Did you ever notice that people come back from Italy in love with the coffee and the culture that serves it daily? Italy, after all created the espresso and latte that fuels the North American lifestyle. But what is it that makes Italian coffee different and why do we love it so much?
Beyond the fact that usually consuming coffee in Italy is combined with romantic notions of Piazza’s, fresh flowers, great food and wine, Italy in fact does not grow any coffee. But it has long been a part of their culture.
Coffee has a long history in Italy. Venice was one of the first European ports to import coffee beans in the 16th century, and in the 19th century, men in bowler hats met in Turin’s coffee shops to plan for the country’s unification. Italy truly emerged as the global leader in coffee thanks to Luigi Bezzera, who, in 1901, came up with the idea of forcing pressurized water through a handful of coffee powder to produce the espresso, so called because it could be prepared expressly for each customer and because the water had to be expressed through the coffee.
So when you buy an espresso machine, how do you get that authentic taste of Italy? And why do we recommend you go Italian? It is pretty simple. In Italy, people don’t much like drip coffee like we do in the west. In fact they see it as a tasteless warm brown drink and wonder how we consume it. When you are over in Europe you won’t find North American coffee very often. And this is the key difference that makes the beans from Italy work better.
You have probably all heard the term “100% Arabica” when coffee is advertised in North America. There are two types of coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta. In North America we typically consume Arabica exclusively because it tastes better in drip coffee. Robusta on the other hand is usually (and wrongly) considered inferior, as it does not taste that great in Drip coffee. However, the Italians have figured out how to blend Robusta with Arabica better than anyone. The result:
The Arabica & Robusta blend gives a better crema, smoother taste, a bit of a bite and a little more caffeine when you use it for espresso. If you take the same coffee and try it in drip coffee, it simply won’t be as good. And since in Italy, they are only blending coffee for espresso based drinks, most of the good stuff has a blend of Arabica and Robusta….something not done too often in North America.
Lastly, they know not to over roast their beans. If you have an espresso machine, make sure the beans are not oily. Not only will it taste inferior but your grinder will get full of those oils and oily coffee grounds, giving you lousy extraction and inconsistent grinds.
So there you have it. Italian coffee tastes better because of how Italians consume coffee.
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