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Bialetti: a history of coffee and Italian excellence

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Last Updated on March 10, 2021 by Gaia Zol

Bialetti and the tradition of coffee in Italy. Two things that can’t be separated.

Bialetti

Because there is nothing more Italian than making a cup of coffee.

Everyone knows it: to Italians, making coffee is not a gesture. It is a ritual, a moment of sheer pleasure and relax. The moka was born in Italy. With its characteristic octagonal shape, the moka is a fixture of every kitchen. This is one of the first objects Italians buy for a new house. The moka invites people to sit back and relax, in expectation of a sip of Italy’s best loved beverage.

The moka means all this and more, and in Italy, mokas have a specific name: Bialetti.

The brand Bialetti

Bialetti has become a symbol of the Made in Italy. Not only for the object, but for what it represents. This is a family-run brand, always faithful to its roots and heritage. Still, always keeping an eye on technology and even fashion. In a world of fancy coffee machines, Bialetti remains “the” name of Italian coffee making. Every Italian household owns a Bialetti moka.

“Vuoi il caffé?” – Do you want a coffee?

“sì, ma fallo con la moka.” – Yes, but make it with the moka.

Let’s enter the world of Bialetti!

The origins

Doing your laundry… and making coffee

More than eighty years ago, in 1933, Alfonso Bialetti was observing his wife doing laundry. She was using the lisciveuse, a large cauldron with a tube running in the middle, the upmost part of which was perforated. The lisciveuse was put on the fire filled with water, lye, and dirty socks. When the water boiled, it rose through the tub, which helped the cleaning power of lye. Fascinating procedure, Alfonso Bialetti thought. So much so he saw it could be easily applied to another absolutely essential activity in the Italian kitchen: making coffee.

So,the first Moka Express was born. Making coffee with a Moka Express was simple and fas. Also, it enhanced the taste. In fact, moka’s coffee was stronger and deeper in flavor than the one of the caffettiera napoletana. La napoletana, just like other coffee machines of the 19th and early 20th century, worked a lot like a tea brewer. It let water trickle slowly and gently through the coffee.

But the Bialetti Moka was innovative also for other reasons. Especially for its material: aluminum. Aluminum was a new material for the production of modern technologies. Once used only in aviation, soon Italian design embraced it.

The Omino coi Baffi

Renato Bialetti was an entrepreneur at heart. He immediately saw the potential of his father’s invention. In 1946 Renato took over the company and brought the production at industrial levels. He also understood the power of marketing. Soon, he started attracting new customers through advertisement. With the help of artist Paul Campani, Bialetti launched the Omino coi Baffi in 1953.

Bialetti
The Omino coi Baffi. Image via Bialetti.

Who is he? Well, take a look at your Bialetti: you see that little man, all dressed up and with a well groomed moustache? That is him, the Omino coi Baffi. Indeed: it’s your moka. This little funny man quickly became one and only with the Bialetti brand.

He even became an animated character thanks to show Carosello. The show was the perfect platform for the Omino coi Baffi and the Moka Express. Soon, the little man became an icon and so did the moka. By the time Carosello ended its run in 1977, every Italian had a Bialetti in the kitchen.

Going international

Since then, the company has conquered the international market, too, and has widened considerably the typology and number of its products, yet always maintaining its prototypical octagonal shape: the Dama model is characterized by a more elegant silhouette, Brikka has been ideated to make a creamier coffee, similar to that you could get “al bar,” Mukka Express, designed by Alfonso Giannoni, can make cappuccino, too, and is decorated with a cow pattern (mucca in Italian means cow and its name plays with the spelling similarities between “mucca” and “moka”). Moka Express is also available today in a plethora of colors and decorations, because we Italians are a trendy bunch and we like to show it in kitchen, too.

And what about coffee machines? Yes, Bialetti has entered the realm of automatic coffee machines, too. It did so in 2006 with its Mokona (literally, “big moka”), a coffee machine shaped like a Moka Express, which is as cute as its coffee is good.

 

Bialetti and the world of art

Bialetti, as we said, has been representing the excellence of Made in Italy for decades and its products are known and appreciated a bit everywhere in the world. In fact, the shape and the silhouette of its moka became so iconic it entered the world of figurative art, too. Moka Express is part of the New York MOMA‘s permanent collections, and is one of the 100 objects making up the Collezione Permanente del Design Italiano, an itinerant art exhibition patrocinated by Italy’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. In 2010 Moka Express appeared at the Shanghai Expo as one of the 10 Italian Inventions that changed the World. 

Bialetti Moka Express: an icon of coffee making and Italian tradition

Nothing says Italy like a good coffee and quite nothing says Italian coffee as much as a Bialetti moka. Whichever model you choose, you can bet on its reliability and on the fact it will always make a delicious espresso (you can also check our article on how to make a good coffe with a Bialetti).

Add to it its history, its tradition and its always-modern design and you may well tell your friends you own a piece of Italian art resting quietly on your kitchen counter, ready to introduce each and everyday, with its delicate gurgle, a moment of well deserved relax.

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Tedolph
1 year ago

Molto bene!