Geek Trivia

Which Of These Coffee Brewing Methods Was Invented To Speed Up Coffee Preparation?

French Press
Drip Coffee
Turkish Coffee
James Randi Will Pay You One Million Dollars To Prove What?

Answer: Espresso

If you’re trying to serve the highest number of people the largest amount of coffee, then espresso hardly seems like the way to go, no? Today, espresso is brewed using specialty machines that put a small amount of finely ground coffee under very high pressure for a short period of time to produce a very small amount of extracted coffee that is rich in flavor, oils, and aromatic compounds that other coffee brewing methods fail to produce. It’s a great way to get a really intense bit of flavor in a small package, but it’s not a great way to make a lot of coffee at once.

That is not, however, how espresso got its start. The first espresso machine was not a single-serving machine like we have today (even large commercial espresso machines overcome the single-serving issue by simply adding more “groupheads” to the boiler system, much like adding more taps to a bar to serve more beer). Instead, the first espresso machine, invented by Angelo Moriondo, was designed to brew a lot of coffee very quickly.

His design featured a large bed (as opposed to the tiny portafilters found on modern espresso machines) packed with ground coffee. This large bed, like in modern espresso machines, was exposed to hot water under high pressure and allowed the continuous pouring of hot coffee out of the attached tap until the bed of coffee was totally exhausted. Moriondo presented the device at the General Expo of Turin in 1884, hosted in his home town of Turin, Italy. Coffee was a much loved beverage in Italy then, as it is now, but it was time consuming to prepare and serve. Visitors to the expo were, as you would imagine, absolutely delighted by a device that could supply a seemingly infinite flow of coffee on demand, cup after cup after cup.

Interestingly, although he was the first to invent and patent an espresso machine, Moriondo’s take on espresso didn’t outlive him. He produced very few of the machines and chose to have them exclusively located in restaurants and venues he owned. The machines never saw commercial success as a result of this and there are no surviving examples, nor even photographs of his devices. Contemporary written accounts and his patent filings are the only evidence of his contribution to the history of coffee. Other Italian inventors like Luigi Bezzera and Desiderio Pavoni—two names any modern espresso aficionado will instantly recognize—picked up the torch and refined Moriondo’s designs into the machines we use today.

Image by Angelo Moriondo/Wikimedia.