Coffee in Naples: why is it so special?

“Na tazzulella ‘e cafè” (from Pino Daniele’s song of 1977) belongs to the origins of this method of preparation, one of the most iconic symbols of Italy.


The Neapolitan coffee maker: Cuccumella

We find the origins of the Neapolitan coffee maker cuccumella in 1771, when Maria Carolina of Habsburg-Lorraine, wife of Ferdinand of Borbone introduced coffee to Naples. It is said that it all started during a ball held in the Royal Palace of Caserta, where the guests were served of the dark drink. This exotic drink was already well known at the court of Vienna, where Maria Carolina came from.


Coffee in Naples: why is it so special?
Maria Carolina of Habsburg-Lorraine introduced coffee by bringing it to Naples from the court of Vienna

History also has it that our typical Italian way of having breakfast at the bar for which we usually combine a croissant with coffee derives from a suggestion of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France (and sister of Maria Carolina).

Initially prepared with the Turkish method, coffee became a fine drink that at the time was reserved only for the upper and noble class of Naples. It was later replaced by the new invention of the French Monsieur Morize. In fact, around 1817-1819 he patented what the Neapolitans later named cuccumella, the Neapolitan coffee maker.

The Neapolitan coffee maker for everyone

The real revolution of Morize was that this new method of extraction by percolation was developed with low cost materials such as copper and terracotta. Hence the name cuccumella, since “Cuccuma” in Neapolitan means “container in copper / terracotta”.

Around 1900 the versions in tin or other types of metal then arrived. This finally gave everyone, and not just the noble families, the opportunity to make coffee at home.

Thanks also to the very well connected port of Naples and therefore the possibility of introducing coffee from all over the world, the drink was finally and easily available for the entire population.


Coffee in Naples: why is it so special?
Neapolitan cuccumella coffee maker from the end of the 19th century

Recipe for the Neapolitan coffee maker

First of all, let’s see what are the elements that make up the Neapolitan coffee maker: the tank, the filter for the coffee (this is also the main difference between the cuccumella and the classic Moka that has a double filter, instead of just one), the shower , and the service jug with the spout.

Below is the recipe for the Neapolitan coffee maker:

  1. Fill the tank just below the small hole
  2. Insert the filter and the ground coffee
  3. Close with the shower and insert the jug with the spout
  4. Place the coffee pot on the heat source, when you see a little water coming out of the hole, the coffee is ready for extraction
  5. Remove from the heat source and invert the coffee maker to let the water percolate through the coffee
  6. Remove the top and serve

The Specialty Cuccumella

The advice we give for those who want to to use the cuccumella as a filter brewing method (brewing) for a Specialty Coffee is to use it like a Dripper by inserting the already hot water and inverting it directly. It will be important to adjust the degree of grinding to find the correct extraction.

Coffee for Italians

But let’s face it, apart from being a practical tool, the cuccumella Neapolitan coffee maker is above all a symbol of Italian culture. Whether it’s a more “modern” Moka or the more traditional Neapolitan coffee maker, every Italian has one at home.

And not only.. Many Italians are so attached to their morning coffee routine that they don’t even do without it when they are abroad or on vacation. We simply take it with us wherever we go!

As the legendary Eduardo De Filippo explains to us in These Ghosts (see video below): “You see how little it takes to make a man happy: a cup of coffee taken in tranquility”.

Of course we absolutely agree!