The History of Espresso

The history and development of the the espresso shot is varied and interesting. According to one story, thanks to the innovations of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, the first version of espresso came into being in 1901.

The original concept of an espresso was something that could be prepared quickly. Translated literally, “espresso” means express. Luigi Bezzara, a Milanese inventor, registered a patent for a machine with recognisable groupheads onto which portafilters with compressed coffee could be clamped. This was the first time coffee had been prepared expressly for the customer.

By 1905, the patent had been purchased by Desidero Pavoni, who put into production the first commercial espresso machine: the Ideale.

As a result of these new machines, the term “espresso” first entered the Italian lexicon around 1920, in Alfredo Panzini’s Italian dictionary: “Caffè espresso, made using a pressurised machine or a filter, now commonplace.”

Espresso’s popularity developed in various ways. In Italy, the rise of espresso consumption was associated with espresso bars providing a place for socializing. In 1938, the first record of the word “barista” emerged.

In 1947, the next great development was made: Gaggia’s hand-pumped machine. With these machines, far more pressure could be exerted over the coffee puck, meaning that essential oils and colloids were squeezed through. The result? Crema, an essential part of the modern espresso.

The Italian coffee culture created in the ‘40s remains fairly consistent to this day, despite increasing levels of globalisation. One thing is for sure, that sense of place, is an important part of the Italian espresso. Italians still go to their local café, order an espresso, refuse to pay a high price for it, and then head to their next appointment.