How an espresso machine works?

For those who are an everyday coffee drinker, espresso is what they prefer most. It is the purest cleansing form of the bean, meaning a literal core of that particle. In other thought, this drink is also the first instant coffee. Before it came, it needed up to five minutes to brew a proper cup.

People who are not somehow involved in the profession of coffee making, for them an espresso machine might be something difficult to understand to some extent. But still, it is worth knowing how they work because this will help you to make a better cup of coffee. For example, you should know that there are three types of machines which can prepare this creamy drink. And they are- semi-automatic, fully automatic, and super-automatic.

In the matter of quality of this particular beverage, each type of device has the potential to pull an equally great shot of crème coffee. Remember that the more “super” these machines become, the fewer steps you have to perform while operating the gear.

In this article, you will find the proper explanation about how an espresso machine works. Also, if you want to know about the best commercial super-automatic espresso machine then you can check out another article of ours. It might be useful for you.

Table of contents

  1. A few key terms to know about
  2. How do espresso machines work?
  3. Types of coffee makers

A few key terms to know about


In the world of an espresso machine, the portafilter is where you put your ground coffee. It is a kind of a filter as the name says. While you make an espresso, the water is forced through the portafilter at the ideal pressure and temperature to make a decent espresso.

Dialing in

This is a coffee jargon for adjusting specific parameters of the brewing process in order to get the best result. This can mean the grind size, tamp, or amount of coffee used while making espresso.


This word means “compressing the coffee into the portafilter” so that the water will not flow right through the coffee grounds. A good tamp means, it will create the necessary control, will prevent water channeling, and it will also help to soften more solids.

Bars of pressure

In this context, a bar means the unit of measurement for the pressure at which your coffee will be extracted. Common knowledge suggests that a proper espresso needs to be extorted at 9 bars of pressure, which is 130 PSI.

How do espresso machines work?

Below you will find the list of attachments that can be found inside an espresso maker and how they work.

Control panel

In recent days, most machines have a lit control panel feature, with the exception of the lever espresso machines. They are mostly operated by hand. Usually, the control panel has an on or off light-switch and a temperature light that says when the water is hot enough to extract the shot of espresso.

The panel should also have a valve to maintain the flow of steam into the steaming or frothing wand. The higher-end machines normally have more lights and indicators which will help you to measure the pressure and temperature more accurately for pulling quality shots.

The reservoir

Every espresso machine should have a water delivery system which is called the reservoir. In the case of lower-end machines, the reservoir is a container that is removable from the machine which you can fill up with water by your hand. The commercial espresso makers and some of the higher-end individual espresso makers are fitted to be plumbed into your household’s water system.

The water in the reservoir tends to remain cool or neutral temperature. Once it leaves, heat and pressure are applied in the reservoir and the water is pulled into the pump and the boiler.

The pump

The pump of an espresso maker draws water out of the reservoir and pumps it into the heating chamber at high pressure. The required pressure is 9 to 15 bars.

A bar is known to be a simple measurable unit of pressure equivalent to 100,000 newtons per square meter or approximately one atmosphere. And an atmosphere means a unit of pressure equal to mean atmospheric pressure at sea level. This can be very confusing for some when they decide to buy an espresso machine for the first time.

The boiler

This part is compelling because this is where the heating process of the pressurized water happens. The boiler is known to be a metal chamber that contains a warm component built into the bottom of it. This thing we are talking about is a spiraling filament that gets hot in the presence of electricity.

This item is embedded in the plaster or other materials very often in order to grow its longevity. The boiler has a one-way valve that allows water into the compartment of the maker from the pump, but it will not actually allow the water to go back into the pump. And the water then goes to the Grouphead.

The Grouphead

This is the element that gives the hot, pressurized water to the bed of coffee that tends to lie waiting in the portafilter. Usually, the portafilter unit solidly fits into the element that has this part.

You will find many tiny holes within the component for the purpose of making an equal, cross-sectional flow of water onto the ground coffee. Every traditional espresso machine contains this feature. Also, know that commercial machines often have more than one.


