Eespresso, at its simplest description, is a small shot of strong coffee. At least that is what most American consumers understand. It is, however, an incredibly complex and delicate beverage with a rich history. It has a worldwide appreciation and use and, relative to its lengthy history, is just now beginning to take the U.S. by storm. Espresso also happens to represent an incredible opportunity in the OCS industry.
What is a great shot of espresso? Many of us in the U.S. marketplace just simply do not know. It is a mystery to many. But to those who understand espresso and are part of the espresso world, it is their passion. The purpose of this article is to help the reader better understand espresso and how it fits into today’s OCS environment. But to understand espresso, we must start at the beginning.
The history of espresso begins with the story of coffee. Coffee began to spread throughout the world from the 15th century on. By 1645, the first European coffee house opened in Italy. Other countries caught on and the beverage spread quickly. Along with this new and growing interest in coffee, people began to experiment with new ways to prepare and serve coffee. Thus began a long period of innovation in the coffee industry that continues today.
ESPRESSO AND CAPPUCCINO EMERGE
Several inventions in the 1800s worked on brewing coffee faster, but it was not until 1901 when making espresso changed forever. An Italian named Luigi Bezzera patented a machine that employed steam pressure to force water through ground coffee. It brewed faster, and the resulting brew was also stronger and much better in flavor. Additionally, the steam could be used to froth milk. Espresso and cappuccino were born.
Crude by today’s standards, Bezzera’s machine produced wonderful results. However, Bezzara was not as dynamic of a sales person as he was an inventor. In 1903, the patent was sold to Desidero Pavoni, and the machine began to sell throughout Europe. In 1927, espresso landed in the U.S. where the first LaPavoni machine was installed at New York City’s Caffe Reggio by its original owner, Domenico Parisi.
In 1928, M. Cremonesi developed a piston pump that forced hot, not boiling, water through the coffee. This new process eliminated the burnt flavor and produced a smoother tasting espresso.
CREMA: HALLMARK OF ESPRESSO
In 1946, Achille Gaggia began the manufacturing
of a commercial piston machine. This machine produced an espresso that contained a layer of foam on the top of the espresso better known as the “crema.” This crema is the hallmark of a properly produced espresso. One last key development within the history of espresso is the development of the pump-based espresso machine in 1961. Launched by M. Faema, this new system forced water by use of electric pump instead of the manually
In terms of the U.S. consumer, espresso made its breakthrough to the mainstream through the introduction and proliferation of the coffee chain, Starbucks. Starbucks began to sell coffee and espresso-based beverages after Howard Schultz, who was inspired by espresso after a trip to Milan, Italy, purchased the company from its original owners in 1987. Starbucks has been credited for enlightening the U.S. consumer about the espresso-based beverages and true gourmet coffee.
Today, gourmet coffee represents one of the most active growth segments within the food and beverage industry. According to the 2008 National Coffee Drinking Trends, a report published by the National Coffee Association, 17 percent of the adult population consumed a gourmet beverage on a daily basis, up 3 percent from 2007.
THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD ESPRESSO
So what makes an espresso good? First of all, good is relative — a matter of taste. What tastes good to one person may not to another. So, the more accurate question is — what does one need to make a quality shot of espresso? There is a simple recipe to follow. It is the capability and technique of the barista that makes the difference. It all starts with the coffee.