Coffee 101 with Italy’s Filicori Zecchini
By Fabiana Santana
Filicori Zecchini is one of the most ancient coffee roasters in Italy, founded in Bologna in 1919. Known worldwide as a synonym of quality and excellence, the company has made the move into the US market with a New York based headquarters and grand cafes around the country. The US premise includes a training school where our Italian baristas will teach the tradition of the perfect Italian Espresso and Cappuccino, as well as the most creative cafeteria recipes. No time to go back to school? We sat down with President and CEO Luca Filicori and Export Manager Cristiana Cerati for some coffee talk, recipes included.
What makes Italian coffee culture different from American coffee culture? In Italy, everyone drinks espresso multiple times throughout the day. Italians will have a cup of cappuccino in the morning and very seldom drip coffee. When consuming an espresso in a coffee store, all Italians drink from ceramic cups, never in paper cups. In Italy, everyone prepares coffee at home from their Moka, which is mainly the first one in the morning.
How important is it to keep the Italian aspect of coffee culture alive when bringing it to the US? Italians invented the espresso, so it is very important to keep the Italian coffee culture alive when bringing it to any other country. The traditional US coffee is drip coffee, so introducing the Italian tradition of espresso is important.
It is said that every state and province in Italy has their own technique to blend and brew the perfect coffee. What is your technique and why is it ideal? Our technique is to roast every single origin separately and then create the blend afterwards. This allows each single kind of component in the bean to bring the best of its quality and aroma into the blend.
Most Italians believe that American coffee is the equivalent of brown water. How did you aim to change that stereotype among Italians while making Americans happy? Most Italians believe this because the Italian’s view of any type of coffee other than espresso is not good enough. As a matter of fact, creating a good blend for American coffee is not easy at all, although it is very easy to create a bad one due to the large quantity of water that goes into the coffee. However, many locations in Italy are starting to successfully serve the American drip coffee, so this view is changing.
The quality of your product is without a doubt superior to a lot of the franchise coffee houses here in the states. How do you ensure the same quality with your headquarters being in Bologna? We roast the beans in Italy everyday and ship fresh products to the US very frequently.
What are the steps for making/brewing the perfect pot of coffee at home? There are different ways to make or brew the perfect pot of coffee at home. Many people have small espresso equipment and brew their espresso through ground coffee or espresso cartridges. In Italy, every family owns a Moka and that is the most used way of brewing coffee at home. Our staff loves brewing coffee with the French Press Pot. For this reason, we also made our blends capable of being ground.
What is the best method for frothing milk at home? The best way to froth milk at home is through the milk frother equipment that is available on the market or through the home espresso machines.
If someone wants to purchase beans to grind at home, what are some things they should look for? If you want to grind beans at home, a good grinder and a good espresso machine are necessary for sure, but you must also take note of your consumption rate of coffee. If you do not brew a lot of coffee at home, the blend, once opened, tends to get old pretty quickly and therefore the taste will change. In the case of very low consumption, small bags of ground coffee (250g) or pods and cartridges will grant a higher freshness and therefore a better result.
What are the tools necessary to make a good cup of coffee at home (moka or a machine, blender or frother, etc.)? The equipment is definitely very important, but the quality of the blend is crucial.
Is it really taboo to drink cappuccino/latte/macchiato after noon or a full meal? In our culture yes. We only drink cappuccino in the morning and coffee during the day. Milk is a complete, rich food containing protein, sugars, and fats, and is therefore intended more as a meal than as a drink. This is why we normally don’t drink cappuccino during the day, although some Italians will have lunch with one cappuccino.
Flavored coffee drinks are not all that popular in Italy. What inspired you to create the special recipes for the states? These recipes are actually served worldwide and each country has drinks them differently: in the States they are loved all day long, and in Italy they are meant as a small snack or dessert, as in many other European Countries.
Is coffee better standing up or sitting down? It depends on your mood and mainly on how much time you have available. An espresso can easily be drank standing because we are talking about seconds, while an American coffee could definitely not be drank in seconds.
What do you think separates good baristas from truly great ones? Except for the technical preparation, which is surely very important, we always teach our baristas that a smile is their best friend! If a barista transmits joy and good humor, everyone will naturally look for him/her. Another very important thing is to remember what your usual customers drink and let them have their favorite without any need of asking.
What is one thing you’ve learned about coffee that you wish you could share with every coffee lover? The importance of all the things that go into the brewing process: the coffee blend, barista’s hands, grinding the beans and the espresso equipment. If any of this is missing, the result can be acceptable…but never be great!