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Top Of The Best Semi Automatic Espresso Machines Reviewed In 2018Last Updated November 1, 2018
№1 – Saeco Philips Intelia Deluxe Espresso Machine, Silver
№2 – Saeco Incanto Carafe Automatic Espresso Machine, Stainless Steel
№3 – Gaggia Classic Semi-Automatic Espresso Maker. Pannarello Wand for Latte and Cappuccino Frothing. Brews for Both Single and Double Shots.
There are three main classes of espresso machines
Each of these machines offers a different coffee making experience and demand different levels of coffee making ability. The Super-Automatic and Coffee Pod machines require the least amount of “barista knowledge”, while the semi-automatic and automatic machines require at least general knowledge of espresso extraction and milk steaming techniques. There is also another category of “manual espresso machines,” however these will be left for another guide as they are not so common.
KRUPS Espresso Machine
Press one button and it’s done. A Super-Automatic machine does it all for you. It steams the milk, grinds the coffee, pulls the espresso and makes the drink. All you need to do is supply the cup – although some do this too.
The espresso that these machines produce are of a decent quality compared to their semi automatic/automatic cousins, and are a viable option if the variables of coffee making are too daunting. I would still recommend picking up a semi-automatic espresso machine over a super-automatic. As after the initial learning curve a semi-automatic machine will always produce a better drink.
But the super-automatic machine still has its place in the world of espresso. They are very prominent in offices and are easy to maintain. Furthermore, if you want a hassle free solution it may be a good fit for you.
The very first espresso machines worked on a steam-pressure basis, and they’re still in use today. With this type of machine, steam or steam pressure is used to force water through the coffee grounds and produce espresso. Some steam-driven machines can produce a measure of foam “crema.” But they can’t generate enough pressure or provide the precise temperature control necessary to produce true espresso: They simply make a very strong cup of coffee. However, they cost considerably less than pump-driven machines. Our verdict is that if you’re a true espresso lover and seeking to make a good shot at home, we recommend you steer clear of steam-driven machines. They’ll likely disappoint you.
Tip: While we don’t recommend steam-driven units, If you’re on an extremely tight budget and looking to “test the waters” with a low-cost, entry-level machine, a steam-driven model will provide a somewhat cheap imitation of espresso.
Pump driven machines use an electric pump rather than steam-generated pressure to force water through the coffee grounds. This is the type of espresso machine that makes true espresso. Pump-driven machines fall into two basic categories:
Super-Automatic Espresso Machine Features
On the other hand, super-automatic espresso machines are all about convenience and not having to “fine-tune” anything. Almost all of the brewing steps are automated, meaning that all you really have to do is fill the hopper with coffee beans and turn it on. Here are some of the features that make the super-automatic espresso maker so easy to use:
As you can see, super-automatic espresso makers are great for those who just want great-tasting espresso without the fuss and muss.
Tip: If you’re a busy, “on the go” person and convenience is your top priority, a super-automatic espresso machine is right for you.
Sad, but budget has to come first. With an idea of what you’d like to spend, you then can enter the market at a realistic level. If you want to spend under £100, your choice is limited, but it is still possible. Spending over £500, and you can look at durable, long term bean to cup machines or even semi commercial machines.
Here is a rough guide of the best within each price range:
What do you want from your espresso machine? Do you mainly drink lattes, espresso or Americano? If you mainly drink coffee with steamed milk, when looking at models make sure the steam wand is as good as it can be for your budget. Take a milk jug with you and make sure you can easily access the wand – for example, some wands on small machines are low to the tabletop and will require a very small jug to be used.
If you mainly drink espresso, consider other types of espresso maker – for example the Presso (RRP £79.99) or the Handpresso (RRP £89.99), both of which create fantastic espresso and are non electric (so they are quicker to use than a machine and also cheaper to run).
Presso Espresso Maker RRP £89.99
This is a fully aluminium coffee maker which creates espresso using just hot water from the kettle and a corkscrew-type effect to create pressure. A nice precursor to the La Pavoni, a lever machine for beginners. Making a good shot is very straightforward, providing your coffee is freshly roasted and freshly ground. Stale coffee is no friend to this!
Aeropress RRP £30.00
A toughened Perspex tube which has suspicious looking intentions, this coffee maker is the latest coffee geek gadget! It works on the filter system, and is capable of producing “espresso” style shots and filter style coffee. I personally prefer this for filter coffees with lots of flavour, like Ethiopians, as it is great at picking out subtle flavours.
