Espresso machines are the aeroplane cockpit of coffee machines – they have so many buttons and toggles which do so many things and to the untrained eye, it can become confusing.
With this guide, we’ll run through each part of an espresso machine, their names and what their purpose is (and whether you actually need to know how to use it!).
Parts of an Espresso Machine and their function
We’ll run through the key components of an espresso machine below:
The group head, also known as the brewing head, puts the water from the espresso machine into the portafilter basket. This part of the espresso machine is actually responsible for the espresso itself.
The portafilter looks like a metal basket with small holes in the bottom, attached to a handle. This basket is where the ground coffee is placed.
The portafilter is then fitted onto the coffee machine, and water is passed through the ground coffee and out of the fine holes, allowing pure, filtered espresso to come out of the (usually 2) spouts underneath the basket into a mug.
A portafilter basket can come in different sizes, allowing you to add more or less ground coffee into the basket to pull one or two espressos at a time.
A drip tray is a small tray that sits underneath the coffee machine spout and is usually what you rest your mug on. Trays like these are always useful – they keep your worktop tidy and spillage-free, if you do accidentally knock over or spill some coffee.
This tray is removable and will need regular cleaning, depending on the amount of coffee you make and how often you see spillages.
Hot Water Tap
The hot water tap dispenses near-boiling water from either a back tank or from the mains (if it is attached to the mains).
This water allows you to make black coffees and americano’s without having to boil a kettle. It will need to be topped up continuously in order to allow the machine to work.
The pressure gauge, also known as the sight glass, shows the measurements from the boiler indicating the overall health of the espresso machine, as well as showing you the pressure and temperature measurements.
Not every espresso machine will have a pressure gauge, but those that do will allow more experienced coffee makers to see in detail how their machine is performing.
This part of the espresso machine is typically located above the drip tray, off to one side of the machine. The steam wand is what is used when heating and frothing your milk.
Using the steam/hot water dial, you turn it on to begin the process of frothing. You place the end of the steam wand into your jug of milk and allow it time to steam.
If your favourite coffees consist of cappuccinos and lattes, then this attribute on an espresso machine is important for you!
The bean hopper is typically a plastic or glass container on top of or on the back of the espresso machine. Within the bean hopper is where your coffee beans are stored, which is often above the inbuilt coffee grinder.
On the bean hopper is usually where the adjustable burr ring is found, which allows you to make your coffee grounds finer or coarser.
This chamber is usually found next to the coffee bean grinder which stores the ground coffee – this ground coffee is then placed into the portafilter.
The buttons which control this chamber are the single/double doser buttons. Using these buttons, you can select single shot or double shot depending on the dosage you want.
It tends to be more commercial-style coffee machines that have doser chambers. Usually, you’ll have to put your coffee grounds into the portafilter yourself with a spoon and pack down with coffee tamper.