It takes time, patience, practice, and know-how to brew good coffee using the old-fashioned methods…and using the Via Veneto CX-25 (or Bellman, Vesubio, Benjamin & Medwin, Elebak…different badging, but all pretty much the same device) is certainly no exception. Extra care and attention need be taken using this rascal, though, because it gets hot. Really hot. It’s solidly made from stainless steel, and is basically a small boiler with a couple of spouts, or “wands”…one for coffee, one for steam. A large Bakelite handle is attached to a pressure relief valve so the thing won’t explode (what a pleasant thought that is); the same material is used for the coffee/steam wand controls and the lid knob. An aluminum funnel/filter basket assembly slides over a threaded stem (that secures the lid) inside the boiler. A separate reducer cuts cup size down from 9 to either 6 or 3 two-ounce cups, although better results may be achieved by brewing the full amount. (Note: There are three gaskets used in the CX-25, and all brands use the same set. Make sure they are in good condition before using if your pot was obtained used.)
The Via Veneto has a lid of solid steel, about 1/2″ thick, with a narrow goose-necked coffee wand. Unscrew the lid knob, pull the lid up, and remove and the filter funnel. Fill the boiler up to the relief valve (other brands may be marked inside for cup quantities; the Via Veneto isn’t), and place it on the stove (if using gas, make sure the flames stay under the boiler). Fill the filter with fine ground coffee, using a dark roast for a more authentic espresso. I have tried both full amounts and the 3-cup reducer, and have had admittedly better results brewing a full 9 cups (I’m still in experimental mode). Once filled, slide the filter funnel in place and secure the lid tightly. The valve for the steam wand should be closed, and the coffee wand opened.
How it works: boiling water creates steam. The resulting pressure forces water up through the bottom of the filter funnel and through the grounds, continuing through a screen in the bottom of the lid, and out of the wand. Some brands have a pressure gauge, and the coffee valve should remain closed until the gauge reaches 1.5 bars. Since the Via Veneto has no gauge, the valve is left open just until the first few drips come out the wand. Some folks say leave it open, other say close it for 30 seconds to a minute to get a more robust brew. I say try whatever method gives you the best results. I’ve left it open for a full pot and made myself a most excellent Americano. I’ve closed it for about a minute and a half on a 3-cup brew, with mediocre results. (CAUTION: There’s a good video on YouTube depicting what happens if you let too much pressure build up before opening this valve!) Like I said, I’m still playing with it. The coffee stream will lighten in color when brewing is complete, and the valve can be closed. Cut off the heat unless the steam wand is going to be used.
Frothing milk with the steam wand, or with any machine, takes skill. A skill, I might add, that I need to hone before I can make any claim as to my abilities. Once the coffee is brewed, close the valve so pressure can build up. Fill a chilled stainless frothing pitcher about half-way with really cold whole milk. The steam wand has only one hole; multiple holes are supposed to be better. Dip the tip into the milk and slowly open the steam valve. My milk-steaming abilities leave a lot to be desired, so I’ll leave it to the reader to seek out better advice on that subject than I can give here.
You may not get the coveted crema that you would from a La Pavoni, but the Via Veneto is capable of producing a decent base from which coffee drinks can be made.