Back when I first started ordering espresso drinks from cafés, I was in awe of the large machines that made these delectable drinks possible. But I didn’t understand much about how they worked.
So once I started looking into getting my own home espresso machine, I figured it was time to learn more, particularly about the parts of an espresso machine.
Knowing the parts of an espresso machine is helpful for many reasons.
First, it gives you more insights into how an espresso machine works. Second, learning the parts makes the whole thing feel less intimidating. It can even let you know what to focus on when cleaning, as well as what may need replacing if your espresso machine starts acting funny.
Ultimately, more information is rarely a bad thing. With that in mind, here’s a look at what an espresso machine is, a basic overview of how it works, and the various parts of an espresso machine.
- What Is an Espresso Machine, and How Does It Work?
- Parts of an Espresso Machine
What Is an Espresso Machine, and How Does It Work?
An espresso machine is espresso-making equipment that allows you to create shots of espresso.
The concept behind how an espresso machine works is relatively straightforward. With an espresso machine, water is pulled from a reservoir and heated. Pressure builds up, too, and that’s critical for getting silky smooth espresso with a nice crema.
The hot water is forced through the espresso machine to a dispensing head. Below the dispensing head, there’s a connection point for a device that holds the ground espresso beans. As the water comes out, it saturates the coffee grounds until it’s released into an awaiting cup situated below.
Espresso machines can also have different features, each with their own functions. For example, heated water can be used to create steam for frothing or steaming milk. Some espresso machines have built-in coffee hoppers and grinders, too. However, the basics of how an espresso machine works remain largely the same.
Parts of an Espresso Machine
Many people aren’t surprised by the fact that espresso machines are complex pieces of brewing equipment, and they have a lot of different parts, each with a unique – and ridiculously important – capability.
Here is an overview of the primary espresso machine parts and functions of each piece.
Boilers in espresso machines heat the water to bring it to brew temperature. Additionally, the boiler creates steam for steaming milk. You can find both single and double-boiler espresso machines, the latter of which can heat water for espresso while letting you use the steam wand at the same time.
The pump is what moves water through an espresso machine. Generally, it comes in one of two types: vibratory or rotary. However, regardless of the type, the primary function remains the same.
The portafilter is one of the most critical parts of an espresso machine. After all, it’s where you put your espresso grounds, so you can’t make espresso without it.
There are also several portafilter parts that are worth knowing.
- The portafilter basket is what holds your ground espresso, and it has a filter screen to prevent grounds from ending up in your drink.
- The portafilter handle lets you handle the filter safely.
- While the portafilter filter spring keeps the basket in place.
Also called the brew head or brew group, the group head is where the portafilter connects to the espresso machine. The group head parts are where the magic happens. The group head is what dispenses water from the boiler to let it pass through the espresso in the portafilter.
The water reservoir is a container that holds your water before you start brewing. When brewing starts, water is pulled from the water tank into the boiler, allowing the amount you need to get heated.
If you’re making espresso drinks like lattes, the steam wand on your espresso machine will quickly become your best friend. It’s a small, pipe-like protrusion that dispenses steam so that you can steam or froth milk.
Hot Water Tap
Many espresso machines have a built-in hot water tap. This is simply a dispenser that lets you get hot water through the espresso machine, and it’s really handy for making Americanos or other espresso drinks that require extra hot water added to the beverage.
The pressure gauge on an espresso machine helps you quickly assess the pressure of the water as it’s passing through the coffee. In most cases, 9 bars (about 130 psi) is the standard used by baristas in cafés, making it a good target.
For anyone who hates messes, the drip tray is a handy part of an espresso machine. It helps catch errant drips when brewing or steaming, ensuring they don’t end up on your counter.
When it comes to espresso machine parts and accessories, the tamper is critical. It’s the small, handheld device that lets you pack your espresso in the portafilter, leading to better water dispersion and saturation during brewing.
A bean grinder is not found on all espresso machines, but they are handy when they’re present. The grinder allows you to freshly grind your coffee beans before every use.
However, you can also get freshly ground beans by using a separate grinder, so it’s not a big deal if your espresso machine doesn’t have one built-in.
A bean hopper is a container that stores coffee beans above the coffee bean grinder. It’s only present on espresso machines with built-in grinder, and it’s usually conical or cylindrical in shape to ensure beans feed into the grinder correctly.
Dosing systems are usually found on espresso machines with built-in grinders. The dosing system lets you dispense a specific amount of espresso into the portafilter for brewing. Many are adjustable, allowing you to alter how much is released or used based on the desired flavor and strength of your espresso.
What Are the Espresso Handle Things Called?
In most cases, if a person is trying to figure out the name of the espresso machine part with a handle, they’re referring to the portafilter.
What Is the Steamer Called on an Espresso Machine?
The steamer on an espresso machine is called a steam wand.
What Is Another Name for a Portafilter?
While “portafilter” is the most commonly used term for that part of an espresso machine, it may also be called a “filter holder.”
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- About the Author
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Catherine Reed is a freelance writer and coffee enthusiast. She has been a lover of coffee, espresso, and various café-style concoctions for more than 20 years, and enjoys exploring everything the world of coffee has to offer. Whether it’s trying out new coffee technologies or exploring small-batch creations from independent micro-roasters, Catherine is open to any coffee experience, and aims to share everything she’s learned with discerning readers interested in leveling up their coffee game.