Yesterday the sad news arrived that Renato Bialetti, the father of the percolator, died at the age of 93.
It’s a little known fact to the outside word, but guitar makers live and work by the grace of coffee. Without it the world just falls to pieces, they get grumpy and can’t function at all. Not just me, but most guitar makers I know are cafeïne addicts. Strong, black and often with a lot of sugar. Their coffee maker is just as necessary as their drill press or caliper. I bought one of these little wonders years ago and have been using it ever since. Even threw out my normal electric coffee machine.
It has always occurred to me that we have a rather strange system. There are enormous factories in which we burn gas or coal to boil water, and the steam to drive turbines that set generators in motion to get electricity. Which then is transported to our houses, where we use it to warm water in our machines to make coffee… It seems like an awful amount of energy transfers where every stage inevitably means loss of energy. With a little coffee pot like this you can cut out a lot of these stages.
It’s a very simple and clever design, that uses thermic expansion of the water to push it up through a funnel, past the coffee grinds into an upper compartment.
The ‘Moka Express’ was an invention of his father Alfonso, but Renato was responsible for its commercial success. After WWII he started a large advertising campaign. They promised that “without requiring any ability whatsoever” you could enjoy “in casa un espresso come al bar” (“An espresso in the home just like one in the bar.) Up and till then coffee was generally consumed publicly, rather than at home.
The little man with the giant moustache, known as “L’omino coi baffi” is a caricature of his father. Soon every Italian household had one of these little wonders. And it still is a symbol of homeliness and cosines.
Enjoy these little funny commercials from the fifties and sixties: