Unimatic, the romantic tale of a coffee pot

We met the American - Italian Elisabeth Cardiello, key protagonist of the inspiring Netflix documentary Coffee for All

31-05-2019
Peter Cardiello, entrepreneur from Campania who de

Peter Cardiello, entrepreneur from Campania who devised the Unimatic for the American market, a coffee machine half way between a moka and a percolator, no longer in production. A unique piece which becomes alive once again through his daughter's Elisabeth's memories

"Today you take away with you a piece of my heart". Fear not, it's not the end of a love story that we're about to narrate, rather the beginning. We are in New York, in a private club in the Meatpacking District to meet Elisabeth Cardiello. The Italian-American entrepreneur has just hand delivered us a Unimatic, the coffee maker (halfway between a moka pot and a filter coffee percolator) that her father designed in the 1960s.

Peter Cardiello was a businessman whose specialty was finding solutions to all sorts of problems. That's why he designed Unimatic: he wanted to bring good coffee to America. He was born in San Pietro al Tanagro in Campania and had emigrated to America in the 1940s. Elisabeth remembers that her father gave her an important life lesson from an early age: believing in her potential and her dreams, following his own mantra: what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve.

But what exactly is a Unimatic? A pretty unique item, since it is no longer produced. The ones that Elisabeth now distributes, individually numbered and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, are the originals produced in Italy which went unsold in the 1960s. She found them in a Brooklyn warehouse after her father passed away a few years ago, still in boxes and covered in dust and memories.

The Unimatic is a drip percolator, elegantly vintage, in its authentic packaging bearing surprisingly modern graphics. It brews 4-5 cups of coffee that stays warm for an hour thanks to the heat-retaining base element. As soon as the water boils, it must be removed from the stove and left perking for another 7 minutes. The idea is that coffee is consumed, slowly, and in the company of others possibly; let it be a moment of reflection, of empathy and let the coffee be the base for brave conversations, whether with family or friends. "The smell of coffee permeates the surroundings wonderfully" - she tells us enthusiastically "I grew up with Unimatic. It was the centerpiece of our family table."

Elisabeth Cardiello, American - Italian entrepreneur

Elisabeth Cardiello, American - Italian entrepreneur

The Unimatic, no longer produced

The Unimatic, no longer produced

We fell in love with its design and history behind after watching the Caffè Sospeso – Coffee for all documentary on Netflix: three cities (Naples, Buenos Aires and New York), three life stories that revolve around coffee; Unimatic and Elisabeth were the protagonists of the segment shot in the American city. "I did not expect to have such a central part in the film. When they offered me to participate, I accepted because it seemed a fun thing to do." 

Some scenes are shot in Italy: the Cardiellos ties to the father's birthplace are strong. They used to come back every year, and the memories of places and smells, such as the wood-burning smoke of the town’s fireplaces, are still very much alive. She still flies to Italy once a year at least, and, with her Unimatic, keeps the legacy of her dad going.

Elisabeth doesn’t simply sell an object, she sells a concept, a philosophy. She skillfully combined marketing, poetry and storytelling and we fell for it, yet we’re quite chuffed about it, it’s a warm, fuzzy feeling after all. 

Our Unimatic, number # 532, cost us the fairly substantial sum of $325. That's why she tells us that we will carry a piece of her heart away with us. For Elisabeth, who grew up very close to her dad, every coffee maker spreads his message; she always tries to deliver them in person so she can meet the person "adopting" one. 

She asks  to take photos of our Unimatic in its new London home; she suggests to take it with us to Italy, to share a cup of coffee with our Italian family.

We ask her if she felt overwhelmed when faced with a warehouse full of so many items. "At first I felt that they didn't belong to me, after all they were my dad’s work. But I soon realised that they were there to give me the opportunity to create my own path."

Obviously the exposure from the film resulted in a decent amount of publicity. Today Elisabeth is a speaker at events like TedX and has founded a non profit that helps young women entrepreneurs at the beginning of their careers. She really likes public speaking and the chance to be a source of inspiration for others, something she never imagined doing.  

Elizabeth as a child

Elizabeth as a child

What coffee do she recommend using with the Unimatic? It took her a few years to devise the right blend and find the right look & feel for the packaging; the chosen design & roast finally carry with them the warmth of her father, the cultural heritage and the scent of her memories. San Pietro Brunetta is the blend - prepared with a traditional Italian roasting technique - which we get with the Unimatic: sweet notes of cocoa and hazelnut, the Brunetta is a tribute to the land of origin in the name as well as in the flavour; Elisabeth also tells us that any good quality blend will go well with our Unimatic.

The important thing is to let the aroma of the coffee linger gently, while enjoying a conversation, maybe a brave one too, while sipping a cup a share a special moment with others.


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