Choosing A Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine: Buying Guide
Choosing A Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine: Buying Guide
When purchasing an espresso machine, people often decide to save time and energy by choosing a semi-automatic espresso maker that does a few different things for them. There are a number of outstanding advantages to this type of appliance, however as with nearly everything you buy, not all espresso machines are equal. This buying guide provides in-depth information about the features that are most desirable, along with some specific information about several of the most popular semi-auto espresso makers available.
A Good Espresso Maker Makes Good Espresso
Sure, there are plenty of cheap espresso makers on the market, but when it comes to this kind of appliance, you really do get what you pay for. Instead of thinking about your espresso maker in terms of “small kitchen appliances” think of them as a minor investment, kind of like an entertainment system. Consider how much you pay for drinks made at your favorite coffeeshop each week, month, and year, and you are likely to come up with a surprisingly large amount of money. A good espresso machine will pay for itself pretty quickly!
What’s a good espresso maker? It is one that has the power to push boiling hot water through a dense puck of ground espresso, usually via a 15-bar pump or better. The amount of pressure a good pump creates gives the espresso its characteristic flavor and body, along with the rich head of crema that gives professionally made espresso drinks their sensational quality.
How much counter space are you willing to dedicate to the espresso machine you choose? Some semi-automatic espresso makers are very small; the De’Longhi EC680 Dedica mentioned in the previous segment is so small that it’s a popular choice with people who live in tiny houses, vacation in RVs, and spend weekends living aboard pleasure boats. It takes up a space about inches wide by 1inches deep, and is 1inches tall.
Other semi-automatic espresso makers are larger, requiring more space on the countertop and perhaps an even higher vertical clearance. As an example, the Breville BES870XL Barista has a built in hopper for espresso beans on top. It lets you grind fresh beans every time you go to make a shot, plus it has a built-in water reservoir that holds two liters of water. The tradeoff for this convenience comes in a bigger footprint: this espresso machine is 13.inches wide by 12.inches deep. It is 15.inches tall.
When you’re first learning how to make espresso-based drinks, you’ll need to move slowly to ensure that you get everything right so the beverages you create are enjoyable. If your lifestyle demands greater convenience and you want good drinks with a minimum amount of effort, consider getting an espresso machine that does more than simply brew the coffee portion of the drinks.
Some espresso makers have integrated milk carafes and automated milk frothers that steam and froth the milk or nondairy milk in your recipes for you. Two examples are the De’Longhi EC860 Espresso Maker, which is programmable and which has an integrated milk carafe that can be used with the automatic function or moved to the side for manual steaming. This machine works with espresso pods as well as traditional ground espresso, so the user can make great-tasting drinks with minimal effort.
The Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso Maker is another semi-automatic espresso machine with a built in milk carafe. Like many other large espresso makers, it has a water reservoir on the back for added convenience. Like several of the most popular espresso machines, it can be programmed to deliver one or two shots.
Consider the amount of cleanup required when looking into cleanup. Most espresso makers are very easy to clean, so long as cleanup happens immediately after beverages have been made. Tap the filter out into the garbage or compost bin, rinse, and lay out to dry. Wash the milk pitcher, wet the steam wand and wipe it with a damp cloth, and you’re finished, in most cases. If that seems like a lot, there are some espresso makers that have self-cleaning components. The Mr. Coffee Barista Espresso Maker is one of these; while you still have to take care of the pitcher and the filter, the steam wand has its own cleaning cycle.
Just about all espresso makers have removable drip trays underneath. These help keep your countertop clean, catching the occasional drips that can happen during the process of making beverages.
Thermoblock Heating System
The machine also has a great Thermoblock Heating System that is a complex type of technology that actually helps the machine to Pre-Heat the water much faster than similar machines. It also ensures that there will be perfect tamping, the ideal temperature, and perfect time management for the best extraction. The system also produces the perfect temperature of coffee each and every time you brew a cup. This no doubt is yet another reason why so many feel this is the best espresso machine.
