Italy may not have invented coffee, but the Italians have certainly embraced it as their own. Coffee culture here is guided by strict, if often unspoken, rules and rituals and each region has their own quirks and eccentricities to follow. Naples is no exception. Thanks to a signature coffee pot, a skill for making a super strong espresso and – according to some – the unique mineral content in the local water supply, the city has a reputation for serving up the best coffee in Italy.
While Venetians were knocking back caffeine hits in 1640, it was only with the invention of the caffettiera Napoletana – or Napoletana for short – in the 19th century that coffee really took off in Naples. Despite its name, this flip coffee pot was actually invented by a Frenchman but is now a fully-fledged part of the Neapolitan culture. Although now most commonly made of stainless steel instead of aluminum or tin, the Napoletana still retains a distinctly nostalgic aura. Brewing takes around five minutes – an age compared to a 30-second espresso – and preparation is seen as a ritual to be savored. First, fill the bottom section with water then add coffee grounds to the filter compartment. After boiling the water flip the whole pot over and wait for the dark and strongly flavored coffee to filter into the serving pot. For many Neapolitans, this remains the best way to prepare coffee and the method has even made its way into popular culture.
The taste of the Neapolitan (and Italian) coffee depends on the way of preparation, water quality, and brand, of course. The look and the smell of a caffè reveal its quality. A good caffè has a nut-brown color, a creamy consistency, and a very aromatic smell. When you stir in the sugar, which tends to sink slowly to the bottom of the cup, you get cream. The temperature of the caffè is important, as only hot caffè can bind the flavoring substances. A bad caffè, on the other hand, has a light color, makes bubbles and has a bitter taste.
1- Macinazione, or the grind of the beans; too fine and the water won’t filter properly, too coarse and not enough flavour will be extracted. 2- The Miscela, or blend; good beans mean good coffee, but how long should they be roasted? 3- The Macchina, or espresso machine. A good machine is essential. 4- Finally, to expertly combine all these components a good Mano, or hand, is crucial. Specifically, the hand of the barista who has the power to create a masterpiece.