The extraction of bergamot oil in Calabria started around the middle of the 17th century and for much of its history, it was carried out manually; the technique, known as the “sponge” method consisted in cutting the fruit in half, extracting the pulp and then pressing the peel against a natural sponge, using a turning action of the hand so as to squeeze the essence out of the pores.

The mixture of oil and peel liquid collected in the sponge was then squeezed out into a container known as a “concolina” and the essential oil was separated out be decantation.

In 1840 Nicola Barillà invented the first system of mechanical extraction of bergamot oil although it was somewhat clumsy and not automatic.   However, Barillà and Luigi Auteri perfected the system and in 1844 presented the first model of what would be called the “Calabrian Machine”.  

The machine allowed for the extraction of high-quality essence with a much greater yield than the sponge technique had given.  This method was based on the rubbing of the surface of the fruit by two “cups”- one fixed and one rotating -  fixed with metal points and blades  which forced the essential oil out of the pores.

The same principle was later used in a “peeler” made by the “Speciali” and “Moscato” companies and still in use today, in which the “cups” are replaced by a system of rollers, discs and screws covered with abrasive stainless steel graters.

The essence squeezed out by this peeling action is collected  by the machine in a work chamber where it is sprayed with water, thus forming an emulsion.   The emulsion then passes to a centrifuge where the water is separated out and returned to the machine and the pure essential oil remains.

Moreover, during the process the fruit juice is collected which has found success in various gastronomic uses and in the food and pastry-making industries, while the “pastazzo”, the squeezed peel, is used for pectin extraction.