Article by: Sinjon Wicks
It’s a small beverage with an incredible amount of power. It wakes us up, gets us moving and can be the deciding factor between a good or a bad morning. Espresso is also quite complicated to master and perfect – a beverage made best by artisans of their craft on specialized equipment in an endless pursuit of the ever more elusive “god shot”. Espresso machines are no less complicated. Coffee had become a huge business across the globe by the beginning of the 20th century; but brewing an espresso was a slow and tedious process, forcing customers and patrons to either wait for their brews, or abandon them altogether.
In 1903 Luigi Bezerra filed a patent for the world’s first steam-driven espresso machine, and over the course of the next few years he refined his design, and with the help of Desiderio Pavoni, finally allowing coffee to be brewed quickly and changing the face of the coffee industry forever. In the wake of Pavoni and Bezerra’s invention – engineers and artisans across Italy made several attempts to manufacture and improve on Bezerra’s design. These craftsmen were the forefathers of the modern espresso machine, perfecting the art and science behind the perfect espresso and allowing for faster, more efficient, and ergonomic use. Giuseppe Bambi was one of this small group of craftsmen. His strong personality and a desire to create something of his own led to establishing a small workshop and business along with his brother, Bruno.
Officina Fratelli Bambi was founded in the early 20’s and had been constructing anything from
carriage lamps, bars and even train carriage interiors. In 1927, the brothers starting dabbling in
producing these early forms of espresso machines and in addition to designing the machines, the Bambi brothers manufactured each part in-house and distributed and marketed the machines themselves – an incredibly difficult process considering the trying times that Italy would face at the end of the 1920’s. When potential customers walked through the doors of the officina, they would be welcomed by Giuseppe and Bruno, along with notepads, sketchbooks and one simple question: “What do you want?”. Giuseppe and Bruno designed each piece to order, and to the customer’s exact specifications – creating truly unique pieces of art that would grace bar counters across Tuscany. Giuseppe and Bruno Bambi adopted a well renowned symbol of victory and triumph in Florence, a seated lion with the crest of the Florentine lily – the Marzocco and renamed his company La Marzocco.
During the fascist years, the amount of coffee that people consumed in Italy grew slowly, yet
steadily and this led to the need to improve the workflow and output of the coffee machine, and in1939, Giuseppe Bambi filed a patent for a machine with a horizontal boiler. This was a world-first with group heads arranged in a linear design allowing the barista to work more efficiently and safely. Following the turbulent years after the end of World War 2, La Marzocco were able to begin anew and despite constraints, continued to manufacture espresso machines from their Florentine headquarters. Over the years, La Marzocco would continue to introduce and pioneer numerous technologies, such as the dual boiler system, PID control of heating elements, saturated group heads and more. With this they saw a new expansion of the business, marking their place as a spearheading company in the sector.
Giuseppe’s son, Piero Bambi helmed the business for the next half of the 20th century, changing
integral business dynamics and elevating the company to a global level. As an example, the La
Marzocco Linea Classic was an integral part of the rise of the Starbucks franchise.
In October 2019, La Marzocco announced Accademia del Caffè Espresso. Housed in La Marzocco’s iconic industrial structure in the hills overlooking Florence, the site was managed by Giuseppe and Bruno and eventually Piero with a team of skilled craftsmen and women.
Today, Accademia is open and shares space with visitors from around the world to help generate
and cultivate passion for the traditionally Italian, and now global ritual of espresso. Accademia
houses interactive displays showcasing decades of research, a green house in which agronomists
conduct research in collaboration with universities around the world, and engineers developing and testing one-of-a-kind prototype espresso machines. Visitors can also look forward to a range of experiences, ranging from a basic latte art session to an in-depth dive into the art and science of espresso brewing.
The real magic, however, happens in the basement. Through the Accademia Project, La Marzocco
are proud to return to their roots. With the Officine Fratelli Bambi (OFB) re-opening in the basement workshop of Accademia. A small team of skilled artisans led by Lead Designer Stefano Della Pietra, OFB is once again open to welcome you with a smile, a swathe of notebooks and the simple question of “what do you want?”. Focusing on the apex of engineering and artistic excellence, OFB offer 100% bespoke espresso machines that are hand-made by these artisans. Whether you’re looking for a fleet of machines, or a one-off piece that reflects the true spirit of your space. OFB also offer a small selection of catalogue machines that are available for a limited time only. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever – replaced by the next set of beautiful, hand-crafteddesigns. A trip to Florence isn’t complete for any coffee lover without a visit to Accademia.
Photographs: La Marzocco’s Accademia Del Caffè Espresso, Florence, Italy