Italian Coffee

Andrea is a fan of Italian coffee who sent us this article on one of her favorite subjects:

Italy is renowned for its espresso coffee, and exports coffee products and machines around the world. Espresso is a type of concentrated coffee beverage, prepared by forcing hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee.

Italian coffee (or caffè) is usually made from coffee beans imported from Brazil. The beans are roasted, and the resulting color differs from region to region. In northern Italy, the colors are usually medium to light medium brown, becoming darker as you travel further south. There's a mistaken belief that espresso contains more caffeine than the other types of coffee, but actually the opposite is true. The longer the coffee beans are roasted, the more caffeine is extracted, and espresso coffee beans are well roasted.

Espresso has a thick consistency when compared to other coffees and contains a higher concentration of dissolved solids, which produces the foam or frothy effect. And due to the pressurized brewing process, all the flavors and chemicals in a cup of espresso are very concentrated, so it's ideal as a base for other drinks such as latte, cappuccino, macchiato, mocha and americano.

Inventors of the Espresso Machines

Luigi Bezzera of Milan, inventor of the steam pressure system, also introduced the first espresso machine in 1901. But it wasn't until 1937 that the modern espresso machine was invented by Achille Gaggia. Gaggia used a pump and pressure system which forced heated water through a few grams of finely ground coffee under high pressure within a 25-30 seconds time frame. This method produced two tablespoons of liquid so the process needed to be repeated to fill a demitasse.

The Italian Coffee Culture

Coffee wasn't invented in Italy, but the coffee culture was. This culture has grown to such an extent that today's Italians have little tolerance for bad coffee. They would rather skip ordering a mediocre cup of coffee in a restaurant and travel to a favorite bar or cafe to enjoy an authentic one.

Espresso is generally served in a demitasse, a small cup used for strong black coffee.

  • For caffè macchiato, espresso is served as a base and then topped with a touch of steamed milk or foam.

  • For ristretto, espresso is made much stronger with less water.

  • For cappuccino, it's mixed or topped with steamed, frothy milk. Italians only drink it in the mornings.

  • For caffè latte, equal parts of espresso and steamed milk are used. This drink is similar to café au lait and is served in a large cup.

  • Latte macchiato is a glass of warm milk with a small portion of coffee.

  • Caffè corretto includes a few drops of alcohol.

Espresso is a part and parcel of every Italian's daily life. It's become very popular over the years, especially in regions where coffee is prepared in a number of imaginative ways. Home espresso machines are popular as well; a wide range of espresso equipment can be found at kitchen appliance stores, online vendors and in department stores.