The Amabel Letters



Espresso is one of the most popular drinks on the globe, with 50% of Americans reportedly drinking the complex beverage. In fact, an average coffee shop in the country can sell up to 200 to 300 cups daily! Espresso is not only a famous drink; it has a rich history spanning back almost two hundred years. There is a loyal, almost cult-like following for the drink, with many connoisseurs perfecting the steeping process. Espresso must be made in specialized espresso machines with finely ground coffee. Chances are, once you taste this delicious full-bodied coffee, you’ll wonder how you lived your life without it!

The History Of Espresso

The first espresso machine hit the scene in 1884 when a man from Turin, Angelo Moriondo, bought the first patent and released it to the public. The first name, “New steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage, method ‘A. Moriondo,'” was quite long, presenting a mouthful to anyone seeking to purchase it. This first machine was much bulkier than its modern-day cousins but had the ability to brew coffee for many customers at a time.

It wasn’t until 1901, when a man from Milano, Luigi Bezzera, patented a new and improved version of the original espresso machine that it received a much-needed upgrade. This newly upgraded machine featured a boiler and four grouping holding multiple-sized filters containing the coffee. Bezzera named his new machine “Tipo Gigante,” which was a marked improvement over the name chosen by his predecessor.

A short time later, in 1903, Desiderio Pavoni bought the patent for Bezzera’s machine and brought it into production in 1905, after founding the “La Pavoni” company. Espresso grew in popularity in Europe, becoming a staple in many coffee shops throughout the continent. In 1927, the La Pavoni machine made its American debut when a restaurant named “Reggio’s” installed it at its new York City location.

The first espresso machines worked by forcing steam through the finely ground coffee, often producing a burnt flavor. One of the most transformational inventions of the espresso machine came in 1938 when Cremonesi developed a piston pump. This new pump forced hot but not boiling water through the ground coffee, giving it a smoother, more natural taste. It also produced a foam layer on top, which would become an iconic characteristic of the beverage.

This revolutionary design was installed in a restaurant called Achille Gaggia. Unfortunately, the onset of World War II put a temporary halt to the development of this new type of espresso machine. After the conclusion of the war in 1946, Gaggia quickly began putting the new commercial piston espresso machines into production, making them a common feature in restaurants and cafes throughout many major American cities.

The piston pump espresso machine remained in production for many years until 1961, when the Faema company began using electricity to transform the espresso machine. This new pump-based machine utilized an electric pump to deliver a steady flow of water under the perfect amount of pressure. The water is siphoned from a fresh water supply, traveling through a boiler-heated tube, finally passing through the coffee. This process prevents the water from becoming stale from sitting in the boiler for too long and allows for optimal temperature, which avoids a burnt taste.

Since this new electric version of the espresso machine emerged, there haven’t been any significant structural changes, only detail-oriented. Today, many espresso machines are still hand-operated, but some have fully automated the process that grinds the beans, froths the milk, and delivers a delicious steaming hot cup of the rich beverage.

The United Kingdom saw espresso grow in popularity among the youth in the 1950s, with the younger generation preferring either the standard form or in a cappuccino, which uses espresso, heated milk, topped with steamed milk foam. Americans favored their espresso in lattes which is a combination of espresso and steamed milk, often with a combination of different flavored syrups.

Many enjoy the bold taste espresso offers, paired with its higher caffeine content. Unlike traditional coffee, espresso is served in a smaller cup, explicitly made for the delicious beverage.

The Different Types Of Espresso Beans

The flavor and intensity of espresso can vary, with some preferring it strong and bold while others enjoy it full-flavored and smooth. Regardless of your taste preference, a delicious cup of espresso begins with high-quality beans. There are two main types of beans used in espresso, Arabica, and Robusta.

