Pressure For Automatic Espresso Machine: Matters or Not

Have you ever wondered what the perfect pressure is for your automatic espresso machine? Well, let me tell you, it can make all the difference in your daily coffee routine. The ideal pressure setting ensures that your espresso shot is perfectly extracted, with all the rich flavors and aroma you crave.

But for some days,  maybe you are experiencing weak espresso from your automatic machine. Do you want to achieve the perfect pressure and a delicious, smooth espresso shot every time?

Well, you’re in luck! In this article, I’ll explore espresso brewing pressure for automatic espresso machines and how to achieve the perfect pressure for your automatic machine.

showing how pressure effects extraction/ right pressure for automatic espresso machine
Pressure and Extraction

What is Espresso Pressure?

First things first, what is espresso brewing pressure? Well, in simpler words, Espresso brewing pressure refers to the amount of force used to extract the coffee oils and flavors from the coffee grounds.

It is typically measured in bars, and the optimal pressure for an espresso shot ranges between 8 and 10 bars. Anything below this range may result in a weak and watery shot, while anything above may lead to an over-extracted and bitter taste.

This pressure is measured in bars, with 1 bar equivalent to the pressure exerted by a column of water that is 10 meters high at sea level.

Most automatic espresso machines use a pump to create pressure. The pump forces hot water through a compacted puck of finely ground coffee, which results in a highly concentrated shot of espresso.

Now the question is about how to produce that specific pressure. Here’s the point when an automatic espresso machine becomes handy.

In an automatic espresso machine, a switch or button typically activates the pump, and the pressure is often measured in bars using a pressure gauge.

While some older machines, known as lever machines or manual machines, use a lever and spring system to create pressure manually. In these machines, the barista uses his own strength to apply pressure to the lever, which forces water through the coffee.

Therefore a manual machine typically requires more barista skills than an automatic espresso machine to pull a perfect show. For more information, read manual vs automatic espresso machines.

Now you must be thinking about the terms 9 bar or 15 bar and what those numbers mean. And does a higher “bar” number indicate better quality or pressure for automatic espresso machine?

So, let’s explore the differences between 9 bar, 15 bar, and even 20 bar espresso machines and help you decide which one is right for you.

What Does 9 Bar, 15 Bar, and 20 Bar Espresso Machine Mean?

Essentially, a bar is a unit of pressure that is commonly used in the coffee industry to measure the pressure at which water is forced through coffee grounds to create an espresso shot.

To make things easier to understand, the pressure capacity of espresso machines can also be expressed in pounds per square inch (psi).

And 1 bar equals 14.5 psi. To compare 9 bar vs 15 bar vs 20 bar espresso machines means comparing coffee machines that can generate: 

  • 130.5 psi of pressure (9 bar espresso machine)
  • 217.5 psi of pressure (15 bar espresso machine)
  • 290 psi of pressure (20 bar espresso machine)
Showing the pressure in bars
Pressure in bar

So, the simple is that the higher the bar number, the more pressure the machine can produce, which typically refers to a stronger and more flavorful espresso shot.

However, it’s important to note that the pressure does not solely determine the shot’s quality; other factors, such as grind size, tamping, and extraction time, also play a crucial role in the final shot.

The Ideal Pressure For Automatic Espresso Machine

The first espresso machines used low pressure to boil water and create steam pressure to push the water through the coffee. In 1949, Keely Gadgeous made a significant leap in pressure with his spring lever machine, which allowed for the generation of crema. 

The Fima E61 machine in 1961 used an electric pump to provide a constant pressure of nine bars. Pressure profiling was introduced in 2009-2010, allowing for the creation of varying pressures during the shot.

 The norm for commercial machines is nine bars, which was determined to be the flow of liquid that gets through the coffee puck until the pressure starts to compact the cake, making it harder to get through and decreasing the flow.

Let’s talk about the ideal pressure for automatic espresso machine.

Well, the general rule of thumb is that most espresso machines require a minimum of 9 bars of pressure to properly extract espresso.

But again, the ideal pressure can vary based on several factors. Depending on their design, construction, and intended use, some machines may operate best at slightly higher or lower pressure levels.

So, Can a machine with 15 bar be a good choice? The answer is ‘Yes’. When comparing average coffee maker, a 15 bar espresso machine can produce the ideal 9 bar count for making espresso at home.

YouTube video
Pressure is 9 Bar Ideal?

How to Test the Pressure for Espresso Machine

Testing the pressure of your machine is easier than you think. Is it really so?

So, first, you need to get a pressure gauge specifically designed for espresso machines. Once you have your gauge, it’s time to test the pressure.

Turn on your automatic espresso machine and allow it to heat up fully. Next, remove the portafilter and attach the pressure gauge to the group head.

The gauge should fit tightly onto the group head, and you should make sure there are no leaks.

Once the gauge is attached, start the brewing process as usual. The pressure gauge will give you a reading of the bar counter, which is the amount of pressure your machine produces. 

Now check the reading of your gauge; ideally, the pressure should be 9 bars which are perfect pressure for automatic espresso machine.

If the reading on your gauge is too low or too high, you may need to adjust the pressure of your machine.

Moreover, If you’re facing any issues in achieving perfect pressure, consult your machine’s manual or speak to a professional for guidance on making these adjustments.

Extraction in graph
Extraction In Bars

Tips for Achieving the Perfect Pressure for Automatic Espresso Machine

Now, let’s talk about how to achieve the perfect pressure for your automatic espresso machine. 

Most automatic machines have a built-in pump that controls the pressure during brewing.

However, remember that the pump’s pressure setting may vary depending on the machine and the type of coffee you’re brewing.

One way to ensure optimal pressure is by using freshly roasted coffee beans that have been ground to the appropriate fineness for espresso. Why I’m talking about perfect grinding?

Perfect grinding ensures a consistent extraction and helps avoid clogging the machine’s filter. As a result, your espresso machine will pull the perfect shot by forcing the right amount of pressure. Learn more about how to pull a perfect espresso shot.

And what next? Here’s another secret of pulling the perfect shot by applying the right pressure.

And that’s the use of a high-quality tamper to pack the coffee grounds into the filter basket evenly. 

Tamping is a science; by knowing this, you can apply the right pressure and make an espresso shot that you can enjoy.

How to Troubleshoot the Problems

If you’re still struggling to achieve the perfect pressure? Don’t worry; there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot. 

First, check your espresso machine’s user manual to ensure you use the right size filter basket for your coffee grounds.

Next, adjust the grind size and tamping pressure for better extraction. All these points are involved in brewing the perfect espresso by forcing the right amount of pressure.


In conclusion, the perfect pressure for an espresso machine is typically around 9 bars at the brew head. Finding the perfect pressure for your espresso machine may require experimentation and adjustment to achieve the flavor and quality you want in your espresso shots.


Yes, some machines with more than 9 bars of pressure can still make good espresso. However, the machine must be capable of maintaining consistent pressure at the brew head, so adjust the extraction time accordingly.

The coffee may be bitter and over-extracted if the pressure is too high. The coffee may be weak and under-extracted if the pressure is too low. It’s important to find the right balance to achieve the perfect extraction.

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