History of Espresso Machine

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Coffee Machine History

Before espresso machines existed, coffee brewing was a lengthy process. But people during that time were not keen to wait for ages for a cup of coffee, since it was thought that the coffee beverage could be done at a click of the fingers.  Thus in order to eliminate the lengthy respite, the common practice of coffee shop owners was to brew in bulk, reheat, and serve the coffee once customers requested for the beverage.  This reheating of coffee bulk led to over extraction, resulting in insipid cups of tasteless soot.

Hence the need of a special equipment that can:

  • extract this brown liquid within the optimum time and temperature for optimal taste.
  • make a single cup of coffee within the shortest possible time, repeatedly, without sacrificing its flavour.
  • presurrize brewing water in consistency through the fine, tight package of coffee grounds.

For the sake of the abovementioned, the first known creation was a Steam-Power machine in 1878 by Gustav Kessel from Germany.  It used steam pressure to propel water through the bed of coffee grounds, eventually produced a blast of steam to dry the spent coffee for easy removal.  But due to the machine’s difficulty to be reconstructed, it was not materialized in mass.

Six years later, an Italian entrepreneur named Angelo Moriondo created a new steam pressure machine at the Turin General Exposition.  Angelo’s piece of work also used steam pressure to force water out of a bed of coffee grounds, but the unique part was that it controlled steam and water in 2 independent boilers.  Still his machine did not pick up well – this might be due to the fact that it did not produce single-serve espresso, and was considered solely a “bulk brewer” at a faster rate.

Subsequently, it was until 1901 and a further 2 years wait that the 1st commercially single-serve coffee machine was created with painstaking effort by Luigi Bezzera and Desiderio Pavoni.  It started with Bezzera’s double tap with portafilter and multiple brew heads heated over an open flame.

In 1903, Pavoni paid Bezzera for his patent and both of them worked together to create a viable espresso machine.  And in 1906, they both produced one with a pressure release valve and a steam wand for heating up milk.  This equipment was later named as “The Ideale”.  Pavoni and Bezerra called the coffee this machine made “Cafeě Espresso”.  The Ideale was a good piece of creation, but the flaw was that it could only generate a pressure of 1.5 bar.  This kind of pressure would not be able to produce the concentration that an espresso shot required.

The following 40 years saw Pavoni and Bezzera’s design remained static.  Similar steam-powered machines produced by other companies also saw no breakthrough.  The machines were not popular within Italy and thus not surprisingly, did not reach international level, at least not until the arrival of the coffee guru – Pier Tersio Arduino, who started to develop his own espresso machine around the same time as Pavoni and Bezzera. 

The difference between Arduino and Pavoni / Bezzera was that his contribution to coffee was more in the marketing of espresso than the evolution of the machine.

Nevertheless, Arduino also made attempts to explore using a piston operated by a mechanical screw to generate more pressure.  This piston expedition was also followed up by an inventor named Marco Cremones.  In the 1930s, there were many comprehensive and wide-ranging patents published by him on espresso machines using mechanical pistons.  But the so-called real, authentic espresso that we all are so familiar with nowadays was produced by the Milanese café owner Giovanni Achille Gaggia.

In fact, Gaggia patented his own “Rotative Screw Piston” coffee machine in 1938.  But then World War II halted his further developments of machines.  After the war, Gaggia was faced with patent lawsuits and at this time, he was also very disenchanted with the basic design and reliability of the screw piston.  Thus he began to work on new designs which did away with screw pistons altogether.

Henceforth the creation of machine with spring piston mechanism.  The machine was operated by using a hand lever to compress a spring.  Once the lever was released, the tension built up in the spring caused it to expand, forcing the piston down.  This action caused hot water to be pushed out of the chamber, and finally through a bed of fine coffee grounds.  The stiffer springs employed meant greater pressure, and thus finer coffee. 

1947 saw Gaggia produced a prototype of a coffee machine with very high pressure, resulting in a denser and treacly coffee, coupled with a layer of brown coffee cream on top of the drink.  This cream was then named “Crema”.

From then on, lever machines were preferred due to the benefit of control they offered.  But there was one big stride in the development of espresso machine – and that was the introduction of the Faema E61 in 1961.  The E61 was invented by Ernesto Valente.  The E61creation was revolutionary for its electric pumps – which meant no more pistons, nil reliance on the manual manoeuvre of the barista, and a much smaller machine.  The pump itself transports heated tap water through a heat-exchange coil inside the boiler, and then directs it into the group head of the machine.  An additional feature is that it also circulates hot water from the boiler through the group head continuously, thus stabilizing the temperature throughout the machine. 

From the abovementioned past of the espresso machine, with the wisdom and painstaking effort of each and every inventor could we then have the finest espresso that we are savouring today.

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