Bialetti, Inventor of the Classic Moka Pot, At Risk Of Bankruptcy

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 01:03
Italian moka

There is probably no Italian household who doesn’t own at least one Moka machine. Because, really, there’s nothing like the smell of freshly brewed moka coffee to say, ‘buongiorno!’

So it came as a dismay to many that Bialetti, the Italian company that invented the Moka, is at risk of bankruptcy.

Company officials announced a debt restructuring program to tackle the 68 million euros in debt caused mostly by a decline in sales.

The moka, the stovetop coffee machine that has become a symbol of the ‘Made in Italy,’ was invented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. It is traditionally made of aluminum, which is said to be best because it allows the formation of deposits of limestone in the cistern and of coffee in the upper part, which, by continuing use, will gradually improve the taste of coffee.

The Bialetti moka has become so iconic that it is even on display in the permanent collection of the MoMA museum in New York. Its design has remained pretty much the same since it was invented, and is the only one allowed by the Moka patent.

The machine works this way: the bottom chamber is filled with water up to the safety release valve. Then the funnel-shaped metal filter where you put finely-ground coffee  is inserted above it. The upper part is tightly screwed onto the base. The pot is put on the stove. When heated, steam pressure pushes the water through the filter into the collecting chamber. When the lower chamber is almost empty, you hear the characteristic gurgling noise, which announces that coffee is ready (accompanied by a delightful coffee smell).

The Bialetti mascot, which is found on all Bialetti Moka Express, is a mustached man with his index finger held up as if ordering an espresso at the Italian bar. In Italian he is called ‘l’omino con i baffi’. The mascot is a caricature of Alfonso's son, Renato Bialetti, by illustrator Paolo "Paul" Campani.

More than 105 million moka pots have been produced since 1933.

However, while coffee consumption is up, the ground coffee market continues to decline as it faces the competition from coffee pod machines (a faster way to make coffee), whose sales, on the contrary, keep growing.