An exhibition at the Italian Cultural Institute in the Danish capital on the occasion of Italian Design Day, from 7 to 31 March, celebrates coffee to recount the evolution of design around one of Italy's best-loved symbols around the world

Hot, cold, bitter, sweet, burnt, perfumed, roasted: how many ways can you say coffee? Dark beans that involve all the senses: taste (the flavour), smell (the aroma), touch (the temperature), sight (the colour), hearing (the sounds and voices). Like voices? Does coffee speak? It does not speak, but it is inextricably linked to conviviality, to sharing with others, to discussion and chatting in bars and clubs that take their name and become 'the cafés'.

The origins

The origins of Italian-style espresso are to be found in Turin. It was here in 1884 (the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy) that Angelo Moriondo, an entrepreneur and inventor, patented a machine to produce instant coffee for his customers, without, however, exploiting the invention on an industrial level. Two years later, Desiderio Pavoni, founder of La Pavoni, put into production and marketed a chrome-plated brass espresso coffee machine. The next stage leading to modern bar espresso coffee dates back to 1938: Achille Gaggia invented the pressure espresso machine (until then, the machine worked with steam). The moka, on the other hand, was invented by Alfonso Bialetti, who in 1933 proposed a model of coffee maker for making coffee on the cooker at home that every Italian family still has in its kitchen today.

Espresso coffee: an international exhibition

For the first time, this all-Italian passion for espresso coffee is the focus of an exhibition that tells the story of how the design and technology of coffee objects have evolved over time. 45 home and bar machines, sets and coffee cups are on display at Passione italiana: l'arte dell'espresso at the Italian Cultural Institute in Copenhagen from 7 to 31 March on the occasion of Italian Design Day, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Lifestyle tutto italiano

Si tratta di pezzi storici, alcuni introvabili ed esemplari unici, selezionati a cura di Elisabetta Pisu che raccontano i cambiamenti nel corso del tempo della produzione e del consumo, e permettono di cogliere quanto sia cresciuta nell’immaginario collettivo la rilevanza sociale di un gesto che oggi il mondo lega al lifestyle e ai riti del quotidiano italiano.

Social and cultural rite

"Innovation, creativity and design," explains the curator, "have accompanied the evolution of bar machines, coffee makers and tableware over these two centuries, identifying espresso coffee as a social and cultural rite, a symbol of Italian-ness and made in Italy. Through these objects, we take a journey through time that allows us to understand how habits, gestures and, together with these, the relevance and emotional impact of coffee have changed."

Two centuries of history

The objects on display trace a historical path over the last two centuries between coffee makers born from the creativity of great designers, becoming icons of an era, and more recent pieces made with new technologies that have transformed the production processes and raised quality standards. A journey through time that recounts incessant research to improve technology, ergonomics of objects and consumption of one of the most popular and consumed beverages.

Among design and innovation

The pieces on display bear the signatures of some of the greatest artists and masters of Italian and international design, the result of an in-depth reinterpretation of form and function. They range from Alessandro Mendini's Oggetto Banale for the 1980 Venice Biennial to Gaetano Pesce's creative and off-beat interpretation of the Vesuvio moka pot, to creations that mark the encounter between architecture and design with Aldo Rossi, Massimiliano Fuksas, Richard Sapper, Michele De Lucchi and the illy Art Collection series of cups decorated by contemporary artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Tradition and modernity

There are numerous unobtainable pieces on display, such as the first moka pot produced by Bialetti, patented in 1933 in Omegna. An evolution that goes hand in hand with cutting-edge technological research when it comes to professional machines, with the presence of models from historic brands such as Gaggia, Faema, La Cimbali and domestic machines equipped with innovative systems, such as A modo mio, produced by Lavazza that interfaces with Alexa.

Top photo: Model E-61, Faema, Milan, 1961, MUMAC, Museo della Macchina. Courtesy of MUMAC.