Bialetti: The Classic Italian Coffee Maker

(Image credit: Sarah Coffey)

Even if the brand name Bialetti doesn’t ring a bell, you probably recognize the little aluminum stovetop coffee maker shown above. Included in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection, the ‘Moka Express’ was originally designed in 1930 by Alfonso Bialetti and it remains in production today. The Bialetti company proudly states, “You will find this little stovetop coffee maker in 90 percent of Italian homes.”

The Moka Express consists of two chambers separated by a basket. To make coffee, you fill the bottom chamber with water and the basket with coffee grounds. Turn on the stovetop burner, which forces the hot water upwards through the basket. As the coffee maker heats up, the top chamber collects the coffee.

While many people call the Bialetti an espresso maker, it could also be described as a percolator that makes very strong espresso-like coffee. Most electric espresso makers force water through the coffee at a higher pressure than the stovetop version, and the type of coffee you make with your Bialetti also depends on how finely ground it is.

Advantages of the Bialetti include its small size, straightforward design, and affordable price point. (The Moka Express starts at $20 and sells through most major kitchen retailers, as well as online via Bialetti’s US webshop.) Disadvantages? It’s too small to make coffee for a large group, and mastering the coffee-making process can take some time if you’re used to automatic drip coffee makers. While you can buy larger models, I feel that they’re not as proportionally beautiful as the small-scale stovetop version.

Bialetti also makes cups, cookware, and other kitchen tools. Any first-hand reviews? Add them in the comments below.