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History of La Pavoni

Milan, 1905. In a small workshop in Via Parini, the engineer Mr Desiderio Pavoni was working on the project of what was to become the first bar coffee machine. Our monograph, which was conceived with the purpose of celebrating this significant anniversary, is designed to illustrate the crucial stages of this Pavoni adventure that is now one hundred years old. We are not only celebrating a technological innovation – and incidentally we have seen an amazing number of these throughout this last century – but also what we venture to describe as a “cultural innovation”. Back to the last decades of the nineteenth century: English, German and American design engineers started to design and manufacture coffee machines meant for commercial businesses. The drink obtained with these early machines however far from resembled the first cup of coffee obtained with l’Ideale, that is the first Pavoni machine.
The coffee produced by the Pavoni machines is called “espresso”, because of the specific feature they display in producing up to 150 cups of coffee per hour. As from 1905, “Espresso” was to become a synonym for tasty and strong Italian coffee. “Espresso” was one of those words which the world would have found impossible to translate into other languages, because an “espresso” – just as “pizza” and “pasta” – is only Italian! With “La Pavoni”, a legend was born.
The history of this company was therefore also to become the history of a myth and of its exportation, intimately related to the perception, and maybe to the stereotype, of our country in the world.
Desiderio Pavoni was not probably aware of the cultural impact of what had only been an investment in the beginning – possibly displaying a touch of irresponsibility too, as brilliant ideas usually do – based on a project by Luigi Bezzera. Desiderio Pavoni certainly would not have hoped for his machines to become an object of worship within one hundred years.
By reading the Gazette of 13 January 1904, we learn about the transfer of the industrial patent covering the coffee machine designed by Luigi Bezzera to Desiderio Pavoni: “… it is hereby made known to the public that the industrial patent having the heading “Innovation in equipment designed to instantly prepare and serve coffee as a drink”, originally issued in the name of Mr Luigi Bezzera, in Milano, as per certificate dated 5 June 1902, entry no. 61707 of the General Register, has been fully transferred with the related complementary certificate, no. 62434, to Mr Desiderio Pavoni, in Milan, following full transfer through private deed undersigned in Milan on 1 September, 1902, duly registered at the state office of Milan on 19 September, 1903, entry no. 5982, volume 1297, Private Deeds, and produced for endorsement to the Milan Prefecture on 1 October, 1903, at 3.30. p.m.” Besides being an interesting historical document, this publication reveals the real innovatory nature of Luigi Bezzera’s project. The heading of the patent contains two key words that enable us to better appreciate the context within which the coffee machine was born. Let us first talk about the “innovation”: over the last few years of the nineteenth century the first coffee machines had already started to appear in English and German commercial businesses. The machines were very attractive as far as appearance was concerned but were rather primitive from a technological standpoint: they were simply large boilers with a spout from which boiling water was poured out. The taste of the drink obtained in this way, which was of course appreciated in the Northern countries of origin, did not have anything to do with that of black and strong coffee Italian people were used to. So, what was the innovation involved with? This answer is also provided by the heading of the patent through the word “instantly”. The machine was no longer to supply hot water to which coffee was to be added, but a strong and delicious drink ready for tasting.
The concept stressed here is “speed”, another key term for the century that had just begun.
Let us analyse more carefully the project of this first vertical machine, which looked like a huge cylinder with two taps; this large cylinder was in fact a steam-operated machine with a brass boiler, which was heated and kept under constant pressure by a gas stove placed under the boiler, and side delivery units to which supports were hooked, inside which the filter for ground coffee was housed.
By turning a knob, boiling water and steam went through the ground coffee contained in the filter at a 1.5 atm. pressure: you only had to wait one minute, and coffee would drip straight into the cup, ready to be served. Luigi Bezzera was undoubtedly a very skilled designer, but he never developed his invention. Unfortunately, confidence in technological progress and entrepreneurship, which as we have seen were the two key elements of early-twentieth-century Zeitgeist, need not coexist in a single individual. It was indeed the far-sighted nature of Desiderio Pavoni – owner of Caffè Commercio in Piazza Duomo and of a few cinemas in Milan – that expressed confidence in the future success of that patent.
Desiderio Pavoni purchased Luigi Bezzera’s company in 1904 and initially did not change its name, as we can see from documentation relating to the Milan trade fair of 1906, where the sign still provides for the words “Bezzera L. Caffè Espresso”; this was possibly the last tribute before indissolubly binding the destiny of coffee machines to the Pavoni name.

Since the middle of the eighties, the company has been studying new ideas and creating panels in thermoplastic materials, speeding up the production cycle considerably. Great attention has been paid to ergonomics, as well as to research into new technological developments.
In the commercial market, besides the traditional lever and semiautomatic machines, some electronic, some with volumetric dosing, and other reliable models have been introduced.
The same principles are also applied to the domestic machines, which include a wide range of models enabling the preparation of excellent coffee at home.
Leaders in domestic machines, the Europiccola and Professional represent a co-ordination of elegance, quality, and reliability; manufactured since 1961, these machines will never be out of fashion; the Professional is exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
On 29 January 1999 La Pavoni obtained the UNI EN ISO 9001 certification (number 9130 PAV2) and IQ Net – registration number IT-8070 issued by the competent Certification Institutes and the conformity to the norms ISO 9001:2000 of 14 November 2003.


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