The 19-bar espresso machines represent a small qualitative jump from the market standard (which is usually in the 15 bars, or in some cases 16). When a user sees in the shop or in the specification brochure that a coffee machine has a 19 bar pressure pump, it automatically catches his attention. It is as if he already placed it above any other, regardless of any other considerations. And if you’re looking for a recommended pump coffee maker, then your eyes will almost certainly go to one of more bars first.
But… is there any basis for this? Do we really know what the difference is between a 15-bar and a 19-bar machine? Will the espresso come out different? With more body? With more cream? To answer all these questions, we are going to prepare this little guide which, in passing, will clarify some of the most frequent doubts.
Which coffee machines have 19 bars of pressure?
Before getting down to business, we must be clear about what pressure bars are. Pressure bars are a measure used by all coffee machines that use a pressure pump, ULKA pump or Italian pump.
There are some brands that market coffee machines of this type by default. For example, all Nespresso coffee machines have 19 bar pressure. Or all those of the Swiss firm Cremesso.
Are 19 bars’ coffee machines better?
No. A perfect espresso (certified by the Italian Espresso Institute) has fixed and recommended extraction conditions, among which is the 9 bar pressure.
Yes, yes, nine. You have read well. Neither 10, nor 15, nor 19. 9 bars, with a margin of error of only one bar up or down, is the necessary pressure to extract a perfect espresso, with its cream and its qualities intact. No more bars are needed for a good coffee.
So why do home coffee machines usually have 15, or even more, 19 bars? For a very simple reason, which we will not explain so as not to get into too many technicalities, but which has to do with the type of pump used by this type of machine.
The pressure pump of a home coffee machine is very different – and cheaper than those mounted on professional coffee machines in the hotel and catering industry. They dissipate some of the pressure from the time the water is pumped until the liquid reaches the filter. This is not the case with a bar coffee machine (which is technically very different).
This is why a much higher starting pressure is applied to home coffee machines than the required 9 or 10 bars. To make sure that when the water reaches the filter with the ground coffee, it really does so with those recommended 9 or 10 bars. You can read all this in more detail in our guide entitled What are the pressure bars for?
Conclusion: a 19-bar coffee machine is not “better” than a 15-bar machine. Both are capable, under normal conditions, of extracting an espresso under the right conditions. Increasing the number of bars is a kind of “protection” against the loss of pressure inherent in the operation of a home coffee machine pump. It is not for nothing that prestigious manufacturers such as Lelit only market 15-bar coffee machines.
The only thing we can achieve with a 19 bar coffee machine is to guarantee or secure that minimum amount of bars in any extraction, whatever the amount of water used (even in extractions with very little water flow).
The 19 bar pressure also ensures that a thick layer of cream will be achieved at the top of the espresso in almost all cases. This is a detail that most users value because they consider it a symptom of the “quality” of espresso coffee (if you are a regular reader of our pages, you will know that this does not necessarily have to be the case).
Ranking of the best coffee machines in 19 bars
Not all of them are there, but all of them are there. This is the ranking of our favourite 19 bar espresso machines. As you can see, there are representatives of several brands because some manufacturers (such as Solac, Cremesso, or even the popular Nespresso) include this quality in all their models almost without exception.