We have already discussed a bit about this feature above. To know more you should keep in mind that this is the removable part of the espresso maker that holds the ground coffee. A handle, a body, a basket, and a two-pronged spout makes a portafilter.

Inside, the ground coffee is formed and packed. This particular feature is then fastened to the Grouphead component in order to create a seal. Below the basket, you will find two spouts from which the espresso actually comes out and flows into your warm cup.

Types of coffee makers

Thermal Coffee Makers (electric)

This machine is directly related to the insulated part of the jar. The main fact of this device is that the coffee is straightly going to pour in the Thermal carafe which helps to control the temperature for a long time without losing its fragrance and taste, whereas, in a normal machine that makes coffee, the beverage directly goes to the cup or glass jar. And very soon this will make your drink cold and not suitable for drinking.

Drip Coffee Makers (electric)

These models have been a popular staple of American households due to a combination of easy-to-use, affordability, longevity, and the capacity of quickly making coffee for one to four coffee drinkers at a time. They are affordable and reliable.

Espresso machines (electric)

Yes, the espresso machines might cost a little more than other types of household brewers and tend to be choosier and labor-intense. But you will feel its worth as an espresso admirer, once you get your technique down in the right direction and are able to successfully extract the rich, delicious shots of brew just like your favorite coffee shop.

Percolators (electric)

If you own one of these, then you already know that they are fun to watch and to listen to as they steam away during the brewing process. They also produce a constant warm and flavorful pot of coffee. These models were replaced in a mass way by drip brewers in plenty of households. And the reason might be because of having more parts to bring together and clean than drip brewers.

French Press Coffee Makers (manual)

They are also known as a ‘press pot’ or ‘plunger pot’. They are easy to use, easy to clean, and you can carry them with you whenever you travel. The machine tends to use a mesh metal filter. This filter allows all the coffee’s flavor oils to get inside the cup of yours, which also means getting trapped in a paper filter during brewing.

Siphon Coffee Makers (electric)

These products, also known as vacuum pot coffee makers, might not be a practical choice for everyday use, as they have many vulnerable parts and the unusual amount of time and labor it takes to brew each pot. Those who have used these machines, vouch for the fact that they produce great tasting coffee. These models are also great as a showpiece when you have houseguests.

AeroPress (manual)

The AeroPress looks like a giant syringe and allows the user to make unusually smooth espresso-like coffees by hand without an expensive and cumbersome machine. The Aeropress is simple to use, easy to clean, and small enough to take with you on your travels.

Cold Brew Coffee Makers (Manual)

The specific great coffee maker is an easy and reliable brewer that constantly makes an amazingly delicious coffee which can be refrigerated for later use. They are also called cold-water-extract, as cold brew coffee can be diluted and spilled over ice or heated like regular coffee. A good advantage of having this product is that they produce a less acidic drink than other types of devices.

Moka Pot Coffee Makers (stovetop)

This is a simple and cost-effective alternative to a fully-made home espresso machine. It usually produces a thick, rich, and flavorful brew that goes along great with creamers, flavored syrups or frothy steamed milk. The Moka pot is known to be a favorite brewing machine of campers who enjoy brewing on a camping stove or over the fire.


These are especially famous for the coffee foam it produces, but the flavor of the coffee isn’t that strong.

Vietnamese Coffee Makers (manual)

Those who prefer their coffee to be sweet and cold over ice, they should purchase this coffee maker. Vietnamese coffee usually has the addition of condensed milk or cream and sugar to get the perfect cup of rich, sweet, and iced coffee.


There you go! We sincerely hope that this article has helped to clear up any confusion you might have had about espresso machines and how they work in reality. If you are still trying to make a decision whether or not to buy your own individual espresso machine, this above-discussed information might shed some light so that you have an idea of what you should look for as you browse.

Yes, the process of running hot water through compact coffee may sound simple, but inside these little machines, there’s a lot going on. It seems you made the right choice to learn more about these complicated processes.

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