miles the harshest opponents of bikes would soon be converts as it would free so much space on the roads for more essential motor vehicle journeys (one car takes up as much room as eight bikes in slow moving traffic).


We spent five hours in the saddle just to have a look. We will be going again because the route is nice and the food is great. Showers on the top floor are a nice touch making it accessible even for the tidiest of business men and women to freshen up. You can even leave your belongings in a locker on the lower ground floor so there is no question of what to do with your stuff if carrying is undesirable.

We are disappointed in the coffee and we hope that considering the crossover between cyclists and coffee lovers seems to be high, this may be something they remedy in the near future. You may think we are overlooking this too much for a coffee blog, but we are also cyclists and coffee is easier to change than cycling infrastructure. We would be keen to hear from anyone who has milk based coffee drinks so we have a comparison. As drinkers of only black coffee, maybe our preferred tastes for sweeter beans does not compliment well with the larger latte and flat white market.

We did a back of the envelope business plan of what it would take to get one up and running in Nottingham and starting a co-operative consisting of entrepreneurs in coffee (us obviously), a bike shop, bike maintenance, deli/cafe, clothing, sports injury clinic and you have shared costs in one amazing space in which a large percentage of your customer base have as a destination. We would certainly be interested in anybody interested in joining us in such a venture one day.