Faema Babyby Francesco Ceccarelli
The first time I saw a Faemina Baby for sale at a flea market, the seller, more or less consciously, called it a corkscrew. In fact, at first glance it is not natural to think of a coffee machine and even once you have accepted its function, there are many questions: where do you put the coffee? And the water? How does it heat up?
Too many years have passed since 1956, when Officine Faema claimed the creation of this simple "hydro-compression" machine, a term coined for the occasion from the Greek "hydro" and the Latin "compressionis" and whose use did not even last long enough to find a specific place in the Italian language vocabulary.
At the end of the 1950s, a massive advertising campaign heralded the exquisite Crema Caffè that could be had for just 5’000 lire and, by winking at the women of the house, indirectly intended to offer them an instrument to prevent overly casual husbands from making the bar their second home.
Baby Faemina advertising campaign
The first version of the Faemina Baby is a beautiful hammered green colour and features two small bakelite spheres screwed onto the levers. The body, levers and cup are made of steel. It weighs about 2 kg and is about 30 cm high, which becomes 50 cm when the levers are raised.
Perfectly symmetrical, it can be used in both directions and the small circles in relief on the base indicate where to place the cups. The label with the words "Baby Faemina - Crema caffè" set into the walls of a stylised house only emphasises its homely spirit. The next version differs from the previous one just in the "olive" shape of the knobs, while the latest version is made entirely of aluminium and the hammered green colour has been abandoned in favour of multiple colours.
Faema Baby in the aluminium version and with the olive-shaped knobs
But the Italic genius, who will have to wait another decade before the term “marketing genius” in which he can recognise himself is coined, not content with capturing the attention of potential buyers with the evocation of sublime aromas and bright colours, but aware that the tree is straightened when it is small, why not also involve the small members of the family, with comic book instructions? Here then is a nice little book, stapled in the middle, that will appeal to the whole family!
Comic book instruction manual
The busy mother, sole member of the family who can handle boiling water without getting burnt, preheats the filter holder, puts the coffee in the metal cup and presses it with the shower screen.
She then fills the filter with boiling water, re-attaches the portafilter and finally operates the levers until the delicious “crema di caffè” is obtained.
But we Italians in our pantry have the coffee we use for the moka, coarsely ground by hand or with grinders that are little more than toys, and therefore rather than coffee cream, our mother will obtain a brownish broth if too coarse or a few blackish drops if too fine.
But Mama Faema thought of this too, so here is a nice adjustable grinder, whose designers were probably inspired by the famous drilling tool designed many years earlier by Duncan Black & Alonzo Decker.
Finally, a mention must be made of a model called "Mignon", the main features of which we will later find in the first version of the Baby Faemina of which it can be considered the zero version. It has no brand name, so we can only assume that it could have been a Faema prototype or a model from another manufacturer whose patent Faema later took over.
Mignon, ancestor of the Faema Baby
The success of the Baby Faemina led, as had already happened with other coffee machines, to the appearance of imitations, similar in operation but with less charm and character, such as the Bi.Caf. and the Diana.
When the boom of lever machines was over at the end of the 1970s, Baby Faemina too fell into oblivion, until the diffusion of the internet and the first online sales sites helped rediscover the old glories of the past and stimulated the interest of those who recognised in these objects a technical and operational validity that was still very much up-to-date.
The Baby Faemina's time has also come and in the early 2000s the Presso was born (which later became the ROK), that differs from the Baby Faemina because it allows the coffee preparation operations to be separated, by first inserting the coffee in the portafilter and then the hot water in the small tank at the top.
Completely adhering to the spirit of the Faemina Baby is instead the Cafelat Robot, which entered production in 2018. It works in exactly the same way as the Baby Faemina, demonstrating that an idea born in the middle of the last century is still relevant today.
From left to right, first above then below: Bi.Caf., Diana, Rok Presso, Cafelat Robot