History of the Espresso Machine

The modern day espresso machine as we know it dates back to 1946 or 1947, when Gaggia introduced the Gaggia Crema Caffe machine, the first machine capable of consistently pushing high pressurized water (7 BAR or higher) through ground coffee, and simple and cheap enough for normal commercial use. Before that, almost every commercial and consumer espresso machine was steam driven, resembling the modern day moka brewer.

The term espresso actually dates back to 1901 when Luigi Bezzera patented the world’s first “espresso” machine, a giant steam driven device with two group heads, called the Tipo Gigante. Bezzera’s patent was bought by Desidero Pavoni, and in 1905 the Pavoni Ideale was brought to market, and espresso culture in Italy took off.

Below are some key milestones in the history of the espresso machine which began in Italy over a century ago. A tradition which has grown into what a recent survey has found that over 70 million cups of espresso are drunk in Italy each year. That’s 600 shots per person, consumed in any of Italy’s 110,000 coffee bars.

1901— Luigi Bezzera patents his Tipo Gigante, the precursor to what would become espresso machine technology for the next fifty years.

1905— Desiderio Pavoni buys Bezzera’s patents; Pier Teresio Arduino founds Victoria Arduino, the company that would do more to spread early espresso culture than any other with its advertisements and philosophy behind the drink.

1912— La Cimbali founded.

1922— Universal enters the espresso machine business, and soon becomes the leading machine maker, with a wide range of products through the 1920s and 1930s and beyond. (They have since disapeared from the market)

1927— La Marzocco founded; First espresso machine comes to America as NYC’s Regio’s Bar installs a La Pavoni two group machine (still on display today).

1929— Rancilio founded by Roberto Rancilio.

1932— La San Marco starts a 10+ year trend towards total Deco design in machines with the introduction of the La San Marco 900. Every company would move to this design style.

1936— Simonelli founded.

1946— Faema founded by Ernesto Valente.

1947— Gaggia introduces the revolutionary piston lever Crema Caffe machine, and modern day espresso in the commercial establishment is born. Many will follow.

1948— Gaggia introduces the Classica, a 2 group version of the Crema Caffe; La Pavoni, other companies introduce new brewers based loosely on Gaggia’s revolutionary system. True espresso as we know it today becomes common.

1950— Elektra experiments with hydraulic pressure machines.

1950— (circa) Officine Maffioletto makes one of the first machines capable of brewing real pressure espresso in the home. It was a piston model with a 1 litre capacity.

1950s— Piston operated machines, both spring action and direct pressure, many direct copies of Gaggia’s ground breaking Crema machines, flood the market and make modern day espresso part of common culture.

1956 (circa)— Gaggia Gilda machine, not marketed for, but suitable for home use, is brought to market – a dual lever piston single group machine.

1958— La Marzocco Crema Espress single group lever machine introduced – not marketed for domestic use, but could be used as such due to the size.

1961— Faema introduces a very revolutionary machine, the E61 – the first heat exchanger, rotary pump driven espresso machine. No more levers; Elektra Micro Casa a Leva and La Pavoni Europiccola Lever machine for the home are introduced. Micro Casa had “steam on demand” ability.

1966— Alfred Peet opens first Peets Coffee in Berkeley, CA, later serves as inspiration for the founding of Starbucks by visiting Seattlites.

1971— Starbucks first opens in Seattle as a Roastery after being inspired by the long Italian tradition of espresso bars and cafes.

1974— La Pavoni Professional Lever machine for the home introduced. Pavoni introduces “instant steam” and brew machine.

1982— SCAA founded. Originally called the Specialty Coffee Advisory Board, or SCAB; they would soon change their name to something more aesthetically pleasing to the ear.

1983— Howard Schultz of Starbucks travels to Italy, becomes immersed in espresso culture.

1985— Starbucks installs first espresso machine in their Seattle shop.

1989— Acorto brings to market the world’s first truly complete and marketable commercial super automatic machine, including ground-breaking features such as the self-contained refrigeration system for milk, and different frothing choices on demand.

1990— Rancilio introduces the Rocky grinder, a grinder that blurs the line between commercial and home grinding appliances.

1991 (circa)— Saeco brings out the world’s first super automatics designed specifically for home and small office use.

1992— Illy collector cups first introduced, bringing artistry to the cup itself, as well as what’s inside the cup.

1994— Solis brings the SL-90 consumer espresso machine to market, one of the first successful automatic espresso machines for the home.

1997— Rancilio introduces the Silvia espresso machine, which raises the bar in the home espresso machine market, and starts a trend towards better, more professional machines for the consumer; Pasquini markets the Livia 90 (made by Bezzera), one of a new wave of prosumer, heat exchanger-equipped machines for consumers instead of commercial businesses.

1998— The Illy Company develops the Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) design and standards, an open design to encourage adaptation and compatibility, with the goal of making home espresso preparation more convenient.

2001— Starbucks grows to over 3,000 locations, but still none in Italy. There is one simple reason why they are reluctant to do so. The benefits of trying and succeeding at the Italian market are by far smaller than the losses of trying and failing. Should they win the bet they would increase their international revenues, Italy drinks a lot of coffee after all. Should they lose the bet, however, they would lose not only money but they would be damaging the corporate image.

2006— A French espresso connoisseur and inventor, Henrik Nielson creates the first portable human-powered espresso maker – freeing people from their homes and allowing them to enjoy premium quality espresso anywhere!

2011— Ultimate Espresso is born, and begins introducing affordable premium quality espresso solutions to the masses.