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History of the Espresso Machine

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 11:14 AM
Related Categories: Espresso Essentials

Espresso as a beverage and understood term dates back to 1901 when Luigi Bezzera patented the world's first "espresso" machine, a giant steam driven thing with two groupheads called the Tipo Gigante. Luigi's machine had been developed to help reduce the time his employees took for a coffee break. The owner of a manufacturing company, Bezzera needed to increase the production of his employees, so a faster "coffee maker" was the key, he thought. His invention yielded a coffee maker that used a combination of water and steam, forced under high pressure through coffee grounds, to rapidly brew the coffee. It was dubbed the "espresso machine".

However, there was a downside to Luigi's machine. Brewing with a combination of steam and hot water under pressure did produce a cup of coffee faster than other brewers of the time, but the resulting brew was bitter. Desiderio Pavoni, who purchased Bezzera's patent in 1905, was the first person to realize that the bitterness was the result of the steam and the very high temperatures it imposed on the coffee grounds. So, Pavoni began experimenting with various temperatures and pressures, and eventually concluded that brewing at 195 degrees with 8-9 BAR of pressure produced the best results. This is the basis for espresso as we know it today.

The modern day espresso machine dates back to 1947, when Gaggia introduced the Gaggia Crema Caffe machine. This was the first machine capable of consistently introducing pressurized water (8 BAR or higher) into a bed of coffee, and easily and cheaply enough for normal commercial use. Before that, almost every commercial and consumer espresso machine was steam driven and therefore, more akin to the modern day moka brewer.

Here are some other milestones in the history of the espresso machine and the resulting beverage.


Espresso Machine Time Line

  Luigi Bezzera patents his Tipo Gigante, the precursor to what would become espresso machine technology for the next fifty years. Luigi wanted to reduce coffee break times so he made a machine that brewed “coffee” much faster using pressure. Espresso (in a loose translation) means “fast” in Italian.

  Desiderio Pavoni buys Bezzera's patents. La Pavoni was the first manufacturer of espresso machines to be used in coffee bars. Also, Pier Teresio Arduino founds Victoria Arduino, the company that would do more to spread early espresso culture than any other with its advertisements and philosophy behind the drink.

  La Cimbali founded. They are makers of fine high-end home and large capacity espresso machines.

  Universal enters the espresso machine business and soon becomes the leading machine maker with a wide range of products through the 1920s and 1930s and beyond. (They have since disappeared from the market).

  La Marzocco founded. The first espresso machine comes to America as NYC's Regio's Bar installs a La Pavoni two-group machine that is still on display today.

  Rancilio founded by Roberto Rancili.

  La San Marco starts a 10+-year trend towards total Deco design in machines with the introduction of the La San Marco 900. Every company would move to this design style.

  Simonelli founded, who later became makers of medium to heavy-duty espresso machines.

  M. Cremonesi developed a piston pump that forced hot, but not boiling, water through the coffee. The piston pump was quite an improvement as it eliminated the burnt taste of coffee, which occurred in the Pavoni machines.

  Faema founded by Ernesto Valente.

  Gaggia introduces the revolutionary piston lever Crema Caffe machine and modern day espresso in the commercial establishment is born. Many will follow.

  Gaggia introduces the Classica, a 2-group version of the Crema Caffe; La Pavoni, other companies introduce new brewers based loosely on Gaggia's revolutionary system. True espresso, as we know it today, becomes common.

  Elektra experiments with hydraulic pressure machines.

  (circa) Officine Maffioletto makes one of the first machines capable of brewing real pressure espresso, but in the home. It was a piston model with a 1-liter capacity.

  Piston operated machines, both spring action and direct pressure, many direct copies of Gaggia's ground breaking Crema machines, flood the market and make modern day espresso common.

  (circa) Gaggia Gilda machine, not marketed for, but suitable for home use is brought to the market - a dual lever piston single group machine.

  La Marzocco Crema Espress single group lever machine is introduced.

