December 5, 2011

'Mo Moka, Please

The Italians know a thing or two about food and drink. They know their pastas, their cured meats and their wines. And the also know their coffees. Oh, how well they know their coffees.

When I lived in Italy my sophomore year, a cappuccino in the morning before class was a simple and often seriously needed pleasure which I came to love. Going to a local bar (coffee shop), I would order un cappuccino which would shortly arrive - intensely flavored, frothy, milky and piping hot. On a side note, the baristas in Italy are insanely fast. At my favorite bar, the barista could prepare four or five coffee drinks at once with the speed and precision of a mechanic on Adderall. 

Though I could only stop by the bar for un cappuccino before class from time to time, my need for intense Italian espresso was a constant.  In Italy it's not uncommon to drink five or six espressos a day, so my regular morning shot hardly seemed excessive. Luckily, the Italians have invented a genius way to bring espresso right into your home, no fancy-schmancy espresso machine required.
It's called a moka. It's a two-chamber stove-top coffee pot which brews fresh espresso in a matter of minutes. Just add water (and espresso grounds), and you have yourself a prefect espresso or latte or cappuccino or whatever you want. To use it, you put water in the bottom chamber, espresso grounds in a small container above that, and screw on the top chamber. When the water heats, pressure forces it up through the grounds and into the top chamber, where fresh espresso awaits. 

In Italy, everyone has one of these at home. For college students, I think they're a dream come true. At Wesleyan I've been using one for the past couple of years. They brew fantastic espresso, are fast and easy, and take up a lot less room than a coffee machine. There are even adorable mini-mokas which make single-serving shots. (They do require a stovetop, so you microwave-only dormers might have to sit this one out for the time being.) And these things are durable, ours is lovingly worn from many years in Damiano's family and still works like a star. Last, they're super fashionable (read: they will make you cool).  

In the winter, some moka-made espresso and warmed milk makes for the perfect morning latte. In the summer, it's delicious poured over ice with cold milk and sugar for a refreshing coffe drink. It's a simple way to make college feel a little more like a bustling Italian bar, which, I might add, is the right way to start your day wherever you are.