The Invention of Cappucino

By Nene Adams on Wednesday, July 17, 2013
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“Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.” —Edward Abbey

In a Nutshell

In 1938, Achille Gaggia, a café owner in Milan, made improvements on the espresso machine. His unique, modern design ideas eventually led to the invention of steamed milk. Adding cream or milk to coffee wasn’t a new idea, but the peaked, extravagantly frothy topping on cappuccino as we know it today evolved in post-war Italian cafés in the 1950s.

The Whole Bushel

Historians agree that folklore aside, coffee as a beverage got its start in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). At some point in the 15th century, an unknown Ethiopian or Arabic genius first brewed the ground beans. Coffee rapidly spread across the world thanks to merchants catering to the public’s newfound love of the drink’s stimulating effect.

By the late 19th century, since brewing could take up to five minutes, street vendors of coffee couldn’t keep up with the demand from impatient customers. In 1884, Angelo Moriondo filed a patent for a new steam machine that speeded up the process, but delivered an inferior tasting drink. Luigi Bezzerra solved the problem in 1901, creating a machine that served an improved cup of coffee—caffeé espresso—in seconds. But it was finally the efforts of Gaggia that gave us the modern cup we now know so well.

A very popular coffee based drink composed of espresso, hot milk, and steamed milk froth, cappuccino has become as popular in the U.S. as it’s always been in Europe thanks to artisan coffee shops and chains on every corner. The Austrians, Germans, French, Italians, and Swedes have all staked a claim to cappuccino’s invention.

Show Me The Proof

SeriousEats: Cappuccino History
Smithsonian: History of the Espresso Machine
New York Times: History of Coffee