The Italian Almanac


Moka Express

Italy's famed Bialetti stovetop coffeemaker is turning 80 years old. Designed in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti the simple-yet-elegant Moka Express percolator has been in virtually every Italian kitchen since the 1950s.

Bialetti said he came up with the idea by watching women wash clothes on the banks of the local lake. As they boiled lye, a foamy substance would ooze through a separate container up above where laundry was kept, just as his 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.