It is due to Alfonso Bialetti, and therefore to the productive territory of Cusio, one of the longest-lived inventions of our “made in Italy”: the unmistakable moka express coffee maker.
It is about to turn ninety, but it wears the years very well. This timeless legend of “made in Italy” is iconic and highly imitated… I'm talking, for those who have not understood me, of the legendary Bialetti moka!
If in our homes the coffee ritual is kept alive and punctuates the small daily breaks, the credit also goes to this particular instrument conceived in 1933 by an enlightened entrepreneur from Cusio.
The original coffee maker designed by Alfonso Bialetti was made up of four aluminum elements and had a bakelite handle. Its sinuous shape was reminiscent of the female silhouette and, in fact, it seems that the idea of a device of this type would have come to the young entrepreneur while he was watching his wife doing the laundry. In those days, to wash clothes, the “lisciveuse” was used, a pot with a hollow tube with a perforated upper part where water, fabrics to be washed and lye, a rather inexpensive detergent, were put together. When the water boiled, it rose up the tube and then descended on the laundry, soaking it evenly. With the same principle, the new coffee maker was conceived which Bialetti baptized with a particular name, to pay homage to the Yemeni city of Mokha from which the precious Arabica coffee was imported.
It was in the 1950s, after the difficult period of the war and at the height of the industrial rebirth, that Renato, Alfonso's son, encouraged the production of coffee makers in the Crusinallo factory also thanks to an exceptional witness, the famous "little man with a mustache". This nice character, created by the genius of Paul Campani, allowed the differentiation of the original moka from the many imitations that were beginning to circulate on the market. The Bialetti brand soon became famous in Italy and throughout the world, also thanks to the Carosello and marketing campaigns that have made history.
Today the Bialetti moka are still made of aluminum, but many variants and exclusive editions are produced, albeit they have maintained the typical shape with the octagonal base and work exactly as they did then: they must be "screwed" with a characteristic gesture after filling the boiler of water (but only up to the valve!) and without pressing the coffee too much into the filter. Another "expert" trick is to turn off the flame when the espresso stops coming out of the spout, waiting a few minutes to give the cream time to surface too.
If you enter a Bialetti store or decide to buy a coffee maker online, there are many modern and original versions that you can find: the colorful collectible Moka Express, the very comfortable coffee makers with programmable timer, the versions suitable for induction hobs and the famous Brikka that promise a creamy and intense coffee like the one in the bar. Then there are the limited editions such as the tricolor "mokina" that celebrates Italian pride, the coffee maker with black pen, made to celebrate the Alpini, or the versions of the moka born from the collaboration with prestigious brands such as Suprème or Nutella.
However you choose it, the Bialetti Moka Express always represents a guarantee, with its ability to evoke family warmth and the joy of being together, moments to share and savour. And if it is true that espresso machines that work with capsules and pods are becoming more and more widespread, the coffee maker remains an object with a strong symbolic value, an industrial design product, exhibited in the permanent collection of the Triennale Design Museum in Milan and the MoMA in New York.