Image via piccobello-jay on Flickr
Guest Post: The History of Espresso
In a world of fast food, mass production, and machine-generated reality, it’s a pleasure to be able to find something that’s made just for you, like a good cup of espresso. There’s something to be said about sauntering up to the local coffee bar every morning to pick up your specialty coffee. The barista knows you; your espresso is ready within seconds.
It’s hard to tell where the word “espresso” really came from. It may have come from the Italian word that means to express yourself; or it may have come from the word espressamente, which means “expressly for you.” There’s validity to both hypotheses. Espresso is made of freshly roasted beans that are ground shortly before brewing and brewed just before serving, so it can truly be made to order.
Was Faster Always Better?
It can take a while for coffee to be made with the drip-brew method. Even though fast-food “drive thrus” didn’t exist in the late 1800’s, workers still demanded a faster way to brew coffee. That’s when the steam method was invented. Brewing coffee with steam made it ready to drink much faster, but having steam come into contact with the coffee made it taste terrible. Steam can scorch the skin in an instant; it can also scorch coffee grounds.
A Different Take on Instant Coffee
In 1905 the Italian inventor Luigi Bezzera manufactured the first “modern” espresso machine, which used steam pressure to brew coffee—it didn’t use steam itself. Instead, the steam pressure forced hot water through the ground coffee. The pressurized system allowed the coffee to be ground more finely. This drastically decreased the time it took to brew coffee. It could almost be brewed in an instant.
From Fast to Fad
As technology developed, inventors tried to increase the pressure in espresso machines even further. The increased brewing pressure required less water, making only a small amount of coffee with a perfect layer of foam over the top.
People began to prefer these small coffee drinks. Even after an electric pump was used in the 1960’s (to create additional pressure in espresso machines) allowing for more water to be used, people didn’t want to go back to their regular-sized coffees. They liked their dainty espressos.
In the 1970’s, two significant events occurred in the coffee world: 1) Starbucks was founded as a coffee roastery, and 2) the home espresso machine was invented. These innovations fueled the 1980’s trend toward specialty coffees and Seattle-style espresso carts and bars. People can brew their own espresso at home, they can buy it at a bookstore, or they can go to the bar (the coffee bar, that is).
There are dozens of specialty drinks that can be made using espresso, including cappuccino, latte, and macchiato. Espresso can make you feel fancy, even if you’re sitting on your couch in sweats. Espresso is a small, customized indulgence in a world where you can order a meal by its number. It’s fast, it’s rich, and it’s more than just a cup of coffee.
This is a Guest Post from James Flaherty. James Flaherty loves his coffee while he’s on the computer most of each day as a blogger and an avid gamer. He especially enjoys simulation games. James believes everyone should try computer games at least once, even your grandmother. A great place to start is with free games.