Putting the S Back in Espresso

I have a pet peeve.  Okay, I have MANY pet peeves, but one in particular annoys me to no end.  Why are there people who insist on putting an “X” in “espresso”?  It is not EX-presso, in spelling or pronunciation.  It is ES-presso, an Italian word.  The Italians don’t even use an X in their alphabet (or a J, but that is neither here nor there). 

There is another “S” I’d like to put back in espresso as well.  The S for simplicity.  These days, it seems as if  over-the-top espresso machines have become ubiquitous.  Williams-Sonoma sells home-models that run up upwards of $3500, and even their “lower-end” machines are in the $300-500 range.  That is a serious amount of Joe.  I also think this is a seriously American obsession.  Italians certainly know their espresso, and I’m pretty sure they aren’t dropping that kind of coin on espresso machines for their homes.

When I studied in Italy as a college student, the family with whom I lived drank espresso every day after pranzo (lunch).  They did not own a fancy espresso machine, but instead used a small, stovetop espresso maker, much like the one my grandparents owned.  The top half looks like a little teapot, which screws into the bottom chamber where you put the water.  Ground espresso goes in a circular filter which rests between the two sections.  When heated, the water flows up from the bottom chamber, through the grinds, and fills the teapot section with authentic, hot espresso.  I’ve always marveled at the way this happens, without any electrical parts to usher the water upward.  It is like magic— in a matter of minutes, cold water placed in one section becomes steaming espresso in another.  Magical, but simple.  The best part?  One of these little pots is under $20.

Before going to Italy, I had never tried espresso (or coffee, for that matter), so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the tiny little cup of blackness.  At first I found it bitter, and loaded it up with a ridiculous amount of sugar.  My host family thought this was hysterical, so I made a deal with them that by the time the semester was over, I’d be drinking it straight up.  Day by day, I decreased the sugar in my cup and true to my word, I was drinking it black by the time my stay was over.  As a going away present, they bought me my own little Bialetti “macchinetta”  so I could continue to enjoy post-pranzo espresso back in the States. 

I rarely have the opportunity for a leisurely lunch, so the days of lingering over an afternoon espresso are a thing of the past.  However, whenever I need a little late-day pick-me-up, I pull out my macchinetta and am instantly transported back to Italy.  It is simplicity at its best.


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3 Responses to “Putting the S Back in Espresso”

  1. cheflauras Says:

    I have one of these pots and would like to make just 1 to 2 cups of espresso instead of 4. How much espresso do you fill the filter with when you want to make a cup for your self in the afternoon?

    Nice blog, keep up the great work!

  2. Tracy Says:

    Cheflauras, I’m so glad you like the blog!
    As for the espresso, I’ve just filled it half way and tamped it down, and of course, also half as much water. That being said, I think they make the best espresso when the full compliment is made. I have seen smaller pots available for not a lot of money, so that might be your best bet. Good luck! –Tracy

  3. cheflauras Says:

    Great I will give it a try!

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