Alfonso Bialetti (1888–1970) was a metals engineer who acquired Luigi De Ponti’s invention of the Moka Express coffee pot – an Italian classic design.
Bialetti worked in the French aluminium industry for over a decade and by 1919 he’d established his own workshop in Crusinallo (Piedmont) and later a studio for design and production.
Bialetti completed his design for the clean-lined eight-sided aluminium Moka Express in 1933. It is known affectionately in Italy as “la macchinetta” (“the little machine”) and has been manufactured largely unaltered for over 70 years.
The Moka is a percolator with coffee grains being loaded into an internal metal filter that is placed over a water reservoir and screwed tightly to the upper part of the coffee pot – a jug shape. This is then placed on a hob and heated. The hot water rises inside the pot and passes through the coffee, extracting the flavour, passing into the upper jug for serving. Care should be taken not to boil the water as according to the vulgar French expression when using the Moka – “Café bouillu, café foutu ?” (Boiled coffee is erm….ruined coffee!)
Between 1934 and 1940 70,000 units of the Moka were produced and sold at Piedmontese street markets. To date it’s believed that around 330m units of the humble Moka have been produced.
Devised as part of a massive marketing campaign by Alfonso son Renato, in the face of stiff copy-cat product competition, the Moka mascot “the Man with the Moustache” was based on a sketch of Alfonso and was developed into a logo in 1953 by Paul Campani.
Bialetti founded Bialetti Industrie S.p.A a major kitchen ware company (with revenues in 2015 in excess of €170m) and is the grandfather of Alberto Alessi founder of Alessi Design known for is slightly wackier domestic products. See the Alessi Kettle below
My Bialetti Moka Coffee Pot – I was first introduced to the Bialetti Moka coffee pot in Italy in the late 1980’s bringing a four cup version back to the UK which has been used and enjoyed ever since with the occasional need to change the perishable rubber ring inside the body of the Moka.
Since quitting caffeine in the early 2000’s the quality of decaffeinated coffee has improved immensely so much so that I suspect that even the most hardened coffee drinker would be hard pushed to tell the difference – particularly when using the Moka.
Your Bialetti Moka Coffee Pot?
Photo by Bialetti