I tear my mind clear again, back to the wafting aroma, plunging my spoon into the brown depths and conveying the first load to the cylindrical space at the top of the filter. And a second one, then I add another one, even the powder out level across the circle, then fill in some more spoons, leveling in-between loads until at last the ground grain comes level with the upper edge of the filter and the rim of the lower chamber.
I am overcome with a small everyday sense of achievement, the spark of completing one of living’s intrinsic, inevitable chores. With my thumb I remove whatever grains sully the rim proper, sweeping them inwards or out onto the black granite below. It has been a matter of fruitless discussion and experimentation among us, as to what level of powder yields the best taste. More time has passed than it takes to drop a soulless nespresso capsule, that much is for sure.
I screw back on the upper half, as tightly as I dare so I might shortly yet be able to reopen it without spilling any of the hot liquids once they have percolated to the top. Everything takes a certain measure and consideration or there could be no sense, however fleeting, of ritual. The passage of time is marked by the movements of the different parts of the Express, the ingredients and my body in motion, which while choreographed do not amount to a dance.
The Moka Express is placed back on the black glass surface of the stove. The sound this produces is very delicate. Then I dial the heat up to an intermediate six, which is said to be good for the efficiency of caffeine extraction; I take an Italian person’s word for it, which, frankly, seems like the right word to take.
The time I set to 12 minutes, which is also the time of spaghetti, my alimentary choice of preference and convenience. As is usual in the presence of numbers, the air is swirling with insignificant coincidences or symbolisms. In any case, I abandon the pot for the calmer pleasure of reading or writing, sure to be called back to the completion of the ritual by the nerve-wrecking beep of our semi-sentient kitchen. A sentience that is expressed purely by different varieties of beeping and the strange autonomy of its three major appliances: the stove, the fridge and the dishwasher, all of who have yet to rise in mutiny of their lowly rank in our domestic hierarchy.
I have come to understand that the ideal time to take the Express of the stove would be before the upsurge of gurgling steam bubbles but I doubt I will pay much attention to this. There is stinginess when it comes to coffee and I am a part of it, I believe it is the greediness of those who are not satisfied with just being awake but long for a daily dose of hyperness, who enjoy the palpable proximity of cardiac arrest, rejoice in the dilated look of reality after a cup of strong brown.
When I eventually return from reading, ideally Calvino, I open the lid by pulling back the black, stubbly nub, there it is: brown bubbles flowing down on both sides of the aluminum stem into two or three cups worth of brew below. If I were more of a religious type I would probably take this moment to send a prayer in the direction of Bialetti, up above, departed in that direction 1970. But I’m not so I don’t, nor would I want for the heathen nature of my ritual to be sullied.
A broadly wafting steam-head of aroma, this time more forcefully, invades the kitchen bringing to my brainbox all the fantastic scenes of places and times cut off from the dreary line of life I’m stumbling along. The Moka Express runs to those locations of course, but only upon the flimsy tracks of my imagination.
On the mica-spiked granite, two Bodum cups await the pouring forth of the piping hot coffee like lavish, wide, white porcelain whores. One containing two, the other one coffee-spoon of sugar. Obligingly I spill my moka into the acquiescent mugs, again smiling, this time about my ridiculous, laughable, pseudo-pornographic simile.
A thought stops me cold: but rituals do need their sacrifices, don’t they?
As I return to my reading, Calvino or Levi or Pessoa, and my heart accelerates to its caffeine-happy clip, I do wonder, a small wave of disquiet bobbing me up and down, up&down, up&down, on the inside, at what point this ceremony will finally come to a close? Yes, no coffee without sacrifice either.