Last Updated on August 11, 2022 by Timothy Byron Smith
Ever wondered how your espresso machine brews the same perfect shot at the exact same temperature every single time? How is your coffee always perfectly hot? Espresso machines owe this to thermo-heating elements such as Thermoblock, Boiler, and Thermocoil.
The thing that makes espresso machines such an in-demand product is their consistency. The reason one purchases a coffee machine is to ensure a consistent grind, temperature, brew, and richness at every extraction. Something one could easily mess up if done by hand.
To maintain a consistent temperature of the coffee, espresso machines use either thermoblock, boiler, or thermocoil heating systems. Each of these technologies comes with its own baggage of pros and cons. Here you’ll find everything about these heating systems and which one you should prefer for your espresso machine and why.
What is a Thermoblock Heating System?
Thermoblock insulation is a heating mechanism found in automatic espresso machines. It’s a block of metal with a small passage allowing water to pass through. A heating element embedded in the block heats it up to the optimal coffee temperature so the water passing through can be heated up.
By the time the water exits the thermoblock, it has been heated to the required temperature. If needed, thermoblocks can be heated to a degree to vaporize water in order to produce steam. You can find thermoblocks in a wide range of prices, shapes, sizes, varieties, and quality. The option to supply steam or water can also vary.
The manufacturing material of the thermoblock significantly affects its longevity, output, quality, and the likelihood of creating scale blockages. For instance, brass themroblocks are not as likely to develop scale blockages as aluminum ones. Yet, aluminum ones retain much more heat and have a better steam output.
How Do Thermoblock Heating Systems Work?
Knowledge about heating systems such as a thermoblock is crucial when you’re considering how to choose an espresso machine. Such information helps you choose the best espresso machine model for yourself.
The simple thermoblock models involve two metal plates with a spiral passage cut through them so that water can pass through it. Between the metal plates is a compressed gasket to prevent any leakage. Other thermoblocks are merely a length of pipe with a heater attached along its length.
The water traveling along the pipe through the thermoblock quickly heats up and exits the pipe at the optimal temperature. Despite being in contact with the thermoblock for a short time, it can be heated up instantly to produce steam! Some commonly used materials for thermoblocks are aluminum, stainless steel, and brass.
Thermoblocks are an inexpensive espresso machine element and extremely energy efficient. Many superautomatic espresso machines have a thermoblock heating system. In fact, it’s also found in some of the best espresso machines under 400 dollars. However, despite the instant heating mechanism, there are other more perfect heating systems than thermoblocks.
Thermoblock Vs Boiler Heating System
Boilers (single and double) have come a long way as heating systems. Initially, boilers were heated by an open flame, but now we find their more common electric counterparts. Some boilers require you to flip a switch to alternate between brewing and heating. Forget to switch, and your coffee can be ruined.
Compared to boilers, thermoblocks have certain advantages as well as disadvantages. If you opt for thermoblocks, you’ll enjoy perks like instant coffee due to the shorter heating time. Thermoblocks generate hot water or steam instantly for you. Plus, they are more energy efficient and have better temperature control than single boiler units.
However, in the thermoblock vs boiler competition, double boiler heating systems defeat the thermoblocks in the heating game. Double boiler units have a much better temperature control system.
Additionally, thermoblocks are more susceptible to leakage and heavy-scale impact. Not to mention, they’re going to be up for repair or replacement soon due to their short lifespan (however, that depends on the quality of the thermoblock).
Thermoblock vs Thermocoil Heating Systems
Thermocoils are closely related to thermoblocks and work the exact same way, except for a few differences. While a thermocoil body is typically made of aluminum, the pipe for water flow is made of different materials. It’s usually copper or stainless steel. Since thermocoils are one-piece heating units, they don’t suffer from leakage.
Some thermocoils are found built directly into the exterior boilers. Such thermocoil units work double duty. The first task in such units is to heat the water in the brew chamber. The other task is to direct the water in the tank to flow through serpentine passages. This process produces steam.
Compared to themroblocks and other heating units, the only drawback that themrocoils have is their excessive price. This is despite the fact that thermoblock insulation systems are just as energy efficient. However, thermoblocks, in comparison, are more prone to leakage and therefore repairs.
On the Hunt for an Espresso Machine?
Knowledge about heating systems such as a thermoblock is crucial when you’re considering how to choose an espresso machine. A poor heating system can be the reason you wonder why are espresso machines so expensive. It’s because it will frequently need repairs and replacement.
So, if you’re on the hunt for a good espresso machine, remember to examine all the necessary specs, including the thermo heating elements. A thermoblock espresso machine is great, but make sure the thermoblock technology is in prime shape and quality.
Proper heating is the key to a good cup of coffee. You definitely don’t want to spend thousands on an espresso machine that will greet you in the morning with a cold cup of coffee.
Final Thoughts | Thermoblock Espresso Machine Heating Systems
The bottom line is, when investing in an espresso machine, one crucial element to consider is the heating system. Understand which would best suit your need, the instant thermoblock technology, or perhaps you’re willing to spend extra on the thermocoil, which is similar but prevents leakage.
In any case, some of the best espresso machines from renowned brands use thermoblock insulation as their heating mechanism. It’s cheaper than most, energy efficient, and instantly heats up water for your coffee. So, why not make your mornings easy with it?
Sophie is a 25 years old home barista, who enjoys brewing and drinking coffee with her mum. She had been writing articles for various lifestyle and coffee blogs for some time. Planning and conducting the required research, Sophie is the mastermind of EspressoCoffeeTime’s write-ups. To continue writing until well after midnight, she takes a good cup of espresso and that is it.