As you enjoy your UKVending espresso today you probably won’t know who to thank for making it possible. The name of Achille Gaggia is one that holds an honoured status in his native Italy but in Great Britain his name is sadly little more than a footnote in the history of our insatiable thirst for coffee.
Achille Gaggia was born in 1875 in the beautiful city of Milan. He had a conventional childhood and eventually started working in the city’s bars and restaurants where coffee had for many years become a staple of the Italian diet. Gaggia searched for ways to make the coffee experience unique and different and on 5 September 1938 he filed a patent for a steam-free coffee machine. The machine marked the modern age of espresso. The difference over previous designs that used steam was that his device incorporated a revolutionary piston mechanism which forced water through the coffee grounds at high pressure. His machine was also quicker than previous designs and produced a single espresso shot in just 15 seconds! When asked what inspired him to use a piston Gaggia is reported to have said he was watching the engine of an American Army jeep and it came to him.
Gaggia’s invention transformed the use of commercial machines in bars and restaurants because the process produced a ‘crema’ – a natural layer of coffee oils that resembled foam on the surface of the coffee. This gave the espresso shots a unique intense aroma and taste. Bars and restaurants around his native Milan were soon clamouring for more machines and Gaggia effectively started the espresso craze that continues to this day.
In 1948 Gaggia enhanced his design with commercial examples being exported to the United States, Africa and Europe including the United Kingdom. He even invented one for use in the home and it was christened Gilda after a classic film noir movie starring the Hollywood great Rita Hayworth. Another Italian Hollywood legend Gina Lollobrigida was chosen to open London’s first espresso bar – Moka on Firth Street in Soho which soon became the place to see celebrities and to be seen too with the likes of Beat legend William Burroughs, Lucien Freud, Quentin Crisp and artist Francis Bacon all enjoying espressos.
Here at UKVending our machines allow you to enjoy wonderful full flavoured espressos with modern technology derived from Gaggia’s original work. We can only hope that he would have approved of how technology has taken all the hard work out of making a delicious shot of espresso.