Espresso Conquers American Taste Buds

Routinely, at home, coffee houses, diners, or fast food stops, Americans grasp their hot cup of Joe and venture into the day. But many US consumers are now losing grip on this American morning tradition. They are discovering the addictive extract known as espresso. Amid a delayed domestic revolution, devoted coffee drinkers across the nation could soon switch to a more exotic brew.

Europeans, Latin Americans, Australians and even the tea loving Asians have long ago succumbed to the luring Italian beverage. But US consumers have consistently avoided, or perhaps, dismissed, the idea of drinking espresso coffee. For good reasons, the early tasters of the Italian caffe’ in US homes may have been exposed to a different version, instead of the real thing, that was literally hard to swallow. That harsh first impression, instead, may have prejudiced them in favor of the milder brew known as American coffee.

So what is it that sauered several Americans generations toward espresso beverages in the past? Lets look at the rise, detour and the recent embrace of the potent coffee beverage in this wary society.

Surprising to many of us, the proud American achievement of fast food was actually preceded by the development of fast coffee, or espresso. Its roots go back to the time the industrial revolution was heating up. In Italy, in particular, industrialists had a problem with its workers wanting to take long coffee breaks. This ritual denied the plant boss significant productivity in order to boil coffee grinds in pots over a hot stove. The process was similar to how Turkish coffee is still made today minus sediments. Out of necessity, one industrialist, named Luigi Bezzera, figured out a way to speed up break time. He built a large vessel in which the water would be heated to form steam. This upper vapor forced the water underneath through coffee grinds at dispensing points on the vessel. This gadget made a shot of concetrated coffee in seventeen seconds. Its taste was exceptional and employees enjoyed it in one gulp.

Neighboring industrialists soon noticed that workers at the Bezzera factory, while they were having coffee routinely, no longer disrupted plant operations. Curiously, they found out that Luigi built a contraption that made coffee almost in an instant and workers loved to drink it. Naturally, they, too, wanted workflow in their plants to improve. So they asked the designer of espresso (Italian word for “fast”) to make the same coffee machine for them.

Luigi’s idea of espresso spread quickly on the Italian landscape after 1901. La Pavoni purchased the Bezzera patents and distributed the invention to cafes which served the general public. Many Italians hooked on espresso were drawn to America for its promise of a better life and rumors of finding gold in the streets. For the most part, immigrants could not carry the imposing Bezzera machine with them overseas even if they could afford one. For convenience and affordability, they compromized and took the old stove top units to the new destination. Oddly, the old method was a far cry from Luigi’s true espresso extraction. But loyal to their tradition, they settled on boiling a heavy dose of grinds and pretended the harsh beverage was just like espresso.

It is, perhaps, in their genes that Italians abroad like to share their culture and are persistent at it. So when they invited neighbors, friends and others to their home for dinner, they capped the meal with a “caffe’.” It was often too strong and bitter for the undeveloped taste buds of the guests. Reactions were unassumingly critical.

But the missionary spirit of foreign hosts continued. Eventually, they learned to make modified “espresso” more palatable by including a lemon peel with each cup served. For the unaccustomed taster, the response was less reserved, but still skeptical. This citrus peel reflex continues into today even when modern extraction exceeds the quality of Bezzera’s classic process.

The resistance by the American public, however, is quickly fading. The reason is convenience, affordability and vast choices in new generation brewers for home use. They are taking center stage at US retailers alongside conventional single cup brewers. Espresso machines that use the ESE 7 gram pod provide fuller and healthier extractions than its counterparts using capsules.


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