What’s better? Coffee brewed on the stovetop or by using a modern capsule machine?
Let’s find out together! Read about all the pros and cons of these two rather different preparation methods.
Tradition means the stovetop upon which sits the famous aluminium pressure coffee maker - better known as the moka and patented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti - and whose familiar gurgling that emanates from most Italian kitchens is the first sound that wakes us from our Italian slumber.
The gushing stream that flows into its collection chamber triggers a very specific smell and taste sensation - you can almost feel it!
Making coffee with the moka is a wonderful experience; a ritual in fact. The moka itself can almost be considered a personal object that responds only to its owner’s touch. Its flexibility makes it suitable to prepare any type of coffee from single origins to Arabica and Robusta blends. It communicates the values of our traditions through its aromas, colours and flavours that remind us of home, daily rituals, togetherness. And it's not just this: it’s also its form and function making every gesture in the kitchen incredibly simple.
With the moka not only can you experiment bigtime, it makes coffee an absolute pleasure to prepare!
It is this very sense of tradition that is importantly maintained today in Italy’s cafes; the moka has become a kind of friend for those who love it and rely on it daily.
Having said this, however, the world of coffee has recently experienced somewhat of a revolution with the introduction of disposable capsules to make espresso. Not only this but the way of consuming coffee has also changed.
So, why did the capsules invade the world?
One of the reasons is certainly time. Capsules are now conveniently placed, and ever-present, in the office as well as the home and consequently the frequency of those obligatory stops to the bar on the way between work and home has sadly declined.
And, who exactly invented the capsule?
It was 1975 when the Swiss engineer Éric Favre, an aerodynamics specialist then employed in the packaging department of Nestlè, who began developing a magic formula that would, about ten or so years later, become the Nespresso product releasing the coffee capsule on to the market. A rather recent invention compared to that of the moka, the capsule in no time at all conquered half the world. Nespresso currently has boutiques located in more than 60 countries!
The moka was born with an original sin, a defect: the temperature at which the water comes out of the boiler exceeds boiling point, with the consequent extraction of bitter and astringent substances from the coffee. With the launch of new style mokas onto the market – there isn’t just Bialetti, you know! - a noticeable improvement was made.
If we want to make a good cup of coffee, the important thing is to get the right balance between the ground coffee in the filter and the water in the boiler of our moka; only in this way will it be possible to obtain a quality extraction.
Alberto Polojac, winner of the first Pro Moka Challenge, knows all about this:
«I am always in favour of tradition and its retention, perhaps though under a somewhat innovative guise. I have worked hard to understand the moka thoroughly so as to extract the best coffee from it and it has certainly given me great satisfaction over time. As with all other types of extraction, the final result is closely linked to temperature control, dosage and grind size. So, let's start with 3 simple rules:
1. Pre-heated water - so as to prevent the ground coffee being burned in the filter;
2. Fresh ground coffee – get an electric or manual grinder and buy only coffee beans;
3. Correct ratio of water and coffee. We recommend 70-80 gr/l».
To learn more about this, read our article: Moka coffee preparation.
Now let's see how the creamy cup of coffee prepared with capsules is created.
Favre created a machine that guarantees maximum aeration of water that then passes through a capsule containing the ground coffee. It is well-known that when coffee comes into contact with oxygen all the aromas are enhanced. The following elements are therefore combined to create the espresso cream: air, water and the coffee’s natural oils. Since the capsule is closed, the air is trapped inside it when it is met by the spurt of boiling water. The result is a creamy coffee that is very similar to the Italian espresso.
Coffee made with a moka is also appreciated since it is eco-sustainable: coffee grounds can be used for things such as plant fertiliser and mushroom cultivation.
So, how are capsules recycled?
One of the critical factors is the material: aluminium with coffee content - the two materials cannot be separated and recycled appropriately. Because of this Nespresso was encouraged to put in place a recycling operation accepting the old capsules used by consumers.
And what can be done to reduce pollution?
Surely the first thing is to follow all the rules of recycling, manually separating the products and also trying not to produce non-biodegradable waste.
And how do you recycle coffee capsules?
Nespresso capsules can be reused a second time: simply fill them with another coffee and seal them with some aluminium foil. Alternatively, there are lots of arts and crafts ideas and projects, like creating decorations and jewellery.
Every year around the world 10 billion coffee capsules are consumed producing 120,000 tons of waste with an inevitable increase in pollution. If we pause a moment to reflect, the production of capsules involves considerable consumption of water and energy; all this just to be thrown away after a single use. Coffee capsules also release substances (phthalates and furan) that put our health at risk because they are carcinogenic. In short, the convenience of coffee in capsules does not come cheaply.
We all have that brilliant coffee maker, the moka, at home which passes from father to son and lasts a lifetime. There are also spare parts for the only part that wears out over time: the filter seal. Can we say the same thing about the capsule machine?
We need to promote the culture of reuse, launch a message of circular economy as some companies have already done. The Autogrill Group, together with Cmf Greentech, an innovative Italian company specialized in eco-sustainable products, has developed a new material made with coffee grounds, Wascoffee. A 100% natural and recyclable material used to create eco-designed furniture on which one can design themselves; naturally with a coffee.
Another brilliant idea was from the young designer Julian Lechner thought up during his studies at the University of Bolzano on how to reuse coffee grounds. After years of experimentation he launched the Kaffeeform coffee cups project, creating a collection of cups and saucers entirely made with coffee grounds, with the only addition of natural glue and small pieces of wood resulting in a dark coloured product smelling of coffee!
Let’s not forget, before choosing which coffeemaking method to adopt, that the global consumption of this drink is constantly growing and that the coffee ground is fundamentally waste and can therefore represent a possible resource! We can reuse it in different ways: at home, in the flower or vegetable garden, or even as a beautiful piece of art or craft.