Popularizer of stovetop espresso machine buried in one

This story is five months old, and has languished in the nether regions of my dashboard, but it’s still amusing. Apparently, the man who made famous the familiar Italian stovetop expresso machine died, was cremated, and his ashes preserved in. . yes. . a replicate of his great invention.

As Indy100 reports:

Renato Bialetti, who made stove-top espresso makers an international commodity, passed away last week – and his memorable funeral saw him buried in one of his famous pots.

Bialetti’s father Alfonso bought the patent for the aluminium design in 1933, but it was Renato who got the business going – he invested heavily in marketing and made himself the model for the famous L’omino con i baffi (the little man with a moustache) who still adorns each Moka pot today.

Here’s a video of the final mass.


I’m sure the readers can think of a gazillion puns here, like “he’s not in the ground, but he’s still grounds.” Knock yourself out.


h/t: Matthew Cobb


  1. Posted July 12, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Esprit d’espresso?


    • merilee
      Posted July 12, 2016 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      This post raised Ben from the missing;-)

  2. Petrushka
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I’ve collected about six of these machines from garage sales. I don’t use them every day, but I do when I want a cup of real coffee.

    Without the expense of an espresso machine, they are simply the best.

    • KenS
      Posted July 12, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      I am 100% in agreement with your observation that the Bialetta is what one needs when one wants a real cup of coffee. I use one every day.

      Maybe I’ll have my ashes placed in one.

      • Art
        Posted July 12, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        It’s probably my fault, but I have never been happy with my Bialetti. I switched to a Hario V60 pour-over, and I love it. It would make a poor cremains urn, though….

        • Alexander
          Posted July 12, 2016 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

          You have to use Italian coffee with the macchinetta. Illy is expensive, but worth it. But Maxwell House won’t do.

          It also appears that because the coffee is filtered fast, it contains less caffein.

          • Art
            Posted July 12, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

            Thanks — I have seen Illy in stores, but have never tried it. I will buy some, dust off the Bialetti, and give it a go.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted July 12, 2016 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

              Or any espresso-grind dark roast from your favorite local roaster should work as well. Keep the ground coffee in an airtight container in the freezer to preserve freshness.

              • Posted July 13, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

                +1, entire comment.

              • Alexander
                Posted July 13, 2016 at 7:55 am | Permalink

                Italian espresso is not a dark roast, it is brown like any other coffee. I know this dark roast you get in the States, I can’t stand it. It just tastes like normal coffee you have spread out on a hot plate and let it turn black (and I suspect that it is produced that way in some cases).

              • Posted July 13, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

                I was speaking recently with the guy who does the roasting at Cortez Coffee in Tempe where I’ve been buying beans from for a few years. And he explained the terminology he uses, which finally made sense to me. Not everybody will use the same language, but his categorizations seem very common in the States.

                Basically, it goes like this, from light to dark:

                White coffee, which is very hard to grind and tastes more like boiled peanuts than anything else, regardless of the beans you start with.

                Light roast, which retains a lot of the nuttiness but starts to develop the flavors of the beans.

                Medium roast, which is, almost always, what he (Danny) targets…and much of the art of roasting is going a little bit longer or shorter to bring out the best in that particular bean. There’s also a lot of play for how fast or slow the beans get to the requisite temperature or even intermediate stages. So there’s a lot of variation within the “medium” range, but the range itself is small. Kinda like how all the color we see is in a single octave of the electromagnetic spectrum. Danny’s key gross measure is percentage weight loss…and, if I remember right (don’t quote me!), he stays within 11% – 14% and mostly in the middle of that. Fruity African beans he usually does lighter and chocolatey South American beans he goes a bit darker.

                Dark roast, which is as far as they go at Cortez, and only in a single generic-ish blend. The individual character of the beans starts to get subsumed in the roast, but bean selection still significantly influences the result.

                French roast, a bit darker than dark. Not much left of the bean.

                Italian roast, right on the edge of being fully burnt. Doesn’t matter what beans you start with; they’ll all taste the same.

                …and, the kicker: Starbucks uses an Italian roast, which is exactly what I had intuitively concluded.

                Now, I’ve no clue if Italians in Italy typically roast their beans to “basically burnt.” It may well be unfair to use the “Italian” label for that roast…but, again, the usages does seem to be rather common.



          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 12, 2016 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

            I use mine every morning with Bustelo café cubano. It’s widely available, reasonably priced, and makes a damn fine cup.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted July 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        Maybe I’ll have my ashes placed in one.

        And take it out of use?

  3. Merilee
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink


  4. rickflick
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I have one I use occasionally. Now, every time I do, I’ll probably be reflecting on the Italian man inside.

  5. Posted July 12, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Sure isn’t looking terribly perky anymore.

    • Merilee
      Posted July 12, 2016 at 7:54 pm | Permalink


      Btw, how do you pronounce your last name, Stephen. Is it Mooth, or the way that Inspector Clouseau says moth?? ( and monkey)

  6. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    “the familiar Italian stovetop expresso machine”

    In an era when machines typically comprise billions of active components, the beauty of this “machine” is its minimalism. There are no controls or circuits, no valves, timers, or other moving parts. Just simple, elegant design getting the job done passively, with complication.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted July 12, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      without complication, obviously.

