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The Moka. The "real" Italian coffee pot PDF Print E-mail
Oct 23, 2012 at 02:04 PM

The Moka in various sizes
The gurgle  comes from the kitchen and is unmistakable, as is the smell of freshly-brewed Italian coffee that permeates the air.

Amidst the proliferation of at home electric espresso machines that use ready-made capsules and which now account for some 3.5 % of the market, there is a whole other Italian coffee scene of which most foreigners are not aware. The Moka! That (non-electric) grey, aluminum coffee pot, or caffettiera that is a fixture in most Italian households and used by some 70% of the Italian population (according to a recent article in the Turin newspaper La Stampa).

Espresso, you might be surprised to learn, is an extra for the majority of Italians, a tiny beverage you drink mid-morning or, in any event, once you have left the house. Espresso (unless you are like me and have it lungo which means with extra water added) allows you only a few sips, while with Moka coffee you can happily fill your cup.

The Moka in pieces
The Moka is a three-piece coffee machine with pressure valves inside. The water is put in the bottom part, the coffee is put in the middle part, called the filtro, or filter, and must NOT be tamped down, and the top part is then screwed back on and the whole thing is put on a low flame. What happens next? According to Italian coffee lore, as soon as the coffee starts spurting into the top part, you must open the lid, and lower the flame. Remove the pot from the fire as soon as it is filled; you do not want it boiling. Some people stir the coffee before pouring it out.

Here are some additional coffee facts regarding the Moka and Italy: the major producer of the classic Moka, Bialetti, has sold, worldwide, some 270 million caffettieri. But there are many other manufacturers - seven million pots are produced every year - and most Italian households own at least two (one cup, two cups etc).

The average Italian (per capita annual consumption is 5.7 kilos of coffee) has a cup of coffee as soon as he or she wakes up. Almost 70% of the total amount of coffee sold in Italy (about 320,000 tons a year) is consumed at home, on one's house, and 57% of that is drunk in the morning at breakfast, or as it is called here, colazione.

There are dozens of brands of packaged coffee for Moka coffee, the best known being Illy and Lavazza, although personally I prefer a brand named Kimbo. But many Italians prefer to have their coffee ground at the local  torrefazione, although these days reportedly there are only about 700 in the country.

Caffettiera napoletana
The Moka has also been made in ceramic, copper, steel, silver and brass, but experts say coffee made with those will taste differently than when made in aluminum. Of course some Italians prefer another type of pot, the napolitana (see picture) which at the end of the process has to be turned upside down. But that, too, is used at home and is - like Moka coffee - still not espresso.

P.S. Just this morning, I answered the phone and the caller was a representative of Lavazza offering a purchase arrangement for a Lavazza home espresso pot. "No thanks", I said. "I use the Moka". "Va bene", she said, "thank you for your time.

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