The Evolution of Espresso
Espresso: one of the most beloved universal symbols for coffee lovers around the world. As we celebrate International Coffee Day on September 29th, let us explore how espresso came to be.
In the early twentieth century, Luigi Bezzara, an inventor from Milan, was looking to create a “speedier” version of making coffee. He created a patent for an espresso machine to compact the coffee grounds and serve a type of “express” coffee. By 1905, Desidero Pavoni purchased the patent, and the first espresso machine went into production. The Ideale reached temperatures up to 284 ° and extracted coffee in 45 seconds. It is said the consistency is very similar to today’s modern day standards.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s, espresso culture in Italy developed mainly for working class men. Bars quickly became a social setting for those looking for a quick caffeine pick me up during the working day. The term barista came about in the Italian vernacular in the late 1930’s. Barista was re-introduced in American coffee culture thanks to Starbucks. During the incoming decades, improvements were made to the Ideale machine. However the espresso machine changed the world when the Faema E61 was introduced to the market. Achille Gaggia invented the machine which essentially was able to extract the natural oils of the coffee bean which is known as crema. Ernesto Valente, the head of the Faema company, produced the machine and the coffee bar culture exploded.
Today, the espresso is as much ingrained in Italian culture as a cup itself. Locals, pedestrians, business professionals, tourists, and retirees enjoy a stroll in the piazza to their favorite coffee bar. Every topic of discussion can be overheard standing up over the bar with an espresso cup in hand. Travel to Italy and you will find a coffee bar in every corner of every street, every piazza, every city and town all over Italy. Whether you are a tourist or local, you can order a macchiato, doppia, or a regular espresso and you are served with a long spoon and glass of water. As with many other things, the Italians perfected the art of the coffee culture.
Then of course, a new love story was born of how the Italians influenced North American coffee culture in the latter part of the twentieth century. Howard Schultz, then marketing director for Starbucks Coffee Tea & Spice Co., visited Italy for a trade show and it was love at first sight. He took in the sights, sounds, and the passion of Italian coffee culture. He knew he had to bring it back to the U.S. As written in Washington Post, “I felt the unexpressed demand for romance and community,” he wrote in his book “Pour Your Heart Into It.” “The Italians had turned the drinking of coffee into a symphony, and it felt right. Starbucks was playing in the same hall, but we were playing without a string section.”
The art of coffee is enjoyed around the world and a symbol of the essence of life itself. Love, passion, and art are all combined when we share an aromatic cup of espresso with our neighbor, friend, and loved one.