History of the Espresso Coffee machine: from its origins to the present day

The espresso machine is much more than a simple kitchen utensil, it embodies the art and passion for coffee that characterize Italian culture. Its evolutionary path through time is fascinating and full of details that have defined its history, transforming it into an icon of innovation and daily pleasure.

Its constant presence in bars and restaurants, and nowadays also in homes, testifies to the love of Italians for coffee, an indissoluble bond that goes beyond the simple function of preparing a drink and turns into a real ritual which celebrates taste, conviviality and the art of everyday life.

History of the Espresso Coffee machine

The Deep Roots: Angelo Moriondo and the 1884 Patent

In the heart of the nineteenth century, the Turin industrialist Angelo Moriondo created an epochal turning point by filing the first patent for an espresso coffee machine in 1884. His bold vision aimed to radically transform the preparation of coffee, making it more efficient and allowing Coffee lovers can enjoy their favorite drink in just a few moments.
This innovative device, presented at the Italian General Exhibition of 1884 in Turin, at the stand set up by Angelo Moriondo who received the bronze medal, represented the starting point for modern coffee culture. Despite the patent, Moriondo chose limited artisanal production, creating only a few prototypes and neglecting the opportunity to exploit his revolutionary invention industrially. His 1884 patent was a truly pioneering act that laid the foundations for a substantial change in coffee culture, paving the way for faster and more immediate preparation.

The contribution of Luigi Bezzera and the La Pavoni company

From the 1902 patent to large-scale production

Moriondo, despite having patented his invention, never brought it to an industrial level, and this is why, erroneously, the invention is often attributed to Luigi Bezzera , a Milanese mechanic (not an engineer, according to some sources). Bezzera, perhaps inspired by Moriondo's machine, obtained the patent entitled "Innovations in machinery for immediately preparing and serving coffee drinks" (Patent No. 153/94, 61707, granted on 5 June 1902). His intuition about the potential of the machine was so acute that he managed to sell the patent to Desiderio Pavoni, founder of the company "La Pavoni", who began production of the machine. The espresso machine itself was a massive vertical cylinder with a brass boiler kept under pressure by a gas burner. The groups, located on the side of the boiler and surprisingly similar to modern ones, contained the ground coffee. By turning a tap, boiling water and steam from the boiler passed through the coffee with a pressure of about 1.5 atmospheres, and in a minute (a far cry from today's 28/30 seconds), the espresso was ready.

Angelo Gaggia and the dawn of Modern Espresso (1945)

A few but significant phases characterized the evolution of coffee machines, commonly called "steam", a method still used in some economical models for domestic use. This approach maintained its popularity until the post-World War II period. It was in that period, during the fervent post-war revival, that Angelo Gaggia introduced the draft in 1945 . Although the invention and the patent date back to 1938, Gaggia, inspired like Moriondo to conceive the machine for his own bar, rationalized its industrial aspect only in 1945, starting production in 1948. The piston, or lever, machine threw the technical basis for espresso as we know it today. The temperature of the water was reduced, going from over 120° to around 90°, thus mitigating the sensation of intense bitterness that characterized espresso coffee. The pressure of 9 atmospheres, generated by the piston that pressurized the water, allowed the formation of the cream, an authentic hallmark of this type of extraction.

The Golden Age of Innovation: Faema E61 and the Double Boiler

The lever machine, over time, transformed and evolved into spring machines , remaining a point of reference until the eclipse of 1961, when Faema launched the E-61 (where 'E' stands for eclipse) . Even those who are not coffee experts easily recognize the classic elegance of this machine, whose historical and technical importance is well known to professionals. The E-61 introduced significant innovations, abandoning manual pressure (common in lever machines) to rely on an electric pump , greatly simplifying the operator's work. Furthermore, he introduced the concept of pre-infusion , providing a few seconds in which the hot water remained in contact with the ground coffee before the pump applied pressure, thus optimizing extraction . Another key technological aspect of this machine was the heat exchanger , a tube through which water circulated which, heating inside the boiler, exited onto the group (the E-61 is recognizable by the external group) cooling, creating an effective " thermosyphonic circle" to guarantee temperature stability . It is interesting to note that in the same period, Faema , the company producing the E61, also presented the first "vending" machine , into which a coin was inserted to obtain coffee. In 1970, the Florentine company La Marzocco created the first double boiler machine , representing a further step forward in the search for exceptional stability and allowing the production of hundreds of coffees a day, all with the same high quality. In the 1980s, automatic machines made their appearance , capable of autonomously interrupting delivery once the preset quantity of espresso has been reached.

From Lever to Electronics: the modern diversity of Machines

Today, coffee machines are a vast panorama of innovations:

  • Piston Machines: A lever or automatic, they use pistons or hydraulic systems.
  • Dispensing Machines: Automatic or semi-automatic, they offer manual control over the dosage.
  • Electronic Cars: Advanced, equipped with a display or even an on-board computer.
  • Super-automatic machines: They manage all phases, from grinding to dispensing, and even the removal of grounds.

From an artisanal concept in the 19th century, the coffee machine has gone through an incredible metamorphosis into a cornucopia of innovations. Today, these machines enrich our daily lives, offering us the authentic pleasure of an espresso coffee at home. An endless journey through time and innovation continues to shape our approach to coffee, consolidating the coffee machine as a timeless chapter in the history of the beverage that unites tradition and modernity.