We’ll end our series on Italian gastronomy with the drink most Italians consider fundamental to daily life: coffee.

Coffee is big in Italy.  Italians sneer at any other coffee but their own.  An Italian friend, Enrico, here in Madrid, called Starbucks coffee “like soup”, and refuses to go there.  “I don’t like that stuff,” he told me.  His solution?  Italian coffee and his Moka.

The Moka, is, in fact, a staple item in all Italian households.  I, myself, have two.  A Moka is a stovetop espresso machine.  Since real espresso machines are expensive, the Moka has become a much more affordable option.

I received my first Moka two summers ago in Chicago, when my Italian friend, Sara, who was visiting, brought one for me.  I received my second Moka over at her house for Christmas this year — but this one is a “Mukka”, not just a Moka… a stovetop cappuccino maker.  A play on words, “mucca” means “cow” in Italian, this one makes the espresso and heats and froths the milk, as well.

Here’s a tutorial Sara and I put together on how to make espresso using your basic Moka:

all the parts of the Moka disassembled

fill the bottom part with water

fill the water up to this knob

place the base on the stove and insert the strainer into it

like so

fill the strainer with espresso grounds

don’t pack the grounds in tightly — as such, it would generate too much pressure as the water comes out, leading to bitter coffee.

tightly screw on the upper part of the pot (very tightly! if not the pressure from the boiling water will cause all the water to leak out from the sides)

brew the espresso over a low flame

lift the lid with a spoon — it’ll be hot

serve and enjoy!

one last, important note: never wash out your Moka pot with soap: use ONLY water.  This is what all Italians insist is best for flavor!