How Espresso Machines Work? Everything Explained

How Espresso Machines Work

At the end of the 19th century, the first steam espresso machine was presented at an exhibition in Italy. She became the ancestor of the method of making coffee using pressure. At that time, it was low – about 1-2 bar, but the vector of development of this direction was chosen correctly.

A few years later, many engineers were already working on improving the old models and developing new ones. The result is obvious – electronics supermarkets and online shops offer a huge selection of coffee machines with different operating principles, costs, functions, and designs.

In Italy, there is an Espresso Institute that determines the requirements for coffee. We are most interested in the technical parameters of this document.

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To prepare a single serving of espresso, you need equipment that allows you to pour hot water (88±2 degrees) through 7±1 grams of ground coffee under the pressure of 9±1 bar for 25±5 seconds and get 25±5 ml of the drink, including foam (so-called cream). For a double espresso (50 ml), you’ll need 14 grams of ground coffee (the pressure, temperature, and time are the same as for a single espresso).

Types Of Espresso Machines

With the help of a compression espresso machine, you can prepare the most delicious coffee and drinks based on it. The principle of operation is based on the force effect on the liquid as it passes through the coffee tablet. This allows you to better extract aromatic substances into the final drink, as well as get a dense foam, which is an indicator of the quality of the espresso machine.

1. Pump Espresso Machines

Such an electric unit first appeared in the middle of the 20th century, again – in Italy. The electric drive allows you to minimize human participation in the process of making coffee. His task is to put the ground grains in a coffee grinder or a horn and turn on the device. Then the water heats up passes through a layer of compacted grains under high pressure, taking all the essential oils from them. Pump coffee makers are divided into three types – automatic, semi-automatic, and super-automatic units. The differences are in the number of boilers, the type of pump, and the functions. 

2. Super-automatic Espresso Machines

Super-automatic for brewing espresso do everything themselves. A person makes sure that there is water in the tank, and ground grains in the coffee compartment. In units with built-in coffee grinders, you still need to fill in whole grains and turn on the device. Then you can go about your business and return to the kitchen when the aroma of the finished drink will spread throughout the apartment. 

Super-automatic themselves grind, measure the desired weight of coffee, compact it, cook, pour and throw the waste into a special compartment. Professional baristas do not like such models, since creativity is not appropriate with such a machine – the unit does everything according to its settings. 

3. Steam Coffee Makers

The principle of operation of a steam coffee maker is quite primitive: 

  • The water in the tank is heated to a boil and forms steam.
  • Steam pushes water under pressure through the coffee tablet.
  • The drink falls into the cup.

The disadvantage of this method is a small pressure inside of only 1.5–2 bar. Secondly, boiling water does not work very well on the grains, and the drink will turn out with bitterness. 

4. Leverage or Manual Espresso Makers

Manual or mechanical espresso coffee maker requires special skill in the selection of the grain variety and the time of its extraction. The principle of operation of the mechanism is as follows: when the water is heated, the barista must physically press down the lever and pass the water through the tablet. 

For each variety, the operating time of the lever can be different – this is the skill of making espresso. With the help of a lever mechanical espresso machine, you can only brew coffee – the manual unit does not have any additional functions. 

Lever coffee maker is more often used at home since the speed of espresso preparation is small for coffee shops. 

Key Features To Consider In An Espresso Machine

Among manual espresso machines, some work with ground coffee, and there are capsule ones. Their advantage is the fact that the pump pressure is eight bar-this allows you to prepare a high-quality real espresso. Capsule units are small and fit in any kitchen. They are easier in terms of care, since after using the capsule, there is no debris and remnants of coffee grounds. The disadvantage is that capsule coffee is more expensive, and you cannot always buy a brew in the store. In small cities, you have to order delivery over the Internet, which increases costs. Capsule devices are profitable to buy for those people who rarely drink coffee.

For travelers, a device has been specially invented that will prepare an excellent drink without electricity in any conditions. To do this, you need ground coffee and hot water. Portable coffee makers are similar to a thermos in appearance. Coffee makers usually have a manual pump with a pressure gauge, which pumps air up to 16 bar, which is very much for making espresso. With the help of manual force, a person presses on the button, and hot water is poured through the spout. On the road, you will have to decide where to get boiling water, since the coffee maker cannot heat it. 

The operation of horn devices is based on the action of steam under high pressure. This means that the choice of the most functional coffee appliance depends on the amount of steam pressure. For home devices, it is enough that it is 4-9 bar. 

An important selection criterion is the material from which the horn and body are made. The device body can be metal or plastic, but it is better to choose a metal horn. 

Another important criterion is the capacity of the boiler, which ranges from 0.5 to 2 liters. The larger its volume, the more expensive the device will be, the larger. The most optimal size for a house is considered to be the capacity of 1 liter.

Glasses, a thermos, and even a non-spill mug are usually included in the package for travelers. Such hand-held portable mini-brewers can be safely called an espresso machine since the taste of coffee in them does not differ at all from that prepared in a cafe on an expensive unit. With so many types of coffee makers on the market, it is obvious that the choice is not so easy to make. Fortunately, there are many informative resources about manual espresso machines out there. It’s rather difficult to make the most appropriate choice considering your requirements. In this article, you can find the description of the best manual espresso machines. 

Automotive Espresso Machines

A coffee maker in the car is an opportunity to enjoy espresso for those who like to travel in the car. The device is 6-8 cm in diameter and looks like a small thermos of black color. A little more than 50 ml is placed in a water container, which is equivalent to a full serving of espresso. For brewing, the water in the coffee maker is heated by a car cigarette lighter – its power is enough. You can connect a camping espresso coffee maker with a power source with a cable. 

For motorists who travel in companies, there is an alternative-an espresso machine, into which a large volume of water is poured, designed for several people. The portable model can include an electric java or Turk. This is a mini-refrigerator in which you can heat water using an outlet. Where to find it on the road is another question. The device easily fits into a woman’s bag and has almost no weight. 

Rating Of The Best Models – Take Into Account The Opinion Of Experts

In each type of machine, there are devices of the highest class, medium, and budget models. It is difficult to choose the best of them since the same type of coffee on different machines can radically differ in taste. It is confirmed by baristas, just lovers of coffee drinks. It does not mean that some espresso machine makes the drink worse. Even the temperature of the water and the materials from which the parts are made influence the final taste. Each manufacturer produces a special set of parts made of individual materials, so espresso is different. Additionally, you can find interesting and useful information on this site.


Many people in different countries of the world start their day with a cup of fragrant espresso. This drink is deservedly popular all over the world. It is impossible to prepare it manually, since special coffee machines are used for this. But few people know that under the body of this seemingly simple device, there is a very complex design. Coffee in an automatic coffee machine is prepared in less than a minute. During this time, it is transformed from a coffee bean into a ready-made drink.