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Il caffè a Napoli: segreti e ricetta di una tradizione unica

Coffee in Naples: secrets and recipe of a unique tradition

Ma alla fine m’assetto papale, mi sbottono e mi leggo o giornale. Mi consiglio con don Raffae’, mi spiega che penso e bevimm’ o café” as  Fabrizio De Andrè sang in 1990, and it’s no coincidence that in the only lyrics the singer-songwriter from Genoa ever wrote in Neapolitan dialect, he talks of coffee. 

It is well known that in Neapolitan territory, coffee is a real institution. And this is the reason why we want talk to you about Neapolitan coffee and give you the recipe for coffee prepared using the Neapolitan coffee pot.

That way you get a whole other flavor!

Neapolitan Coffee, why is it so special?

Naples was not one of the first homes of coffee, indeed we have to wait until the early 1800s before this drink, originally commonly drunk by noblemen, became popular with everybody.

In all probability, it was Maria Cristina d’Asburgo-Lorena, wife of Ferdinand of Borbone, who brought this tradition with her from Vienna, often combined – as the story goes – with a croissant as suggested by her sister, the very well-known Marie Antoniette of France.

Initially the coffee was prepared using the infusion method, Turkish style, and was reserved for the elite classes.

The situation changed from 1819, when the Neapolitan coffee pot was invented.

A real turning point, which also allowed this drink to be prepared at home, paving the way for its success. 

The “cuccumella”, or in other words, the Neapolitan coffee pot 

In Naples it’s called “cuccumella” and is the reason behind the success of Neapolitan coffee. It is made up of 5 different elements:

  • the water tank;
  • the coffee tank;
  • the beverage tank;
  • filter;
  • lid.

The main novelty in this creation was the use of a filter, and the modern mocha coffee pot , with its double filter is the evolution of this, which was only introduced on the market in the 1900s.

The Neapolitan coffee pot was traditionally made in copper, from which it gets its name “cuccumella” which comes directly from  “cuccuma” meaning copper or terracotta pot in Neapolitan dialect; only later did people also start to make this coffee pot in aluminum and steel. 

What is so striking about this coffee pot is that the coffee tank has a kind of spout which, during the “brewing”, is turned downwards.

We will be explaining the reason for this very soon when we give you the recipe for Neapolitan coffee. 

The recipe for coffee made with the Neapolitan coffee pot

Although, for many, it may be unusual, using the Neapolitan coffee pot is not particularly complex.

The first step consists of filling the water tank up to the level of the small lateral hole which indicates the maximum level.

Then you must insert the coffee container where you will place the coffee powder: you need to press down the coffee powder, but not too much, because the water must be able to pass through the coffee easily. 

The filter needs to be placed on top and the upper chamber for the final drink with the spout turned downwards.

Now you need to place the cuccumella on the gas and, as soon as you notice the steam or water coming out of the small lateral hole in the water tank, remove the coffee pot from the heat and turn it up the right way.

This gesture makes the hot water pass through the coffee and the filter to fill the tank dedicated to the final drink, which becomes so dense, dark and with that strong aroma. 

At this point, with the spout turned up the right way, it will be easy to pour the coffee directly into the cups and serve. 

The “cuppetiello” for the perfect result 

One of the secrets behind the aroma of Neapolitan coffee is, the “cuppetiello”.

This is actually a small paper cone which is used to cover the spout of the Neapolitan coffee while the drink is being prepared.

This phase can last as long as 10 minutes and changes according to the quantity of coffee to be prepared.

The aim of the “cuppetiello” is to preserve the aroma of the coffee for as long as possible before the coffee is served, lending that extra touch which makes Neapolitan coffee unique.  

The secret of Neapolitan coffee

Rivers of words have been spent trying to understand, once and for all, what the secret of Neapolitan coffee is.

Some claim that the water is particularly good, others are convinced that it all lies in the roasting of the coffee; others still want to highlight the importance of buying the coffee in beans, directly from roasting, in order to grind them in the traditional way and obtain the perfect coarseness or fineness.

Eduardo de Filippo, in his show “These ghosts”, reveals his recipe for coffee according to tradition. His secret is to sprinkle half a teaspoon of freshly ground coffee powder on the bottom of the water tank, before putting in the water. This way, in full boil, the drink becomes more flavorsome.

Preparing coffee is, as de Filippo says, poetry. 

It takes time, but repays you in peace of mind. 

That’s probably what the secret of Neapolitan coffee is, in the spirit of the way it is prepared and , in its own way, “pampered”.

With no hurry, and taking the time to enjoy every step, from the choice of the coffee right up to the last drop.  

And this is exactly why in Naples, certain initiatives of solidarity have been created such as that of the caffè sospeso or the Smorfia Napoletana, which has managed to reveal what dreaming about coffee means.

It’s hardly surprising to find out that Neapolitan coffee has a strong social connotation and, very often, it is associated with relationships and pleasure.

Trying out the recipe for Neapolitan coffee using the Neapolitan coffee pot should evoke these suggestions, have you ever tried it ?

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