Could Italy’s Iconic Moka Pot Disappear Forever?
Over the past generation, the world’s renewed interest in truly great coffee has also created a renewed interest in ways to make truly great coffee at home. From the invention of the AeroPress in 2005 to the revitalization of the Chemex, which believe it or not was invented back in 1941, coffee lovers can be as adamant about how they brew as they are about their beans. And yet, one classic system might be falling by the wayside: the moka pot.
Invented in 1933 by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti, the moka pot is still the signature product of his eponymous Bialetti Group to this day. But while the iconic aluminum pot uses steam pressure to brew coffee, it’s the Bialetti Group’s finances that are about to burst. Apparently, the company is about $77 million in debt and has “doubts over its continuity,” according to the Telegraph.
Ironically enough, a major cause of the moka’s decline is a boom in one of the worst possible ways to make coffee: pod machines. (Sorry for the sudden editorializing, but it’s true, pods make terrible coffee.) With the help of George Clooney shilling for Nespresso, the ground coffee market in Italy reportedly dropped 6 percent last year while pod sales jumped 23 percent from the year before.
Another potential setback: Apparently 105 million moka pots have been produced since the stovetop version debuted 85 years ago, and 70 percent of Italians already have a moka in their homes. Maybe that quality Italian craftsmanship was too good, and all those well-built moka pots are simply lasting too long?
Still, as bad as things sound for the octagonal pot, apparently all is not lost. Bialetti is reportedly looking to seal the deal on an approximately $40 million loan from the American hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital to help keep it above water; they also applied for bankruptcy protection in Italy. The company believe this should allow production of moka pots to continue for the immediate future.
Meanwhile, as The Local points out, moka pots were actually created as a way to cut expenses by making coffee at home during a time—1933—when the Italian economy was in the dumps. So struggling financially is a situation the moka pot should know all too well. But to be fair, though Italy has faced plenty of tough battles over the ensuing eight decades, they’ve never had to go to war against George Clooney before.