Posts

The History of the Espresso Machine – The Purest Form of Coffee

Coffee In Its Purest Form

For many coffee aficionados, espresso is coffee. They consider it the purest form of the coffee bean. But what is espresso and how did it become so popular today? Most people know of it due to the proliferation of artisanal coffee shops, but couldn’t define what espresso is if you put them on the spot. The history of the espresso machine and espresso dates back to 19th century Europe.

Espresso is a method of preparing coffee. Specifically, it is a method where highly pressurized hot water is forced over finely ground coffee. This produces a concentrated coffee drink with a distinctly strong flavor.History-of-the-espresso-Machine-Achilles-Coffee-San-Diego

Because good espresso is the product of a consistent and high-quality process, it required the invention of an entirely new machine to produce. The first espresso machines began to pop up in Italy in the 19th century.

Even back then, coffee was big business. In Europe, cafes were spreading all across the continent. However, brewing coffee was still a slow process. It would sometimes take 5-10 minutes for a fresh cup! Being the impatient creatures that we are, inventors thought to create a steam machine to reduce the time it took to brew a cup.

The Invention of the Espresso Machine

The person who invented the espresso machine was Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy. He received a patent for it in 1884, but it didn’t become popular due to the fact that it was only used for the Turin General Exposition and wasn’t widely available. Aside from the fact that he held the first patent for an espresso machine, Moriondo doesn’t have much to do with the history of espresso.

That honor is reserved for two men: Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni.

Luigi was a liquor producer and the inventor of the single-shot espresso in the early 20th century. He took Moriondo’s machine and made multiple innovations to it, most of which are still present on modern-day espresso machines. Two of these include multiple brewheads and a portafilter.

Pavoni’s contribution to the espresso machine begins when he purchased Bezzerra’s patents in 1903. After purchasing the patents, he added to the design, including a pressure release valve. This innovation was more for the baristas than it was for the customers, as it prevented them from being splashed with hot coffee.

Espresso is Born

This is where the word “espresso” came to prominence. Pavoni decided to market this new process for coffee as espresso, meaning “made on the spur of the moment.” As the Pavoni machine became more popular, copycats began to pop up throughout Italy. It’s no surprise – these machines were able to produce at least 100 cups of coffee every single hour. That is a massive speed increase compared to old methods.

Espresso machines would go on to be improved upon in major ways more than a few times. In 1961, a motorized pump was added so the machine no longer had to rely on the strength of the barista. Espresso machines continued to become smaller, more efficient, and more affordable, leading to their expansion out of Italy and into other parts of Europe and America.

The history of the espresso machine is long and storied, but what it did for coffee is the exact opposite. It allowed for the quick production of a concentrated, delicious cup of coffee.

Latte Art: Turning Crema to Canvas

A signature of the third wave coffee movement is latte art, espresso drinks finished with a design. You’ve absolutely witnessed this: lattes finished with ferns, hearts, or flowers freshly poured by your barista. It’s a testament to a well-pulled shot of espresso, milk with good micro foam, and a barista who knows what he/she is doing (and who has likely poured a few hundred lattes).Latte-Art-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego

Latte art is a really fun addition and beautiful detail, and there’s really no way to fake it. To even have a shot at making one of those beautiful designs, you’ll need your shot of espresso to be fresh and have a nice layer of crema (that light, tawny foam-like layer floating atop a well-pulled shot of espresso). Additionally, you’ll need to have steamed your milk well. It helps a lot if the milk is fresh and cold before you begin steaming, and it’s considerably easier to pour latte art with full fat dairy milk (latte art is possible with non-dairy milks like soy or almond milk, and also with fat-free dairy milk, but it’s definitely trickier to pull off. If you’re a beginner, you should absolutely start with good old-fashioned whole milk.). Your milk needs to be fully micro foamed, and the timing is best if you pull the shot while you steam your milk.

There are actually two categories of latte art: free pour latte art and etching. Free pour is what you’ll see most of your third-wave baristas doing- as they pour the drinks, they also manipulate the foam to draw the design as it comes out of the Latte-Art-Espresso-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-300pitcher and flows into the cup. Etching happens after a latte has already been poured: a barista will then use the existing foam to draw or stencil a design or picture on top of the latte- some baristas even sculpt three-dimensional art out of the foam! However, because of the time required to render art in the etching style, it’s likely that the drink will have already begun to cool, and the foam to have degraded a bit by the time the consumer gets their drink. For this reason, free pour latte art tends to be favored by coffee shops that place a high premium on the taste of their coffee bean.

To be able to free pour a design into a latte, you’ll need to use your freshly steamed milk and freshly pulled espresso just as soon as they’re done. One important step is the first bit of milk poured into espresso – it ought to be done from a height of at least six inches, and with enough force that the milk breaks the surface of the crema. This is a delicate balance – too soft, and the milk will just float atop the crema, ruining your canvas. But too hard, and you’ll break apart the crema too much for drawing.

After you’ve broken the surface, pour carefully until the foam begins to come out of the back of the pitcher- once this happens, you’re able to start making designs!

Next time you are at your favorite coffee shop check to see how your espresso drink is finished. A well-finished latte is a sign of quality, freshness and barista experience.