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Discover what made the future: Espresso

‘Espresso’ refers to a preparation method in which water heated to 88-93 degrees Celsius is passed under a pressure of at least 9 atmospheric Bars through a seven-gram layer of ground and tamped coffee yielding a 30 ml shot of pure pleasure.

But it didn’t start out that way – and the machines – or Macchina – that make our cappuccinos and lattes have a history that stretches back more than a century.

In 1884 – the age of steam – Angelo Moriondo patented a large boiler that forced water through a large bed of coffee grinds at a pressure of 1,5 Bar. The first ‘single shot’ of coffee however only appeared in the early 20th Century care of Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni. Their machine was heated over an open flame and dispensed the coffee into a single cup. They introduced the term ‘cafeé espresso’ at the 1901 Milan Fair.

The exclusive use of steam to create up to 2 Bars of pressure had the unfortunate side effect of imbuing the coffee with a burnt or bitter taste. This was overcome by Achille Gaggia, who’s design added a second pressurised water cylinder and a lever that was pulled by the Barista. This ‘pull’ created a pressure of up to 10 Bars, which in turn lead to the discovery of ‘crema  and also standardised the 30ml size of an espresso.

Gaggia’s piston machine was surpassed by the Faema E61 invented by Ernesto Valente in 1961. The E61 used a motorized pump to provide the constant 9 Bars of pressure and a heat exchanger to keep the water at the ideal brewing temperature. With its technical innovations, smaller size, versatility and streamlined stainless steel design, the E61 was an immediate success and is considered one of the most influential coffee machines in history.

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