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 12, 2016 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      I was thinking of joking:

      Talk about ghost in the machine…but then I thought this didn’t qualify as a machine…plus it was too obvious as a joke.

      Most definitions for machine I looked up specified “an apparatus using or applying mechanical power” and having “moving parts”. So based on that, I don’t know if this really is a machine.

    • Posted July 13, 2016 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      I totally agree: This is the main appeal of the machine to me: Simplicity.

      And I certainly don’t need another large, expensive gadget on my kitchen counter! (Re: Home espresso machines. Besides, foamy milk isn’t part of coffee for me.)

      And, I can use it on the rim of the Grand Canyon over a wee camp stove. No better place to have a fresh cup of (good!) coffee than sunrise on the rim of the GC, on a clear, crisp, frosty late-winter morning.

  7. mordacious1
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    After death, he will ascend toward heaven. You just have to add a little heat.

    His coffee was always good to the last drop, even if that last drop was 6 feet.

  8. Tom
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    The owner of Segway, Inc., died in 2010 when he drove one of his scooters off a cliff and into a river.

  9. Posted July 12, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    He has certainly gone to pot.

  10. Mark R.
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    While on a camping roadtrip from San Francisco to Seattle, our group made a pot or two of this on the Coleman every morning. I always looked forward to it…everything tastes better when camping.

    As for an attempted pun at Bialetti’s expense.

    Talk about meeting your maker.

  11. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Makes you think twice when someone offers you “a cup of Joe”.

  12. madscientist
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    This morning’s coffee tastes like Renato.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    As long as you’re sure he was actually cremated, not dark-roasted and finely ground.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted July 13, 2016 at 5:27 am | Permalink

      Damn, beat me to it!

  14. Helen Hollis
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could think of something funny and witty about this post. Unfortunately all I can think of is knowing that the Catholic Church denied Christian Rite of Burial from those who wished to be cremated for more years than it has allowed it. It makes me sick that their only defense is basically, we were up against this large group of people that chose to be cremated to deny the resurrection of Jesus. Really guys? How long did this group continue their protest? When was it finally approved by the powers to allow it?
    Makes me so sad for all the families that did not have an option. More money for the church if one is not cremated. It makes me so sad that many people don’t know this about the Catholic Church.

  15. tubby
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if I express in my will that I want to be buried with my favorite coffee cups if my next of kin would go along with that.

  16. Pliny the in Between
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    Well, it’s nice to see that someone’s espresso wishes were honored upon their death.

  17. Dale Franzwa
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    From the grounds up?

  18. keith cook + / -
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Roasted to perfection he finally met his blend…

  19. Hempenstein
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    How do these things work? Are they basically percolators for espresso, or does finishing the process require pulling the unit off the flame, so the heated water is drawn across the coffee as the lower chamber cools?

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted July 13, 2016 at 12:26 am | Permalink

      No, not a percolator. In a percolator, boiling coffee percolates up through a siphon and drips down through the (fairly coarse) grounds back into the boiler, getting stronger with each pass.

      In the Bialetti maker, boiling water is forced by steam pressure up through the (very fine) grounds and collects in a separate upper chamber. So the coffee passes through the grounds just once, and only the infused water is exposed to the flame.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted July 13, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

        Thanx! Figured it must be something more than a fancy percolator. Won’t the aluminum melt above an open flame once all the water’s in the upper chamber, tho, if you forget to pull it off the stove?

        • Posted July 13, 2016 at 7:19 am | Permalink

          Bad things happen if you forget to take it off (you do have to pay attention).

          First off, the coffee on top will boil.

          Also, you can ruin the rubber ring gasket that seals between the upper and lower chambers.

          However, they make a very distinctive sound when they are “done” and it’s easy to hear this signal of “done-ness”.

  20. chrism
    Posted July 13, 2016 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    If you are fascinated by the many ways in which mankind has tried to make his favourite brew, as I am, you might like to know that the Moka Ekpress largely replaced an even simpler stove top machinetta in Italy, the Napoletana or cuccumella, also known as a Neapolitan flip pot. It’s well worth looking into if you fancy trying something new, and while it isn’t for making espresso, it will make a very flavoursome cup of coffee. Only four parts, none of them moving, and the results are worthwhile.

    • Posted July 13, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      In fairness, it doesn’t get much simpler than the French press pot — and, especially, if you use it the way I do. Coarse grind in the bottom of the pot, hot water poured over, and the plunger immediately depressed just enough to keep the bloom fully immersed. After several minutes, decant (without further plunging) to a serving vessel.

      As such, all it is is Ye Olde Ancient “full immersion” brewing, with a handy way of keeping the grind fully immersed and strained out of the final beverage.

      (Of course, my morning ritual is a bit more complicated, what with weighing the beans and water, the hand-cranked grinder, the water pot that automatically heats to and holds at 92°C, sifting the fines out of the grind, and so on. But the basic idea is as simple as it gets.)

      If you want even simpler…the Turks have even the French beat. Super-fine grind and cold water in an open-top long-handle pot, heated over open flame to boiling. And it’s (potentially) really, really good stuff….




  21. Posted July 13, 2016 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I’ve used one for many years. I remember well using one over a tiny camping stove on the rim of the Grand Canyon, among many other beautiful locations.


  22. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted July 13, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    His cup was full.

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