History of Espresso

Written by: John Beans | Last Updated on April 2, 2021

The history of espresso coffee began in Italy. Italian espresso is bitter, and Italians drink it quickly while standing at the bar.

We did some research to find out how espresso coffee came about and how espresso culture has developed. We're sharing our findings with you.

In this article, you'll learn when the first espresso machine was created, what the first espresso tasted like, and what role espresso plays in the coffee world today.

Let's get started.

What Is Espresso Coffee?

Espresso is a classic small-volume coffee brewed under high pressure in an espresso machine. The drink has a characteristic rich taste, aroma, and texture. A perfectly prepared espresso should have a balance of acidity and bitterness.

The emergence of espresso is associated with the invention of the first espresso machines. Italian engineers and inventors worked hard to obtain this invigorating drink in the early 20th century.

Espresso machines were created because they reduce the time between when a person orders their coffee and when it's ready to drink.

When Did Espresso Machines Appear?

The first espresso machine was created and patented by Angelo Moriondo in 1884 in Italy.

In 1903, Luigi Bezzera patented an improved model. It was completely mechanical and was operated by hand. An innovation was the portafilter, into which water was gradually let during brewing. This espresso machine looked like a huge boiler.

In 1905, Desiderio Pavoni bought a patent, founded the La Pavoni company, and began producing espresso machines for commercial sale, one per day in his small workshop.

Of course, the first espresso coffee was far from what we are used to drinking. It was burnt, hot, and very bitter.

However, progress did not stand still and over time, the quality of espresso got better and better.

Currently, automatic espresso machines can carry out the entire brewing cycle, from grinding to maintaining the desired temperature to actually brewing, all at the push of a button.

Early Espresso History

In 1920, the word "espresso" entered Italians' lexicon. Alfredo Panzini, an Italian lexicographer, wrote in his dictionary, "Espresso made using a pressurized machine is now commonplace."

Espresso coffee was drunk by workers who came to Italian coffee houses for caffeine.

During the 1930s and 1940s, coffee consumption in Italy declined due to the war, but the modernization of espresso coffee machines continued.

Semi-automatic espresso machines appeared in 1947 thanks to Milanese inventor and bartender Achille Gaggia. These espresso machines prepared espresso using water pressure rather than steam pressure. This made it possible to extract essential oils from ground coffee. The drink became more creamy and bitterness decreased.

In 1961, Faema, an Italian company, replaced the hand lever with an electric pump capable of maintaining a certain level of pressure in the espresso machine. This did not greatly affect the taste of the drink, but varieties of espresso like the ristretto, doppio, and lungo, as well as espresso-based milk drinks, appeared.

After consolidating its position, espresso has dominated the market for 50 years. It's thanks to espresso that the familiar image of coffee shops has developed.

Modern Espresso Culture

Specialty coffee culture is expanding all over the world, but the Italian coffee culture that dates back to the 30s remains the same. For most Italians, it is a daily habit to run into a local café, order an affordable espresso, and move right along.

While the global specialty coffee culture has little or no influence on Italy, Italy's coffee culture has greatly influenced the rest of the world.

Espresso quickly spread around the world. It has become the basis of most coffee drinks.

Espresso roasts are some of the most in-demand products on the coffee market, and this is not surprising. The result is consistency, which is important.

Espresso blends are a popular and familiar concept to all coffee lovers. These blends allow you to prepare a wonderful espresso, which can even become the base of a latte, cappuccino, flat white, and more.

Even if beans' composition changes from crop to crop, blends' roast style smooths out the differences between lots of green coffee and gives the desired result in the form of a perfect shot of espresso.

In 2020, the National Coffee Association (NCA) conducted a study to learn about Americans' coffee-drinking habits. It turns out that Americans prefer premium beans and espresso-based drinks over a traditional cup of coffee.

Consumption of beverages such as cappuccinos, lattes, and flat whites had increased by 50% since 2015. This is due to their high popularity among young people ages 25 to 39 years.

That being said, Italy is fighting fiercely for its espresso as other countries make changes to the drink. The Italian government wanted to limit the use of the phrase "Italian espresso" and turned to the World Trade Organization for help, but this did not work out.

The Italians invented the espresso machine and laid the foundation for espresso culture, and for that we should be thankful.

The Team That Worked On This Blog Post


Editor & Coffee Consultant

Patty Cramer

I'm the coffee consultant at MyFriendsCoffee. I've been in the coffee business for over 21 years and still have a passion for coffee. My most important skill is that I know how to organize work processes.

John Beans Editor & Founder

Resident Editor-in-Chief

John Beans

I’m the resident Editor-in-Chief of MyFriendsCoffee. For more than 5 years I tried a large variety of coffees from different brands and master 7 ways to brew coffee and am not going to stop there. I switched my first coffee maker with a professional espresso machine and now my kitchen is filled with various coffee equipment.

Tessa Dixon – Beginner Barista & Content Creator


Tessa Dixon

I was born in Seattle, and this city has a strong connection to coffee culture, so it's no wonder I decided to become a barista! I’ve learned many ways of making coffee and now I know how to make any coffee delicious.