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Brushing up on your Espresso Equipment Lingo

Fresh Cup Magazine Techno-Jolt Archive February 2003

There you are, working on your espresso machine making beverages for your customers when suddenly "the thingy that you put coffee in" starts leaking from "the chrome thing that's right below the button that has a picture of two cups"--you know, the place where you put the coffee handle thingy? So you pick up the phone and call the local service company and tell them the same story.

The equipment you use in the daily operation of your espresso business is an integral part of your trade, and understanding how they work together is as important as knowing how to use them. We are all well aware of espresso beverage lingo--Tall, Short, Skinny, Latté, Mocha, etc.--and we expect our customers to learn this special vocabulary and order their drinks like pros. Why, then, are so many espresso bar operators unable to name the various components of the espresso machines they use to prepare drinks every day?

I'm amazed by the lack of information some people have regarding the equipment they use daily. But it's imperative that every coffeehouse operator be able to competently describe the parts and pieces of these valuable tools. That's why this month I'm offering a basic glossary of espresso machine definitions and descriptions. Now, some seasoned professionals may want to skip this bit of fundamental terminology. But I, for one, am always willing to learn new things so maybe, just maybe, there is something here for those readers to discover. Let's give it a go, shall we?

Adjusting the Grind: Espresso Grinders

GROUP HEAD

This is where all the magic takes place. Sometimes referred to as the brew group or brew head, this component is more commonly known simply as the group. This is where you insert the portafilter when preparing to brew espresso.

Portafilter

Portafilter

This is the device coffee is ground into before being placed in the group to brew espresso. The name is easy to remember as long as you think of it as a portable filter (hence, portafilter). It's also known as "a filter handle and that thingy you put the coffee into".

Portafilter Basket

Portafilter Basket

The portafilter basket is the filter screen located in the portafilter. These come in both double and single sizes and are held in place by a spring.

Group Gasket

GROUP GASKET

The group gasket is a large rubber O-ring that seals the portafilter and portafilter basket to the group. It is inserted into a groove that is built into the group. If the portafilter is leaking, the group gasket is usually the part you need to replace. Often the portafilter basket and group gasket should be changed together to

Group Screen

Group SCreen

The group screen is also located in the group. It is sometimes referred to as a dispersion screen, shower screen or shower.

Dispense Switch

GROUP DISPENSE SWITCH

This switch acts much the same as the dosing keypads, but it is usually a simple on/off switch located over the top of the group it actuates. Some automatic espresso machines also include a dispense button as an additional means of operation.

Dosing Keypad

GROUP DOSING KEYPAD

Dosing keypads are found on automatic and superautomatic espresso machines. They are the buttons you press to activate the group head on the machine. The keypads show a legend of various dispense times and quantities as well as programming and continuous flow.

hot water tap

Hot Water Tap

Some call this the Americano wand or tap, but it's simply a hot water tap. Call it what you will--this is where you dispense hot water.

Espresso Machine Power Switch

Power Switch

The power switch on most espresso equipment is located on the backsplash of the machine. It is often indicated by a face plate showing the numbers 1 - 0 - 2. The general position for full operation is the 2 position.

Espresso Machine Pressure Guage

Pressure Guage

The pressure gauge is located on the front of the machine. It usually has two needles indicating both boiler pressure and pump operating pressure. This is an important part to be aware of, as it monitors the health of your machine as well as the parameters of your espresso brewing temperatures and pressures.

 

Espresso Mcahine Sight Glass

Sight Glass

Most machines have a sight glass. This part is located on the front of the machine and indicates the boiler's water level. It is typically a glass tube with water inside. It is marked with "Maximum" and "Minimum" indicators.

Espresso Machine Steamwand

Steam Wand (STeamwand)

This is the tool used to steam milk. The steam wand is also known as a steam pipe, and it is activated by the steam valve knob or lever.

Steam Wand Tip

Steam Tip (Steam wand Tip)

The steam tip is located on the end of the steam wand. It disperses the steam from the wand into a splayed pattern, allowing you to steam milk.

 

Grinders also have a few specific part names that should be part of your equipment vocabulary.

Adjusting the Grind: Espresso Grinders

ADJUSTMENT RING OR KNOB

This grinder component allows you to make changes to the grind size with reference to coarse or fine. The adjustment ring or knob is usually found around the bean hopper.

Espresso Grinder Bean Hopper

Bean Hopper

This is the large, clear, plastic container on top of the grinder.

Espresso Grinder Doser

Doser

The doser holds the ground coffee for dosing into the portafilter.

 


There you have it--a crash course in espresso equipment lingo. Try to use this terminology in every espresso reference you make, and you will have it memorized in no time. With these elementary descriptions and definitions, you will be better equipped to operate your espresso-making tools in a professional manner. Not only will you be more knowledgeable about any possible repair needs, but you'll also be able to more succinctly describe the problem to the voice on the other end of the phone.