Posted in Reference
The earliest espresso machine is said to have been created by a French man by the name of Louis Bernard Rabaut, but the first patent for such a machine is attributed to an Italian named Angelo Moriondo, who patented his design in 1884. He kept the machine a closely guarded secret, to serve as a draw to his own establishments. However, Moriondo's machine produced coffee only in batches, and it took the innovation of another Italian named Luigi Bezzera to develop the concept in 1901 and produce the first single serve espresso machine, the precursor to those used today.
Espressos were first the domain of the Italian working class, serving as a quick pick up in the middle of a worker's shift. The speedy production and consumption of the drink, combined with the worker's increased energy when returning to their job afterwards was a great boon to employers, and is a practice that still goes on to this day.
An espresso consists of little more than a typical make up of hot water and ground coffee, but it is the process that lends the drink its unique qualites. A method known as percolation is used, which involves forcing near boiling water under pressure through a bed of evenly and finely ground coffee beans. There is a certain amount of mastery involved with pulling the perfect espresso- a balance of the water temperature and pressure, the fineness and uniformity of the grind, along with the shot's volume and the time spent filtering through the ground coffee- a complex set of variables, I'm sure you'll agree.
The crowning glory of the espresso is the crema- the creamy foam that lays on top of the coffee. Its presence serves to enhance both the visual appearance of the drink, along with the taste characteristics, such as the aroma, mouthfeel and after taste. The forming of a perfect crema is one of the major topics of discussion between espresso enthusiasts, as it is perhaps the defining characteristic of the drink.
In the espresso's home country of Italy, the beans used are typically a strong roast, but there is no one particular type of bean or roast level specific for making espressos- essentially any bean and roast can be used, to cater towards certain desired flavours and for personal preference. There is a tendency towards darker roasts for espressos, but as said, this is by no means a rule.
As well as being consumed as is, there is a tendency to create variations, typically through the addition of something sweet like sugar or syrup, but also with ingredients like spices. Along with those more low key varieties, an espresso serves as a base for a number of other drinks such as lattes and cappucinos.