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EARLY HISTORY OF THE ESPRESSO MACHINE
In the 19th century coffee was big business in Europe with cafes flourishing across the continent. But coffee brewing was a slow process and, as is still the case today, customers often had to wait for their brew.
Seeing an opportunity, inventors across Europe began to explore ways of using steam machines to to reduce brewing time – this was, after all, the age of steam.
Though there were surely innumerable patents and prototypes, the invention of the machine and the method that would lead to espresso is usually attributed to Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy, who was granted a patent in 1884 for ” new steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage.”
The machine consisted of a large boiler, heated to 1.5 bars of pressure, that pushed water through a large bed of coffee grounds on command, with a second boiler producing steam that would flash the bed of coffee and complete the brew.
Though Moriondo’s invention was the first coffee machine to use both water and steam, it was purely a bulk brewer created for the Turin General Exposition.
Not much more is known about Moriondo, due in large part to what we might think of today as a branding failure. There were never any Moriondo machines, there are no verifiable machines still in existence, and there aren’t even photographs of his work. With the exception of his patent, Moriondo has been lost largely to History. The two men who would improve on Moriondo’s design to produce a single serving espresso would not make the same mistake.
Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni were the Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs of espresso. Milanese manufacturer and “maker of liquors” Luigi Bezzerra had the know- how. He invented single shot espresso in the early years of the 20th Century while looking for a method of quickly brewing coffee directly into the cup.
He made several improvements to Moriondo’s machine, introduced the portafilter, multiple brewheads, and many other innovations still associated with espresso machines today.