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Bialetti Moka Pot
The famous Bialetti Moka Pot… I’m sure you know what it looks like. When most people think of Italy a few things come to mind. Food, wine, culture, and coffee. Coffee is highly revered by all Italians but it wasn’t introduced to Italy until the early 17th century. It wasn’t very popular since coffee was thought of as an Arab affectation and the church called it exotic and threatening. It was an “Eastern thing.”
Until the 19th century coffee in Italy was brewed the Turkish way which was putting the coffee and water into a long-handled pot called a cezve. You then would bring it to a boil and serve it in small cups with the grinds settling to the bottom. In the early 19th century Italians started to brew coffee in a new way.
Mr. Angelo Moriondo designed an espresso (not expresso) machine that used steam and forced water to make coffee. The problem was the machine was even bigger than those used in restaurants and coffee bars today. Therefore, he never produced or marketed this machine.
In 1906, Mr. Pavoni introduced his machine at the World’s Fair held in Milan. It was called the “La Pavoni” and it was a big hit. It made such a hit at the World’s Fair that Mr. Pavani started manufacturing and selling espresso machines throughout Italy. But the problem still remained that his machine was too large for use in the home. Consequently, he only sold them to restaurants and coffee bars.
Bialetti Moka Pot
In 1918 a Piedmontese metal worker named Alfonso Bialetti returned home to Italy after a trip from France where he learned how to work with aluminum. He started a business crafting pots and pans out of aluminum and in 1933 he patented his “Bialetti Moka Express.” It was a three-chambered pot using steam power to force water up through the coffee chamber and into the top reservoir making that wonderful liquid we call espresso. Its hourglass shape and eight flat-sided design never changed and are still what you find today. The best part is that it was small enough and inexpensive so every Italian household could afford one. As a result, it became very popular with Italians everywhere.
Bialetti History Continues
Alfonso’s son Renato took over the family business in 1946. He decided to stop manufacturing pots and pans and just make the Bialetti Moka Express coffee pots. It was in 1958 that the company logo was designed. It was “The little man with the mustache” (L’omino con I baffi) and is still used today. By 1990 the Bialetti Moka Express could be found in over 90% of Italian households throughout the world. They could be found in cities with large Italian populations like New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, and countries like Argentina, Australia, and even Cuba. Renato Bialetti died in 2016 and was buried in a large replica of the Bialetti Moka Express complete with the “Little man with a mustache” logo.
Unfortunately, with the advent of the Nespresso-type machines using pods, cheap knockoffs from China, and places like Starbucks becoming popular, sales of the iconic Bialetti Moka Express started falling. Almost to the point of near bankruptcy. In fact, the company is still struggling to this day. I can’t imagine this iconic symbol of Italy disappearing forever and I hope to never see that day.
You can find the world’s most popular coffee pot in the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and the Guinness Book of World Records.
How to use a Bialetti Moka Pot? Click below:
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Official Bialetti Use of Moka Pot
We owned a Nespresso machine and had coffee from Starbucks back in the USA. Neither compares to the flavor of espresso made in a Bialetti Moka Express. Every apartment we’ve rented in Italy has one. We use this little pot every day and will continue using one to make our espresso.
Kathryn OcchipintiDecember 2, 2019 at 7:33 pm
Nice blog. I have two of these pots and I love them! Hope they never go out of business. They are a part of Italian history.
Coffee Tips - How to Brew with a Moka Pot - Hugo Coffee RoastersNovember 11, 2020 at 7:59 am
[…] Moka pot was invented in Italy during the 1930s by a metalworker named Alfonso Bialetti. One day, he was inspired by examining […]