Espresso Napoletano and Thoughts

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
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IamOiman

Postby IamOiman » Jan 05, 2019, 6:48 am

I've looked around on HB out of curiosity of what people know about this topic, but have not seen a significant amount of discussion compared to lighter roasts seen more commonplace in the US. Much of this discussion also seems to be speculation as well, and I believe I have knowledge that may be able to clean up any questions or notions.

A quick summary of my experience: I am an American who has had the privilege of completing my last two years of high school in Campania Italy and am now in my third year of University. I go back and forth between the US and Italy during this time, spending on average 5-6 months a year in Naples area. I got into coffee during this time and am now a certified Italian barista. My favorite roasts are local to Campania, and would be considered Neapolitan to me.

I will start with the definition. What is a Neapolitan Roast? I consider it to be a darker roast to American and even Northern Italy standards that uses an Arabica and Robusta mix to create flavor notes that dominate with caramel, vanilla, chocolate, and nuts. The percentages can range from as low as 45% arabica 55% robusta to some roasts that use only arabica mixes. My personal favorite roast uses a 70% arabica and 30% robusta miscela from a relatively small roasting company employing 5 people total. Mono origin coffee is known, and specialty roasted for clients, but the majority of the population does not drink them.The body of the shot is meant to be almost very thick if not syrupy with a pleasant aftertaste with a mirror taste to the shot that is meant to last 15-30 minutes if properly extracted. This thicker body stems from the robusta bean, which does produce more crema than arabica and also has a higher caffeine content. Robusta is seen as a cheaper, lower quality bean than the arabica bean, but I believe it has merit to complement the arabica in the many 'miscele' seen and created by the torrefazioni in Campania.

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In Campania, there are many coffee roasting companies (approaching 35), ranging from KIMBO S.P.A., down to the prior mentioned 5-person company Saka Caffè. The largest players may or may not be known, but the 5 largest are

KIMBO S.P.A
Caffè Toraldo S.R.L
Caffè Moreno S.R.L
Passalacqua S.P.A (probably the better known company here in HB besides Kimbo)
Caffè Kenon, L'oro di Napoli

Every bar uses one of the many miscele of many companies, but the general setup of the bars is consistently homogeneous in nature. The majority of roasts can be seen as similar in notes, but the slight nuances will win over each loyal customer. Of all provinces in Italy, Campania generally sees the most lever machines in use. In the downtown historical center, there is surprisingly a large number of the local Neapolitan Espresso Machine company Boscos considering their cost.

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Choosing a specific roast is only half the result of what you drink at the counter. The skill of the barista and the cleanliness of the machine generally comprise of the other half. A poorly maintained machine/grinder and an inept barista will ruin a shot universally, and Campania is not exception. Bad bars can be meters from a great bar, and simply looking into the bar will not tell you the quality of the espresso produced. A bar unchanged from the 70's or 80's may be hiding one of the best tasting shots in Naples, as I have found time and again. The example I use here is a 5 minute walk from the airport that I passed on for years due to its shabby appearance. I decided to try it after 4 years, and was completely floored by its quality. They were using caffè moreno for reference. The outside of this bar is shown below.

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I can delve more into the subject, but first I would like the opinion of others here and ask how you view a Neapolitan Espresso. My personal thoughts is that this espresso is very earthy, humble, and inexpensive, similar to the Neapolitans themselves.
-Ryan
I'll throw my portafilter in the ring
LMWDP #612

OldNuc

Postby OldNuc » Jan 05, 2019, 6:00 pm

I generally consume Kimbo Extreme so I also find the Neapolitan roasts suits my taste preference.

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lancealot

Postby lancealot » Jan 06, 2019, 12:01 am

I don't have an opinion but I enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

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Chert

Postby Chert » Jan 06, 2019, 12:14 am

Nice write up. I am curious about your favorite(s). Which is / are it/they?

I have good memories of some, but I've not had the exposure you report. And no doubt you are correct about the bars' variable quality. Kenon was okay. Kimbo can be quite nice and holds a special place in my espresso heart. The one can of Passalacqua I had I really liked.

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IamOiman

Postby IamOiman » Jan 06, 2019, 3:09 am

Chert wrote:Nice write up. I am curious about your favorite(s). Which is / are it/they?

I have good memories of some, but I've not had the exposure you report. And no doubt you are correct about the bars' variable quality. Kenon was okay. Kimbo can be quite nice and holds a special place in my espresso heart. The one can of Passalacqua I had I really liked.


I agree of the larger companies Passalacqua has some of the better coffee roasts in Campania. For my actual favorite roast(s), it would definitely be my Saka Caffe Gran Bar and Classic Bar. Here are some others that I liked as well (taken from a different post I wrote a while back):

Italian Coffee Brands and Mixes I like that have Robusta :D

Saka Caffe Classic Bar - the mix used with my barista training. This is the classic Neapolitan taste of Vanilla, Nuts, Caramel, and Chocolate when properly extracted and has a nice and thick body. It is paletable without sugar but I highly recommend adding a little for full flavor.