  Faema introduces a very revolutionary machine, the E61 - the first heat exchanger, rotary pump driven espresso machine. Elektra Micro Casa a Leva and La Pavoni Europiccola Lever machine for the home are introduced. Micro Casa had "steam on demand" ability.

  Alfred Peet opens first Peets Coffee in Berkeley, CA later serves as inspiration for the founding of Starbucks by visiting Seattlites.

  Starbucks first opens in Seattle as a roastery.

  La Pavoni Professional Lever machine for the home is introduced. Pavoni introduces "instant steam" and brew machine.

  SCAA founded. Originally called the Specialty Coffee Advisory Board or SCAB; they would soon change their name to something more pleasing to the ear.

  Howard Schultz of Starbucks travels to Italy and becomes immersed in espresso culture.

  Starbucks installs the first espresso machine in their Seattle shop.

  Acorto brings to market the world's first truly complete and marketable commercial super automatic machine, including groundbreaking features such as the self-contained refrigeration system for milk, and different frothing choices on demand.

  Rancilio introduces the Rocky Burr Grinder - a grinder that blurs the line between commercial and home grinding appliances.

  (circa) Saeco brings out the world's first super automatics designed specifically for home and small office use.

  Illy collector cups first introduced, bringing artistry to the cup itself, as well as what's inside the cup.

  Solis brings the SL-90 consumer espresso machine to market, one of the first successful automatic espresso machines for the home.

  Rancilio introduces the Rancilio Silvia, which raises the bar in the home espresso machine market and starts a trend towards better, more professional machines for the consumer. Pasquini markets the Livia 90 (made by Bezzera), one of a new wave of prosumer, heat exchanger-equipped machines for consumers instead of commercial businesses.

  Aabree Coffee Company goes on the web.

Of course, this list is by no means complete. It is presented to give you an idea about several things, including the fact that espresso existed long before the big coffee chains were around. And even though those chains and espresso are somewhat reliant on one another, I'd wager that espresso will far outlast any of the chain coffeehouses you and I know so well. With its unique culture and growing number of devotees who are ultimately dedicated to the betterment of the brew, I'm ready to see what the next hundred years has in store for espresso.
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Key Ingredients In Perfect Espresso

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 10:53 AM
Related Categories: Espresso Essentials

Making coffee is a lot like baking a cake. There are specific ingredients and parameters that are required in order for the creation to be considered cake, but the requirements for making a Tunnel of Fudge cake are a lot different than making a Carrot Cake. The same goes for coffee – basically anything that involves combining coffee grounds with hot water is considered coffee, but there are specific requirements for making the espresso type of coffee. In this article, we’re going to take an in depth look at these key ingredients and parameters, and how to put them all together to make a proper espresso.


Espresso is brewed using water that has been heated to between 190o F and 195o F. A thermostat in the boiler brings the temperature of the water to the proper level and maintains it while the machine is on. As you begin to brew, the thermostat will turn on again in an effort to heat the water that is being drawn in from the reservoir as the already heated water is used for brewing.

Although espresso is brewed with water temperatures exceeding 190 degrees F, it doesn’t necessarily mean the temperature of your espresso will be that hot when you go to enjoy it. Generally, the temperature can be quite less, with an average 160 degrees F to 165 degrees F in your cup. The large drop in temperature is largely contributable to whether or not your portafilter, brew group, and espresso cup have been fully pre-heated. We always recommend pulling a “blank shot” to remedy this problem. Before brewing, just attach the empty portafilter to the machine, place your cup under the portafilter, and press the brew button. Hot water will be dispensed through the portafilter and brew group and fall into the cup, thereby heating all three elements at once. Proper temperature is also a large contributor to the quality of the crema that tops your espresso. Crema dramatically impacts the flavor of the shot, making temperature even more important to the overall success of your espresso.


When we’re talking about pressure in relation to espresso, there are actually two different things we need to address: tamp pressure and brewing pressure.

