The Essence of Coffee

Reflections on Renato Bialetti, the inventor of the Italian Moka

Last week (Feb 11) Renato Bialetti have died. While his name is not well known in the US, you have definitely seen at some point the invention that he contributed with his dad Alfonso Bialetti and designer Luigi De Ponti brought to life, the Moka Pot.

As a proud Italian, Renato’s loss saddened me, the Moka is one of Italy’s most iconic piece of design. This simple aluminum object is made out of 3 pieces and allows anyone to simply brew coffee in under 5 minutes at home.

While nowadays this might seem a like a small commodity, in the Italian post-war depression this was a great convenience for all people that could not afford to go out anymore.

The Moka design was in instant success, 9 out of 10 families in Italy own the Moka and it’s the primary way of making coffee in Europe.

How is the Moka made?

The Moka’s beauty comes from its simplicity of construction and operation. Made out of cast aluminum with a plastic handle it’s actually very eco-friendly and virtually indestructible. (Unlike the modern massive, plasticky, ugly and waste producing machines Like this one)

Here are some pictures I took during design school at the manufacturing plan in Piemonte in 2008 to show you how the casting is done. And yes, that’s a giant Moka and me when I had a lot of hair…

How the Moka works

There is no better way to explain how the Moka works than showing this 1940’s add.

FYI: The main character “Omino coi baffi” (Little mustached man) is also the Bialetti Logo, which is a cartoon representation of Renato.

The Moka Mith

Many people think that the coffee in the Moka is made from the water evaporating and coming up the filter but that’s not the case, it’s actually much more ingenious than that!

The lower chamber contains both water and air so when the chamber temperature raises the air expands forcing the hot water to come up through the filter that contains coffee and then escaping through the top nozzle to and falling into the top container.

Here is an illustration we did to explain the concept.

Thank you Renato for bringing to life such an inspiring piece of design that gives Italians so much pride! Your large mustached logo will never be forgotten.


Originally published at www.menodesign.com on February 19, 2016.