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Maker of distinctive Moka coffee pot celebrates 90th anniversary


The Moka name derives from the city of Mokha in Yemen, one of the earliest and most renowned areas of coffee production, in particular of the precious Arabica quality.

The Moka pot was invented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. At the time, the Alfonso Bialetti & C. Fonderia in Conchiglia (today Bialetti industrie) was mainly involved in the production of semi-finished aluminum products. It was based in Crusinallo, a small fraction of the municipality of Omegna: today it is part of the Verbano Cusio Ossola province. Bialetti had opened the workshop in 1919, after having spent several years working in France in some aluminum factories.

According to the most popular and credible version of the story, Bialetti had the idea behind the Moka pot around the 1920s, observing some washerwomen doing laundry in a tub with a central tube from which hot water and soap came out and distributed over the clothes. This boiling and water distribution procedure was the basis of the project. The Moka is made up of four aluminum elements, to which is added a replaceable gasket and a Bakelite handle. The original patent provided that its shape was only octagonal. Although there are several variations today, the shape of the Bialetti Moka and the materials with which it is produced have never changed: in fact, the coffee maker has always been the same, for 80 years.

The Moka became a widely consumed item only after the end of the Second World War, during the so-called economic boom and the increase in average income and consump-tion. A campaign based on advertisements in newspapers, radio and even television commercials (among the first in Italy) played an important role. On the occasion of the most important Italian fair, that of Milan, Bialetti covered the city with huge billboards with photos of his coffee maker. In 1956 Renato Bialetti had a giant version of the Moka installed in the exhibition spaces. The Moka Express brand became very famous thanks to the invention of the “little man with a mustache,” designed by the animator and cartoonist Paul Campani. The character became the symbol of the Bialetti commercials that were broadcast during the Carosello television program.

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