If we start our day with a less annoying alarm sound, with a breakfast that does not only include a yogurt hastily drunk while arranging our hair hoping that it will not rain, we consciously make time for our morning ritual that must always contain Its Majesty – the Coffee that, in addition to its palette of tastes, open our eyes. Coffee made in the filter, pot, espresso machine – there are many means of preparation. Has it ever been easier? We go through some stories, find where the traffic is heavier and start off to a new day.
Today we talk about one of the methods of coffee preparation that is accessible to everyone – the coffeemaker or the moka pot. It is the features and huge contribution of this tiny machine to the emancipation of women in the inter-war period that we are speaking about today. Yes, coffee and women! 😊
The coffeemaker or moka pot is an electric filter that makes coffee by passing hot water in the form of steam through the milled beans. The coffeemaker was created in 1933 and named after the Yemeni city Mocha. It is the invention of an Italian engineer called Alfonso Bialetti whose name is at the forefront of one of the world’s largest companies. The idea came to Bialetti while he was watching the women washing the clothes. They were filling a tub with soapy water, putting it on an open fire, letting the vaporized water rise through a connected tube and, thus, having the clothes washed. In a moment of inspiration, Bialetti went to the metal store and applied the household method for coffee. It seems a very good thing that the mechanic design that introduced women in the modern coffee culture is inspired by a process improved by women, a process that has simplified the time-consuming household work.
Before that, coffee consumption had been considered a male custom. It used to be served exclusively in public cafes where women had no access. In the long afternoons, they were playing cards, smoking and discussing business over a cup of coffee.
Bialetti finalized the prototype and began producing units, but the inventor knew nothing about marketing. During the war, coffee was insufficient and metal was scarce. The production of Moka Express went down. Finally, Bialetti closed his shop.
The business was taken over by his son Renato. He did his best to create an outstanding brand by combining the nostalgia for the pre-war Italian traditions with images of the American aggressive consumerism and, most
importantly, by recognizing the woman as a consumer.
The mascot – “l’omino coi baffi” (little man with a moustache) becomes a strategic element of the campaign. This little man differentiated the product from the growing number of imitators. His raised finger indicates to a barista “an espresso”.
Moka are sometimes called espressos and produce coffee with a similar rate of extraction (but slightly higher than that of a conventional espresso machine). The extraction of caffeine and flavor in space has increased in comparison with the filter coffee, which resulted in more intense preparation than that obtained through dripping. The flavor and taste of the moka coffee depends a lot on the variety of coffee beans, level of roasting, delicacy of milling, water profile and level of heat.
However, typical moka coffee is extracted at relatively low pressures of 1 – 2 bar (100 – 200 kPa), while standards for espresso coffee specify a pressure of 9 bar (900 kPa). Therefore, the moka coffee is not considered a true espresso.😒
In the following decades, the word “moka” had a meaning of emancipation for women: it offered them easy access to coffee for the first time and, in the 1950s, the design of advertising posters shook the traditional gender roles in the family. Drinking coffee had never been so revolutionary.
Advertising, on the other hand, brought coffee home, to kitchens in an equalitarian and modern way. The campaigns included women drinking espresso at a table, talking with men in suits. These images transferred the espresso to an internal space and brought intellectual debates where men and women alike could participate. Other ads depicted men in the kitchen using the machine – a courageous reversal of gender roles.
The moka pot continues to be a respected Italian symbol. It is the most popular method in the world of boiling coffee in the kitchen and when we pour this nectar in the cup we should think that the machine has not made just coffee over time, but also history.