The Legendary Moka Express
Bialetti is proud to be the founder and inventor of the stovetop method of brewing coffee and the producer of the original and iconic stovetop Moka Express. This unique stovetop brewing concept has today been embraced by many other brands around the world.
Who created it?
Alfonso Bialetti (the grandfather of Alberto Alessi of Alessi, the famous Italian design house!) is the famed engineer who designed the aluminium Moka Express in 1933, beginning the Bialetti story.
After working for a decade in the French metal work industry, by 1919 Alfonso had set up his own metal workshop in Crusinallo and the rest, they say, is history. Alfonso would watch women close to his factory washing clothes in a sealed boiler with a small central pipe, drawing soapy water from the bottom and spreading it over the clothes in the top.
During the 1920's it was common for people to drink their coffee in public places such as coffee houses, so using the same principle Alfonso had seen used with the clothes boilers, he set to work to design a coffee pot that would allow people to make and enjoy espresso coffee in the comfort of their own home.
After many prototypes, the mighty Moka Express was completed in 1933 and as we know, now has a proud place in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, with the blueprints housed at the London Science Museum.
In 1933 aluminium was not a common metal to be used for household goods but this was soon to change in the mid-1930s. At the time, Italy was rich in bauxite, the basis of aluminium ore and Mussolini had placed an embargo on stainless steel, so Bialetti made his Moka Express from aluminium. A fortunate turn of events for modern-day coffee lovers, as aluminium seasons wonderfully with the natural oils from coffee after regular use - creating flavoursome coffee time after time.
The coffee pot’s clean classic design with its symmetrical octagonal metallic body is easily recognisable—it has followed essentially the same design for over 80 years.
Marketing an Icon
During the second world war, the Moka was only marketed and sold locally at the markets in Piedmont with production of 70,000 units (by 2001 this figure had reached 220 million). The war saw rising coffee and aluminium price which stalled Bialetti's production, however, when the war ended in 1945, the brand was set to take off.
Renato Bialetti, Alfonso's son, took over in 1946 and instigated a huge marketing push that saw billboards and out of home advertising as well as television. Carosello was a 10 minute spot of advertising shown on Italian national TV every night and Bialetti was regularly featured!
In 1953 the Bialetti Moka Express was made even more recognisable with the creation of L'omino con i baffi – 'the little man with the mustache' - a cartoon sketch based on Alfonso Bialetti that is today a part of the Bialetti logo and features on Bialetti products.
Today, sadly, both Alfonso and Renato have passed away, however, their legacy lives on in every coffee brewed in the Moka Express, or indeed, any of the other wonderful coffee products that complete the Bialetti product range.