Wednesday, June 22, 2011

the flavor of steam technology

While cleaning out the storeroom of my boss's coffee shop the other day I came across a strange "contraption" of sorts that appeared to be straight from the pages of a Jules Verne novel:

I brought it upstairs to my office and asked my boss to identify the strange machine.  I thought it was a water boiler.

He informed me that it was not a working piece of anything- just a decoration that he bought to place on top of the espresso machine in the coffee shop, but never used because if he had placed it on the machine then there would have been no room for the ceramic cups and plates that are used in the daily operations.

images source: Bayou Renaissance Man

He then told me to find someone who will buy it to melt it down for scrap metal.

Wait, WHAT?!

I was appalled.  To destroy such a beautiful object, with intricately designed knobs and gauges, seems like blasphemy to my neo-Victorian mind.

I told him that I would try to sell it first.  I figured that either an individual looking to open a coffee shop or a steampunk enthusiast might want it.  I was even beginning to develop ideas of a steam-powered jet pack design for the espresso dome for myself.

While researching prices for this decoration I found out that espresso machines were first invented in the 19th century, and looked a great deal like this:

image source: Showplace Antique & Design Center
Apparently espresso first made its appearance on the Italian beverage scene in 1884 when Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy, built and patented the first machine, which forced hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee.  The method made a stronger coffee drink that became known as "espresso."
First espresso machine patent.  image source: Wikipedia
The drink spread in popularity throughout Europe and the U.S. in the 20th century (with Turkish coffee, an innovation of several centuries earlier, being the preferred pressurized drink of the Middle East and North Africa).

But is it really surprising that espresso, that steam-powered beverage, is a Victorian drink?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the espresso lesson! I had no idea it was also a Victorian beverage!