20th
Aug
2014

Posted in Kafevend Blog

Humble though it may be, the gulp sized, black and bitter espresso forms the basis for the explosion of coffee culture that has swept through countries like the USA and the UK. The plethora of drinks sold from coffee chains like Costa and Starbucks- along with those proffered by the many independent coffee houses that lay hidden off the beaten track- primarily use a shot or two of espresso in the medley of drinks we like to order. With a combination of factors like chocolate, milk ( hot, cold, as is, foamed or even micro foamed ), varying ratios, types of glass and even whether or not the shot is added to the drink first or last, the range of coffees that use espresso is impressive. Cappuccinos, lattes, flat whites, red eyes, americanos... the list could go on for quite a while. Today's article is going to look at the history behind this small yet important keystone to coffee culture.

The basic method for making an espresso sounds fairly simple: hot water is forced through a packed (usually referred to as a tamped) disk of finely ground coffee using high pressure. Despite the apparent simplicity it seems to be anything but these days, as "pulling" an espresso has become something of an artform for some, with big yearly competitions taking place to determine the best barista of them all. Its origin was not quite so glorified however.

Like today, coffee was a lucrative business a few centuries ago. Big trading companies like the V.O.C. plied the ocean waves bringing large amounts of coffee to Europe. Following its introduction amongst the wealthier classes, it soon became accessible to the working man, and it was due to this widespread availability that the espresso method was invented. The modern day desire for instant service in daily life existed back then too. Workers on their breaks wanted their coffee made quickly- perhaps to spend more time enjoying it- and the five minutes it took to brew was too long for some.

There was a demand for a machine that made coffee quickly, and Angelo Moriondo from Italy is the individual typically attributed the honour of inventing it, or at least its predecessor, first. We know this thanks to a patent he was granted in 1884. At the turn of the century a couple of decades later, two more Italians called Luigi Bezzera and Desiderio Pavoni expanded on Moriondo's work to produce the single serving espresso machine. In the middle of the 20th century, Achille Gaggia designed an espresso machine that negated the use for steam which had been a limitation. It increased the pressure by using a spring loaded lever operated by the barista. His machine added two recognisable aspects to the espresso: the term "pulling a shot" thanks to the lever and also the crema that defines the espresso.

When you're next out for a coffee, why not give the espresso a go for a taste of the good stuff, pure and simple.

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