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
Commercial Ergonomic Porta-Filter & Articulating Steam Wand
You will love how easy this machine makes it on you because of its commercial ergonomic porta-filter handle and the articulating steam wand. Both of these make it a lot easier on you physically when preparing your own espresso beverages. The steam wand in particular is one that gives you total range of motion along with a professional style steaming knob because of the precise control it gives you for your steaming pressure. This steam wand enables you to look like a pro when it comes to creating the perfect latte or cappuccino every single time you use it. This makes it the Best Espresso Machine you could want in your kitchen.
Largest Single Boiler Home Espresso Machine extreme speed when it comes to its recovery time between espresso shots. A key feature that makes it the Best Espresso Machine to have in your own kitchen.
Two Quart Large Water Tank
Rancilio Silvia has a three way solenoid valve which enables it to open up allowing the water to flow freely through its brew head. When you turn off the brew switch the machine will then immediately release the pressure on your coffee grounds and it then shunts the excess into the attached drip pan. This results in a very compact puck of coffee grounds that can then be very easily knocked out of the coffee filter. Another great feature that makes this the Best Espresso Machine you can consider buying.
Vibratory Pump vs. Rotary Pump
Main difference – vibratory pump machines are much louder than those with a rotary.
Rotary pumps also add the additional benefit of being able to hook your machine up to your water line. A nice, time-saving feature. It sucks when you’re about the pull a shot, you’ve got everything lined up (perfect grind, perfect dose, perfect tamp, etc) & the portafilter locked and ready to go only to find out you’re machine is out of water. Now, you have to spend a minute or two refilling it glass by glass – ugh!
With a rotary pump you can plumb your machine directly to your water line & that problem is non-existent.
Works of art
Cliff & Pebble may not sell every espresso machine on the market – it’s true. Alternatively, we’ve chosen to focus on the top performers. We consider many things before deciding whether or not to bring on a new brand. Of the things most considered is style. Will people like them? Will people want to put this thing in their kitchen?
All of the machines we offer are more than just espresso machines – they’re pieces of art. Sure, you’ll get plenty of compliments on the coffee they make when entertaining but where you’ll really be complimented is how good it looks in your kitchen. Putting a semi automatic espresso machine in your kitchen will instantly yield two things – café-quality coffee & a visually stunning piece of art.
Why Do You Need An Espresso Machine At Home
Let’s be honest. When you’re queuing for your coffee, you must’ve thought “wouldn’t it be cool if I could brew an aromatic cup of cappuccino and pour latte art like these skilled baristas here”?
Well, now’s your chance to make that dream a reality. A home espresso machine will give you the opportunity to practice your skills and become a barista without having to pick up a part-time job. Even major espresso machine companies like La Marzocco support the idea of making espresso at home, as it gives a more pleasurable experience.
If that’s not enough for you, here are some other benefits of getting your own home espresso machine.
Over the weekends, do you ever crave for more coffee? Or perhaps you’re running late to work and don’t have a chance to make a side trip for your morning coffee.
With a home espresso machine, you’ll be able to fix all of that – more or less! In those lazy Sunday mornings, you won’t have to push yourself out and about to get a cappuccino. Instead, just walk over to your kitchen in your pajamas and enjoy.
If you’re like most, then you’ll have a favorite barista. Maybe he’s a nice guy, perhaps you guys get along, or it’s because he brews every coffee to your liking.
But what if one morning, he’s not working! Would you have the confidence to let a stranger control the fate of your day? What if he burns the coffee, would that ruin your day?
Well, with a home-based espresso machine, it’ll no longer be a problem! You’ll have complete control over your coffee. You’ll be able to quickly pick up coffee brewing and adjust it to match your personal preference.
Gadgets & Accessories
The espresso machine is just the start of your coffee adventure.
After you buy your machine, you have the option to customize and get more accessories to make your machine more fun to use. There are tons of optional gadgets that you can purchase for your espresso machine, from milk steaming pitchers, espresso tampers, to coffee grinders, and coffee scales. A true coffee geek can have fun mixing and matching to create a unique and personalized coffee experience at home.
What Do You Need To Know When Buying An Espresso Machine?
An espresso machine is quite complex. Before purchasing one, it’s important for you to understand the basic of how they work and what other tools do you need to maximize your coffee experience.
Coffee Pods & Capsules
Capsule coffee machines are espresso machines that use prepacked coffee pods. Backed by Ninja and Nespresso, these machines became popular back in the early 21st century. Designed for the ultimate convenience, capsule machine takes the words “hassle” and “mess” out of the coffee brewing equation.
