If you happen to hail from a family with Italian underpinnings, leaving the house for the first time often compels even the most distant relatives to offer best wishes — and grim forebodings.
There's celebration: He's finally vacating the couch!
And there's hand-wringing: Can he actually survive out there?
There's plenty of advice too: Stay sharp. Keep your eyes open. Don't sleep all day!
Your Italian aunt may take it a step farther and seek assurances that your eyes are physically pried open through the miracle that is caffeine. She will probably give you a moka pot.
Even if you don't happen to have Italian family, odds are you've come across — and maybe even enjoyed — this ingeniously simple device.
But in case you're still wallowing in a flimsy French press, here's how the moka pot, which is essentially a stove-top espresso maker, works:
There are three hollow levels. Fill the bottom one with water. Fill the second with ground coffee. Apply heat. Reap the rewards on the top floor.
Seriously, that's it.
(Yet somehow, there are still Keurigs in the world — because some people need it boiled down to just the press of a button.)
The history of the moka pot
It's no wonder this humble hunk of metal has risen to such glorious heights since Luigi di Ponti first clamped it together back in 1933. At the time, di Ponti built the machine for a company that operated under the name Alfonso Bialetti.
And sure enough, the Bialetti brand still produces the beloved "macchinetta del caffè" — which directly translates as "small coffee machine."
But recently, this steely stalwart has shown an uncharacteristic weakness. Maybe all those fancy Keurigs — not to mention the French presses, and other caffeine-dispensing claptraps — have finally caught up with the moka.
Sales have been so far below perky that Bialetti finds itself mired in debt.
Could the company's declining fortunes signal the end of the little coffee maker that could? Probably not. We may miss the Bialetti brand, but the iconic octagon will likely prevail due to its simple, efficient design. These days, Bialetti is hardly the only moka maker on the planet.
"There are brands that have continued over time to invest a lot on the actual coffee pots, so as to have much more competitive prices than those of Bialetti today," Michela Becchi writes in Gambero Rosso.
That's good news, not only for coffee lovers, but also for the environment, on which disposable cups and quick-brew coffee-makers have taken an increasingly heavy toll.
And it's good news, of course, for Italian aunts the world over. There's no greater peace of mind than giving your nephew or niece a moka.
It makes the perfect gift. For one thing, because it's invisible. Seriously, it's ironclad, armored from nose to toes. There's only that bit of hardened plastic on the handle to prevent you from getting the ultimate morning wake-up — a seared palm.
Not only are they sending their youth into the world with this vital kitchen implement, they're sending them into the world well-armed.
After all, all that heavy metal on a conveniently sturdy handle is perfect for protecting yourself from an intruder at any hour.
Watch the video below to learn some tricks from a coffee master for making a great cup of coffee from your moka pot.