Important dates in modern coffee connoisseurship


American coffee roasters start blending cheap Robusta beans, high in caffeine but low in flavor, with their traditional Arabica coffee. The vast majority of Americans are brewing canned ground coffee in percolators.


Giovanni Achille Gaggia patents the modern espresso machine.

Early 1950s

Gaggia's machines start showing up in Greenwich Village Italian cafes. New York bohemians take up espresso.


Ambrose Pasquini opens Moka d'Oro, L.A.'s first cafe using a Gaggia espresso machine, at 1712 N. Vermont Ave. Robinson's department store advertises a more primitive home espresso maker, the Nova Caffe.


Coffee House Positano opens in Malibu, initiating Southern California's beatnik coffee house era. Thirty more espresso joints open in the following year.


Peak use of Robusta beans by coffee companies, followed by a 25-year decline in American coffee consumption.


The 1962 International Trade Agreement is signed, the first of a series of five-year agreements that cartelize coffee production. They stifle the market for specialty coffees until the agreement breaks down in 1989.


In "The Ipcress File," Michael Caine's hip spy character Harry Palmer uses a Chemex filter coffee maker, reflecting the growing dissatisfaction with ordinary coffee.


Peet's Coffee, Tea and Spices opens in Berkeley selling specialty coffees; popularizes a relatively dark roast. In New York, Zabar's revives interest in specialty coffees; uses a light roast.


Introduction of Mr. Coffee drip coffee maker, which helps wean Americans away from the percolator.


Hills Bros. introduces European Style Coffees flavored with cocoa, cinnamon and coconut, spawning the flavored coffee trend.


Starbucks, a Seattle coffee merchant which had recently acquired Peet's, becomes a chain of coffee houses.

Late 1980s

Caffe latte becomes popular; in a Far Side cartoon, one cowboy offers another a mug, saying, "Latte, Jed?" Proportion of latte to caffe rises year by year.


Starbucks promotes the Frappuccino, a slushy drink of coffee, milk and ice. The ice-blended era begins; coffee shops more and more resemble 1940s soda fountains.

Late 1990s

A sizable wave of serious local coffee roasters.


Fifteen percent of adult Americans have a cup of specialty coffee every day.

— Charles Perry