This type of coffee machine uses pre-ground coffee and milk extract to brew your coffee of choice. Similar to automatic espresso machines, a capsule-based machine will do everything automatically; from espresso extraction to milk steaming, everything!
Many machines will come with a lot of these accessories when you purchase it, but others don’t. These accessories can be an unexpected expense so make sure that you are ready to buy these components on their own if they don’t come with the initial purchase.
Fresh Ground Coffee, Pre-Ground Coffee, Coffee Pods: Which is Best?
For the best espresso experience, you should grind the coffee beans yourself using an electric burr grinder. It’s important to use freshly grounded coffee beans because the flavors trapped inside will dissipate the second it’s grounded up. Ideally, you want to use fresh coffee beans that’s less than an hour old, and even less for the very best results!
Find out about aroma dissipation and storage methods here >>>
Other than fresh or pre-ground coffee, there are espresso machines that uses coffee pods and capsules. A capsule typically contain pre-ground coffee but also milk extracts and sugar.
While this is more convenient, ground coffee loses a lot of its flavors in the first hour, and nearly all of it within 2hours. Therefore, I prefer coffee grinders that’s catered more towards normal pre-ground coffee.
The Barrister’s Opinion
I love coffee, but I know that in the morning I would drink no more than or drinks max. Which means for me, a single boiler, single group head machine would fit my needs. I also know that if I were going to buy an espresso machine for home, I wouldn’t want one with all the extra pieces just to make it work right.
Therefore, I would recommend splitting your budget for a coffee grinder, and a single boiler espresso machine that will work on its own. Despite that, if you’re interested in all the extra, most companies usually offer discounts if you buy the espresso machine together with all its accessories.
The Breville BES870XL Express is an all-in-one coffee machine that does everything you need for a cup of perfect espresso. It comes with a conical burr grinder (specialized for coffee beans), and heavy-duty boiler system. The boiler system also comes with auto-cooling functionality, which adjusts water temperature between steaming and extraction, reducing your wait time.
Despite all its positives, the Breville BES870XL is larger and more expensive than most of its competitors. However, it does give you more freedom and contro
DeLonghi EC15Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
A slightly more solid machine than Mr. Coffee, the DeLonghi EC15offers similar features with a detachable and easy-to-clean water tank. The machine is also designed to take both ground coffee or coffee pods/capsules.
Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee and Espresso Maker
Do you want to make an aromatic cup of latte, but don’t want any fuss? The Nespresso VertuoLine Espresso Maker will do just that! This specific model also comes with an automatic milk frother, which boost the flavors of all milk-based coffee drinks.
Cale Guthrie Weissman
Our previous Nespresso machine pick has been discontinued. After speaking to the company, we tested a new similar model and found that it worked just as well. If you want a decent espresso drink at home, but don’t have the time or patience to practice and learn the ins and outs of making espresso, consider the Nespresso Essenza Mini.
Knock boxes are for disposing of spent grinds. We like the
Cafelat because of its high back design and removable bar for easy cleaning.
Tampers for evenly pressing your grinds prior to pulling a shot. The Infuser (and all Breville models) come with a surprisingly good plastic tamper that has metal tamping surfaces, but you can get a better, for not much money, or splurge on the more ergonomic stainless steel Rattleware (you’ll also need one if you go with a non-Breville machine, but make sure to get the right size (most, including our Gaggia runner up pick use a standard 58mm tamper)—consult your manual if you’re not sure).
A milk-frothing pitcher is necessary for making lattes and other milk drinks. Again, the Breville comes with a good milk-frothing pitcher, but its 16-ounce capacity is better suited for cappuccinos than lattes (since you need extra space to accommodate the foam), so we have a
Our goal here was to find an approachable setup for people looking to get into espresso making for the first time.
Indeed, at-home espresso is not for the faint of heart. Tommy Gallagher from Counter Culture Coffee explained that it’s better to go to a coffee shop where the barista is trained, has dialed in the espresso already (meaning they’ve found the ideal grind size already), and uses a multi-thousand–dollar machine to ensure that what you’re drinking is at least moderately good. But results are almost never the only reason to do it. If you’re interested in learning a culinary craft, an at-home espresso setup can be very rewarding. For one, it impresses your friends. Two, it can be really fun to tinker with techniques and dosage. Also, it does make for a nice ritual (this, says Gallagher, is the real appeal).
