Origin of Espresso

Before we can discuss how and where espresso came about, we must first specify exactly what espresso is. This often misunderstood beverage is mainly defined by its preparation. The only way to make an authentic espresso is to extract it from ground and tamped coffee using hot water under high pressure. This particular beverage must be extracted with at least nine bars of pressure. The water must be between 192°F and 200°F. The resulting single (1.5 ounce) and double (2-3 ounce) shots must be extracted in 20-30 seconds.

Now that we know what it is, let's delve into where it came from. Up until the late 19th century, most of the world drank Turkish coffee. That is to say coffee grounds were soaked in hot water to extract the drink, a process that could take 5 minutes or more to produce one beverage.

In 1901, all that changed when Luigi Bezzerra of Milan invented the steam-driven espresso machine with the express purpose of speeding up the coffee extraction process. Bezzerra's espresso machine could produce ready-to-drink espresso in 30 seconds.

Thirty-seven years later, Achille Gaggia patented the world's first pump-driven espresso machine. Unlike its predecessors, Gaggia's design used a revolutionary piston mechanism which forced water through the coffee grounds at high pressure. It's believed the idea for the piston mechanism came to Gaggia after he observed the engine of an American army jeep that operated using a hydraulic system. Gaggia machines were also the first to produce espresso topped with crema.

By 1938 Gaggia began production of the Gaggia Classic, which would become a staple in Milanese coffeehouses offering caffe crema di caffe naturale (coffee cream from natural coffee) -- the modern espresso as we know it. With the increasing popularity of the drink, Gaggia created the first home espresso machine, the Gaggia Gilda, to meet popular demand. And, the rest as they say, is history.