The kitchen catwalk has a new model, La Sorrentina; elegant, polished and cool to the touch. Inspired by a fashion icon from the late 1940’s, La Sorrentina is a “premium” reproduction of the classic stove top espresso machine known as The Atomic. Originally designed in 1947 by Giordano Robbiati, The Atomic literally was “the bomb” of its time. Ultra-modern, ergonomic, sculptural with an aluminum body that was totally state-of-the-art. A product of the atomic age (1945-1960), The Atomic took the science of the Italian caffettiera and made it sexy.
Although kitchen fashionistas tout La Sorrentina’s haute design and ability to operate under a higher pressure than most moka pots an improvement to your brew. The 75 year-old doyenne of Italian caffettiere, Bialetti’s Moka is still used by millions of people around the world. Her bars may be lower (according to the Italian Espresso National Institute and the Specialty Coffee Association of America, an espresso must be made using a precise extraction pressure of 9 bar; a Moka pot achieves 1.5 bar) but the crema of this little macchinetta del caffè is still respectable. Ageing gracefully.
True espresso is produced using hot water and a powerful shot of steam. The espresso grounds under pressure yield an aromatic pool of dark, delectable coffee with a honey colored froth or crema on top that makes “Prendiamo un caffè?” ( loosely translated to mean “Let’s have a coffee?”) the standard Italian greeting heard several times a day.
But while “true” espresso can only be made in an espresso machine, it is possible to make espresso in a stove top Moka pot (my Italian friends and family do this all the time) or dare I say in a French press. However pressing matters and the force generated by the delicate French press coffee plunger cannot compare with 9 bars (8.8 atmospheres of pressure or 130 pounds per square inch), the typical accepted pressure needed for brewing espresso. Using a French press does require a coarser ground coffee so an espresso grind cannot be used. What results is different but good and for French brewed coffee lovers a pressing matter they take very seriously.
There is no documented evidence to suggest that James Bond had a pen like I’m going to describe. But I would venture a guess that if he could he would. As he was found of gadgets, this pen may have caught his eye. It is a pen created by Italian designer Guiliano Mazzuoli, inspired by the famous Bialetti cast aluminum stove top espresso pot. The upper portion of the pen resembles the Moka pots of Mazzuoli’s youth still used in Italian kitchen’s today.
The pen is beautiful, a work of art and a statement of Italian design but with a price tag in excess of $250 you would need the resources of Her Majesty’s Secret Service to afford it.
Italians prefer espresso from a stove top espresso maker called a Moka pot. This classic eight-sided household coffeepot was invented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti. Making espresso in a Moka is the most common way of making espresso style coffee in Europe. Just fill the lower chamber with water and the filter with an espresso ROAST coffee (don’t use espresso GRIND as it is too fine and may clog the filter). Place the pot on the stove and heat until the water boils. As it does, the liquid espresso moves to the upper chamber of the pot, ready to be poured.
A true “espresso” requires more pressure to extract the flavors and oils from the beans than my Moka is capable of. So if you want a true “espresso” walk down to the corner bar and order un caffe’, per favore. If you live in the US I guess that would be Starbucks but then again would that be a “true espresso”.