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The History of Espresso

History in a cup – the story of espresso

by Andreanne Hamel


Did Espresso come from Seattle?

Starbucks may have made it famous, but espresso got its start a long way from Seattle. Read on to learn how this quintessential Italian beverage got its start.

How did we ever get along without espresso? In the last ten years, it’s become easy to find a coffee shop on nearly every corner where you can find many of the countless combinations like cappuccinos and lattes that use espresso as their base. But long before Starbucks conquered mom-and-pop coffee shops the world over, this humble yet exquisite beverage got its start in a kitchen in Italy.

Like many great inventions, espresso was born out of necessity, Its inventor simply wanted to have his coffee faster and went about finding a way to quicken the brewing process. Before we get to that story, let’s take a look at what espresso is and how it’s made today.

Strength under pressure

Espresso is essentially a strong black coffee that’s been brewed under intense pressure. Hot water is forced through very finely ground beans until a concentrated coffee with a delicate, chocolate-colored foam on top, called a crema,is produced. It can then be sipped as is or mixed with milk to create a latte.

Arabica Coffee Tree

The majority of espresso served in North America and Europe is made from Arabica beans, the same type used in regular drip coffee. Robusta beans, a close cousin of the Arabica varietals, are sometimes used to give coffee a higher caffeine content, but generally contain less flavor. It’s also worth noting that, per serving, espresso contains less caffeine than regular coffee.

While there are a wide variety of espresso machines available in today’s market, from industrial machines seen in high-end espresso bars to tiny, hand-operated devices meant to be carried on camping trips, they all operate on the same principle. Coffee grounds are packed firmly, or tamped, into a small basket where steaming hot water from inside the machine is forced through the filter’s openings and into a cup below or receptacle above.

If you’re in the market for an espresso machine, you might hear quite a few references to the number of “bars” a machine will produce. A “bar” is a scientific measurement commonly used in Europe to define the intensity of atmospheric pressure at sea level. A good espresso machine should be able to produce between 9 and 18 bars of pressure, meaning it takes pressure more than nine times what you find at sea level to produce one shot of espresso. And it all happens in 25 seconds or less.

An invention, pronto!

Ok, so now that we’ve learned just what espresso is, and how pressure sets it apart from ordinary coffee, it’s time to find out how that pressure gave espresso its start.

Espresso first appeared in Italy in the early 20th century. Coffee had already become a necessity to Italian daily life thanks to North African Muslims who brought it through Venice’s ports during the Renaissance. We owe much of the mystique coffee to Venetian merchants who charged wealthy patrons hefty sums to try out this new fangled drink when the first coffeehouses opened in the 1640’s.

Fast forward about 200 years and we find business man Luigi Bezzera tinkering away with this coffee pot to find a way to make coffee faster. In 1903, Bezzera owned a manufacturing business and was frustrated by the time-consuming process of brewing his own coffee at home each morning.

He soon found that adding steam pressure to the machine not only cut down on the brewing process but also produced a stronger, more robust cup of coffee. This new quick-brew process drew out the coffee bean’s best qualities but somehow avoided over extraction.

Bezzera immediately named his invention the “Fast Coffee Machine”. Since the word ‘espresso’ means fast in Italian, the name of the beverage the machine produced was quickly shortened to what we know today.

Unfortunately, Bezzera wasn’t as talented at marketing and sales as he was at engineering. In 1905, another businessman named Desidero Pavoni purchased the machine’s rights from Bezzera and had it patented.

Pavoni’s name was soon attached to all things having to do with espresso. Photos from that period show signage on cafes that reads, “Café Espresso – La Pavoni.” So, Bezzera may be responsible for giving the world the espresso machine, but Pavoni’s marketing is what changed the way we drink coffee.

To the right is a picture of a barista making espresso with a La Pavoni coffee machine. The picture was painted with nothing but pure strong coffee.

More coffee art here

The Barista, by Angel and Andy Saur

Nowadays you don’t have to travel to Italy to experience Bezzera’s handiwork. The recent boom in espresso’s popularity has brought this Italian treat to every mall and street corner. Next time you decide to pick one up, take a moment to think about the more than 100 years of history inside your cup.

Article courtesy of The Coffee Couple Has this story made you curious about making your own espresso at home? Click on the links to find the best espresso machines including the Vev Vigano Kontessa and learn how to brew espresso .

Andreanne and Luc have dedicated much of their life now
to showing others how to make a fantastic cup of coffee and espresso.

Want to learn more about making the perfect cup of coffee?

Go to
My Best Coffee. com and download Andreanne and Luc's free audio book on
7 Critical Mistakes YOU Want to Avoid when making coffee and espresso

I learned soooo much in this 30 minute fun audio seminar
that is knowledge learned from many years of trial and error by Andreanne and Luc, learning how to make the perfect cup of espresso.

Here is Andreanne and Luc in one of their many video's about how to brew espresso,
on one of the machines they endorse.

How to Brew with the super automatic Jura-Capresso Impressa E9 Part 1


Recipes and More Facts about Espresso

The History of Tiramisu





This is one of my favorite
Food History Cookbooks




Here is a book I recommend

Do you find picking the right espresso machine confusing?
Also WHY your espresso or
coffee doesn't taste right.

Go to
My Best Coffee. com and download their free audio book on
7 Critical Mistakes YOU Want to Avoid with Your Espresso Machine

The Vev Vigano

Beautiful Stainless Stove Top Espresso Maker
See whole selection of Espresso Makers and Machines

Visit there site and


Helen Brown's West coast cook book  





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