My first taste of coffee was at a young age, around six. I shared that cup and more with my grandfather Dante in the small, bright kitchen of his otherwise dark upstairs apartment. He owned the house, which sat on a corner in a neighborhood populated predominantly by second-generation Italian families hailing from the same region of southern Italy. Nanoo made coffee just right, with lots of cream and sugar and a crunchy almond biscotti on the side for dipping.
While I recall many memorable tastes, smells, and sights from spending time at my grandfather’s home, there’s one thing that slips my mind: How did he brew his coffee? I just can’t dig through my memories to land on an image. However, given certain facts of history, I have a strong feeling that on his countertop sat a percolator coffee pot.
Birth of the Percolator
My grandfather’s parents grew up in Italy, in the southern region of Calabria. Italy is the birthplace of the world-renown Bialetti percolator in 1933, credited to an engineer by the name of Alfonso Bialetti. His design went on to inspire the revered Italian kitchenware company of the same name. The Bialetti percolator became a staple of kitchens across Italy. It’s likely my great-grandparents used one and that their son, my grandfather, did too.
But wait—there’s another history of the percolator coffee pot. This article from KitchenZap traces the evolution of the percolator, with major advances coming from our side of the pond. In 1865, Massachusetts native James Nason obtained a patent for a rough version of a percolator. Illinois farmer Hanson Goodrich took it further, getting a patent in 1889 for a design that included the tube and perforated basket that became the pot’s defining features.
All in all, the percolator was king of coffee for decades. While modern conveniences like electric drip and Keurig machines have become the norm, many people all over the world still rely on this classic brewing method.
Making Memories With Coffee
Neither of my parents were big coffee drinkers when I was growing up. I remember my dad having a rare cup of instant coffee, which not only doesn’t count but is also a punishable offense in the rulebook of coffee consumption. So I owe my lifelong love of coffee to those early experiences with my grandfather. Dunking biscotti into a sweet, creamy cup of goodness at Nanoo’s kitchen table became a lifelong habit (although I dropped the cookie and became a cream-no-sugar girl a couple of decades ago).
Speaking of biscotti: Did you know that in Italy coffee and crunchy cookies aren’t a perfect pair? As this article from Tuscan Traveler explains, Italians actually dip their biscotti in wine!
Back to sweet bean-inspired memories: Coffee became a way of life, literally, for me for about five years. During and after college, I worked behind the counter of the same coffee shop, a funky corner joint that attracted a motley crew of customers. From students cramming for exams to home-schooling moms gathering for snack time to attorneys grabbing a quick shot of espresso before court, coffee was a common denominator. Many years and work experiences later, I can still say being a barista was one of my favorite jobs.
Over the years, coffee has helped define milestones and enhance happy memories for me. I bet it has done the same for millions of people across the world. To add another element of nostalgia to your morning joe, pick up a set of our vintage-style mugs. Coffee really is more enjoyable in a sturdy, thick-walled cup.
What are some of your favorite coffee moments? Share in the comments below!
Danielle Costello is a freelance writer and editor with a special interest in great coffee. After spending a few decades exploring life in bigger cities, Danielle now resides in Morgantown, West Virginia. A mom of two young boys, exercise enthusiast, and dog-rescue advocate, she spends her free time making healthy meals and savoring disrupted sleep.