What I hope to understand is how this once traditionally Italian object that was used to represent hospitality within a home has becomes reproduced on a transnational level to many other cultures and societies. And more importantly, how a diasporic Italian hold that little silver pot as one of there most prized possession to be displayed in the kitchen at all times. The role that espresso/ coffee bean has been recreated in a modern day society and how the young and old socialites ‘go for coffee’ with friends, acquaintances or the like.
The espresso maker is a staple for the Italian culture; its symbolism represents hospitality and respect within some communities. The typical Italian breakfast starts with a croissant and an espresso, not with eggs or bacon nor cereal or fruit. Throughout the day the espresso maker is used when social gatherings come together, traditionally, within a home. Hence, when in the home setting and company comes over the polite gesture would be to offer them a shot of espresso. In many Italian cultures it is custom to offer this drink to whomever is at your door, be it the construction workers repairing a roof, neighbors, or family and friends visiting for a quick chat.
When taken outside of the home and reproduced in baristas the meaning changes, however not so drastically as one would think. The initial invite of a social setting is still present, the only difference is it is recreated outside the home but it is centered largely around espresso and or the coffee bean. The single object allows for two or more people to connect in a socially acceptable manor that all different types of people use. For some audiences a coffee or espresso can be used to calm there nerves be it meeting someone for the first time, meeting a potential employer or just catching up with old friends. Therefore when this object and the product it produces looked at by different individuals can have similar effects on the people which encounter it. There agency is much the same, offer to pay for the other persons beverage is the newest form of offering to traditionally make it. The agency has been modernized but remains largely the same.
For the most part, the machienetta, otherwise known as the stove top espresso maker or just the espresso maker to some, was owned predominately by Italians and coffee lovers. Originating in Italy, this strongly brewed coffee was symbolic of the Italian heritage. It later, once popularized was re-vamped and found in coffee shops and bars to create a plethora of other strongly brewed caffeinated beverages. The ownership of this object has become still symbolic of the culture that founded it, but has transitioned into a modern day object that brings a transnational set of people together. It is nearly impossible to never interact with this object, or a product of this object. It is repeated daily by some patrons the phrase “lets go for coffee, would you like a latté” and so forth. Through social interactions has this object become ever so popular that when people interact with it they do so in a way that is mostly social but can be habitual too. Habitual because for some they can not function without their “morning espresso/ coffee/ latte” and so their agency with this object is depended on in order to perform the tasks required of them on a regular basis. Social interactions because without meeting someone for coffee, the meeting itself may not happen. The espresso maker and the product it produces are the perfect setting to be regarded as formal or informal depending on the setting in which the object is located, be it at a Tim Hortons, or at an upscale barista café.
The Macchinetta, other wise known as a stove top espresso maker, was initially made in Italy with the combination of caffeine and aluminum as two materials that were easily transitioned into “the age of modernity through their lightness, speed, mobility, strength, energy, and electricity” (Myron). The initial product had begun production in 1918 but wasn’t readily available until 1933 made by Alfonso Bialetti. (Independent). It was made to help enhance the economy and revolutionize Italy through a period of modernity.
The size of the Bialetti moka maker or the “macchinetta” or an espresso maker ranges from the different cup sizes. The standard size is a 6 cup unit but there are also 1, 3, 6, 9, 12 and more recently 18 cup models available. A six cup espresso maker typical holds 300ml as the max boiling capacity. Three cups holds 200ml, a one cup holds 60ml nine cups at 550ml and a 12 cup at 775ml of espresso at the max capacity.
The machine weights from 6kg to 9kg respectfully with the cup sizes, of course, once you add the water and espresso grinds than the machine becomes heavier depending on the amount you put in. The style of the machine ranges from a smooth cylinder chamber for the upper and bottom parts, to a more traditional hexagon type cage. The decoration is relatively simple made of aluminum and very clean cut and shiny finish is easily transformable from a traditional or to a modern home.
The design of the product was meant for easy and quick use void of all complicated parts. The style and weight of the object aid in the classic design that fits perfectly with any décor. The first espresso maker had three different pieces that were easily removable but names and functions for each piece on the device. One of the three detachable pieces is called a “filtro ad imbuto” which is an inner funnel shaped filter that fit inside the bottom known as a “caldaia” or translated to little tank / boiler or bottom chamber. The upper part of the coffee pot is where the boiling coffee ends up; once it passes through the funnel it spurs out from the “colonnina” or central column into the “raccoglitore”, the top chamber where it sits and waits to be poured.
The Independent. The Secret History Of: Moka Express Coffee Maker. Published: Dec 3, 2010. Online : http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/house-and-home/interiros/the-secret-history-of-moka-express-coffee-maker-2149816.html
Myron, Joshua. The Story of the Bialetti Moka Express. Published: March 2003: Modified Sept 2011. Online January 24, 2011: http://www.ineedcoffee.com/03/mokaexpress/?page=all