You say expresso, I say espresso

8 Sep

As my good friend Margaret helpfully pointed out, the debate continues.

Some caffeine to get you ready for the weekend, and a surprise treat at the end.

So, let’s begin with one of the first lessons in becoming a real transplanted Roman. Just last week I made a purchase that is essential to all your run-of-the-mill Italian households: the moka. And not just any moka, no siree, we are talking authentic here, so, behold: the Bialetti.

I am now having a flashback of my fianceè Alessandro on our first visit to Phoenix, where I used to live. After bravely trying to survive without his beloved cappuccino or espresso for a total of oh, about 3 days, he surrendered and said that we simply had to find a moka in Phoenix. “You have everything in the United States, so we will find it.” After scouring every kitchen store from Chandler to Scottsdale, finally the angels started to sing at Sur La Table, where we spent a pretty penny for the “real thing” and proceeded to make our Italian espresso in the Arizona desert.

So, without further ado, let me initiate you into the sacred world of the vero espresso Italiano.

I’ve created a little photo collage to lead us along. Feel free to refer back as needed.

Now, don’t be fooled into thinking that your average-Giovanni Italian has a Starbucks-like set-up at home for his coffee. Oh no, the humble yet elegant Bialetti or some generic knock-off does the job just fine, thank you.

Your choice of coffee is of course all-important. Italians can be coffee snobs. Ask a Roman and you’ll probably be told that the best coffee in Rome can be had at Caffè Sant Eustachio, or alternatively at Tazza d’Oro. Today we’ll use a (gasp) supermarket brand from Segafreddo. Storage in hermetic container is a good idea.

Coffee connoisseurs will grind the beans but we are pressed for time, so, note the grind: the moka grind is something between an espresso grind and a drip grind: not too fine, not too coarse. In Italy most pre-ground coffees are produced specially for the moka.

The moka is a simple feat of engineering: just three main parts. There is a tank for water on the bottom, a filter for the coffee in the middle, and a tank for the coffee on the top. Semplice! (Sem-plee-chay)

Now, we can get on with making our espresso. First, fill the small tank with water up to just below the valve. Then, place the filter in and fill it with coffee. Don’t press the coffee down. Then you can screw on the tank, and place it on the burner. A low flame or low heat is best.

Soon your coffee will start bubbling out and you’ll know it’s ready when you start to hear sputtering noises. It usually takes about 5 minutes.

The whole kitchen fills with the coffee aroma: even my cat Betsy wanted some!

Here you have it then: Serve in an espresso cup, about half-full. If you want, you can add milk and then it becomes “espresso macchiato” or “stained espresso.”

Wait! Before you go out and buy your very own Bialetti, turn on your computer speakers and check out this great little animated short comparing Italy to the rest of the European Union. Besides the scene of Italians ordering their coffee in a million different ways, you’ll get a preview of some other aspects of Italian life—that we’ll certainly talk about in posts to come!


9 Responses to “You say expresso, I say espresso”

  1. FinnyKnits September 8, 2006 at 5:22 pm #

    I won’t lie. Since Ale’s first visit to my house I have been trying *not* to buy a Moka myself. But, alas, I am weak, and have told myself that next time I’m at Cost Plus (yep, they have them there, too) that I can get one. Because I only really like espresso, so the giant mugs of motor oil that husband makes won’t suffice. Thanks for the tutorial though – it’ll hopefully save me from brutally scorching myself and/or the coffee. 🙂

  2. Ms Adventures in Italy September 8, 2006 at 11:05 pm #

    Thanks for the drive-by on my blog….I like your coffee round-up. I’ll have to direct my parents here so they can improve their Moka use. 🙂 I used to live in Trastevere myself…! Looking forward to reading more.

  3. Cynthia Rae September 9, 2006 at 6:34 am #

    A couple of things here….First off, welcome to the world of expat bloggers! I just found your blog from a comment you left on mine. Thanks for checking mine out. I am looking forward to reading through yours.Second, thanks for not only adding me to your links, but “my boys” as well. I think you are the first to do that and the cats are very happy about it. They want to send a big kiss down to Betsy.Third, the title of this post made me laugh. For a long time (before I moved to Italy) I always said EXpresso and it drove my brother crazy! He was always yelling at me for saying it wrong. Funny though, he was always yelling at me for say cappuccino wrong. After moving to Italy I learn that HE was saying it wrong (he always says CAP-puccino, as in a baseball cap instead of CAH-pucino)! Brothers!When my Italian husband first came to the States to visit me, he was always crying about the low quality cafes! At last we bought a moka for my home and he lived happily ever after. It now resides at my parent’s house where we put to good use on our visits.Cyn

  4. Shelley - At Home in Rome September 9, 2006 at 8:09 am #

    Ms–you lived in Trastevere too? The longer I am in Rome, the more I realize what a small world it really is.Cyn–Amanti di gatti, unite! Or, as they say here in Rome, gattare 🙂 We stationed a moka at my parent’s house in the States, too. These Italian men without their coffee, I tell you!

  5. Shelley - At Home in Rome September 9, 2006 at 8:10 am #

    PS Finny! If you don’t get one at Cost Plus before you get here in October, we will get your outfitted before you go back.

  6. Tracie B. September 9, 2006 at 8:52 am #

    i had cafe at the tazza d’oro, there’s another truth about going south, the cofee gets shorter and shorter…here in napoli you find espressos that are 1 finger deep

  7. Ms Adventures in Italy September 9, 2006 at 1:53 pm #

    Yes, I lived in the building that faces Santa Maria in Trasteveren for 3 months…great location, crappy/old apartment, very noisy. But what a wonderful way to get to know the city! One of my best friends still lives in the area…I’ll have to introduce you two. She’s been in Italy almost 6 years.

  8. Lux Lisbon September 11, 2006 at 6:27 am #

    i ran out of espresso this morning. that post was like porn.

  9. Shelley - At Home in Rome September 11, 2006 at 6:31 am #

    Defensive–So kind of you to remind us all, we should NEVER underestimate the power of a good espresso!

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