This will amaze you: The market for coffee is the second largest in the world, after the trade in oil! Sometimes steel and grain jump ahead of coffee; sometimes they fall behind. We were told this when I visited the Lavazza Training Center in Turin, Italy, two years ago. The people of the world love coffee more than almost anything else. Did you have even an inkling or intimation?

It’s no wonder that humankind’s most persistent activity over the past few hundred years has been inventing new ways of making coffee. How many coffeemakers you have at home depends on 1) your age, 2) your love of coffee, 3) your love of toys, and 4) your total inability to throw anything out. I get high scores in all four. But most important is factor number five–call it the spiritual factor, if you must. Have you ever felt that coffee-in the roaster or the grinder, in the can or in the bag, in the coffeemaker or the cup-nearly always smells better than it tastes? This is the cause of our eternal torment and discontent, us coffee lovers. We never stop searching for the impossible, for a way to drink the heady, complex, incomparable aroma of coffee. That is why we buy 18 coffeepots and are always ready to buy another. And why so many of us turn to espresso.

Why espresso? Because it has the potential to deliver more of the incredible taste and aroma of roasted coffee than any other method. Espresso is not a kind of bean, a method of roasting, or a particular grind. It is a way of making a cup of coffee. A proto- type device was introduced in Paris in the mid-1800s. It works by ket (also known as the brewing basket or portafilter or filter holder) before attaching it to my machine. How hard should I press? Should I tap the basket sideways to dislodge stray particles of coffee and then press them down again? Should I just press, or press and twist? What if the top of the compressed coffee is perfectly flat and smooth but slanted? As time passed, I began to feel that obsessions like these were unhealthy and twisted.

From the Book “It Must Have Been Something I Ate” by Jeffrey L. Steingarten