How Coffee Machines Work

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You may rely on your coffee machine to give you that crucial pep in your step but are you are aware of how that is achieved? In this article, we’re going to be taking a look at the inner workings of both a freestanding espresso machine and a coffee pod machine.

Getting to know the anatomy may be something that influences your decision if you can’t decide between the two. It may just sate a longstanding curiosity you have. Either way, let’s get stuck in and find out what makes these two machines tick.

How Does an Espresso Machine Work?

The espresso machine is a slightly different animal to the coffee pod machine. It certainly makes you feel like more of a barista than coffee pod machines and you will be slightly familiar with them if you have ever been to any coffee shop ever.

Our freestanding coffee machines are like a stripped-back, miniature version of the machine you will see in cafes. For anyone that wants the convenience of barista coffee at home, but still wants to put a little bit of work into it, then this is the machine for you. But how does it work? Let’s look at its different components.

The espresso machine has the following:

  • Reservoir
  • Pump
  • Boiler
  • Grouphead
  • Portafilter

The espresso machine will store water in its reservoir. This is normally a removable tank attached to the machine which you can refill with water. You put chilled or room temperature water in it, and it is heated and pressurised at the point of delivery. You’ll want to keep this part clean by giving it a deep clean every few months or so.

All espresso machines will have a pump. The pump lives up to its name by pumping water out of the reservoir at pressurising it. It will pressurise the water to between 10 and 15 bars. Bars are a unit of pressure, not physical bars in the machine.

The boiler now comes into play. Obviously, your coffee machine needs a boiler to deliver that coffee at a hot temperature. It’s normally a metal chamber with heating elements at the bottom. The machine will pump water in to this chamber to be heated, which is why it needs to be pressurised.

Water is only fed into the boiler one-way and can only leave via the grouphead. This is where your coffee will come out. It is slightly more technical than a simple spout or faucet however. The grouphead is designed to dispense the coffee with an even flow.

Finally, the portafilter is a removable metal basket that you put your coffee grounds in. It has a handle and is fastened to the grouphead. The machine delivers hot water into the portafilter with the coffee grounds. Below the basket on the portafilter, will be a spout or two. The coffee will flow out of that spout into your mug.

There you have it, the inner workings of a freestanding espresso machine. These aren’t much different to coffee pod machines, but let’s take a look at how the other works.

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How Does a Capsule Coffee Machine Work?

Capsule coffee machines work in a slightly different way. Instead of a portafilter where you can put your coffee grounds, you need pre-made coffee capsules. You can only use a pod once, and some companies provide a recycling service for the pods.

This is a slight drawback for the capsule coffee machine, however, you get a very consistent brew. And buying pods is much cheaper than going to café for all your coffees. Its preparation method is really low-hassle, too. You can roll out of bed, insert a capsule and press a button and you have a gorgeous brew in a matter in seconds.

A capsule coffee machine will also have a reservoir, pump, boiler and grouphead, but it produces coffee differently.

The capsules you get are filled with fresh coffee grounds. Because they are completely sealed in an inert atmosphere, they remain fresh for a long time. You insert your capsule into the machine. The smallest side of the capsule is then pierced. The machine then pumps hot water through the capsule, adding more pressure until the foiled side of the capsule ruptures.

This then allows water to flow at a controlled rate, delivering a consistent brew every time. The coffee grounds are fresh and there’s no trial and error. You get a consistently tasty cup of coffee every time.

That’s the difference of the inner workings of these two machines. The capsule coffee machine is cheaper to buy, great for making consistent brews and requires barely nay effort. The espresso machine requires a bit more input from yourself to make a coffee. Is slightly less consistent but also gives you more control on the outcome of your brew. Espresso machines also use coffee ground instead of the more expensive capsules so although the machine itself is more expensive, it could save you in the long term.

You’ll find all of our coffee machines in our small appliances section alongside our stand mixers, blenders, juicers, kettles and toasters. For more kitchen appliances, check out the American-style fridge freezers in our refrigeration section or our wide selection of range cookers in our cooking section. For more helpful information on coffee machines, see below: