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Coffee Sips

Italian Coffee

Published on 18 July 17

Some members of the Church were opposed to the introduction of coffee, calling it “the Devil's drink.” But it was mostly during the 20th century that Italian inventiveness was applied to the preparation of coffee, resulting in the birth of the espresso machine and the moka pot coffee maker.

coffee in the bel paese

Although the coffee plant grows in an equatorial climate, and therefore not in Italy, the country has been able to enhance the potential of the beverage, by devising methods of preparation that exalt the aroma of the beans.

Coffee has become an integral part of the culture of the country, which imports about 8 million sacks a year. The consumption of coffee in Italy is mainly related to the use of the Moka pot coffee maker at home and the espresso machine in cafés, restaurants and workplaces.

 

As early as 1570, Venice was trading coffee, and the opening of the first coffee shop took place in 1683, in St. Mark's Square.

 

 

FROM SHOPS TO LITERARY CAFÉS

It is said that Pope Clement VIII, after tasting a cup of coffee, said “This drink is so delicious that it would be a shame to only allow disbelievers to drink it. We defeat Satan by imparting it with a blessing, and making it a truly Christian beverage.”

 

This is now coffee was able to spread throughout the peninsula, in elegant shops as well as in rustic and working-class areas, and became a ritual around which artists, politicians and writers gathered.

 

 

THE INVENTION OF THE ESPRESSO MACHINE

The term “espresso”  means “made on the spot”: it is a method developed, as it seems, to make preparation time of coffee in public places swifter. The first prototype of the espresso machine dates back to 1855 and was presented at the Universal Exposition in Paris. A few years later, in 1901, Milanese engineer Luigi Bezzera made the first steam-operated espresso coffee machine. Bezzera’s patent gave impetus to research and technological improvements started by many Italian companies, including La Pavoni and Victoria Arduino of Turin. 

 

In 1948, Achille Gaggia introduced the “pressure” extraction method, which allows for a concentrated and more aromatic drink, characterised by a thick, dense “crema”: the espresso as we know it.

 

Between the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s, the companies making espresso machines enhanced production, which reached industrial quantities. In 1949, the famous architect Giò Ponti made the first espresso machine equipped with a horizontal boiler, for La Pavoni, introducing a key change to the design of the machines. 

 

Coffee making evolved even further, with the 1961 launch of the E-61 model by La Faema: a radiative circulation system allowed it to keep the water at a constant temperature even if the machine remained idle for a long time.

Since then, the evolution of espresso machines has never stopped, constantly striving to deliver the perfect espresso.

THE MOKA POT AND COFFEE MADE AT HOME

However, the functioning of the Moka pot, designed in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti,  has not changed over the years.
Originally called “Moka Express”, it consisted of four main aluminium elements and had a bakelite handle.
Today, Moka pot coffee makers are made of steel, but they work exactly as they did in the past. They must be “screwed on” with that distinctive everyday gesture that occurs in Italian homes. 
Both the espresso and the moka pot have revolutionised the we drink and prepare coffee in Italy.

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