Cycling’s Rule #12 is that the correct number of bikes to own is n + 1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. Although n + 1 is widely employed by cyclists, it applies to a long gear list:
…just to name a few.
n + 1 also applies to the key social activity shared across all sports: coffee. The correct number of coffee makers = n + 1.
The Bialetti is a “stovetop espresso maker,” although the pressure does not get high enough for the finished drink to be considered a true espresso. It consists of three parts:
–a bottom water tank
–a middle filter cup that holds the coffee grounds
–the top where the brewed coffee collects
The stovetop espresso is produced when the water in the bottom tank heats to the point that the steam pressure forces it through the filter and coffee into the top pot.
The Bialetti was invented by Luigi De Ponti and patented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. The original classic “Moka” model is named after the Yemenite city of Mocha.
The Bialetti was developed during Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime, when Italy was militarizing and the flow of imports and exports was tightly controlled. Bauxite ore, the source of aluminum, was relatively abundant in Italy and favored by the fascists over other metals that had to be imported. Consequently, De Ponti and Bialetti based their design on what was considered the ‘national metal’ of Italy. Also in historical context, Italy invaded Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) in 1935 which gave it access to the African country’s rich coffee plantations. Apparently there was a propaganda campaign that united a “futurist” vision of aluminum and caffeine into symbols of Italian national pride in the form of a coffee maker. As a result, Moka pots were thought to have been in 90% of Italian households.
Alfonso Bialetti’s son Renato is credited with popularizing the Moka pot beyond Italy after the war. According to the NY Times, Renato was famous for several successful marketing campaigns:
–The Moka motto: “In casa un espresso come al bar” — “An espresso at home just like the one at a coffee shop” — became part of the national lexicon.
–“Carosello” (“The Carousel”), was a 10-minute advertising program that ran from 1950 to 1977. Thanks to Italian laws requiring that commercials entertain rather than sell, “Carosello” became one of the most popular shows on television, a family ritual that signaled bedtime for children, because it ended at 9 p.m. Topo Gigio, an Italian mouse who was a popular character in the Ed Sullivan variety show, was one of the Carosello puppets that earned a global following.
In the mid-1970s the company faced difficulties, changed management, and expanded its product line. The Moka pot is so simple that there are virtually no parts to wear out, so you only really need to buy one and it will work fine for a lifetime.
The Bialetti user guide makes it clear that Italians recognize that coffee is as much ritual as a drink:
The Italian Coffee Ritual
In 1933, with the invention of the Moka Express, Bialetti revolutionized the way of making Italian-style coffee, interpreting its creativity, culture, and passion. Today as in the past, take home the best products to create even more the pleasure of being in good company and the unique flavor of true Italian coffee.
How to Brew and Enjoy a Perfect Bialetti
Based on extensive experimentation, here are my recommendations for brewing a perfect Bialetti pot:
1. A new pot needs to be “conditioned.” To do this, brew a few pots that you don’t drink. When I most recently conditioned a new Moka, I bought some inexpensive beans and discovered they taste great in the Bialetti. I’m now buying these beans on a regular basis; they are less than half the price of the beans I was previously buying!
2. The beans need to be ground to an “espresso” fineness. Using a grind that is too fine can clog the filter pores. When this happens the water can’t get forced through the filter, and instead the steam escapes through the safety valve and no or little coffee gets produced.
3. Add filtered water to the bottom of the maker, just below the safety valve.
4. Insert the filter cup into the bottom then add ground coffee. Do not overfill the filter cup. Do not compact the coffee. The coffee needs to be loose in the filter or the filter will clog.
5. Heat the Bialetti. Since the Moka is made of aluminum it won’t heat on induction stoves. In this case you have two alternatives–get one of the stainless steel models, or use an induction converter disc which might be handy regardless.
6. The coffee is ready when you hear a characteristic “swoosh” sound as steam is released into the top. Remove from the heat, gently stir the coffee, then serve.
7. The cup you use for drinking is an important part of the ritual. I recommend Italian-made espresso cups, or cups with your favorite pet or favorite athletic passtime on them.
8. Of course, coffee is best enjoyed with a friend, as Bialetti says: “…the pleasure of being in good company…”