Wake up and smell the coffee!

On the Go Tours visits some of the world’s prime coffee-producing regions. Find out where these are, and find out how to make a good cup with a stove-top machine.

Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. Atitlán is a prime coffee-producing region in Guatemala

Drinking coffee is rewarding, but it’s also a bit of a gamble. To coffee drinkers, there’s good coffee and bad coffee, and it’s an easy thing to get wrong. If you’re simply a tea drinker, a tea bag in a tea pot is going to taste pretty much the same anywhere. Coffee, however, is a different story.

Of the top 10 coffee-producing nations, we visit four of them on our group tours and tailor made holidays to Mexico, India, Vietnam and Guatemala. Then there are smaller coffee producers, like Kenya, Honduras and Costa Rica, which are also well-known in coffee circles. Even South Africa is known for producing coffee in small quantities.

Making coffee in a stove-top or Moka pot.

This method is not for a traditional espresso – this is mainly a method for reducing acidity. Here’s my recipe for tasty morning rocket fuel:

What you’ll need:

Freshly roasted coffee beans

This sounds obvious, but there are a few steps you need to remember. Make sure the beans you buy have been roasted within the past month, and also that whatever coffee you get is suited for stove-top machines. Because of the high temperatures involved, the stove-top machine brings out the acidity of a coffee, rendering some coffees almost undrinkable. Ask before you buy if you’re unsure of what to get, but you’ll generally be safe with an espresso blend.

Coffee grinder

You’ll need a grinder with ceramic burs as opposed to stainless steel blades. Steel heats up quickly, changing the taste of the coffee. I use a hand grinder, and try to make it a medium grind – something approaching the texture of coarse sand. Not anywhere near as fine as an espresso grind though.

Stove-top machine / Moka pot / Machinetta

These are quite cheap and easy to find. They also last for ages and once you get your method right, they can make a decent cup of coffee. The only thing that really needs replacement is the rubber seal. Easy to use and portable, the stove-top uses the pressure from the heated water in the lower reservoir to pipe it through the coffee in the middle chamber and into the upper one, ready to serve.


Grind enough coffee to fill the middle chamber. Spoon it in and level it off with your finger – there’s no need to pack the coffee down. Importantly, boil the water before you put it into the lower reservoir and fill it until the water reaches the valve. Boiling the water first reduces the amount of time that the coffee is exposed to those high temperatures, so it doesn’t bake in there while the plate on your stove heats the water. Trust me, not only does this make it taste better but it makes the whole process quicker.

Monteverde, Costa Rica. Another coffee-producing region in Costa Rica

Put the middle chamber into the lower reservoir, and – using a cloth to protect your hands – screw the upper reservoir on. Set your hot plate on medium heat and wait for the magic to happen.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on things – lift the lid so that you can see when the coffee starts to rise. You’ll smell the coffee as the water hits it, and then it should start coming out all nice and foamy and gradually emerge faster in a thick, black stream. Stove-tops gurgle once the water boils, and steam will begin to emerge. Steam will burn the coffee, so get it out of there and into your cup before steam emerges.

You’ll notice that you haven’t used all of the water that went into the lower reservoir, so you’ll have a rather small shot or two at the bottom of your cup. Depending on how strong you like your coffee, you may want to add a good glug of hot water from the kettle and a good glug of milk. Personally I just go for milk, and generally the taste is smooth enough that I won’t even need sugar.

Your eyes will have popped wide open by now – keep them that way when you’re on tour with us in Central America, South America, India, Africa and Vietnam and get some beans straight from the source!

If you’ve got a favourite way of preparing your coffee, please share it with us in the comments below.

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