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

Last Updated on October 23, 2023 by Pablo Barrantes

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 coffee 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 coffee 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 coffee maker

The history of the Neapolitan coffee 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 coffee 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 coffee machine works

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

While the Italian coffee 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 coffee 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 coffee 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 coffee 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 coffee 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 coffee maker.

➡️ For a Neapolitan coffee 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 coffee 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 coffee 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 coffee maker

A good choice of coffee is essential to obtain an excellent cup of coffee with the Neapolitan coffee 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
I'm Pablo Barrantes, an industrial engineer, and a proud dad to an 8-year-old princess. I'm also a coffee enthusiast who's truly passionate about all things coffee and coffee makers. My enthusiasm has driven me to uncover the hidden secrets of the coffee world, and I'm committed to sharing this knowledge with everyone through my educational blog. In this blog, you'll find valuable and practical information to enhance your coffee experience. What brings me the most joy is knowing that the tips and solutions you discover here will make your coffee moments even more delightful. When I can help you troubleshoot coffee machine issues, and you can savor your coffee without a hitch, it brings a smile to my face.

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