Tag Archives: Italian coffee

The Diary of a Moka Pot: The Essence of Italian Caffe Culture

Making Moka Coffee 3 by Lameen
Making Moka Coffee 3 a photo by Lameen on Flickr.

It’s almost 7 years from the day when we first touched down in Rome for a family holiday. Hearing that I liked coffee, my cousin’s Italian husband handed me a Bialetti moka pot and some ground Lavazza coffee, with a short explanation on how to use it. A little skeptical, I tried it on the first morning and was amazed at the taste (Yes ! back then, I only drank expensive instant coffee and/or French Press coffee). For the first few days inside our rented holiday apartment, I only had coffee in the morning, but after the 3rd day, I got used to having it at least twice a day. On departure from Rome, I thanked my cousin’s husband for introducing me to the moka pot.

On arrival back home in Vienna, the craze began – I needed a moka pot and fast. Back then, believe it or not, even in Vienna, Austria, it wasn’t easy to find one and I was kicking myself for having not bought one in Italy before we left. I found out later that Italians never leave Italy without one and I should have followed that concept. In any case, I goggled Bialetti, found their website and was glad to see that they had an on-line sales option. BUT, alas it wasn’t that easy – being frustrated with trying to buy a moka pot on-line, I decided to call them and guess what, their English voice-mail said they were on holiday for August – how can a company go on holiday for August ? In any case, after many lunch hours spent up and down the city of Wien (Vienna in German), I eventually found a 6 cup one. Afternoons at work were not going to be the same, with colleagues popping their head into the mini-kitchen, drawn in by the smell of Italian style coffee (the aroma of making coffee on a moka pot is amazing), wondering what Lameen was doing. Those brave enough, joined me, after all it was six cup moka pot. On that, six cups in Italy, really means six espresso style cups.

AND that folks is the beginning of “From Coffee with Love“. I am a bit puzzled that I haven’t related this story here, because from then on, I went full-on into coffee. I began with a Bialetti Brikka (pictured above), which is a moka pot that produces crema and then I went on to espresso machines and now I have a caffe, Escape Caffe, as you all know.

So, here’s a quick step on using a Moka Pot, my way of course.

Assume you have grinder, good beans and scales (optional in this case) and of course a Moka Pot.

1. Unscrew your moka pot and pour enough cold water into the lower cavity (about 100ml for a 3 cup) until it us just below the steam release device – this is easy – there’s a hole for the outlet inside the bottom of the moka pot.

2. Place the portafilter on top of the cavity containing the water.

3. Grind your coffee on a grind coarser than espresso but not as much as for a French Press. So, for example if you have a grinder that ranges from 1 – 10 with espresso at 2 and French Press at 9/10, grind on 4.

4. Place the ground coffee into the filter holder till it fills it and lightly tamp with your fingers (see below). This is the reason why scales are not essential for this method, because you should not put too little and not too much, just enough to fill the filter. I’m guessing for a 3 cup, about 13 grammes.

5. Screw the top on gently and place onto a hob turned to full, because you want it to boil. A note, Bialetti Moka Pots are made with aluminum because it is the fastest heat conductor – i.e. it takes on more heat than any other metal that we know off so far. This means that the moka pot heats up very quickly. Nowadays, stainless steel ones are made, with a heavy price tag, but good old aluminum is best.

6. First Light – Signs that you did the right thing – a little coffee escaping.

7. It’s coming – yes, the excessive heat and steam building up inside the bottom part of the moka pot, pushes the coffee through the sieve an into the top cavity – the wonders of a simple but effective creation.

8. Whoooshhhhh ! is what you hear and this is what you see when its finished.

You can enjoy black with a little sugar ( I recommend a little for this method) or with cream, yum.

Caution: Don’t place the moka pot anywhere after it has finished, except on a hot plate, as the pot is still very hot. Let it cool down before you wash it by emptying the puck (used coffee) and rinsing out the base and top parts.

The Moka Pot is really simple and when I introduced it to my staff at Escape Caffe, they were amazed by the taste and wanted more. We plan to start selling them soon.

Ciao e buon giorno


What is an Italian Latte ?

First up, I must announce on my blog, for all those non-coffee geeks, who don’t know already, that the World Barista Champion is Mike Phillips of Intelligentsia Coffee. Intelligentsia Coffee is actually becoming world famous amongst the coffee world and so it won’t be that much of a surprise that they are able to churn out a world class barista. You can view more about Intelligentsia on my blog roll, or follow mike phillips on twitter on 1shotfortheroad – cool name.

OK ! so as we’ve just been elongated with the technical terms of coffee at the WBC, I thought it apt to tackle the technicalities of the so called “what is an Italian Latte ?” debate. It’s actually a very contentious issue and on many forums, pages and pages have been written about what exactly is a latte. Let’s start from the basics. Caffe is Italian for coffee and Latte is Italian for… wait for it…. MILK. So strictly speaking, a caffe latte is coffee with milk. BUT, what sort of milk and what sort of coffee. Have a I lost you ? Stay with me. OK ! we know that most coffee drank in Italy, is espresso based, so that was easy wasn’t it ? We’ve got the coffee out of the way and now for the difficult bit, what sort of milk. We now have 3 types of milk, (i) heated milk, which you can just pour into a small pot and take of the heat when steam appears, or if you have a microwave, pop in for between 30-60 seconds, (ii) steamed milk, which ideally should display lots of steam when heated or if you are lucky enough to have a proper espresso machine, one in which you steam before it froths or if we are going to be technical place the steam wand right into the milk jug as far as it will go, and steam – it will heat up very quickly and you shouldn’t see any bubbles at all. (iii) frothed milk – what we all crave, because if done properly, it should be silky smooth and sweetish, with a wrap around your mouth texture – if you have never had this experience, then the barista that is making your drink, needs to be re-trained or you need to practice more, but this post isn’t about frothing milk, sorry !

So for Italian Latte, I have to be the bearer of bad news and commit myself to say, there should be no frothed milk, boo hoo ! The pic at the top of this post is one made using frothed milk and so it is an imposter. So, that’s right, what a great majority of cafes serve as a caffe latte isn’t a caffe latte, because it is covered with frothed milk. If you have time and money to waste, but are passionate about not getting conned, order a large cappuccino and a caffe latte at your “regular” coffee shop and try and tell what the difference is – good luck and let me know.

OK ! Back to the milk stuff. The first type of milk, heated, is what you should really have in the French version, cafe au lait – OK ! for those who don’t know French and coffee terms, coffee (using the French Press) with milk. So, the second version, steamed milk, should ideally be used for the Italian caffe latte. How do you know if it is steamed and not heated ? Steamed milk should have a trickle of “body”. See below, that little white line on the top.

If you are really passionate, after your drink, check out the inside. It should look a bit like this, Why ?

Well ! that bit of dark cream, is the crema from a well prepared espresso, a double in this case, which interacted with the steamed milk, giving it a bit of a “body” or thick skin. If there was frothed milk, it will still be there, thick as ever. If it was just heated milk, it would wash away your crema and hence the evidence. I’m not mad, but just so you know, this is how the Italian measure their coffees afterwards, by looking inside after it has been drunk. All together now, mad coffee freak….. Hope you learned something, Take care and check those caffe lattes.