Arabica Coffe Beans

Coffee, like other plants, has wide varieties or “varietals,” as they’re called in the field, that help identify each plant. The Arabica bean comes from a species of plant called Coffea arabica, and one of its varietals like Typica, Bourbon, Heirloom, or Arabica. There are also some coffee plant hybrids created by humans that combine the Arabica and Robusta beans. In America, over 90% of all specialty coffee is Arabica or an Arabica blend since the beans are considered a higher quality than their Robusta counterparts. The Arabica coffee plant is exclusively grown in sub-tropical and tropical climates, usually at elevations of 2,000 feet or higher above sea level. It’s not uncommon to find coffee farms located 4,00 to 6,000 feet above sea level. Arabica coffee farms are located around the globe and including in countries like Guatemala, Brazil, Sulawesi, Costa Rica, Sumatra, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. When it comes to coffee exports, around 70% of all exported beans are Arabica, making it the clear frontrunner in the coffee industry.


Robusta beans come from the Canephora coffee plant and are the second most commonly cultivated coffee, second to Arabica. Robusta coffee beans are commonly used in espresso thanks to their high caffeine count, twice that of their Arabica counterpart. Although the Arabica bean is more popular, Robusta is used by many commercial coffee roasters worldwide. Before roasting, Robusta beans smell of oats or peanuts, conjuring a grainy, nutty fragrance but once roasted, they often smell burnt like plastic or rubber. Some believe they can also smell woody. Robusta coffee plants are grown in West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and India.

How To Grind Coffee Beans For Espresso

Once you choose your bean of choice, the grind of the bean is imperative. Espresso beans must be finely ground for the machine to produce a proper tasting coffee. However, if the beans are too finely ground, the coffee won’t pull properly, and it can become over-extracted. Too coarse of a grind, and the result can become watery and under-extracted. For the highest quality espresso, the beans should be ground fresh upon brewing, so it’s best to buy the whole bean and grind them yourself.

Types Of Espresso Machines

There are two main types of espresso machines, steam-driven and pump-driven.

Steam Driven Espresso Machines

Steam driven espresso machines use either steam pressure or steam to force hot water through the ground coffee to brew the espresso.

Pump Driven Espresso Machines

Pump driven espresso machines are the most popular due to their ease of use. Pump driven machines utilize a motor to create the pressure needed to force the hot water through the ground coffee. Additionally, pump driven machines may include a water reservoir link directly to on-site plumbing, making them especially popular for restaurant and cafe usage.

How To Make The Perfect Espresso Shot

Making the perfect espresso shot takes practice, but the result is more than worth the effort! To make a delicious cup of espresso, follow the directions below.

1. Pre-Warm Your Cup

Pre-warming your cup or demitasse is essential to ensure the espresso isn’t pouring into a cold glass which can affect the drinking experience.

2. Prepare Your Coffee

To prepare your coffee, select your beans. Ideally, for the best results, you should have high-quality espresso beans that are properly processed and roasted the day prior to shipping. They should be sealed in a valve-sealed bag to ensure freshness. All espresso beans should be stored whole in a cool, dark, dry place; however, never store them in a freezer or refrigerator.

3. Grind The Coffee Beans

Before brewing, grind the coffee beans, preferably in a burr grinder. Every espresso shot takes about two tablespoons or eight grams of ground coffee.

4. Pre-Warm Your Espresso Machine’s Portafilter

Before brewing, run your espresso machine’s portafilter under hot water to pre-warm it. This process is vital since a cold metal will lower the brewing temperature, which prevents it from extracting properly. Some machines automatically warm the portafilter, making the process easier.

5. Position Your Demitasse

The preferred method of pulling your espresso is pouring it directly from the spout into the demitasse. Be sure to leave it on its warming element until use.

6. Fill and Tamp The Ground Coffee

Fill the portafilter with your ground coffee and, using a twisting motion, push down or tamp them until compacted.

7. Begin Brewing

Once you’ve filled the portafilter, clamp it into the machine, ensuring the pre-warmed demitasse is in place. Now hit the brew button to start.

8. Closely Observe The Espresso Stream

Within seconds the brewed espresso will begin coming out of the spouts into the demitasse. Monitor the color and ensure it’s similar to maple syrup. You may need to make subtle changes to the brewing length for it to be the correct color.