You don't need to have been hostel bunkmates with a Rubik's Cube-loving Bavarian named Putzi to know that Europe has just a tiny bit of a "thing" with espresso. Seattle may indeed be the city that brought coffee culture to the unassuming masses, but there are few things more emblematic of pan-European culture than the bitter embrace of an espresso.
Hell, a ranking of the top coffee-consuming nations is basically a meeting of the European Union—the Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden are numbers one, two, and three in java consumption. The US ranks a resoundingly unimpressive 16th place.
Given all that, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the European Union is looking into not only modernizing the largely unchanged method for brewing espresso, but is putting its money behind the project. The European Commission has committed to spending €1.6 million (about $1.8 million) to create an "eco-efficient and healthy" espresso machine.
As odd as it may seem, little has changed in the general conceit of the espresso machine since the first patent for one was filled in Italy back in 1884. That means modern espresso machines aren't ecologically exemplary when they make an average doppio. The biggest problems are lots of wasted heat and the presence of trace metals, thanks to lead-pipe leaching.
The EU has provided a grant to a Spanish company named Iberital to develop an efficient espresso maker—one that will spew out "environmentally and socially responsible coffee" as opposed to the stuff Europeans are now drinking. Iberital has been working on a model with "lead-free materials, energy efficiency, and internet connectivity."
During upcoming phases of the product development, Iberital is expected to scale up, certify the machine in the EU and several non-union countries, and prepare to distribute the new machine, which is called ECOBREW.
Baristas are probably not the first people one would expect to solve our environmental ills, but that just might be changing.