Tamp Pressure
This is the amount of pressure used to compact the coffee grounds in the portafilter prior to brewing. As a general rule, we recommend consistently using 30 lbs of tamp pressure. If you’re not sure what that feels like, drag out the ol’ bathroom scale and try it out – it won’t feel nearly as heavy as you’re expecting. By always using the same amount of pressure, you’re reducing the number of variables involved in brewing, so it’s easier to target and resolve an issue. We’ll talk more about possible problems you’ll run into and how to solve them later in this article.

Brewing Pressure
In order to brew a proper espresso, hot water must be forced through the coffee grounds at around 8 or 9 BAR of pressure – roughly 135 PSI. The pump inside every espresso machine is designed to produce these exact measurements of pressure, so this isn’t something you’ll need to control yourself. Some machines advertise they are able to produce pump pressures of 15 to 19 BAR. However, this doesn’t mean that they will they produce better espresso than those of lower pressures. As described above, it is only necessary to have about 8 to 9 BAR of pump pressure to produce good espresso. The pressure ratings on these units pertain to the maximum pressure or BAR the espresso machine is able to produce, not what it will actually brew the espresso at. Just remember that it isn't important to buy an espresso machine with the most powerful pump. Any pump driven espresso machines we carry provides more than enough pressure to produce fine espresso.

Coffee, Water, & Extraction Time

So we’ve talked about temperature and pressure and set the stage (or greased the cake pan, if you will) for the down and dirty “this is how you do it” part of brewing espresso. Yes temperature and pressure are equally as important to espresso as the things we’re about to discuss, but they’re a little more abstract to you budding baristas out there. This is the part you actually get to put your hands on and find out what brewing espresso is all about.

Most commonly, espresso is brewed as either a single or double shot. This terminology references the amount of coffee and water that are used. To brew a single shot, you will use 7 grams of coffee and pull between 1 and 1.5 oz of water. For a double shot, you’ll basically double those quantities – 14 grams of coffee and 2 to 2.5 oz of water. No matter if you’re brewing a single or double shot, you should be able to extract the espresso in 20 to 25 seconds.

This little equation is what we call the Espresso Rule of Thumb, and it acts as a guideline for brewing espresso. If the results you’re getting don’t meet these parameters (for instance, you get 3.5 oz of espresso in 20 seconds), you’ll know instantly that something isn’t right and that you need to alter one of your variables to meet this target. We’ll look at some specific scenarios and how to correct them in a minute, but let’s look at the Espresso Rule of Thumb one more time.

The Espresso Rule of Thumb

Given that water between 190 degrees F and 195 degrees F is applied at 8 – 9 BAR to finely ground coffee that has been tamped at 30 lbs of pressure:

A single shot is made with 7 grams of coffee, and should yield 1 – 1.5 oz of espresso in 20 –25 seconds.

A double shot
is made with 14 grams of coffee, and should yield 2 – 2.5 oz of espresso in 20 –25 seconds.


The next question out of most people’s mouths is, “What do I do if my shots don’t meet these requirements specifically?” Well, the good news is that because you’re keeping the amount of coffee and tamp pressure the same in each attempt, there’s only one thing to alter in order to get different results: the fineness of your grind. This is one of the main reasons why a grinder is such an essential element to brewing espresso and why we always recommend that you purchase one to accompany your semi-automatic machine. Beyond the obvious advantages of the freshest coffee possible, using your own grinder makes it much easier to troubleshoot a problem if one arises.

The two main problems people run into are that their shots are either too slow or too fast. If your shot is slow (it takes longer than 25 seconds to brew the correct amount of espresso), it means that the water is being prevented from coming through the grounds at the appropriate rate. You can fix this by adjusting your grinder to a coarser setting. On the other hand, if your shot is fast (it takes less than 20 seconds to brew the correct amount of espresso), it means that water is passing too easily through the grounds. This is remedied by adjusting your grinder to a finer setting. Every time you adjust your setting, just remember to keep your tamping consistent and time your shot to make sure you’re on target.

