Article written by Michele Sergio and published in Rome on January 19th 2020
Italians and Frenchmen have always been two rather related peoples, cousins as they say, but rival cousins. In fact, the two countries vie for various firsts, from wine to cheese, passing through fashion and ending with coffee. Like the Italians, the French are also great lovers and experts of the black drink. Impressive is the number of cafés along boulevards and Parisian avenues, unmistakable for how they are located at the corners of large and valuable buildings, for verandas and covers, for tables and chairs with an unmistakable style, for the perennial swarm of patrons of ‘all over the world. The coffee here is made with the French Press, the piston coffee maker, patented in France in 1852 by Meyer and Delforge and modified several times over the course of time.
But how do you use it? The procedure for making coffee is very simple. First of all, it must be said that, being an infusion, it is a very different coffee from Italian espresso. The coffee powder is poured into the glass container (in general the recommended proportion is 60 g of coffee powder per liter of water) and, after that, the hot water with a circular movement (about 92 °) using a long spout kettle. Then turn with a spoon. The coffee maker is closed with the lid and left to infuse for about 4-5 minutes. At the center of the lid there is a piston at the end of which there is a filter that “presses” (hence French Press) downwards. In this way the coffee powder remains, so to speak, trapped in the bottom of the container while the coffee is ready to be served (without the presence of residues of the ground coffee).
In Italy, however, as mentioned, for many years the mocha has dominated the homes of Italians. Invented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti, this coffee maker quickly supplanted the slower and more complicated Neapolitan. Composed of three essential parts, boiler at the bottom, filter in the center and collector at the top, it works: the water is put in the boiler, the coffee in the filter, the parts are screwed in, the machine is put on the fire, the water boils and goes up towards the other by going through the filter containing the coffee and bringing the perfumed drink into the collector. Today the mocha is a real symbol of Italian style spread all over the world.
The differences between the two coffeemakers are evident: where for the blend we recommend for the French Press a medium roast arabica and coarse grind (because the contact time between water and dust is longer), for the moka the Neapolitan blend is more suitable ( arabica and robusta) dark roasting and medium grinding. Of course, technologies change and these coffee makers are side by side (and in the near future) perhaps they will be replaced by more advanced ones and by different systems of conception (such as capsule and pod machines), faster. So much for the price of losing the social value of coffee, sharing a small ritual. Coffee is not a simple drink but a moment that unites people, a pretext for meeting and exchanging. For decades, Italians and French have understood that drinking a coffee is as important as enjoying it, spending time with loved ones, relatives and friends. In short, Italian or French, always sip a good coffee just do it in the company of the right people.