Espresso, decaf, double shot, black, served with warm or cold milk, drunk from a small cup as in Milan or from a glass as in Rome (usually paired with a little glass of water), made from freshly ground beans or with a ready made espresso blend, enjoyed as it is or with a shot of liqueur. How many ways are there to say coffee?
Coffee is a key part of Italian culture, often being the very first thing Italians drink in the morning; at My Pinch of Italy’s headquarters we always drink at least two coffees before starting our daily tasks. Coffee breaks are an essential moment in the office life of big cities, and a cup of coffee is the first thing to be offered to a guest. Italians often end up drinking about 5 coffees a day, and some people even drink it as their bedtime ritual, especially among older generations.
Neapolitan coffee is made with a specific kind of coffeepot, called ‘Cuccumella‘. In the Cuccumella, the water drips on the coffee from above. The more famous Italian Moka, used throughout the rest of Italy and particularly in Milan, works in the exact opposite way: the steam produced by the boiling water forces the water upwards, through the coffee powder. Although the results are just as delicious, they are strikingly different and highlight different qualities of the coffee blend used.
But how do you make an exceptionally good Italian coffee with a Moka?
Throw away the first coffee
If you’ve just bought your Moka, be aware that the first coffee (and often also the second one) will simply not be good.
Start by preparing a ‘fake coffee’, putting only water in your Moka and no coffee powder; afterwards, you can prepare one or two proper coffees. Be aware, though, that you should only start drinking coffee from your Moka after having used it for about two days – and it will take some days more than that for the coffee to be actually enjoyable.
Prepare your Moka step by step
Pour water in the boiler until it reaches just beneath the safety valve. Be careful to not cover the valve in water for your own safety.
Add the filter and fill it up with a generous amount of coffee powder. Never tamp the coffee powder, under any circumstances: the Moka could explode if the water builds up too much pressure but cannot go through the coffee powder.
What you can do, like most baristas, is to knock the side of the boiler onto a hard surface, so that the coffee powder distributes into an even layer.
Screw together the different parts of your Moka, making sure they are tightly closed. Then put the Moka on the stove on low heat. As soon as the coffee starts to fill the upper chamber, immediately raise the lid to prevent the condensed water from falling into the jug. Remove the Moka from the stove after a short time, before the coffee has finished brewing.
There’s two more things you should be aware of. First, never use hot water from the tap to speed up the preparation of coffee, as it is unsanitary, especially when your building’s piping system is old. Second, never leave the coffee to boil on the stove; it will burn the coffee powder and make the result bitter and undrinkable.
Never wash your Moka
Or better said: never wash the Moka with detergent and never put it in the dishwasher. This would irreparably alter the taste of your coffee. To take good care of your Moka, clean it only with hot water and some kitchen paper.
You’re all set now!