Italian Espresso Italian Espresso

Espresso: All About This Iconic Italian Coffee

By the Lavazza Team 2–3 minutes

The first coffee machine was patented by Angelo Moriondo in 1884, and resembled a simpler version of the espresso machine that we know and love today. At the beginning of the twentieth century, this machine became available throughout Italy thanks to the work carried out by Luigi Bezzera (1901), who revised Moriondo’s project, and Desiderio Pavoni, who helped bring the machine to market.

But what is espresso?

What is an Espresso Coffee?

Espresso is a concentrated form of coffee served in shots. Espresso machines force pressurized hot water through fine coffee grounds, resulting in a thick, dark drink. Espresso has a crown on top called crema, foaming in a slightly paler brown color from air bubbles that mix with oils in the ground coffee. Due to different densities, the foam floats on top and will feel thicker in texture and richer in flavor. 

Now we know what espresso is, but what does the word “espresso” mean? The word can be loosely translated as a cup of coffee brewed expressly.



You can use any coffee beans to make espresso. Many prefer medium to dark-roasted coffee as it gives espresso a more robust taste. You can also use pre-ground espresso often found at the local market—made up of medium-dark roasted beans that are finely ground and ready to use. 

Bean selection aside, you must ensure that your coffee is always finely ground, whether you buy it that way or do it yourself. It should appear almost as smooth as flour. When you extract your espresso using coarsely ground coffee, your machine might not extract it correctly. Your espresso will taste dull, runny, and less rich in flavor.

The History and Diffusion

Espresso history all started with a boom in the European coffee industry. Many cafes began flourishing across the continent, and there wasn’t enough knowledge or technology to fulfill the enormous demand. 

Back then, the machines relied on steam power to produce espresso quickly. Many created prototypes, but Angelo Moriondo’s machine was a breakthrough for modern espresso’ iinnovation. His machine used a large boiler that could heat up to 1.5x bars of pressure, pushing water through the coffee grounds underneath. It also came with a second boiler, producing steam to flash the coffee grounds and finish the brew. 

There wasn’t any apparent reason why Moriondo’s machine didn’t make it to the market. In the end, it wasn’t Moriondo who commercialized espresso. It was Luigi Bezzera and Desiderio Pavoni who became known to dominate the market. 

Luigi Bezzera was adept in manufacturing and making liquors. He presented espresso in the early 20th century. He constantly looked for a way to produce espresso quicker and pack it into a cup to be more convenient to distribute and sell. His first trial made espresso in a matter of seconds, but his machine caught fire due to overheating. 

Although failing his first attempt, Bezzera kept trying and only stopped as he ran out of money to expand his trials and market his products. This was where Desiderio Pavoni stepped in, buying Luigi Bezzera’s patents in 1903. Based on Bezzera’s design, Pavoni improved his creation with a pressure release valve. He also added a steam wand as a way to make use of the built-up steam inside the machine’s boiler. 

Together, they perfected the espresso machine and presented their creation at the 1906 Milan Fair. It was the day the world was introduced to caffè espresso.

Characteristics of an Espresso

The little cup of dark elixir has an intense flavor. Taking it from the top, a good espresso would have a crema that’s thick enough to hide the coffee. Alternatively, there is a long espresso with less body. Long espressos are pulled for more time and contain more water to dilute the coffee concentration.

Any espresso aroma must be solid and intense. You can usually smell the notes just from inhaling the freshly brewed coffee. Sometimes you can smell the aroma for several minutes after the espresso is brewed.

As for the taste, good espresso characteristics should include a balanced flavor, nice sweetness, and gentle acidity. Although strong, a good espresso leaves a long-lasting aftertaste, which is fragrant and vivid even after you’ve finished your cup.


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