Coffee was at first a very high brow drink. The mysterious allure of this exotic drink allowed Venetians merchants to sell it to the wealthy at very high prices. In time, the first European coffeehouse opened in Venice in 1645. This led to the popular growth and expansion of coffeehouses throughout Europe. However, the birth of espresso didn’t occur until some 300 years later when Luigi Bezzera wanted to build a machine that could make coffee faster.
As the pace of life hastened, so did working people’s need for coffee. In 1901, Bezzera patented a machine that used steam pressure to quickly produce a much stronger cup of coffee. His machine still needed some work though, and the patent was later bought by Desiderio Pavoni in 1905. He was able to make a few improvements to Bezzera’s design and successfully produce the machine commercially. The resulting drink was eventually dubbed "espresso", which means "fast" in Italian.
Meno di Vapore, Più Pressione
Less Steam, More Pressure
The issue with this steam driven machine was that it left a burnt, bitter taste in the espresso, which Giovanni Achille Gaggia wanted to change. In 1938, he patented a steam-free machine, which used a piston mechanism, forcing pressurized water into a bed of coffee at high pressure. What resulted was an intensely flavorful shot of espresso topped with a layer of golden brown foam called crema. In 1947, Gaggio introduced the Crema di Caffè, and thus, the modern espresso machine was born.