Espresso is defined as “coffee brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans.” Sounds simple enough — and it is, when using the right equipment. Of course, using Café products (such as the BrewKups in Black Gold) provides an espresso-like coffee with even less steps.
Espresso today, of course, is the hero of the contemporary coffee scene — and the basis of many best-selling coffee drinks, such as the latte, cappuccino, mocha, macchiato and of course the traditional double espresso. For those coffee history buffs out there, today we’re going to take a trip down caffeine memory lane and look at how the modern espresso came to be:
The history of espresso can be traced back as far as 1884, when Angelo Moriondo lodged a patent for a “steam-driven instantaneous coffee beverage making device” in Turin, Italy. This patent is notable, and is considered by many to be a precursor of the espresso coffee machine.
Then, 17 years later in 1901, Milanese manufacturer Luigi Bezzera came up with some improvements to the espresso machine. He patented a number of these, the first of which was applied for on the 19th of December 1901. It was titled “Innovations in the machinery to prepare and immediately serve coffee beverage,” and the patent was granted in June, 1902.
Bezzera’s machine was a gigantic, steam-driven contraption with two groupheads called the Tipo Gigante. It is said that Bezzera, the owner of a manufacturing company, devised the machine in order to reduce the amount of time his employees spent on their coffee breaks. His invention yielded a coffee maker that used a combination of water and steam – forced under high pressure through the coffee grounds – to rapidly brew the coffee. Hence the name, “espresso machine.”
The downside to Bezzera’s machine was apparently that the device’s combination of hot water, steam and intense pressure produced a fast but bitter brew. In came Desiderio Pavoni, who purchased Bezzera’s patent in 1905. He became the first person to realize that the bitterness was the result of the steam and the very high temperatures it imposed on the coffee grounds. So, Pavoni began experimenting with various temperatures and pressures, and eventually discovered that brewing at 195 degrees with an 8 to 9 BAR of pressure produced the best results. This is the basis for espresso machines as we know them today.
The modern day espresso machine dates back to 1947, when Gaggia introduced the revolutionary piston lever Gaggia Crema Caffe machine. This was the first machine that was capable of consistently introducing pressurized water (8 BAR or higher) into coffee in a manner that was easy and inexpensive enough for everyday commercial use. Before that, almost every commercial and consumer espresso machine was steam driven and therefore, more akin to the modern day Moka brewer.