Espresso relatively (or literally?) means fast. Its technology and service as a beverage was initially advanced to minimize factory workers coffee break-time.
Coffee breaks were minimized to a few minutes, or the time it took to smoke a cigarette.
Many Americans pronounce espresso as expresso—this isn’t always incorrect.* Espresso, as we know it today, has been an evolution in technology and a culinary art to get the perfect crema.
The modern day espresso machine allows baristas to extract the perfect amount of flavor and oils from roasted, ground coffee beans. It brews at high temperatures and under pressure. It allows the barista to make many coffee based drinks including the latte and cappuccino.
Many home versions do an ok job, but they will never reach the quality of a local coffee shop. Professional machines cost several thousand dollars. The daily cost of an espresso, cappuccino or latte prepared by a barista is a bargain to coffee connoisseurs.
Luigi Bezzera advanced the technology just after 1900 by using mostly Italian technology with some French influences. He filed his patents in December of 1901. Several years later Desiderio Pavoni bought the rights to the patents, started a company that builds espresso machines, and began to market espresso all over Milan and Italy. It has become a religion and culinary art to Milan and coffee connoisseurs. (Visit www.lapavoni.it/storia.asp for an Italian version of the story.)
The first espresso machine in America appeared in New York City at Regio’s Cafe around 1927. It wasn’t until the late 1940’s that the piston espresso machine was perfected and the crema resulted —the perfectly bronzed cream-like extraction that rests atop the espresso.
Today there are many modern types of machines. Some include podded systems that are electronically controlled, but there is nothing like the barista’s art of a perfectly made espresso. Espresso machines started popping up all over the NYC, SF Bay Area, and Seattle, in the 1960’s and 70’s, and the rest is history.
***I unwittingly pronounced it this way in college until I was corrected by an Italian from Milan…