I guess its a mid 20th Century thing. I remember after my large family dinners they would have “demitasse” which were made on the stove and was strong black coffee from an espresso roast. I guess the difference between demitasse and espresso was one was boiled on the stove from a boiler pot, and espresso was pressurized steam through a powerful machine. Demitasse was not good coffee, and in my mind, it could never replace espresso, even if it was bad espresso from a Mr. Coffee machine. Maybe I am missing something but those stove top coffee makers make the coffee bitter and week and even effect the flavor. I never understood how my family born in Italy could ever accept something like this when the food had to be perfect. How can they settle for this type of coffee from Medelia D’ora — the “premium” brand but did not produce premium results.
Then in the 1980s we had Black Coffee in Bed by Squeeze. And then there was always the unwritten rule to never talk to someone at work before they had their first cup of coffee. Somehow it became part of our culture, our needs, and a commodity and something to be reckoned with, and not to be taken lightly.
I had to laugh during an episode of The Honeymooners when the Kramdens go out to a fancy restaurant and are offered “demitasse” and Ralph Kramden says “no thanks, I will just have a small cup of black coffee”. It shows his naive knowledge of culture and makes it amusing for all. Today, I don’t know if people know what demitasse is, but certainly a double espresso is something they do know about, and its more than black coffee. It is, or should be, its basically the strong black pressurized espresso roast coffee with steamed milk. I think everyone knows its pressurized, not just boiled and poured.
But the problem is, if its not a coffee house, if its an automated place like a diner or whatever, they just press the button that says “espresso” or “cappuccino” not paying any attention to the bean that is in the machine. Before my machine (DeLonghi) broke, I made better espresso at home. But now I have to decide to put out $300 for new machine, grinder, beans, or just pay per cup which is about the same in the end… It would take a year or more to pay off a new machine.
Today I experienced this unpleasantness. I notice on the chalkboard that the coffee of the week was a “Vanilla Cappuccino”. That actually sounds tasty, but now its after 2pm in the afternoon. Cappuccino is never served in Italy after 11am. Its a breakfast drink but we are in USA, and people like it, so I have learned to tolerate it. But when I order an espresso and it has this funny taste I cannot place and after a few sips I look back up at the blackboard and see that Vanilla Cappuccino is the special drink of the week, its obvious to me that I am drinking NOT espresso but steam pressured vanilla coffee in a small cup to the tune of $3. Now, I can get a double espresso from my local coffee shop for $2, or at Starbucks for $2.10, or even in the little Italy section of any city in Jersey for $1.50, so why am I paying $3 for something that is NOT espresso?
I hate to be critical, but seriously, when did it become so hard to pay top dollar and not get what you wanted in the end? I wish I were in lower NYC or Seattle or even Oregon where there were coffee shops that take these matters seriously, but I am here in North Jersey where there is only Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and very few authentic coffee shops. Sometimes I just want a cup of coffee with lots of cream to mellow it out. Sometimes I want very strong back coffee with cream to take the edge off of it and not taste the diluted taste of water, and yet, there are other times, I just want some thick, strong, black espresso that does the trick. Why is this so hard to accomplish?