If you already know what you’re doing and have strong opinions about the benefits of “temperature surfing,” this guide is below your pay grade. Similarly, if you’re not limited by budget, you can spend the entire max budget on a grinder alone and then twice again on a kick-ass espresso machine—at that point, they’re all pretty good and it’s more about preference. Our goal here was to find an approachable setup for people looking to get into espresso making for the first time. ), which isn’t bad for a consistently decent espresso (with crema!) that tastes as good (or better than) Starbucks, yet requires almost no effort on your part. Just fill the water reservoir and pop in a pod. And unlike some other single-serving coffee systems, Nespresso has a prepaid pod-recycling program in place already. To be clear, Nespresso makes decent coffee every time, but even a beginner working with a cheap espresso machine can achieve better results with just a bit of practice. Nespresso is just a whole lot easier.
How we picked and tested
To figure out just what was needed to make a cost-effective home espresso setup, I talked with eight coffee experts. They included award-winning baristas from some of Manhattan’s best coffee shops, the technical brains behind two of the most well-known roasters in the country (Counter Culture and Stumptown), as well as experts and entrepreneurs who focus on connecting coffee enthusiasts (both professional and consumer) with the correct equipment. I also read through hundreds of articles and forums on coffee blogs such as CoffeeGeek and Home Barista, and other sites like Prima Coffee.
We caution against all-in-one machines because you’re combining the failure rates of two machines, and if one breaks, the other does too. But if you must, the Breville Barista Express is the way to go. It’s basically an Infuser with a built-in Dose Control Pro. While Breville’s grinders aren’t the very best on the market, they do perform well enough. Since its machines pull great shots, this all-in-one setup is a good bet. Mark Hellweg agrees with this, calling it one of the best “feature-packed consumer machines.” And CNET gave it rave reviews as well as its Editors’ Choice award.
The Rocky lives up to its reputation as one of the most capable home-use grinders available.
To use it, you must flip a switch and beans are automatically drawn through a chute into the open. I found that making small adjustments on the Rocky to dial in espresso was easier than most other machines we tested. You simply move a knob on the bean hopper to the left or right. Compare that with the Baratza Vario, which has a two-tiered adjustment system labeled with numbers and letters. The Rocky’s simple adjustment also makes it easy to flip between bigger grinds for drip or French press and back to espresso size again.
The Rocky’s size (it’s 13.7inches tall) and relatively quiet operation make it a much better pick for home use than the commercial machines many enthusiasts covet. Mazzer, in particular, has a lot of popular models, but even the smallest Mazzer Mini is almost inches taller than the Rocky.
The Rocky is available with an optional doser mechanism for an additional charge, but we prefer the cheaper standard model. While a doser supposedly makes it easier to measure the grinds into the portafilter, coffee gets trapped in the additional basin where it becomes stale, and it’s a pain to clean. Also, the rubber grip on the dosing lever kept falling off during testing. The Rocky without the doser works just great as is.
While the Rocky is definitely a solid grinder, it wasn’t the best we tested. If good, consistent, and accurate grinding is what you’re looking for, the Baratza Vario is the way to go. It’s on the higher end of Baratza’s offerings, tailored to more advanced users. And this comes through when you use the machine. It is considered a “stepless” machine, which means that you are able make micro-adjustments between the larger grind settings. This gives the user more options when dialling in the espresso, which ultimately means the coffee will taste better.
With only 40 grind settings, the Virtuoso will get you in the ballpark, but not the exact setting you need.
When push comes to shove, a good grinder is a good grinder. While Baratza’s Virtuoso was not necessarily built with espresso in mind, it will do an good enough job if you’re on a tight budget. And you can purchase a nice accessory that makes it possible to dose directly from grinder to portafilter. The problem with the Virtuoso has nothing to do with grind consistency though. It’s just that the differences between the distinct grind-size settings are a bit too big. This limits your ability to dial in the grind size. You will be able to generally dial in the Virtuoso so that an espresso machine pulls an okay shot of coffee, but you won’t get it perfect.
You can actually hack the Virtuoso to better handle finer grinds pretty easily, but that still doesn’t solve the adjustment issue. Even Baratza cofounder Kyle Anderson agrees that the machine isn’t great for espresso (he recommends the soon-to-be-released Sette 270 as its best low-end espresso grinder—we’ll test it when it’s available later in the summer).
