What is a Neapolitan coffee maker, and how does it work?

After having detailed and explained the various techniques for preparing coffee with different coffee makers, such as the Moka pot, the Aeropress, the French Press, the Chemex and the V60, the Siphon, and the Clever, I am pleased to present another option: the Neapolitan maker, also known as the Cuccumella.

What is a Cucumella?

“Cuccuma” in Neapolitan means “copper / terracotta vessel”. Since the original Neapolitan coffee makers were made from these cheap materials, “Cucumella” is a synonym for the Neapolitan coffee maker.

The Neapolitan maker, still present in many Italian homes, is a historic utensil that evokes nostalgia. At first glance, it may seem similar to the famous Moka pot. However, it keeps a secret: its percolation method of preparation.

History of the Neapolitan maker

The history of the Neapolitan maker dates back to 1819 when Jean-Louis Morize invented it in Paris. Morize patented a modification of his first coffee maker, which had a double filter, allowing the preparation of coffee without the need to boil or evaporate the water.

Although the coffee maker was created in France, its name became popular in Italy due to its wide use. With time, popular jargon gave rise to the name Neapolitan, which was consolidated as its official denomination.

The Neapolitan maker became famous and was depicted in numerous works of art, such as the painting “Fruit and Coffee Pot” by Henri Matisse. It was also mentioned in Eduardo de Filippo’s legendary comedy “Questi fantasmi!“.

Fruit and Coffee Pot
Fruit and Coffee Pot

How the Neapolitan machine works

Despite its similarity to the Moka pot, the Neapolitan maker differs in its extraction method.

While the Italian maker uses pressure and steam to propel the water upwards and pass it through the ground coffee, the Neapolitan coffee maker uses the percolation extraction method.

Pressure extraction in Moka Pot
Pressure extraction in Moka Pot

In this method, the water slowly passes through the ground coffee, driven only by gravity, resulting in a smoother, more aromatic, acidic, sweet coffee with less bitterness.

The Neapolitan coffee maker differs from other percolation methods, such as the Clever or the V60, by having a metallic filter that allows oils and fats to pass through, resulting in greater viscosity in the cup.

How the Neapolitan coffee maker works
How the Neapolitan maker works

In addition, the coffee dosage in the Neapolitan is higher, with 140 grams of coffee per 1 liter of water, compared to 60 grams per liter in other brewing methods, resulting in a more concentrated beverage.

➡️ The Neapolitan maker comprises several essential elements, including a container for the water, a double filter containing the ground coffee, a container to collect the final beverage, and a double handle that allows the coffee maker to be poured with ease.

How is the coffee extracted with the Neapolitan maker?

The coffee obtained with the Neapolitan is a fragrant and aromatic beverage with a velvety body and little bitterness.

How is coffee extracted?

To prepare coffee with the Neapolitan maker, only the coffee maker itself is needed, if you want to be more precise and technical, you can use a scale and a timer.

The recommended proportion (ratio) is 140 grams of coffee per 1 liter of water. The coffee should be ground medium-large, with a bean size between 500 and 700 microns, a little coarser than that used for the Italian maker.

➡️ For a Neapolitan maker of 3 cups, it would be necessary to use 7 Ounces of water and 28 grams of coffee.

Steps for the extraction with the Neapolitan maker:

  1. Pour bottled or filtered water into the container.
  2. Insert the ground coffee in the double filter and screw the top of the filter to close it.
  3. Place the filter in the container with water, ensuring that the part containing the coffee faces upwards.
  4. Assemble the top of the coffee maker and place it on the stove over medium-low heat.
  5. Observe the small hole in the top edge of the water container. When you see the water coming out of the hole, quickly turn over the coffee maker.
  6. Wait for all the water to pass through the ground coffee, which will take about 4 minutes.

Note: If the water takes longer than 4 minutes, the coffee is ground too fine, and the beverage is over-extracted. If it takes less than 4 minutes, the coffee is ground too coarsely, and the beverage will be under-extracted.

Recommendations for a good extraction

  1. Adjust the temperature of the water: Unlike the Italian coffee maker, the Neapolitan maker allows you to choose the temperature of the water. It is important not to put it directly on the stove and to use a kettle to preheat it to a temperature between 194 and 203°C. This way, you can avoid burning the ground coffee and obtain a less bitter and fragrant cup.
  2. Experiment with temperatures: Try different temperatures, from 194 to 203°F, and discover what is ideal for your coffee. This is an opportunity to experiment and adjust the flavor to your taste.
  3. Use quality coffee: For a delicious cup, use medium or medium-light roast quality coffee. If you start with a dark roast or low-quality coffee, the result will be a bitter and unpalatable cup.

Remember that making great coffee requires attention and care, from the choice of coffee to the extraction itself. You can enjoy a fragrant, aromatic, and delicious cup following these recommendations.

Recommended coffees for the Neapolitan maker

A good choice of coffee is essential to obtain an excellent cup of coffee with the Neapolitan maker.

I recommend that you opt for single-origin Arabica coffee beans, both washed and natural, depending on whether you prefer more aroma or sweetness. You can also try a blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee if you like a cup with more bitterness and body.

As the freshness of the coffee is one of the most important factors for optimal extraction, you should buy it in beans and grind it just before using it in the coffee maker. In addition, be sure to choose medium or medium-light roast quality coffees to avoid a bitter cup or one with unpleasant notes.

Written by Pablo Barrantes Nevado
I am Pablo Barrantes, a coffee lover. I decided to start this website to solve all the doubts that arise every day when preparing our favorite drink: coffee. I am an industrial engineer by profession, but I have worked in coffee shops for many years, where I have learned all the secrets about coffee machines and coffee. My passion for coffee has led me to investigate and study beyond the obvious, and thanks to this, I can offer solutions and give news about coffee and coffee makers. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I research, document and write here.

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