It’s estimated that around two billion cups of coffee are made each day. Many of these will be espressos. There are many reasons why it is so popular. It has a rich aroma, incorporating around 800 unique smells. It is also known for delivering a powerful hit of caffeine.
After years of being refined and improved, it’s no wonder that we love espresso so much. But what is the history of this drink and which country was the first to invent it?
What Is An Espresso?
Before we can talk about its history, we need to know what espresso is. This refers to a way of producing coffee, rather than a type of bean. There are a few elements are needed to make an espresso. First, the beans will need to be finely ground. They will need to resemble something closer to a powder. Often, the grounds will be tamped into place.
The other crucial element is the type of water used. High-pressure steam is needed. This will get the best flavor from the beans. At the end of this process, there will be a concentrated dose of coffee.
Where Did Espresso Come From
The espresso method of brewing coffee originated in Italy. Though the patent was first invented in 1884, it wasn’t until the start of the 19th Century that the machine started to gain traction. Today, Italy has embraced espresso. It is one of the most popular drinks, forming a key part of its national identity.
The History Of The Espresso Machine
Italy has a long history with coffee. It’s estimated that coffee first came into Italian ports in the 1600s. It quickly gained attention, spreading throughout the region. It was even given papal approval. You can read more about the early days of coffee here.
Originally, it was brewed in a pot. As the water in the bottom chamber boiled, it passed through the grounds as steam. This is still a popular way of making coffee today. There was just one problem, the speed. It used to take around five minutes to make a single cup of coffee. As you can imagine, this caused a lot of problems for the café owner, trying to serve a long line of customers.
Because of this, a lot of people started coming up with a way to keep the flavor while bringing down the cooking time.
Originally, it was credited to Italian Angelo Moriondo. He had the beginnings of the espresso machines of today. It would use both water and steam to produce the coffee. However, there was a problem. Moriondo lacked the marketing ability to sell his ability. There are only patents to show that he came up with the idea. There is no evidence that he was able to make, or sell, his machines.
This isn’t a mistake that Luigi Bezzerra would make. He took the concept of Morindo’s machine and improved it. But there were still a few problems, which he turned to fellow Italian Desiderio Pavoni to help fix.
Together they manufactured the first espresso machines. At first, they were bulky devices. They took up much of the coffee shop. However, they had a big advantage over the traditional approach, their speed. They could make a cup of coffee in just a few seconds. Because of this, the espresso machines would spread across Italy.
Over time, the design would be refined further. The coffee would be improved. The machines would shrink. Today, you will be able to fit a café quality espresso machine in the kitchen at home.
As the espresso grew in popularity, it was adapted to suit the style of those drinking it. For example, the Café Americano was designed to suit the Americans who were in Italy. When they first came to Italy, they found the local espresso to be overpowering. Their solution was to dilute it, adding more hot water.
If you want, you can read more about the fascinating history of the espresso machine in this article from the Smithsonian.
Origins Of The Word Espresso
Today, the word espresso is associated with a type of coffee. It’s also used to refer to the way that the coffee was made. But this isn’t the origin of the word. The word means “made quickly to order” in Italian. It’s believed that they chose this name as a marketing tool. It highlighted the main benefit that their product was able to offer.
Choosing An Espresso Machine
You don’t need to go into a café to get a high-quality espresso. You’ll be able to make these delicious drinks from the comfort of your own home. You just need to find the right espresso machine to do it. The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are some tips you should bear in mind when searching for the right one.
First, you’ll have to consider whether you want a manual or automatic machine. Both have pros and cons. An automatic machine will be easier to use, while it makes take a while to learn how to operate a manual. But the manually operated device will give you more control, so you can craft your ideal cup of coffee.
The next thing you need to consider is the type of attachments you want. Some will come with an in-built grinder. Sometimes, you might be able to get one with a steam wand. While you can do without these elements, it will make producing espresso a lot easier.
Third, it’s important to consider the size of the machine. You need to choose something that will be able to fit in your kitchen.
Finally, you want to pick something that will be durable. Look at the way it is constructed, it should be solid. If possible, try to get something that is backed by a manufacturer’s warranty. If you want more help, check out this analysis on the top manual espresso machines.
Espresso In The Traditional Manner
Espresso is known for being easy to make. With the right machine, it should only take a few seconds to prepare. If you want to get the traditional taste, there are a few unique features of Italian espresso coffee.
First, all coffee will be served in the same size cup, around 180ml. Italians are known for having full-flavored espressos. In a traditional setting, there often won’t be any fruity overtones.
Unlike in a Starbucks, you can’t ask for a grande or venti. It’s common to ask for an espresso while standing at the bar, rather than ordering from the table. As the barista is making the coffee, feel free to have a chat with them.
Once your coffee has been prepared, it’s customary to drink it quickly. It’s recommended that you do this while the foam is still on top of the coffee. If you wait too long to drink it, it will start to lose its flavor. Sometimes, you will be given a glass of water with your coffee. This is intended to be drunk before the espresso, allowing you to cleanse your palate.
Lastly, it’s common for Italians to drink a lot of espressos. Sometimes, they will drink seven cups a day. It’s become a way of life, rather than a special occasion. Once they have finished drinking, it’s time to get on with the day.
As the espresso grew in popularity and started to spread around the world, people started to change it. This spawned a range of variations. As we mentioned, there is the Americano. This is similar to traditional espresso, although it has a more diluted taste.
Secondly, there is the double espresso. This is traditionally known as a doppio. As the name suggests, this is a more concentrated shot of caffeine.
Third, you can add some milk to the espresso. There are a few ways that you can do this, depending on how strong you want your coffee to be. The macchiato adds a dash of steamed milk. The latte consists primarily of milk, with a small amount of espresso added.
There are plenty of other novelty flavors. For example, you can add chocolate overtones. Or you can combine espresso with your favorite alcoholic drink. You can add peppermint or pumpkin for a seasonal flavor.
If you are making coffee at home, it’s recommended that you experiment, to see what you like. Try new types of beans. Experiment with the amount of coffee you are using. Adjust the amount of milk and sugar you are adding. Try adding some new flavors, like chocolate. To help you keep track of these changes you can use a coffee diary. Eventually, you will be able to find the perfect blend for your tastes.
Though espresso might have started in Italy, it has spread around the globe. Today, it’s one of the most popular beverages on the planet, with millions of cups consumed per day. Hopefully, you now have a little more insight into the history of this drink and why it is such an important part of Italian culture.