The History of the Espresso Machine

In 1884 in the city of Turin, Angelo Moriondo, is said to have patented the first espresso machine. It was designed however, to produce bulk brews and not the single servings we have come to know and love at the cafe. The first patent of this type was filed in 1901 by Luigi Bezzera of Milan. He later sold the patent to Desiderio Pavoni in 1905, who started to ‘mass produce’, 1 a day, through his company ‘La Pavoni’ situated in Milan.

The urbanisation of Italy resulted in espresso bars springing up as a place to socialize. There was a strangle law that controlled the price of the coffee. It had to be drunk standing up. This of course led to another culture, the standing at a bar culture. The increase in tourism to Italy and the migration of Italians to America spread the coffee culture to the English speaking world. There they modified it to suite local tastes in England and in America. The addition of milk to the espresso resulted in the cappuccino becoming popular. In America the latte became the favoured drink with the American sweet tooth resulting in the addition of flavoured syrups.

The Italian American Lino Meiorin of Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley, California is believed to be the inventor of the latte.

The migration of Italians to Germany resulted in the formation of Eiscafès. The opening up of Europe to migrations resulted in the exporting of various cultural and gastronomic traditions to their new homes.

In the 1980s in America the speciality coffees made their appearance and the espresso culture began to move ‘up market’, from initially serving the down-market expatriate Italians to the indigenous more up market customers.

Until fairly recently it was near impossible to get an espresso without going to a cafe. It takes a certain amount of skill to be a barista, a maker of espresso coffees. Barista means bar keeper in Italian. And the cost of the equipment prevented the home brewer from making his own espresso, so espresso’s have always been associated with cafes and have created the cafe culture, ‘I will meet you for an espresso’. It had to be made correctly to create the foam at the top called the crema.

Originally the espresso machines where hand operated requiring the barista to pull a lever to apply the pressure, now they all have an electric motor to pump the hot water through the coffee, which has led to the widespread adoption in the home kitchen. With the advent of the electric pump it became possible to automate the brewing process allowing for automatic and semi-automatic Barista machines being manufactured.

The beans have to be freshly ground and many of the home machines now have a grind as well.

Espresso making machine such as the Breville Barista 800ESXL Espresso Machine and other Breville machines as well as other manufactures machines are now widely available to the home brewer.

The origin of the word espresso is open to debate but I like the ‘expressly, quickly for you’ variant. The original espresso machine of 1905, produced one cup of ‘coffee’ in 45 minutes, ‘espresso expressly for you’.


Leave a Comment