Saka Gran Bar - for those who may not find that much robusta to be appealing but are still interested. This is an 80% A 20% R mix with similar notes but is more balanced against the Robusta. If you do not like Robusta I suggest starting with this mix

Passalacqua Mehari- Another espresso company that I highly recommend is Passalacqua, also based in Naples. This 55% A 45% R mix that has similar notes to Classic Bar but has a little fruitiness and sweetness mixed in (I have not figured out the fruit flavor yet but it is very nice). It has a ton of creme as well and is full bodied

Passalacqua Mekico/Mekico Plus- For those who need a little more arabica, this is an 75% A 25% R mix that is similar to Mehari but has more intense flavors in Caramel and Chocolate and less fruit. Crema is a little less but is still highly recommeneded.

Toraldo Linea Rossa 20 - Coming from my favorite bar in Naples (Caffè Ciorfito), this 85% A 15% R is a dark Neapolitan roast that is probably the darkest of all the options said so far. If you like dark a robusta (at least a little) you will love this roast. Super thick crema and a medium body, it is similar to classic bar saka but a darker.

These are roasts I have tried and can confidently describe well. I have others but cannot form conclusions that I would safely be able to describe yet.

A brief list of 100% A roasts I can recommend

Passalacqua Harem (Best of Best imo)
Passalacqua Moana (Darkest roast I have tried that I enjoyed and considered good)
Kimbo Gold (cheapest one but still pretty decent)
Kenon Super Max Bar (For those looking for super caramel taste)

The issue with some of these roasts is it may be difficult to obtain single bags, as most of them are being sold to bars that buy in bulk. If this is the case the smallest lot you can buy is 6kg!!!
-Ryan
I'll throw my portafilter in the ring
LMWDP #612

OldNuc

Postby OldNuc » Jan 06, 2019, 10:41 am

IamOiman wrote:I agree of the larger companies Passalacqua has some of the better coffee roasts in Campania. ...

The issue with some of these roasts is it may be difficult to obtain single bags, as most of them are being sold to bars that buy in bulk. If this is the case the smallest lot you can buy is 6kg!!!


The 6kg case is not a problem if you own a good freezer but finding a source that has reasonably fresh roast dates in the US is. A minimum of 3 to 6 months past roast date is common and longer has been noted.

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mariobarba

Postby mariobarba » Jan 06, 2019, 11:21 am

Although I haven't been to Naples in 20 years, I do have a lot of family there that visit here and vice versa. Every time someone takes the trip across the pond I am usually lucky enough to get a bag of Passalacqua (which I have not been able to find locally in Montreal). My take on these coffees as well as blends such as Kimbo Extra Creme is that they are roasted much darker than what NA drinkers are used to. So dark in fact that the oils from my last batch caused some beans to stick together in my grinder and not feed through the hopper! I also find that the Neapolitan coffees are fairly monotone when it comes to their flavour profile, often lacking in acidity. I also notice how most Neapolitans tend to take their coffee with a ton of sugar and as such the flavour profile may be skewed towards that trend. I don't tend to put any sugar in my espresso, so my appreciation of southern Italian blends may be affected by this.

My brother recently opened a 1st wave Italian coffee bar / panineria and he uses a blend of 2 different Kimbo coffees. Their espresso has been well received in the Italian Canadian community so I guess Neapolitan coffee has its place here in NA.

Forza Napoli!

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IamOiman

Postby IamOiman » Jan 06, 2019, 11:33 am

mariobarba wrote:My take on these coffees as well as blends such as Kimbo Extra Creme is that they are roasted much darker than what NA drinkers are used to. So dark in fact that the oils from my last batch caused some beans to stick together in my grinder and not feed through the hopper! I also find that the Neapolitan coffees are fairly monotone when it comes to their flavour profile, often lacking in acidity. I also notice how most Neapolitans tend to take their coffee with a ton of sugar and as such the flavour profile may be skewed towards that trend. I don't tend to put any sugar in my espresso, so my appreciation of southern Italian blends may be affected by this.

My brother recently opened a 1st wave Italian coffee bar / panineria and he uses a blend of 2 different Kimbo coffees. Their espresso has been well received in the Italian Canadian community so I guess Neapolitan coffee has its place here in NA.

Forza Napoli!


"Il sangue dei napoletani è caffè" :D

You would be surprised how many I see drink their espresso Amaro, but the number is smaller than those who prefer sugar (I use about 1/2 a 5g bag per espresso). The darkness of the roast in the south is dark even for northern Italy. I see many Americans consider Illy as a dark roast, which I consider a medium roast! Also, I feel Americans may like neapolitan espresso but simply are unaware of the drink.

Just for curiosity, where is this bar located? I am in the New England area when I am in college studying.
-Ryan
I'll throw my portafilter in the ring
LMWDP #612

Blacktip

Postby Blacktip » Jan 06, 2019, 11:36 am

Thanks for posting this.

I had a doppio in Pompeii made with Campania coffee in a lever machine. It was the best shot I had in Italy. Your description is on the spot.

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mariobarba

Postby mariobarba » Jan 06, 2019, 12:11 pm

Just for curiosity, where is this bar located?


In the St-Henri district of Montral, near Atwater market. Caffè Farina.

It's a shame its so hard to find coffee shops using lever machines. Cafe St-Henri in the quartier latin in Montreal used to have a lever machine and the last espresso I had on it was one of the best shots I've ever had. It was their Holy Cow blend and it was like a perfect marriage between 3rd and 1st wave espresso. Full of sweet red cherry but with a heavenly mouthfeel. I think they've since switched to a pump machine.