The Insider’s Guide to Espresso

A cup of espresso

A Brief History of Espresso

Luigi Bezzera, the owner of a manufacturing business invented Espresso at the turn of the century. Luigi Bezzera was simply trying to figure out a way to brew coffee faster. He figured if he could just add pressure to the brewing process it would speed things up. Thus the “Fast Coffee Machine” was created. His idea of a fast cup of coffee turned out much better than he had planned, what he ended up with is a better, fuller tasting cup of strong coffee, as well as a much faster process. He found that the quicker more efficient brewing method allowed for the quality of the beans to be extracted as opposed to over extracting he had previously experienced. The term “Espresso” means fast in italian, hence the term.

It wasn’t until later when Desidero Pavoni purchased the rights from Mr. Bezzera for the espresso machine that it became popular. Pavoni was extremely successful in marketing the product and probably changed the way people drink coffee from then on. Just look around! Coffee and Espresso shops are popping up everywhere, even in the U.S. it has become not only popular for the delicious beans, but has given us a new place to socialize.

Espresso Timeline:

In 1901 Luigi Bezzera filed a patent for the espresso machine that contained a boiler and four “groups”. Each group could take different size filters that contained the coffee. Boiling water was forced through the coffee and into a cup. Ambrogio Fumagelli says that this was the birth of (fast) espresso coffee.

In 1903 Luigi Bezzera’s patent was then purchased by Desiderio Pavoni and put to market in a big way.

In 1905 The Pavoni company begins manufacturing the espresso machines soley based on Bezzera’s patent.

In 1927 First espresso machine was installed in the United States. It was a La Pavoni Espresso Machine installed at Regio’s in New York.

In 1938 Cremonesi designed a piston pump that forced hot water through the coffee. It was installed at Achille Gaggia‘s coffee bar.

In 1946 Gaggia begins manufacturing the commercial piston machine. Resulting foam or cream layered coffee or cafe’.

Making A Good Espresso

Image by Mark Prince,, 2006, ri...
Image by Mark Prince,, 2006

Drinking espresso has become a way of life for most people, particularly those who have heavy schedules and who take time out to relax with a cup of freshly brewed espresso or coffee.

Coffee is so popular it is believed that it comes next to water as a popular drink. The whole world loves a good cup of coffee that annual consumption can reach to as high as 400 billion coffee cups all over the world.

Most avid coffee or espresso drinkers can have a cup of espresso a day or even more, without knowing where this rousing beverage came from. That heavenly brew comes from coffee beans that are sourced from evergreen trees that are grown all over the world. The evergreen tree is widely grown in Latin America, Indonesia, Hawaii, Southeast Asia and in Africa.

While the word espresso may have come from an Italian word meaning express or fast, it really is a misnomer since espresso or brewed coffee have to undergo a process before one can enjoy its freshly brewed taste. To make a good espresso, one has to start with a good coffee variety that must have undergone proper grinding. A good espresso maker handled by a capable barista can yield an espresso that can taste heavenly. The goodness of an espresso can be determined even from its aroma alone.

Coffee drinkers who are serious about making good espresso should invest in a good espresso machine. Good espresso machines come in a variety of brands, sizes and prices. You need not spend more to get a good espresso machine because there are good espresso makers that are reason ably priced. When making the espresso, always remember to turn on the espresso machine and allow it to heat properly. Establishments that have fast espresso orders do not really put off their machines to make sure it is properly heated for every espresso order.

When buying coffee beans, it is better to grind them as you use them because keeping them even in a tight container after grinding can result to a loss of aroma. Attention should also be placed on the type of grinder being used, with conical burr grinders preferred than flat burr grinders. The grinder with a conical burr is preferred because it can grind the beans without heating them and lessening their aroma in the process.

While the kind of coffee beans used for the espresso must be chosen well, baristas should also make sure that only filtered water is used for the espresso as the water’s mineral content can affect the taste of the espresso.

When one finds a good coffee blend, the tendency is to buy more for storage. When you do this, do not commit the mistake of keeping coffee in the freezer or refrigerator. It is best to store them in a container that is foolproof and clean and place them in a dark and cool area.

Okay, I’ve Made My Espresso, Now What Do I Do With the Milk?

Espresso and milk
Photo credit: Wikipedia

I did all of the right things to make espresso at home. I bought myself a good espresso machine. I learned which espresso beans have the best taste and how to grind them to the correct fineness. I managed to insert the gadget with the grinds, known as a portafilter, into the espresso machine, lock it into place, turn on the machine and let her rip. Great espresso!

But I wanted a cappuccino. Sue wanted a latte. Time to figure out how to steam the milk.

Sue is always dieting, so she wants nonfat milk. I found out that low fat and nonfat milk foam really easily. Whole milk takes more practice. Same thing with half and half if you want a breve.

Some espresso machines have a built in steam nozzle and some don’t. You may need to buy a separate steamer. I recommend getting an espresso machine with one built in. Saves space.

The first thing to do is to put that stainless steel pitcher and milk into the refrigerator to get cold. Always start with them cold. And then my next learning curve came with remembering to fill the pitcher about a third to a half full. Milk expands really well when it’s steamed. It takes only once for it to foam up, overflow and hit the floor to remember to start with a pitcher no more than half full.

Start by putting the nozzle on the surface of the milk and turning the steam on full. The milk is going to begin to foam, so keep lowering the pitcher so that the nozzle is just under the surface of the milk. About a half inch will do fine. You can turn down the pressure when the foam really begins to rise, or just take the pitcher away. Now the milk is just about at the boiling point.

Now here is something important. Don’t let it boil. This is another way to get the milk to overflow the pitcher. Or even worse, it will taste burnt. Ugh. Nasty.

Your steamed milk should have little bubbles all the way through it, and there should be a light foam on the top. There you are. That’s it. Now you go make whatever espresso drink you want. Next up, you can start learning how to make all those fancy designs in the top.

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