At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Angelo Moriondo - espresso machine pioneer

Bar and hotel owner invented way to make coffee faster


Angelo Moriondo owned a hotel and a prestigious  bar in the centre of Turin
Angelo Moriondo owned a hotel and a prestigious
bar in the centre of Turin
Angelo Moriondo, the man credited with inventing the world’s first espresso coffee machine, died on this day in 1914 in Marentino, a town in Piedmont, about 20km (12 miles) east of Turin.

Moriondo, who was 62 when he passed away, was the owner of the Grand-Hotel Ligure in Turin’s Piazza Carlo Felice and the American Bar in the former Galleria Nazionale on Via Roma.

He came up with the idea of a coffee machine essentially in the hope of gaining an edge over his competition at a time when coffee was a hugely popular beverage across Europe and in Italy in particular, but which still depended on brewing methods that required the customer to wait five minutes or more to be able to raise a cup to his mouth.

Moriondo figured that if he could find a way to make multiple cups of coffee simultaneously he would be able to serve more customers more quickly. He hoped that word would then get round in Turin’s commercial district that his bars were the ones to go if the pressures of business did not allow time for leisurely breaks.

The design for his machine for which Moriondo  was granted a patent in 1884
The design for his machine for which Moriondo
was granted a patent in 1884
He never contemplated industrial-scale production of his invention, his ambitions never extending beyond the needs of his own businesses and, unlike later espresso machines, his device was not designed for making individual cups.

But experts say that his invention was undoubtedly the first to use water and pressurised steam to accelerate the coffee-making process and it was therefore reasonable to declare it to be the world’s first espresso machine.

Moriondo was delighted with it but missed a fantastic opportunity to become the person whose name is synonymous with coffee machines.

He presented his invention at the General Expo of Turin in 1884, where it was awarded the bronze medal.  It was awarded a patent for a period of six years on May 16, 1884 under the title of "New steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage, method ‘A. Moriondo’."

The machine consisted of a large boiler that pushed heated water through a large bed of coffee grounds, with a second boiler producing steam that would flash the bed of coffee and complete the brew.

One of Desiderio Pavoni's early espresso machines
One of Desiderio Pavoni's early espresso machines
Conceiving and creating this matchine was an unprecedented achievement. Yet Moriondo did nothing to commercialise the idea and it was left to two others, the Milanese duo Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni, to tweak his method and repackage it for the market place.

Moriondo limited himself to the construction of a few hand-built, machines which he jealously kept under lock and key at one house or another, convinced that advertising them was a bad idea.

Within a couple of years, Bezzerra and Pavoni had developed a machine that could produce up to 1,000 cups an hour, brewing an individual shot of espresso.

Moriondo made a comfortable living from his business ventures, following in the family’s footsteps as an entrepreneur, but could have been both wealthier and more famous had he seen the potential in what he had created.

The Via Roma in modern Turin
The Via Roma in modern Turin
Travel tip:

Turin was once the capital of Italy and its shopping streets reflect its former prestige, with 18km (11 miles) of arcades. A key shopping area is around Via Roma.  As well as the high street names, shops feature specialists in chocolate, fashion, and antiquarian books and records.

Travel tip:

The small town of Marentino really consists of three ancient villages – Marentino, Avuglione and Vernone. It is well known for its locally produced honey.  Marentino is built on a hill with the church of Maria Vergine, which has a baroque façade and a substantial bell tower, at its pinnacle. An interesting feature of the town is the number of houses whose walls are decorated with colourful murals, the result of a project in 2005 involving 20 artists from all over Italy.






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