We know that not everyone can spring for the semi auto and matching grinder right away, so some of you may be using pre-ground coffees. The Espresso Rule of Thumb still applies here, but if you’re not hitting your target extraction times, you’ll want to alter your tamp pressure to compensate. Tamp harder if your shot times are too fast, and lighter if your shot times are too slow. If you’re getting similar results regardless of the tamp pressure, it may simply be that the grind setting will not work well with your machine.

Other Things to Keep In Mind

Although the Espresso Rule of Thumb does apply to all semi automatic espresso machines, the strict parameters we’ve set are a little different depending on what type of semi auto you’re using. Those machines that have commercial style portafilters are a bit more sensitive to these guidelines, so you’ll want to keep with them specifically. However, pressurized style portafilters are more forgiving when it comes to tamp pressure and grind setting. You’ll want to aim for a lighter tamp as well as a slightly coarser grind if you’re using a pressurized portafilter, but the other requirements will remain the same.

It is also important to remember that you may need to make adjustments to your grind setting when you try a new type of coffee. Beans can differ in roast level and density, both of which can affect how the grounds perform. So, it may be necessary that you “dial in” your grinder again if you notice that changing beans affects your brewing time.

If you ever have any brewing issues that you just can’t seem to solve using the troubleshooting tips we’ve given you here, please feel free to call our Customer Care Center at 888-280-8584. We’ll give you any further advice we can and get you on the path to perfect espresso.
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Latte Art Made Easy

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 10:17 AM
Related Categories: Espresso Essentials

Leonardo da Vinci turned a blank canvas into the Mona Lisa. Michelangelo shaped a hunk of marble into the Statue of David. So, how about making your latte into a piece of art? No pressure.

Viewed by coffee lovers as the ultimate finishing touch, latte art has become a source of pride for accomplished baristas, as evidenced by the Millrock Latte Art Competition. Held annually, the contest challenges American baristas to make the best tasting, most aromatic and visually appealing drink. Regarding the competition’s growing popularity, professional barista Chris Deferio says, “Millrock, itself, is getting to be more and more prestigious. It’s gaining in notoriety and is becoming a norm in the lexicon of the coffee professionals.”

Mastering a free pour, required to create works of latte art, is critical creating a creative “signature” to give your beverage that personal touch.  “Latte art is the professional ethos of a barista, like the handshake after the deal is made,” notes Deferio.

To create latte art, you’ll want to have these items handy:

  1. Whole milk
  2. An espresso machine
  3. Frothing thermometer and pitcher
  4. A wide mug
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The Art and Science of Making Espresso

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 10:16 AM
Related Categories: Espresso Essentials

Achieving Java Nirvana requires an understanding of the rituals associated with making great espresso. First, you need to know what to look for; crema, or the foam that materializes on top, is the universal sign of a good shot of espresso. A thick crema is easily recognized and respected by coffee lovers worldwide, but achieving a good shot can be a trying experience. So, we’re here to demystify the process for you! Don’t worry; we’ll have you brewing like a pro in no time.

The Art
Generally, a double shot of espresso should contain 2-2.5 fl oz and take roughly 20-25 seconds to extract. In order to get the optimal results, you’ll need to spend some time getting acquainted with the nuances of your grinder, espresso machine, and coffee. This is the “art” part of the process, as the interactions among your coffee, grinder, and espresso machine can have an effect on the resulting shot.

The Beans, The Beans! Won’t Somebody Think About The Beans?
Nowadays, coffee beans come many varieties; what you ultimately end up choosing is largely a matter of personal preference. However, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the three different kinds of roasts available. Coffee comes usually comes in light, medium, and dark roasts and can be easily identified by the shade they exhibit. Generally, light roasts are not appropriate for espressos, so we’ll be better served by focusing on medium and dark roasts.  

While most people equate a dark roast with a “true espresso,” a great shot can also be made with a medium roast. You can easily distinguish between two by examining the beans, a dark roast will have a glossy surface and because of their oily texture, they have a habit of sticking together. When it comes to down the practicalities, it’s important to keep in mind that a dark roast will require a coarser grind than its medium roast cousin for the same extraction. Also be careful, of a grind that is too fine, as it can wear out your grinder burrs, clog an espresso machine, and make a bitter-tasting cup of Joe! Ideally, you should shoot for a texture that is slightly finer than granulated sugar.

