Espresso machines are everywhere today. Not only that but some of the most popular coffee drinks today like cappuccino and latte are based on espresso. Did you even wonder how did it all start? Well, it’s one of those weirdly interesting stories. Here is five things about espresso you can use in any small talk.
Espresso essentially comes from Italian word for “quickly” same as English “express”. The speed of getting your coffee done might seem as a non-issue to you because you live in the era of instant coffee powders and similar quick ways to get a coffee. But in the old days the only way to make the coffee was the slow “Turkish coffee” method and bars were trying to solve the problem of making the fresh coffee reasonably fast.
Just as you would expect, the first espresso machine was built and patented in Italy. More precisely in the city of Turin in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo but that was steam brewed and didn’t taste so good. The first usable machine was built in 1901 by Luigi Bezzera.
Technically, only if the water was pressed through the ground coffee at 9 bar pressure or higher then you have an espresso. Any pressure lower than that means that you have just plain coffee.
The “crema” – that fine foam on the espresso is caused by the same effect which causes the bubbles in the beverages. Just like pressurized CO2 causes bubbles in your favorite soda, similar happens when pressurized hot water is ran through ground coffee beans. Water itself is not compressible, so the compressed air pushes the water through the coffee. Some of the air gets dissolved in the water and once that water passes through the coffee, this air starts bubbling out. Now this is where coffee is different from your cola. Did you ever try to run the ground coffee through your fingers? If you did then you noticed that your fingers remain greasy. That’s because coffee contains essential oils. When the tiny air bubbles start escaping, they get caught in the natural oils and that creates the microfoam – the “crema”.
All this stuff above was not known to the people in the 19th century when the espresso was invented. And so when they started chatting about this wonderfully creamy temptation called “espresso” they started rumors that the fine foam was achieved by the use of chemicals. To counter that, the urban legend says, the espresso was marketed with the Italian pitch “Con crema naturale” – English: with natural foam.
The first espresso machines were vertical. Just like your water heater. It is believed that because espresso machine owners wanted to make more espressos at the same time and also wanted to display their signs “Con crema naturale”, that is why the espresso machines were made horizontal. That is how you find them today in all the bars.
Today there are even hand operated espresso machines for house and camping. No electricity needed. You just put the ground coffee in one box, the hot water in the other and press the leavers with your hands. Ta – daa. The finest espresso is ready for you even in the stone age conditions of a camping place in the middle of the forest where even the GPS can’t take you without using four – letter words.