Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Can anyone imagine an Italy without coffee. Of course not! The place would grind to a halt. It would almost be like a science fictiony movie with a time warp. People would be striding through thick air. With coffee, though, there’s a lot of hustle. Besides, the bar (our cafe’ ) is the center of life everywhere. It’s the social club, extended living room as well as the quick stop to toss back a shot of espresso. Of course Italians don’t think of their coffee as espresso, it’s just coffee. Everyone else’s coffee is different and maybe even a little suspect. Cafe’ americano? It’s just watered down espresso. I haven’t seen it for awhile (OK at least in the teens of years) but I have been amazed to see a jacketed waiter walking down the street carrying a tray with a number of espresso cups  and a little napkin “hat” on each of them.  I guess the little hats are  a futile attempt to keep the coffee warm since such a small cup of coffee cools quickly. I’m of the school that drinks it right down – two sips at most for an Italian sized coffee.

But let’s move on to the apparatus for Italian coffee. I could go into the world of espresso machines; from the big brass hammered decorations of old machines to the crisp new gleaming high tech ones at cafe’s or bars now. But I won’t other than the photos above. The thing that more interests me is something for my home. So I go with the moka’s. They make great coffee. Sure, they don’t have that nice crema on top but it tastes great, is cheap and as easy as, well, una torta.

I have a few mokas that I really like and some cups as well. One of the nice things about acquiring things of whatever sort is that they then forever evoke memories of time and place. That always seems more so when the object is imbued with something special because of the circumstances of having it in your hands. Be it a long held desire or a sudden fascination, it is wise to give in often enough to have evocative items to look at, hold and use. So back to the mokas. The first one is a small one bought somewhere in Liguria – I think in Santa Margherita Ligure. In any case it’s lovely and the perfect size for that quick hit before going out somewhere after a hard day of doing whatever. The second one is my everyday one as you can kind of see. I’m not sure where I bought this one – maybe in Emiglio Romagna. I know that I bought one there. Whatever. The third one I bought here over 20 years ago and the final one is the masterpiece. After loading it up you should then place two Italian sized espresso cups under the two spouts for coffee. Beautiful! But it doesn’t work worth merde. Quick aside : I thought that it was “caca” rather than “merde” to say “shit” but the Italians went for the French according to my dictionary. Anyway the thing has never worked for me. I tried it three or four times and gave so. So now I consider it an artwork: The Tree of Coffee.

Making coffee is a snap in a moka. I do it every morning. It’s richer tasting than any drip or press coffee that I’ve had. I wash it out and reload it with coffee and water in literally a minute or two while I’m in the kitchen doing other things. I guess that I’m assuming that my readers all are familiar with making coffee in a moka. If you’re not, send me a comment and I will elaborate. There’s not too much craft to it. Since I make a big espresso I have two cups that a favor. The one on the left is the usual daily one but I get such a good feeling from the one on the right. Both are both gifts from the ex but still lovely D. I also have some terrific espresso cups usually only used for guests after dinner. These I bought at Biordi in San Francisco. A great place with  superb quality and extravagant prices.

I’d also love to see interesting mokas or espresso cups for that matter that you might have or know about. Send me a photo and I’ll post them.

P.S.  It’s been a long time between posts. I’m glad that my life has settled down a bit so I can get back to more frequent posts.


6 Responses to “Coffee”

  1. Gabriele Says:

    Il nome della regione è “Emilia Romagna”; parte del nome è dovuto al nome “Emilia”, ovvero la strada voluta dal console Emilio Lepido che collegava Piacenza a Rimini, mentre Romagna è un termine più recente e risale alla divisione della regione tra longobardi e bizantini. “romagna” sta per “romania” ovvero le terre dell’esarcato soggetto all’impero romano d’oriente.

    Effettivamente il caffè qui da noi è importante e lo si beve spesso; l’importante è riuscire a non bruciarlo, altrimenti va sdrammatizzato con lo zucchero o con latte. Di solito lo prendo amaro, così come esce dalla macchinetta 🙂
    Sono contento di leggere che ti sei sistemato 🙂

  2. Joe Says:


    Mi scusi! Che cosa stavo pensando quando ho scritto “Emiglio”. Grazie per la correzione da me. Siamo d’accordo che sia importante non di bruciarlo. Avevo trovato che quando la moka fa rumore è pronto. Anche grazie per tuo ultimo commento. Era stato un tempo difficile. Il mio piano e’ di andare in Italia a settembre per studiare Italiano a Bologna. Se questo accade forse possiamo incontrare.


  3. Dana Says:

    Umm, coffeeeee…. Inspired by the espresso my Italian hosts served, I bought a simple 3 cup Bialetti Moka while I was in Firenze. I love it! As you mention, it’s easy and makes great espresso. It took me a little time to get it right on my electric stove (I think it’s easier on the gas stoves), and now I won’t start the day without it.

    But I have to ask: Are you using American coffee brands? I have been using LaVazza (Italian) because I like it better than the American versions I’ve tried, it’s moderately priced here in the US, and very affordable in Italy – all the better for filling my suitcase when I visit. I like Illy a little better, but I’ve found it’s expensive both here and in Italy. Any suggestions for us coffee lovers to try?

  4. Joe Says:


    Your Bialetti must be the same size as the blue one that I use every morning (the usage certainly shows). My sympathies for having an electric stove. Gas is SOOO much easier to cook on. And, yes, I am using American coffee but keep in mind that I reside in God’s country for anything foodwise. We have LOTS of coffee options here that are not national brands. Of course the level of food quality seems to be improving for the whole country. Following the lead of Starbucks (I think that their coffee has become “McDonaldized” by the way) that seems to have a coffee place practically on every corner, lots of independents seem to have sprung up that care a lot about coffee. If there is a really good cafe’ where you live and like their coffee you can probably buy their beans and they will grind it to the appropriate degree for the moka. I also like Illy but agree that it is expensive. Try some local stuff and see how it works out.

    Let me know,

  5. Gabriele Says:

    Se riesci a concretizzare e ad andare a Bologna a Settembre fammi sapere; ti incontro molto volentieri 🙂

  6. Joe Says:

    Certamente! Penso che devo concretizzare il piano a giugnio o luglio e ti scrivero’ quando tutti e’ solido.


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