You’ll know you have the right grind when your shot makes its time target (20-25 seconds). Keep in mind that as your beans age, the extraction time will shorten up, even if all the other factors remain constant. This is because the beans are drying out, which causes less resistance when you tamp. Unfortunately, this is also a sign that the flavors are drying out…an indication that perhaps it’s time to kiss those beans goodbye.

Back to the Grinder
Grinders come in two variations, blade and burr. For espresso-making purposes, steer clear of anything with a blade in it! Blade grinders are responsible for causing inconsistent grind fineness, heat, and dust—all factors you want to eliminate, when making a shot of espresso.

Instead of whirling blades, burr grinders have two opposing wheels and it is the distance between them that determine the size of your grind. The grinding is normally slower with a burr grinder, but this is a good thing, because the process produces less heat—helping to preserve the flavors in your coffee.

Burr grinders can be broken down into two categories, conical and flat. There is really no difference in quality between the two; you should be happy regardless of which burr grinder you decide to use.

The ideal espresso grind setting should fall within the 3-8 range on the grinder’s index; the lower the number, the finer the grind. However, the level of finesse of the grind settings is not universal, so you shouldn’t assume that a 4 on one grinder will be the same if you switch brands. It’s also important to note that the grinder should be running when you’re adjusting the settings, to prevent damage to the machine.

Brewing Pressure and Temperature
Drum roll, please, this is where your espresso machine comes in! While home machines may indicate a maximum pressure rating of 15-19 bars, you only need 8 or 9 bars to achieve the optimum environment for extraction. As a general rule of thumb, you really don’t have to worry about the pump’s pressure. Most machines are designed to allow for no more than 11 bars; if the pressure exceeds this level, the back pressure relief valve will open to divert the water. This will prevent your coffee from being over extracted and protect the pump from excessive pressure build up.

Your brewing temperature is controlled by the espresso machine’s thermostat. All of the machines we offer fall within the right temperature range (190-196 degrees). Your in-cup temperature should ideally be between 160-165 degrees. In order to ensure the correct in-cup temp, you should preheat your cup as well as the brew group (the portafilter and it’s the part of the machine that it locks into). Simply letting your machine warm up (5-6 minutes) will automatically pre-heat your brew group. You can also go the extra step and run water through the brew group (with the handle in place). As for your cup, you can heat it using the cup warmer on the espresso machine or by running hot water through it. Hey, whatever works!

So, You Think You Can Tamp?
Tamping, or packing coffee into the portafilter, is often the most difficult part of the espresso making process for beginners. The tampers, supplied with most machines, should do the trick just fine—regardless of whether they’re made of aluminum, wood, stainless steel, or plastic. Generally, you should use 30 pounds of pressure when tamping. Don’t know what 30 pounds of pressure feels like? Fake it, until you make it with the Espresso Gear Click Mat, which will make a clicking sound when you’ve hit the mark. Hey, it’s not cheating. Cheating is having your brother, mother, or significant other do the heavy tamping for you. Think of this mat as your partner in coffee.

Now, if you don’t like working under pressure, consider an espresso machine with built-in resistance technology. These bad boys are designed with pressurized filter handles, which will let you get away with a light tamp.

Quick Tips of the Trade

  1. While it’s tempting to jump into the thick of things when that espresso machine shows up at your door step, make sure you take the time to dial in your machine. This is usually best done with a double shot.
  2. Once you’ve tamped the coffee, the surface should look smooth and even. A rough surface can cause a lot of trouble—from uneven extraction to imbalanced pours—so, make sure you brush any loose grounds away! Getting rid of those stray grounds will also help keep your brew group clean, allowing for a water-tight seal with the portafilter.
  3. Once you’ve pressed the pump button, start watching the clock! At the beginning, the coffee will be dark; but don’t worry, if all goes well, it should take on a golden tint. When you’ve hit the 20-25 second mark, check your shot. If you’ve got about 2-2.5 ounces, congratulations are in order. If there’s less than 2.5 ounces in your shot glass, try a lighter tamp or coarser grind…the opposite applies if you’ve got too much espresso in the glass. Keep in mind, it’s usually easier to vary the grind fineness rather than attempt to switch up your tamp pressure. 

