Espresso

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Definition / How to make Espresso

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The History of Espresso

Human beings, being cognitive of their mortality, have a strong sense of the preciousness of time. One of the principal forces that drives the development of technology is the intrinsic desire to do things faster. An overwhelming aspect of measures for the standards of living are the conveniences and leverages that we as a species have obtained for ourselves. For modes of transportation, the jet airplane is most highly regarded for covering large distances. For methods of communication, the perceived instantaneous telephone call is considered acceptable. In our home kitchens, the most valued modern addition is the microwave oven because it can prepare a potato in eight minutes, when a conventional oven requires sixty. With just the power of gravity, water takes 4-6 minutes to extract a cup of coffee from ground beans, and given human nature, 4-6 minutes can seem a near eternity. Speeding up this process of brewing requires putting greater pressure than gravity behind the water.

Another more personal human characteristic also helped inspire the creation of espresso. It can be generally said that most individuals, educated and inspired by their cultures, have developed a personal ego that appreciates attention and recognition. The act of individual preparation of something to be enjoyed expressly for oneself is a sought after luxury.

It is these human desires, for speed and individual service, that were the roots of inspiration for the invention of Espresso. There were several technological inventions begun in the early to mid-1800?s that worked on the concept of brewing coffee faster, but it was not until 1901 that an Italian named Luigi Bezzera patented a machine that employed steam pressure to force water through ground coffee held in clampable filters. The basic design of this machine is shown below, and the dynamics of how it works is still widely used today in many steam-pressure based "espresso machines" sold to the home market.

 

The Original Bezzera Espresso Machine

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As can be seen, this machine was crude by today?s standards for an espresso machine. It also required consummate skill on the part of the operator. They were in control of the intensity of the heat source, which determined the internal pressure of the tank, and the length of time that the hot water valve was opened which determined the volume of the beverage. The temperature of the water was at boiling point, necessary to produce the pressurizing steam, but too hot for properly brewing coffee. Also, the typical maximum pressure provided by these machines was too low, only 1.5-2 atmospheres, to satisfy our current standards for the ideal espresso method.

Still, Bezzera?s machines satisfied many of the original intents in that it prepared quick coffee by the cup, on demand. The resulting brew was also stronger in flavor and body than coffee prepared using less pressure. And there was an added bonus with the machine - the steam pressure could be used to heat and froth milk for addition to the coffee !

Desidero Pavoni acquired the patent for this machine from Bezzera in 1903, and began commercially producing them and distributing them throughout Europe.

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Significant improvement was provided in 1948 by Gaggia?s development of the spring-piston espresso machine that was capable of producing a higher and more exact pressure upon the grounds. Further water pressure and advancement in precisely portioning the flow was provided by Cimbali?s introduction of the hydraulic machine in 1956. Finally, the precursor of the modern machines was created in 1960 by the FAEMA E61 which employed an electric pump to supply the pressure. Heat exchangers for the proper control of water temperature below boiling was also provided by these later machines.

 

Definition / How to make Espresso

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