How do home espresso machines work?

Copper tubes. Stainless steel boilers. Intelligent firmware and hardware. Everything profiled, programmed, and precision engineered. The inside of an espresso machine is a veritable jungle of metal, wires and steam. You may be surprised to learn this, but underneath the bells, whistles and chrome, most espresso machines do the same thing: force hot water through finely ground coffee.

So how does an espresso machine work? And what is the quickest, most painless way to understand how they function without getting lost in the mechanical thick? In this guide, we’ll show you how espresso machines work by following water as it goes from the source to the coffee.

In most machines, water moves through four distinct phases before it hits your cup. It looks like this:

Water Source » Pump » Boiler » Grouphead or Steam Wand

So let’s start our journey through the machine:

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