Iconic moka coffeepot turns 80
Bialetti percolator 'famous throughout the world'19 August, 16:53
The Bialetti company was born in 1919, when Alfonso Bialetti opened a workshop in Crusinallo, in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, to make semi-finished aluminium products.
That eventually included the Moka Express after Bialetti had a eureka moment watching women wash clothes, according to family lore. As they boiled lye, a foamy substance would ooze through a separate container up above where laundry was kept, just as Bialetti's percolators eventually would erupt coffee through a filter and into an upper canister. In the postwar economic boom, his son Renato put modern industrial technology behind the manufacturing process, turning out some 200 million products over time.
The product was made immediately recognisable among similar products thanks to its mascot-logo, a caricature of its inventor's son: a little man with a big nose and a moustache, dressed in a dark jacket, striped pants and wearing a bow tie, holding up his finger as if ordering another espresso. Today, the same model of moka pot, also known as caffettiera in Italian, is still produced by Bialetti in many different sizes, from one to eighteen cups.
The original design and many current models are still made from aluminium with Bakelite handles. There are also stainless-steel models available, electric self-heating moka pots, and even the Mukka Express, a device which allows milk to be frothed and mixed with the coffee during brewing. (The name, Mukka, is a play on words, using the Italian word for cow, mucca.) Bialetti also produces occasional novelty items, such as Alpina Moka, a special green coffee maker with a top shaped like an alpine hat, complete with a little black feather. The machine was specially designed and manufactured by Bialetti in May 2012, to mark the 85th anniversary of the Italian Alpine Corps, one of the oldest organizations of active mountain infantry in the world. Today, the company's brands include Bialetti, Aeternum, Rondine, Girmi and CEM, and operate through subsidiaries in several European countries. Manufacturing plants include two in Italy, one in Turkey and one in Romania.
Through the Girmi line, the company offers a range of small kitchen appliances beyond coffee machines - from sandwich toasters to immersion blenders and beaters.