The History of Espresso Machines

Inventor of the Espresso Machine
Inventor of the Espresso Machine – Angelo Moriondo

Every genius invention comes with a long history behind it; espresso machines are no different. The conception of the espresso machine began in 1884, shortly after the espresso drink was invented. Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy, patented the first espresso machine for commercial use.

Originally demonstrated at the Turn General Exposition of 1884, Angelo Moriondo was then granted a patent (no. 33/265) on May 16th, 1884. After, a certificate of industrial title was awarded to him under the description of, “New steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage.”

Pictures of the first commercial espresso machine:

The worlds first espresso machine
The worlds first espresso machine!
The worlds first espresso machine
When it was still in action

The world's first single-serving espresso machineThe 1901 improvement on this patented machine was made by the founder Luigi Bezzera of the famous Bezzera espresso machines. While he wasn’t an engineer, he was a mechanic. After figuring out his improvements worked, he patented quite a few of the features on December 19th, 1901 under the license numbers no. 153/94, 61707; those of which were granted on June 5th, 1902. Shortly after, a man by the name of Desiderio Pavoni bought the patent off of Luigi Bezzera. If you’re a fan of espresso, you may know his work as the La Pavoni espresso machine series.

After Desiderio had bought the patent from Bezzera, four short years later, he began creating espresso in a small workshop inside of the wonderful city of Milan. Many designs were created and patented since then and have spread like wildfire around the world. After Italy had received a test of the espresso, England took the idea in the 1950’s, and onward to the United States. Starbucks adapted to the espresso machine and drink in the 80’s and 90’s, delivering the United States a delicious drink while they promoted their name. Now one of the largest breakfast beverage/coffee shop chains in the world, Starbucks has Angelo Moriondo to thank for some of their staple menu items.

An espresso machine may have four different types of operation. This includes:

  • Steam-driven
  • Piston-driven
  • Pump-driven
  • Air-pump-driven

Machines also come in an operational style of automatic, semi-automatic, and manual. A manual espresso machine has the user take the arm of the pump and apply the pressure to help produce and release the product into the cup. As for semi-automatic and automatic, well, you may understand this already.

Electronic and automatic espresso machines do exist for a faster product, but some prefer semi-automatic and manual based on their ability to create hand-crafted deliciousness. In saying this, it’s a selling point for many.

Diving more into the operational types:

Steam-driven – A steam driven machine operates by the forceful movement of water through the coffee utilizing steam and/or steam pressure. The very first espresso machines used this type of operation. You can find this method of operation still in modern models, but mostly in the inexpensive machines.

Piston-driven – Achille Gaggia created the piston-driven machine in 1945. If you recognize this name, it may be because he was the founder of the famous Gaggia espresso machines. This particular operational method uses a design with a lever to be pumped by the barista. In doing so, the hot water becomes pressurized and forces it through the coffee grinds. The term “pulling a shot” was coined. There is also something called the spring piston design in which the water is pushed directly through the coffee grounds and uses tension to the spring; doing this allows the optimal pressure required.

Pump-driven – A pump driven machine was first seen in 1961 in the Faema E61 model. For those who have been to a plethora of espresso bars, you may have had a drink from this kind of model. With this machine, they are allowed to take water directly from the water supply line, commonly seen in commercialized environments. It can also be taken from a separate water tank. The pump is driven by a motor to receive the water and create the espresso.

Air-pump-driven – Introduced in 2007, the air-pump-driven model uses forced compressed air to push the hot water through the grounds of coffee. Hot water is funneled through a thermos flask or a kettle and then the compressed air comes from a type of pump, either a hand pump or an electric compressor.

Without the invention of the espresso machine, three major espresso brands wouldn’t exist and who’s to say that Starbucks would exist without it? We thank the inventor and those who improved on the design for making our mornings better.