Now that you’ve successfully completed our version of Espresso Making 101, make sure you check out the Buyer’s Guide to find your perfect machine.

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The Espresso Rule of Thumb

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 25, 2011 at 5:19 PM
Related Categories: Espresso Essentials

To get the best shot possible, keep the following brewing parameters in mind:

A single shot is made with 7 grams of coffee, and should yield 1 – 1.5 oz of espresso in 20 –25 seconds.

A double shot is made with 14 grams of coffee, and should yield 2 – 2.5 oz of espresso in 20 –25 seconds.

When you’re grinding your own beans for this process, it is also helpful to keep your tamp at a consistent 30 lbs of pressure (or a bit lighter if you have a pressurized style portafilter). If you’re not sure what 30 lbs of pressure feels like, we recommend “practice” tamping on your bathroom scale to get the feel of it. The reason to keep this pressure consistent is so that if your shots aren’t falling into the 20 –25 second range, you will only have one variable to change: your grind setting.

If you’re grinding your own beans and find that your:

  • shot is too slow (more than 25 seconds), adjust your grinder to a coarser setting.
  • shot is too fast (less than 20 seconds), adjust your grinder to a finer setting.
However, not everyone has a grinder. If you’re using preground coffee, your grind setting will remain consistent, so if your shots aren’t brewing between 20 and 25 seconds you’re going to change your tamp pressure instead.

If you’re using preground coffee and find that your:

  • shot is too slow (more than 25 seconds), apply less tamp pressure.
  • shot is too fast (less than 20 seconds), apply more tamp pressure.
To learn more about what goes into making that perfect shot, read our article titled “Key Ingredients in Perfect Espresso”.
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Money Saving Tip — Beat the Recession Blues with Homemade Brews

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 25, 2011 at 5:05 PM
Related Categories: Espresso Essentials

Frugal is the new black. Seriously. With the economy sputtering for the past year and a half, cost consciousness is on the rise among savvy Americans. But instead of quitting our indulgences cold turkey, many of us are looking for ways to cut costs while still retaining our quality of life.

If your routine includes stops at the local café, those daily drinks can add up quickly—and put quite a dent on your wallet. For instance, if you buy a $4.27 Venti Mocha every day, that comes out to be almost $120 a month or nearly $1500 a year! Ouch.

But, we at Aabree would never tell you to give up your java, not with all the health benefits it provides. Instead, consider brewing at home. If you invest in a decent espresso machine, you could make those fancy frappe-cappa-lattes at home and save some big bucks in the long run.

Once you’ve already decided to become a home barista, a great way to save even more cash is by checking out sale items. Aabree has an extensive sale section, featuring everything from machines to coffee and accessories for up to 50% off. You could, conceivably, create your very own home café for half off retail price.

If there’s a machine you’ve been lusting after and it’s not on our sale page, consider getting a reconditioned unit. Aabree has a wide selection of reconditioned machines available for up to 44% off regular price. Our reconditioned machines are guaranteed to be in perfect working condition and all come with warranties, ensuring your complete satisfaction.

Now, if you’re a true bargain hunter, make sure to keep an eye on your e-mail inbox, we send weekly specials and coupons that will save you a ton of dough. So, there’s no excuse to overpay for another a cup of Joe. It’s never been easier to brew your own morning latte, cappuccino, Americano, or espresso. Take a peek at our inventory and discover the money saving secrets home baristas have known for years.

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Introduction: Gaggia for Illy

Posted on 11/29/11 by  Aabree Coffee
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