Aside from perhaps the omnipresent Starbucks logo, the Moka pot is the most recognizable design icon in coffee. Patented in 1933 by the Italian metalsmith Alfonso Bialetti, the three-chamber, faceted, aluminum pot sits on a stove top, where pressurized steam heats in the bottom chamber, passes through the grounds in the center, and bubbles up as espresso on top. Buoyed by Italian factories that needed something new to produce following the weapon production of WWII, the Moka pot would become the best-selling coffee pot in the world, and be honored with permanent residence in the MoMA and Smithsonian. It changed the convention of drinking coffee–from something that you did out, to something you might do at home.
Now, celebrated British architect David Chipperfield has redesigned the Moka for Alessi. He’s certainly not the first to take on the job–the Moka pot is something that has been riffed upon again and again, much like designers putting their own stamp on desk chairs. But Chipperfield’s design almost feels like more of a Moka pot than the Moka pot itself.
“The noise of screwing and unscrewing it, the rumbling sound it makes when the coffee’s ready, these everyday occurrences become ingrained in your memories… My idea was to do something that would intensify these memories; not to invent a coffee maker but to re-intensify the history of this object, which, in my opinion is a kind of archetype with its own,” Chipperfield writes for Alessi. “I wanted to preserve its most important qualities: the material, the sound, the essential shape of its corners.”
Chipperfield’s Moka pays homage to the aluminum faceting, but increases the count from 8 to 11. This change gives the spout its own flat edge. It also rounds out the the silhouette, giving it some lovable curves.
On one hand, it’s a certain sin to buy an Alessi-model Moka pot, given that the original Bialetti company has been having financial troubles as the popularity of its pots has waned, while the demand for high-pressure, electric espresso makers–and Starbucks–has taken their place. (The 1933 patent has long since expired, and Alessi doesn’t need to license the design or Moka name, which is derived from the Yemenite city of Mocha, from Bialetti.)
On the other, it’s a beautiful homage to the original design. The Chipperfield Moka starts at $35 for a one-cup version and peaks at $55 for the six-cup model. They’re available now–technically. The first batch appears to have sold out.