To give water the strength to push through a tightly packed bed of finely ground coffee, machines need pressure: 9 bars of pressure to be exact, which roughly translates to 130 psi. Some of the first espresso machines used pistons attached to large levers. Baristas would have to manually pull these levers to force the water to pass through the coffee (hence the term pull an espresso). Most modern espresso machines have ditched manual labor for electric pumps. In home espresso, there are two categories of electric pump: the vibratory pump and the rotary vein pump. A vibratory pump, or vibe pump, is a small electromagnetic workhorse. A piston attached to a magnet is set inside a metal coil. Electrical current runs through the coil causing the magnet to rapidly move the piston back and forth, pushing water through the machine. Your average vibe pump clocks in at sixty pushes per second.

vib pump

Unlike a vibratory pump, a rotary pump is mechanical. It is also a complex mechanism. A motor spins a disc that is offset inside a large, round chamber. The spinning disc is segmented into sections by veins. As the disc spins, the veins press against the wall of the outer chamber, diminishing the size of the section, creating pressure. Water enters in during the large phase and is pushed out as the section shrinks.


There are relative advantages to either pump. Vibratory pumps are smaller, inexpensive and tend to be easier to replace. Rotary pumps are quieter, offer more consistent pressure, and generally have longer lifespans. It’s important to note both pumps produce excellent espresso.

Vibratory Pump
Pros: Inexpensive, easy to replace, small
Cons: A little louder, shorter lifespan (~5-6 years)
LUCCA A53, Profitec Pro 300
Rotary Pump
Pros: Long lifespan, quieter operation
Cons: Larger device

To learn more about the inner workings of your machine, check out How Do Espresso Machines Work on our blog. 

Adam Raper

Adam Raper
Adam was a Clive customer back in 2014. He loved the experience so much, he invested in the business and now runs all things marketing and customer service. When he isn't writing and ensuring that everyone at Clive keeps their promises, he is at home in Park City, Utah.


  • @Paul: It’s entirely possible for some vibratory pumps to last that long but it’s relatively unlikely, which makes you one of the lucky ones. Rotary pumps are built with stronger materials and operate on simple mechanical principles, so they’re just designed to last. Hopefully, you’ll get some responses from long-time rotary pump machine owners!

    Charles with Clive Coffee on

  • I am a little skeptical… The vibration pump on my Pasquini Livia 90 lists the date of manufacture — March 2003. So does anyone have a rotary pump with 15 years of longevity? I do about 4-6 double shots per day ( and have for all those 15 years). Do people with 15 years of experience with rotary pumps want to chime in? (I like the “quieter” part, and really want to go with that option. But since I am thinking of replacing the Livia, I would like to hear from those with decades of use of rotational pumps)

    Paul on

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