Espresso originated in Italy. In fact, the word espresso is the Italian word for fast. Espresso is a drink that results from forcing water through finely ground coffee resulting in a full extraction of coffee flavor. This result was not always easy to attain, however, as espresso machines have come a long way since their beginning.
Espresso, as we know it today, originated at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1901, Luigi Bezzera built a coffee machine that had a boiler and four divisions. This machine forced steam and boiling water through coffee and into the cup. This machine is considered the beginning of espresso.
In 1903, Bezzera's patent was purchased by Desiderio Pavoni, and in 1905 the Pavoni Company started to manufacture machines based on Bezzera's patent. The "La Pavona" machines became very popular, reaching the United States in 1927.
These early machines had their flaws. The steam and boiling water that was forced through the machine gave the coffee a burnt flavor. So, in 1938, Cremonesi developed a piston pump that forced hot water through the coffee rather than boiling water. This design was used in Achille Gaggia's coffee bar. World War II hindered any further development of espresso machines, as a bomb destroyed Gaggia's small quantity of machines.
After the war, however, Gaggia started manufacturing a commercial piston pump. This machine was innovative for its use of a spring lever. This spring lever was able to apply pressure to coffee that was completely independent of the boiler. The earlier machines forced the water through the coffee through the force of the boiler pressure. The coffee produced from this machine featured a creama—the hallmark of espresso. This was the beginning of the espresso machine as we know it today.
An improvement of Gaggia's machine was made in 1961 by M. Faema. Faema created a machine with an electric pump that forced water through the coffee. This machine marks the beginning of the pump-driven machines from which all modern espresso machines are derived from.