Coffe is a serious thing for us, in Italy. However the Italians are not the biggest consumers. Based on several available statistics, appearently those who rank fisrt in coffee consumption are the Finns (approx 13 kg per person/year), then come the Norwegians (approx 10 kg per person/year).
Appearently in Italy we do consume approximately 6 kg of coffe per person/year and it might sound weird if you consider that coffee is a true religion for us. The reason behind such a low consumption rate, may be the way we prepare our coffee, at home or at a bar which allow us to get a very tasty and strong result with a very low quantity of coffee powder.
Let’s start from the very beginning.
Before 1819 coffe was made with the “canovar” method by immersing a canvas bag containing the coffee powder, tied with a cord, in water. Pretty much the same thing we do nowadays with tea. Before the canovar, coffee was made by putting the power directly in the water (which is the technique still used today in Turkey) but the Italians and the Europeans didn’t like the feeling that wet coffe power left into their mouth.
In 1819 a French man created the first coffee machine that we, however, call “Caffettiera Napoletana” because it was refined in Naples. Such machines require the ability of turning it upside down when the water starts to boil. Such movememt allows the water to fall through the filter, drop by drop, taking out the flavour from the coffe powder and slowly fill the container. That is why both sections of the Caffettiera Napoletana have a handle.
In 1884 the city of Torino hosted the first “General Italian Expo” where new inventions were presented to the public, some of which are nowadays considered the prototypes of several modern technologies we do use on a daily basis. One of the exhibitors was a local entrepreneur called Angelo Moriondo, an engineer whose family made a fortune in the tourism industry (with hotels and bars/coffe shops in Torino). In the attempt of shortening the coffee making process and serve more people quickly, he patented the very first espresso machine. Yes, That Espresso Machine!!!! Despite the technological innovations brought by the several contemporary producers, the process is still the one created by Angelo Moriondo.
However his intent was not to make a commercial deal out of his creation, thus another entrepreneur, called Luigi Bezzera, created a similar machine and sold the patent to another company called La Pavoni. That is how the industrial production of Espresso Machine started.
We have to be careful now: the whole world uses the Italian espresso coffee machines, althoguh the reult is not the same. Having a good machine is not enough. The secret also include the type of coffee and its origin (Ethiopia is my favourite, but south America coffees are also pretty good to me), how the beans were toasted and how refined is the milling.
There is one thing that drives the Italians mad when asking for an espresso coffee abroad, which is the question “How many shots“? Espresso is just espresso, shots are not involved. If the meaning behind the question is getting to know how strong our coffe should be, that is pointless to us: coffe must be strong, and espresso is exactly like that, in just one single “shot”.
Second of all you have to consider that each Italian likes a different kind of Coffee which is the reason why we do often say that the Italian barmen shall be very patient: if we enter a bar in a group of 10, the barman knows he has to make 10 different coffees: ristretto (very short), lungo (long, but still espresso), macchiato (with a bit of hot milk), corretto (with a bit of liquor in it) and all the variables in between: ristretto macchiato, lungo corretto et cetera…
The whole world believes the Italian espresso is too strong and will keep you awake all night long. It is not so: the espresso machine uses a very low quantity of coffee, while the Americano coffe (and all those made with the same technique), needs a lot more coffee powder. Thus the thing is that the espresso is tastier, while Americano is stronger.
There is one last way to make coffee, which is the one we all use everyday at home to make our morning coffee. In 1933 another Italian entrepreneur, named Angelo Bialetti, created the MOKA. Do not mistake it for a drink because it’s not. Moka is the one and only “Caffettiera”. A coffee made with moka is not an espresso, It’s jusy coffee. To me, the best one. Take everything from me but not my Moka.
In the past decade a bit Nestle created the Nespresso brand which flooded into out houses too. Personally I do no like any of their coffees, but especially, even if they were good to me, I do stick to tradition. Thus if you want to try a real espresso at a bar you don’t even have to ask for it because coffe to us is only espresso, just look the barman in the eye and say “Caffè”, while if you are a guest of an Italian family give yourself the chance to have a Moka-made coffee…The world will look different after that.
What about you? Do you like the Italian espresso or do you prefer the Americano?