Espresso and Milan

Seattle owes a large debt of gratitude to both Luigi Bezzera and Desiderio Pavoni (both of Milan). It was Bezzera , and owner of a manufacturing company, who had the first patent for the steam espresso machine (sometime between 1901 and 1903). It is said that Bezzera created the machine in order to speed up his employees coffee break, and hopefully add more time to their production, which in turn would lead to more produced products. His idea was to improve upon the stovetop coffee pots that were common in Italy at the time. His approach? Instead of making a batch of coffee for 50 people, a machine can be created that made a cup for an individual. He created the handled filter and the connecting bayonet.

What his improvements ended up creating a new flavor and component to coffee. His invention yielded used a combination of water and steam, forced under high pressure through coffee grounds, to rapidly brew the coffee and resulted in a highly concentrated “shot” of heated coffee intended for one customer and one customer only. This liquid was thick, dark, and topped with a golden foam composed of oils, proteins and sugars. This foam is what is known as ‘crema’.

Desiderio Pavoni, who purchased Bezzera’s patent in 1905, began experimenting with various temperatures and pressures, trying to remove the excessive bitterness of Pavoni’s brew. ventually concluded that brewing at 195 degrees with 8-9 bar (bar is a measurement unit of pressure) produced the best results. He did this by adding the steam release valve onto Bezzera’s initial patent. This is the basis for espresso as we know it today.

From there, to Peet’s in San Fran to Starbuck’s right here in Seattle (at Pike Place Market of course) that has changed coffee drinking in America. So you can point the finger at those two infamous Milanese when you complain about paying $3 for a cuppa when 30 years ago coffee only cost 25 cents a cup.


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