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Coffee machines' history

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The first patent for an espresso machine dates back to 1884: it was submitted by a certain Angelo Moribondo from Turin and it was a device to make espresso, presented in the same year, on the occasion of the General Exhibition at the Valentino Park. The credit for industrialising the espresso machine however, goes to Luigi Bezzera from Milan, who in 1901 obtained the first of his patents. In fact, he made this tool very similar to the machines that went on to become very widespread, above all thanks to another pioneer of the period, Desiderio Pavoni, who seeing the great potential of the espresso, developed its sale in public bars and cafés. In the early 1900s, Pier Teresio Arduino from Turin realised that the world of public bars and coffee shops was changing and that the machines used in these premises were no longer able to keep up with the times, both in terms of their technical design and their style.

He decided to build a new type of machine, a machine that would guarantee fast pouring and at the same time, be of limited size so as to offer maximum ease and safety of use. He was firmly convinced that to achieve this goal, he needed to revolutionise the heart of the machine: the boiler. He was given his patent and he called his machine the Victoria [Victory] and he did indeed consider it to be his victory or rather, an “Italian victory”, the result of the effort and attempts that had gone into its making. Arduino continued to improve his machine, to the extent that, in 1910, he was given the patent and certificate of industrial property rights.

In the marketplace, Arduino and Pavoni were certainly in direct competition with their trademarks Victoria Arduino and Pavoni. In the period 1911 to 1914, there were many machine patents deposited, from a variable number ranging from 1 to 5 to the maximum number of industrial property rights certificates issued every year up to 1910, then 15 were issued in 1911, 11 in 1912 and even 22 in 1913, falling back to 12 in 1914, the period prior to the War, and then dropping off suddenly in the years to follow. Arduino continued to work during the years of the Great War, obtaining two patents in 1915 (portafilter) and in 1918 (automatic machine). In 1922, he began to invest in advertising. One of the most successful aspects of these inventions was the famous poster by artist Leonetto Cappiello, in which we see an elegant traveller who, leaning out of a moving train, prepares himself an espresso using a Victoria Arduino - the ultimate espresso machine of the period. At the time, Cappiello was the most admired painter, sketch artist and cartoonist of the period and best known for his advertising posters. With this image, the artist successfully alluded to the speed at which coffee was prepared, the elegance of the customer being compared with the elegance of the machine and both standing for a totally modern lifestyle. In the 1930s, Arduino continued working on his machine, obtaining two more patents. At the end of the Second World War, when the country was rebuilding itself and the economy was beginning to move again, many protagonists entered the world of espresso coffee, starting with Achille Gaggia, who began making lever-operated machines that used water pressure instead of steam, created ‘coffee cream’. This invention was fundamentally important because the new models operated completely without steam and prepared an infusion with ground coffee and boiling water only, creating a genuine “coffee cream” that had more aroma and more substance, having more body than a normal espresso. The best-known model to use this system was the Classica by Gaggia (1948). In the wake of these innovations in technology and style, there were many less famous – but not for this, less interesting - manufacturers than Victoria Arduino, Bezzera, La Pavoni, La Cimbali, La San Marco, Simonelli (now “Nuova Simonelli”), Rancilio, Universal, Faema and Gaggia. There were dozens and dozens of such manufacturers and they created important models, above all, in terms of style, offering the public ranges in line with taste trends of the time.

In 1951, Victoria Arduino began production of a moveable trolley, a type of kiosk, which was named the ‘Carrel bar’, with a machine boiler operating using a gas canister, especially for mobile baristas. This bar trolley was an immediate success and soon became part of the scenery at important trade fairs, such as the Milan Fair and it was not uncommon to see it in operation at the main railway stations, on the platforms. In 1952, Nuova Simonelli, in Tolentino (Macerata) was the next company to introduce an important new innovation: the machine with hydraulic pump action. In 1961, Faema launched its famous E-61, which took its name from the solar eclipse of the same year. The E-61 was one of the most widespread “pouring” machines. This system changed the whole way of serving coffee in bars, bringing in the standard that is still in use today. 1962 saw the arrival of a classic by the Castiglioni brothers, Achille and Piergiacomo, the Pitagora machine from La Cimbali, which brought the designers the ultimate Italian award for design, the Compasso d’oro. 1975 saw the first machine to use electronics, which were then introduced in the 1980s: the ISX by Nuova Simonelli, a machine that came in electronic and semiautomatic versions, with dosing and volumetric pump and electric or gas heating. In the 21st century, there are yet more innovations to come in the espresso machine industry, above all when it comes to ergonomics and energy efficiency, design, and temperature stability. 1999 marked the birth of the no-profit organisation, World Barista Championship which organises a world championship for baristas in order to spread the culture of espresso coffee and enhance the figure of the professional barista.