By Walter Ang
December 9, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer
For families where only one or two members enjoy a cup of good, strong coffee (and acquiring an espresso machine isn't feasible), there is the Bialetti line of stovetop espresso makers. "These come in charming designs and are convenient since the smallest models are for single servings, though there are models that can brew up to six servings," says Reynoso. "You just fill it with water and ground coffee, put it on top of the stove, and in a few minutes, you have espresso!"
The original model was created by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti around the Second World War. Inspired by sealed boilers used by laundry women that had a central pipe to draw soapy water from the bottom and redistributed it over the laundry, Bialetti created a device where steam travels up a funnel (thus creating a characteristic gurgling sound), through ground coffee and into an upper chamber where the espresso is collected.
With most coffee makers, water simply drips through ground coffee and down to a pot. Bialetti's creation allows pressurized boiling water to steam through the ground coffee for more efficient extraction of flavor and caffeine. The result is stronger coffee compared to drip brew.
Bialetti's invention has become a staple in every Italian household, allowing Italians to have espresso-bar quality coffee in the comfort of their own homes. Prior to the creation of this nifty device, there were only two ways to get their coffee fix: going to espresso bars that had large, steam-pressured machines or to endure the slow filtration process at home.
The distinctive Bialetti octagonal shaped stovetop espresso maker is iconic and a visual cue for Italian culture. It was ranked as one of Italy's best designs in the 20th century along with the 1957 Fiat 500, the 1946 Vespa, and the Nutella bottle. Bialetti's design blueprints are even featured in several museums including the Science Museum of London. The models manufactured today all feature a logo caricature of Bialetti.
The stovetop espresso makers come in several styles to suit different aesthetic preferences. "There are designs that are romantic, some are minimalist, and some are even playful," says Reynoso. There's even a model with a glass collecting chamber for those who prefer to see their coffee gurgle up in the mornings.
While most models come in stainless steel finishes, Fabriano S.p.A. is considering bringing over more colored models, even pink ones, and a model that changes color when the coffee is nearly ready. "The more experienced coffee lovers know not to brew the coffee to boiling point as it will affect the taste," says Reynoso.
He notes that the bestseller, thus far, is the stovetop cappuccino maker with a cow-skin design finish. "Most Filipinos are not really too fond of very strong coffee, so they opt for the cappuccino makers. The cow-skin design is kind of cute, which Pinoys like," he adds. The cappuccino makers have bigger collecting chambers compared to the espresso makers so that milk can be added. It can even make froth, technically called crema, with just a click of a pressure valve.
More technophilic households will be attracted to Saeco, the Italian market leader of home-use espresso machines. Saeco was established in 1981 in Gaggio Montano, a small Apennine town in Bologna.
Saeco has some lines that are exclusively designed by BMW Designworks USA such as the Talea line which features silver and titanium color palettes. "Saeco's Taleo Giro model is our bestseller," says Reynoso.
Most of the machines come with LCD displays and either programmable push-button technology or interactive click wheels. Some machines comes pre-programmed with coffee recipes so the user can get a great drink instantly but settings can be adjusted to user preferences.
Saeco's Royal Prof model is the ultimate in automated coffee making. "It will even grind your coffee beans for you," says Reynoso. "An autodose function detects the size of the beans that are put in. Just push a button or turn a knob to create the perfect cup of coffee to suit your personal taste." The model comes with a ceramic grinder which creates a soft hum rather than the usual loud buzzing, grinding sound most people are used to hearing.
Saeco has received several design awards for its different models such as the Red Dot Design Award for Product Design Excellence, the IF Product Design Award, and the Plus X award for design and ease of use.
"Both brands have consummate stylishness due to thorough design standards and research. They have also gone through exhaustive quality control measures. The Filipino coffee aficionado is assured of an attractive and durable piece that is a noteworthy investment, in and out of the kitchen," says Reynoso.
For details, visit the GE Monogram Experience Center, 2/F Serendra, Taguig City, or call 643-3456.
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