The espresso machine was a child of passion, love and great demand. In the 19th century, coffee was big business especially in Italy. Not only did people try to improve on the quality and taste of the brews but, they also tried to reduce the brewing time. That was the only way they could keep up with the demand. This led to the birth of the espresso machine. At the beginning, it was nowhere close to what it looks like today. Here is a short walk down memory lane to show you just how far the machine has come.
Before the birth of the espresso machine, it would take about five minutes to brew one cup of coffee. In 1884, Angelo Moriondo was the first to patent an Espresso machine. However, his efforts are not largely recognized because his design was a far cry from what is the current espresso machine.
The first real break-through of the espresso machine was not until 1901 when Luigi Bezzera filed a patent for a machine that contained a boiler and four ‘groups’. In this machine, each of the groups in the machine could take different sizes of filters that contained the coffee. The machine also had the ability to force boiled water and steam through the coffee into the cup. This is considered to be the cradle of the espresso machine.
Later on, Bezzera’s patent was purchased by Desiderio Pavoni who started building the machines in his garage which has since become a company. They could only put together one machine per day. These were known as the Superelegant ‘Column’ Machine that had an upright boiler and was encased in copper and brass. This was perhaps the first commercially produced espresso coffee maker.
In the machines made by Pavoni, would later on receive a much needed mechanical boost by adding a piston that allowed the total exclusion of steam to only use hot water powered by a 14 bar pressure. The result was a revolutionary drink that was creamier, thicker and with a great aroma. This is now considered to be the mother of the modern espresso. The old espresso machines forced steam through the coffee. This gave the final brew a burnt flavour. But, in 1938, Cremonesi came up with the idea of adding the piston. After the modification, the first espresso machine of its kind was installed at the Achille Gaggia’s Coffee bar.
World War II prevented further enhancements to the machine and Gaggia had to wait until 1946 to be able to start manufacturing the commercial piston machine.
After the war in Italy, during the country’s social and economic recovery, the most important invention to the espresso machine was made by Ernesto Valente in 1950. This new machine had a thermosiphon circuit that had heat exchangers in the boilers. The new addition allowed water to be pumped at a higher pressure. This is the same technology that features in espresso machines to date.
There is no doubt that the espresso machine has had a long path to the success that it enjoys today. Currently, there are tens of different types of espresso machines that use different technologies to make the perfect cup of coffee. However, the basics are still the same as those that were laid when the coffee machine was improved in 1950.
More the espresso machine’s illustrious history can be found on Sieblands website