Moka ExpressIn a world filled to the brim with complex coffee-making machinery, the classic Moka Express remains a much-loved staple.

Moka ExpressIn a world filled to the brim with complex coffee-making machinery, the classic Moka Express remains a much-loved staple.

The Moka Express is ubiquitous in Italy, anchored to the stovetop of nine out of 10 Italian kitchens. The rest of the world is no stranger to this humble espresso maker either—over 270 million Moka pots have been sold internationally, and it features in the permanent collections of both New York’s Museum of Modern Art and London’s Design Museum.

Its inventor, Alfonso Bialetti, was born in 1888 in the sleepy lakeside town of Omegna, Italy. As rumor has it, he began developing the Moka Express in 1931 following a failed attempt at building a motorcycle. Bialetti was not a designer but a metallurgist, an entrepreneur and, according to Harvard professor and cultural historian Jeffrey Schnapp, “a tinkerer.”

Perhaps for this reason, the design—despite its unmistakable octagonal fo...

ISSUE 52

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