Most people can’t imagine starting their day without a quick shot of caffeine to boost their energy. But, have you ever thought about what went into developing the machine that gives you those delicious shots of espresso?
What is Espresso?
Most people believe espresso is either a blend, a bean, or a roasting method – all things espresso is not. It is a preparation method, but instead of roasting, it uses highly pressurized hot water to eke out a robust flavor from coffee grounds.
Good espresso is all about chemistry and precision to ensure the best of flavors – a process that would be impossible without the now ubiquitous espresso machine.
Much like the long lines at Starbucks we see every morning, 19th century Europeans also had to wait for their brews, sometimes upwards of five minutes for a single cup! As coffee’s popularity began to explode, so did the need for a quicker, more efficient way to make it.
Many inventors across the continent took hold of the opportunity, often using steam machines to try and refine the process.
Though there were undoubtedly numerous patents filed and machines in use, it was the work of Angelo Moriondo that would eventually lead to the espresso we know and love to today.
A native of Turin, Italy, Moriondo was granted a patent in 1884 for “New steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage”. Unfortunately, aside from this patent, Moriondo’s work was lost to history.
Over time, a more improved design of Moriondo’s machine was developed. The two men responsible – Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni – went on to be the first to sell the espresso machine commercially.
Aiming for Perfection
Bezzerra and Pavoni’s machine was able to produce up to a 1000 cups of coffee an hour. However, since their machine worked almost exclusively off of steam, the coffee was often imbued with a burnt, or bitter taste.
As the years went by, and the novelty of steam was replaced by the convenience of electricity, so too did the espresso machine evolve, becoming more compact and more efficient.
It was only after World War II however, that the first machine able to make today’s quick, robust shot of espresso was invented. Achille Gaggia – a Milanese café owner – is often referred to as one of the ‘fathers of espresso’, and his machines were soon marketed and sold all over the globe.
The Modern Day Shot
From its humble beginnings in the 1800’s to the dietary staple we know it to be today, espresso has come a long way. A good espresso depends on the four M’s:
Macchina, the espresso machine, which must be calibrated to the right pressure and temperature;
Macinazione, the grinder used to ensure the beans are of just the right consistency;
Miscela, the coffee beans; and
Mano, the precision and skill of the barista, without which even the best blend or machines will go underutilised.
Altogether, the four M’s result in a blend with just the right amount of flavour and the perfect touch of cream – a shot of energy with a history of over a hundred years.