For years, Italians generally consumed their coffee publicly. Coffeehouses dominated the coffee trade from selling to roasting and consumption. Alfonso Bialetti changed all that in 1933 when he crafted the aluminum stovetop espresso coffee maker. This "Moka Express" eventually found itself in most Italian homes, thus changing the essence of the Italian coffee culture.
For visitors, the Bialetti Moka contraption appears complicated and archaic to use. In fact, when used properly, it makes the most devine (and stout) cup of espresso! My first experience with the Bialetti Moka was in 2002. I decided to forego the luxuries of a hotel and rent an apartment. Along with the normal kitchen conveniences, I found a Bialetti Moka. After several mornings of drinking "mud" (or, on one instance, it was more like "stained" water), I swallowed my pride and asked for help. At dinner, I asked my restaurant server to show me the proper way to use the machine. I was prepared for ensuing instructions at the table. But, no! He urged me into the kitchen for a hands-on demonstration. (I so love the Italian way!)
Unfortunately, I can't pull you through the pages of this blog to give you a hands-on demo, but I can do the next best thing with this video from the Italian coffee maker, Illy. You can find the original Bialetti Moka and newer models at Bialettishop.com.