Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the era of spirit-burning machines was bringing us close to the age of modern espresso as we know it today. In 1884, Angelo Moriondo filed a patent and produced a very small number of machines featuring a burner at the bottom of an upright boiler. His machine was equipped with water level and steam pressure gauges, as well as a safety valve and a quick-mount handle. His design allowed the operator (the word barista wouldn’t come into regular usage until the 1930s) control of the amount of water and steam used in the brewing process. BH researcher Tom Hopkinson explains,
‘The most original feature of his machine was separate controls for the supply of water and steam to the coffee. This allowed a measured volume of water to be loaded into the brewing chamber, before a puff of steam was used to push the liquid out, finishing the extraction and leaving a dry puck.’
Angel Moriondo’s 1884 patent. The Italian text, translated into English: ‘New steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage method’
By the end of the 20th Century, food historians had lost touch with Moriondo and his machines were long forgotten. As far as we know, none of Moriondo’s machines survive, but his patent (shown above) was uncovered by machine collector and author Ian Bursten in 1991. Many years after this key discovery, collector, Sebastien DelPrat found several patent renewals which Moriondo had continued to lodge up until his death in 1913 as well as two pictures which Delprat is certain show us Moriondo’s machine, on display at the Torino trade show of 1898. As Delprat explains in this article, authored by Bursten with an excerpt by Delprat, these could be the only surviving photos of Moriondo’s revolutionary machines.
These days, historians argue over whether Moriondo’s design was ‘the first’ espresso machine. We can at least say,