Design Moment: Moka Express coffee pot created in 1933
Alfonso Bialetti’s stove-top coffee-pot has been a byword for Italian style for decades
Alfonso Bialetti was also savvy about branding. In the 1950s, he commissioned a logo from designer Paul Campani and the little man with the moustache – based on himself – features on the coffee pots
At a time when coffee pods – and the machines that go with them – are becoming the norm for home brews, the Moka Express still stands as a design classic that has, more than 80 years since it was first produced and yet to outlive its usefulness. In 1919, Alfonso Bialetti set up an aluminium workshop in Verbania in Italy. In 1933, he designed the Moka Express with its distinctive Art Deco octagonal shape and simple percolator technology and so revolutionised home-brewed coffee. He also created a design that would for decades be a byword for Italian style.
The stove-top coffee pots come in many sizes – from a single to an 18-cup, based on a 50ml espresso serving. As with all good design, part of the secret to its longevity is how simple the little percolator is to use.
The characteristic gurgling noise signals the coffee is nearly ready as the water is forced up through the finely ground coffee grains in the internal basket into the top chamber. The only problems users frequently report in this enduring design are melted handles when the plastic handle accidentally comes in contact with a gas flame. Or if the coffee basket is dented or misshapen or when the rubber seal – necessary to create the required pressure – perishes.
That can be replaced, so a well-cared-for Moka Express can last for decades.
Not only was Bialetti a design genius, he was savvy about branding. In the 1950s, he commissioned a logo from designer Paul Campani and the little man with the moustache – based on himself – features on the coffee pots and was widely advertised in Italy and beyond.
Challengers to Bialetti are many at all levels in the market, with several designers, most notably Italian company Alessi, creating new versions. There is also a slew of unbranded and much cheaper imitators.