Pressurized vs Non-Pressurized

by Nick Brown August 29, 2016

If you’re still researching your way to a new espresso machine, you’re likely reading information about pressurized and non-pressurized baskets. Naturally you want a pressurized basket; espresso is brewed under pressure, right?

Well, not necessarily. While espresso is brewed between 8 and 9 bars of pressure, the difference between a pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter has to do the level of control you want over the brew process.

Like every other step in coffee brewing, there is no concrete right or wrong way, or taboo way to brew (other than instant coffee). Some people want to have total and complete control over the brew process, down to the temperature of the water going through the grounds. That would be the commercial style portafilter, where the coffee itself is what the pump pushes against to achieve 8 to 9 bars of pressure for a proper brew. Slight variations in the grind and tamp with these machines will produce nuances in the brew you produce. While it’s a bit more work on the prep side, getting the shot you crave is worth it if you’re really serious about your coffee. If you fall into this category, you will naturally gravitate towards a prosumer level machine, like our Expobar Brewtus machines, or other high end entries.

But if you want an easier cup of espresso, or if you don’t care about the nuances you can control, then a machine with a pressurized portafilter is the type of machine you want. There is a mechanism in the portafilter that doesn’t allow brewed coffee out of the portafilter until it has accumulated between 8 and 9 bars of pressure. This alleviates the pressure of having to have a dead-on grind for a pull with a nice layer of crema. You just have to be in the general range to get a good shot. Check out Saeco, DeLonghi, and Francis Francis semi auto machines if this appeals to you.

If you find yourself in the middle of the road, or if there are multiple types of users in your house, go for a Gaggia semi-auto. Gaggia created the pressurized basket so you can have the best of both worlds and use either format without having to buy a full portafilter, or separate machine. Just pop the basket out and swap the other basket in.

Nick Brown
Nick Brown