A short history of Italian espresso and the development of the first espresso machine

From the espresso bar culture to the skills required to create the perfect cup - espresso is hugely significant in Italian society.

Here, we provide a short guide to the history of Italian espresso, exploring who invented the first espresso machine, the culture of Italian coffee bars, and more.

In 1720, the first Italian 'caffè' was opened in St Marks Square, quickly becoming a place for intellectual and social engagement. Coffee rapidly became a staple of Italian social life, and these meeting spaces centred around the drink’s rich flavours and varieties. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the history of Italian espresso began.

Who created the first espresso machine?

The introduction of Italian espresso coffee marked a revolution in coffee brewing methods and Italian coffee culture. Angelo Moriondo, often known as the “father as espresso”, created the world’s first official espresso machine in 1884. It was the first coffee machine of its kind to have separate control over the water and steam. Moriondo successfully adjusted his machine over the years; however, he never fully commercialised his invention, and only a few hand-built machines were made. Though Moriondo's machine was a pioneering step, it was the innovations by others that refined espresso making.

Find out how to make the perfect Italian espresso here.

The commercialisation of the espresso machine

It was not until 1901 that the first true espresso machine for commercial use was invented by Luigi Bezzera. In 1901, Luigi Bezzera patented a machine that forced hot water through coffee grounds at high pressure, significantly reducing brewing time and christening the term "espresso" - meaning "pressed out" in Italian. This innovation laid the foundation for espresso coffee, which quickly became integral to Italian social life and cuisine. Luigi’s commercial espresso machine allowed for the creation of a wide range of espresso-based drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes.

However, it was Desiderio Pavoni who saw the commercial potential of these inventions, acquiring Bezzera’s patents and introducing the espresso machine to a broader audience at the Milan International Fair in 1906. This collaboration between Bezzera and Pavoni marked the beginning of espresso's journey from an invention to a staple of Italian culture.

Over the decades, espresso machines evolved, with significant improvements made by individuals such as Achille Gaggia, who in the 1940s introduced a lever-based system that further enhanced the pressure applied to coffee grounds, leading to the rich crema that is a signature of quality espresso.

Read our guide to the history of Italian espresso to find out more.

This era marked the introduction of espresso bars across Italy. Here, Italians gathered to discuss topics such as current events and debates. The espresso bar epitomised the Italian way of life and fostered a sense of community.

Find out more about Italian espresso in our guide What is Italian espresso?

Luigi Musetti founds “La casa del caffè” in 1934, a store in the center of Piacenza, at 14 Garibaldi Street.

Luigi Musetti founds “La casa del caffè” in 1934, a store in the center of Piacenza, at 14 Garibaldi Street. (Source: HISTORY - Caffè Musetti).

Buongiorno Caffe – Morning Coffee with Carluccio’s

Buongiorno Caffe gift hamper set.

Our Morning Coffee set brings you both our Milano & Napoli coffee beans, along with a classic 3 cup Bialetti Moka pot. Buongiorno!

Shop the Buongiorno Caffe gift hamper set.

Read how to drink Italian espresso here.

Italian espresso has captivated palates beyond Italy's borders, evolving into a global phenomenon. The post-World War II era saw Italian immigrants introducing espresso to new lands, laying the groundwork for today’s vibrant global coffee culture.

Experience coffee the Italian way with Carluccio’s

Our espresso coffee range has been specially blended and roasted for us in Italy and we believe it captures the aroma and flavour of this unique coffee drinking experience. The roasters of Carluccio’s blends roast each type of bean separately in the traditional “drum” roasters, which spin the beans constantly while surrounding them with hot air. A longer roasting time at lower temperatures avoids any burnt taste and recreates the results of the constant, careful stirring given to the pan roasted coffee beans.

Carluccio's commitment to authenticity and quality ensures that each cup of coffee offers a genuine taste of Italy. Carluccio's cafes stand as modern ambassadors of Italian espresso, offering blends that are deeply rooted in regional traditions while embracing the nuances of contemporary tastes. Each blend, from the bold Napoli to the sweet Milano, tells a story of its origin.

Shop our full coffees and hot drinks range to find out more about what we offer. For the perfect pairing with your coffee – explore our authentic Italian cakes and biscuits.

Enjoy a sweeter, refined blend with Carluccio’s espresso di Milano

Enjoy Milanese-style ground coffee from pure Arabica beans. We use 100% Arabica beans from Central and South America, Africa and Indonesia.

Our Milano espresso blend provides chocolatey, caramel and hazelnut flavours. To grind your own beans finely for use in an espresso machine, you can shop our Milano coffee beans here. You can also grind our Milano coffee beans coarse for use in a cafetiere, providing honey, toffee and nutty flavours. Alternatively, shop our cafetiere Milano blend here.

Milano espresso coffee blend .


Shop our Milano espresso coffee blend .

Frequently asked questions about Italian espresso

What distinguishes Italian espresso?

The unique character of Italian espresso lies in its brewing technique, which balances temperature, pressure, and timing to extract a coffee that is concentrated yet harmoniously balanced. Read our guide What is Italian espresso coffee? to find out more.

How do Italians enjoy their espresso?

Italians typically savour their espresso standing at the bar, relishing the aroma before consuming the beverage in a few quick sips. This ritual underscores the Italian philosophy of taking pleasure in life's simple moments. Read our guide How to drink Italian espresso to find out more.

Can I replicate Italian espresso at home?

Yes, with the right equipment (a quality espresso machine or a Moka pot and grinder), fresh beans, and a bit of practice, you can recreate the authentic Italian espresso experience in your own kitchen. The secret lies in the quality of the ingredients and the precision of your technique. Shop our range of Italian coffee here to enjoy your espresso the Italian way.

Is espresso stronger than drip coffee?

Espresso is more concentrated, offering a robust flavour in a small serving. However, due to its smaller volume, a single shot of espresso generally contains less caffeine than a standard cup of drip coffee.

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