Steam Coffee Machines – Everything you need to know

What is a steam coffee machine?

They are also known as hydro-pressure coffee machines.

A steam coffee maker, also known as a steam pressure espresso maker, is a traditional device for making coffee, especially espresso. Unlike modern espresso machines, which use a pump to force water through the coffee grounds under high pressure, a steam coffee machine creates pressure by evaporating water.

Due to the lower pressure, steam coffee machines cannot produce real espresso with the typical crema. Instead, they produce a stronger, more concentrated coffee that tastes similar to espresso.

Steam coffee machines are generally cheaper and easier to use than pump espresso machines. They’re a popular option for coffee lovers who want an easy and affordable way to brew coffee with a stronger flavor that’s similar to espresso, but without the precision and pressure of a professional espresso machine.

Characteristics of a steam coffee machine

  • Manual operation: although this coffee maker is primarily aimed at making light espresso coffee, it has some parameters and functions that the user can change at will. Examples of this are the extraction time and the pressure applied.
  • Pressure management: As mentioned before, the pressure can be changed, which affects the end result. However, one must not forget that the maximum pressure will never be as high as with espresso machines. These steam engines reach a pressure of 3.5 to 5 bar.
  • Coffee quality: Thanks to the longer than average extraction time and the variable pressure, a full-bodied but light coffee is obtained, which is pleasant for many people. In addition, the aromas come into their own when preparing steam.
  • Compact size: As it is a product for home use, the dimensions are small. However, they are not the smallest alternative.
  • Durability: These coffee makers are made from materials such as stainless steel, aluminum and brass, making them very durable. Depending on the price, they can also be made of plastic.
  • Willingness to experiment and versatility: although the specialty of steam coffee machines is espresso, they also allow us to vary the parameters and therefore the final result. This gives us the opportunity to prepare a coffee to our taste.
  • Requires Knowledge and Experience: The learning curve for these steam engines can be longer than usual. It’s not easy to learn how to operate like a pro.
  • Many devices include a frothing nozzle that you can use to prepare cappuccino.

History of the steam coffee machines

Steam or high-pressure coffee machines were developed in the 1940s, taking the espresso machines as a model. It was an Italian barista who developed the innovative pressure method using a hand-operated piston. Although the pressure was not comparable to that of espresso machines, it was welcomed with open arms by coffee lovers.

The second half of the 20th century saw the mass production of steam coffee makers thanks to advances in lever-operated water pressure technology. As a result, they were made available to the general public. They were initially a resounding success in Italy and then spread throughout the world.

Over time, the water pressure machines were offered in different models, designs and sizes. At the same time, technological innovations were introduced to improve efficiency and performance without changing the taste.

Today, steam coffee makers are very popular and valued products, especially among knowledgeable coffee lovers and baristas who take great advantage of the benefits they offer. This is perhaps the reason why fully automatic coffee machines are becoming more and more common.

How do you use a steam coffee machine?

Operating a steam coffee machine is generally easy. However, usage can be a bit more complex.

First of all, using a steam coffee machine is no different than using an espresso machine, the first phase is the same:

  • We put the coffee in the filter and press it inside.
  • Put the filter in the right position.
  • Turn on the coffee maker.

Then we can see the differences and what makes a steam coffee maker unique as there is no pressure pump.

  • In general, steam coffee machines heat the water until the temperature and pressure allow the steam to rise to brew the coffee.

What types of steam coffee machines are there?

There are different types of steam coffee machines that all serve the same purpose, but differ in details, accessories or functions. The main types of water pressure coffee makers are:

  • Lever coffee makers: These are the most common because, as the name suggests, the lever applies pressure.
  • Piston coffee makers: These are an alternative to the lever coffee makers, but here a piston is used to apply pressure.
  • Portable steam coffee makers: These are the simplest, they don’t require electricity.
  • Electric steam coffee machines: They have an electric mechanism that increases the pressure.

Some people consider piston coffee makers to be similar to high-pressure coffee makers in that they apply pressure to the ground coffee. However, we prefer to distinguish between them.

What should be considered when buying a steam coffee machine?

  • Price: This is one of the most important aspects as it can limit the choices that are available to you.
  • Materials: Considering the previous point, the crafting materials will change with the price. Better materials mean longer life and performance.
  • Size: An advantage of these coffee makers is that they tend to be lightweight and compact. However, not all are portable.
  • Coffee Production: Steam coffee makers tend to be quite fast, although the extraction time tends to be longer. However, the machine’s size isn’t particularly practical when it comes to brewing large volumes of coffee, which can take a while.
  • Cleaning and Maintenance: These products require regular cleaning to prevent clogging and wear and tear. Also, being an electrical product, it requires preventive and corrective maintenance from time to time.
  • Ratings and Opinions: It is always important to look at the comments of people who have already bought the product. This gives us a general impression of the quality and performance of the product.


Steam or hydro-pressure coffee makers are products that present a multitude of advantages and characteristics that make them highly recommended. However, they are not a product for everyone as they require a certain level of knowledge to take full advantage of the features and possibilities they offer.