What Does 15 Bar Pump Driven Mean? Understanding the Pump Driven Espresso Machine
Getting into the world of coffee can be a very intimidating and confusing experience.
From the beginning you're bombarded by questions such as:
- What does 15 bar pump driven mean?
- In fact, how does a pump espresso machine even work?
- Is more pump, better?
However, familiarizing yourself with coffee lingo isn't as hard as it seems - I speak from experience!
I'm what most people consider a "coffee snob" and a hipster, but that doesn't change the fact I've spent years perfecting my craft as a home barista.
Like everyone else: I've started from the bottom, and I can say (with confidence) that mastering the perfect espresso is a continuous journey (maybe that’s why we stay interested?)
Today you'll learn about how exactly an espresso machines work, and why pump driven machines are paramount in brewing you the finest espresso there is.
First Things First - How Is Espresso Made?
Here is a quick lesson in the art of pulling an espresso shot - yes there is a lot more to brewing the perfect espresso than you are about to learn, however, think of the following paragraph as the 'in-a-nutshell.' description...
Before brewing, the espresso is finely ground to an almost powder-like consistency.
This powder is then pressed into a Porta filter (a handle that holds the espresso grounds) using a special pressing tool called a tamper - tamping with the right pressure is key.
Hot water is then forced through the espresso grinds (with pressure) resulting in that beautiful black substance we call a shot of espresso. That shot is then divided, based on the type of espresso desired.
Understanding Espresso Machines - Piston vs. Pump
To understand how a pump driven machine works, you must first understand how a non-pump driven (piston driven) machine works.
The pump driven espresso machine is derived from the piston espresso machine.
The piston machine first boils water in a reservoir, which holds enough water for roughly four shots.
Once boiled, the user pulls a lever that pressurizes and then forces the water through the grounds.
This is where the term "pulling a shot" is derived from, as the user must pull the lever with force to create the shot.
Many coffee enthusiasts believe coffee tastes the best with this method, yet others argue there is not enough pressure exerted to create true espresso with crema (the foamy extract found on top of an espresso shot)
The pump driven espresso machine separates itself from the piston driven machine as it uses something called 'The Thermo-Block system,' that allows you to heat water at two different temperatures: brewing and steaming.
Not only will this allow you to create the elusive crema, but you can also have a continuous supply of steamed water for drinks such as cappuccinos.
To create the right amount of pressure (which is key to creating the best shot), you must first create at least 8 bars of pressure.
A single bar of pressure is one-unit atmospheric pressure.
Therefore, 8 bars of pressure are eight times the pressure at sea level.
This video from Seattle Coffee Gears sums up bar pressure quite well:
More Bars = Better Espresso. Myth...or...Fact?
15 bars of pressure is considered the sweet spot for creating great tasting shots.
Too little pressure will leave you with an under-concentrated brew; too much pressure and you'll be forcing down an over-extracted, bitter shot.
The industry standard is 9 bars of pressure. While 9 bars of pressure can create a decent espresso, 15 bars make the finest brews…. or will it?1
Not necessarily. This is a misconception.
The more bars you have does not mean the better quality your espresso shot will be – this is merely persuasive marketing resulting from the whole “bigger is better” society that we live in.
More pressure will HELP you in making a better quality shot, yes, however there is more too it than simply adding more pressure.
You need skill, good coffee beans, the right sized grinds and above all, a great quality machine!
Pump Machines - The Good And The Bad
Now that you know more about 15 bar machines and what makes them tick, consider the following two machines which are keeping customers happy across the board:
The De'Longhi EC155 15-BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
We recently reviewed this machine and without going into the specifics (you can read our review here)
The bottom line: The EC155 Is a great starter machine; easy to use, 15-bars of pressure and very VERY inexpensive. It's a steal.
The De'Longhi Dedica 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine
Our favourite 15-bar espresso machine on the market - But why?
First of all, you'll notice how slim and sleek it is; made for small spaces, you can literally hide it in your cupboard.
However, I'm not sure why you would - it adds a pinch of class to any kitchen with its sleek stainless steel profile, don't you think?
It's a step up in the price category from the EC155 but with added costs come added features, our favourite being it's super fast boot up time - 40 seconds to wake up and 2 minutes to get you your fix. A'Ndelay!
Hopefully you know everything there is to know about pump-driven espresso machines by now.
Too Long, Didn't Read:
- Bar is a measurement of pressure. The more ‘bars’ you have, the more pressure you get
- More Pressure = better quality espresso. HOWEVER you still need a quality machine – pressure is just one piece of the puzzle
- Don’t worry too much about how much Bar you have, focus more on how good you are at brewing coffee
With all that just be said, we are going to contradict ourselves and put our reputation for being coffee connoisseurs on the line: there is no "best" method of making coffee - tastes differ across the board, depending on who's tasting!
What does this mean?
It means simply asking the question "what does 15 bar pump driven mean?" is not enough!
If you want the best espresso machine, you're going to have to do your research! Start by reading our espresso machine reviews here.