The Birth Of The Coffee Machine

Turkey gets credit with being the first nation to actually use and prepare coffee in terms of a beverage. The Turks were the first to roast coffee beans over fires, adding spices to their brew to create a warming drink. These days, who has time for brewing coffee over fires? Who do you have to thank for the fact that your coffee comes so easily to your cup? The inventor of the firstespresso machine…

The origin of coffee is said to be somewhere on the Ethiopian plains. Since the first discovery of the energising effects of the coffee bean, the preparation of coffee has come light years. From gatherings around warm cosy fires which would roast the coffee beans in pots, coffee is now served in individual glasses of different shapes and sizes, directly from an espresso machine that does everything required in order for you to have a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. How did we get from coffee pots to complicated machinery?

Most people love the security that rituals bring with them. Morning coffee-making rituals are perhaps highest on the list of many around the world, spanning almost every country worldwide. Yet, let’s face it – as the years progress and living becomes more and more high-tech, people have less and less time for their daily rituals. Coffee can take ages to make, if one doesn’t have a shiny top-notch coffee machine of one’s own.

The time-consuming element of the coffee-making ritual is precisely what inspired the mind behind the world’s first coffee machine. In 1818 a Frenchman by the name of Laurens designed the first coffee maker, but we all know there is a huge difference between the percolated and the pulled. It was not until 1905 that one man saw the need for fast coffee.

Imagine this scene. A busy workplace; phones ringing; emails pouring in that need to be attended to; board rooms full of racy clients that need to be impressed; bosses demanding deadlines; computers buzzing away…and no coffee breaks allowed. Why? Because coffee takes too long to prepare…beans need to be ground, water needs to boil, coffee needs to brew – way too costly for business. Employing someone to make coffee, all day long? Too expensive as well.

In 1901 espresso, as it were, was born. Up until then, coffee was brewed, percolated, filtered etc, however before an Italian man called Luigi Bezzer patented the coffee machine that would give birth to a whole new world for coffee drinkers everywhere, coffee as we know it today was not. His aim – to cut his employees’ coffee breaks in half by producing fast coffee…his outcome – the birth of the coffee machine. Exit the coffee maker enter the espresso. His idea was to introduce a pressure system that would speed up the brewing process. Bezzer actually named his product ‘The Fast Coffee Machine’, which translated into Italian reads Espresso Machine. The espresso was literally given life at that moment.

In 1905 Bezzer’s patent was sold to a man by the name of Desidero Pavoni – ring a bell? Pavoni developed Bezzer’s designs even further. By then it was realized that fast coffee is good coffee – or better coffee. It allowed for better extraction of the bean’s finer substances rather than the over extraction that occurred when coffee was boiled.

Another problem that the boiling of the coffee caused was a burnt flavour or taste. It was in 1938 that Cremonesi developed a piston pump superior to that of Pavoni’s, that forced hot but not boiling water through the coffee. To this day, a key to the art of good coffee making is not allowing the coffee to burn. That is why, when you visit a serious café that knows how to use their coffee machine and knows how to extract excellent coffee, don’t ask them to serve your coffee boiling hot. They will look at you strangely, as if you have just asked them to commit sin!

Unfortunately for coffee lovers, WWII halted the espresso machine’s development for some time. It was only well after the war that a man named Achilles Gaggia – another familiar sounding name – began developing a commercial coffee machine using Cremonesi’s new piston technology. After pulling a cup of coffee with this new coffee machine, Gaggia noticed a layer of foam on the top of the beverage, known to us now a ‘crema’.

Gaggia’s coffee machine design, although similar to the espresso machines we are now accustomed to in coffee houses around the world, was still too time-consuming to operate as all the pumping actions were manually enforced. It was not until 1961, when Faema (yep, you’ve heard of him too) launched a pump based machine. His pump system was a step ahead of Gaggia’s as it was an electric, instead of a hand operated piston. This innovation enabled the water to be forced through the coffee by an electric pump. And that is how the coffee machine that we know and love today was born. To this day, all modern commercial machines are essentially based on Faema’s design. However, he would not have been able to achieve his espresso machine design, if not for the original Bezzer patent which planted the seed that grew the coffee machine.

We certainly have come a long way since the Turks’ fire circles, and we have a lot of people along the way to thank for the fact that ourcoffee machines today are of such high standard that a person can make a café-style coffee in the comfort of their own kitchen. Yet one person we sometimes forget all about is that apparent Ethiopian goat herder, who on his merry way found his goats munching on red berries…and the rest is history.

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