A knock box, which is simply a small receptacle you put used coffee grinds in, is a nice thing to have. It’s basically a countertop trashcan with a bar going across the top for you to hit your portafilter against—thus ejecting the spent grinds from the portafilter into the waste box. After testing several competing designs, the Cafelat is our favorite. It had a sleek design with a removable bar for easy cleaning. This gives it an advantage over the otherwise similar Grindenstein. Breville also offers a knock box with a removable bar, which we tested and liked. But the bar is a bit tougher to take out, requiring unscrewing the end caps as opposed to just popping out with a tug. There are also more seams in the Breville for coffee gunk to collect in compared to the Cafelat’s smooth rubber design. The Breville is a fine pick if you want a stainless steel look, but otherwise the Cafelat is the superior product.
The real joy of espresso is in the drinking. So, of course, it’s important to have a good cup. Personally, I enjoy drinking espresso out of glass—it looks nice, and feels modern. The Duralex Picardie—which was the overall pick in our glass guide—makes a 3.1-ounce glass that is perfect for espresso sipping and is even big enough to make a macchiato or cortado. You can read more about why we like them in the drinking glass review.
If you prefer ceramic, Clive Coffee and Prima Coffee both recommend the Ancap Verona espresso cup. They are Italian-made porcelain coffee cups that are known for keeping coffee warm and having a good cafe-like aesthetic. They do cost a lot more per cup than the Duralex though.
Tamping the espresso is both an important step in the coffee-making process and hotly contested. There are forums about how hard one should press on the tamper when compressing the beans; some even say tamping is not necessary (I wholly disagree with this). Whatever you believe, it’s important that you remain consistent in your tamping ritual for every cup of coffee you make. Thus, it’s helpful to own a tamper that you like. Every machine comes with its own tamper, although some are better than others. Rancilio and Gaggia, for example, come with tiny plastic presses that are annoying to hold and anything but sturdy (although the Breville’s bundled tamper is pretty great).
If you want to make milk drinks, you’re going to need a frothing pitcher. Though many look alike, some are nicer than others. The Infuser, for example, comes with its own pitcher (which is a great addition to the package!). The pitcher is fine enough, but I prefer Rattleware’s pitchers, which are a bit sturdier and have a better finish. It was a bit heavier than the generic RSVP and Update International pitchers we tested and felt nicer in the hand, which we think is worth a couple bucks extra. Rattleware also offers a Milk to Perfection pitcher, which has an internal tube that helps guide the steam wand to the correct position. For beginners, this is a nice addition, because it makes it somewhat easier to learn how to correctly steam milk. But, again, it comes down to preference. I prefer a sturdy pitcher with a handle; other like pitchers that have an insulated cover and no handle. It’s honestly up to you.
Care and maintenance
Keeping your espresso machine clean is as important as buying the right one. If you don’t do these small actions to keep the machine up to par, the quality of the espresso will most definitely suffer and you may even do damage to the machine.
The Breville BES980XL allows users to program both the texture and temperature of milk froth. Being able to determine these things without the work-arounds of microwaving and shuffling the milk between containers is a tremendous convenience. While your average espresso maker tends to be better at making froth for one type of drink: general crema, cappuccino or latte, the Oracle allow its owner to make the perfect texture for any of these.
Semi-Automatic vs. Super-Automatic
To understand the difference and which would be better, it is necessary to look at the traditional method of making espresso.
First, coffee beans must be ground. For espresso, the grind is generally finer than the grind for regular coffee. Next, the water is heated on a stove. The water and beans are combined, allowed to steep and pressurized in something like a French press and poured into the cup. The milk is heated to the desired temperature, frothed and added to the finished drink.
This process can dirty a sink full of dishes and take half an hour to produce four ounces of espresso. While some do not mind the time or effort involved, it is too much for most people. Semi-automatic machines streamline the process.
Semi-Automatic espresso machines are a single unit capable of combining and automating some of these processes. They may have a built in coffee grinder or milk frother and always allow the brewing process to occur at consistent temperature and pressure.
For the person using a semi automatic espresso maker, the work involved is far less. The grounds must usually be tamped manually and the frothing process for the milk done manually, but once the machine is set for the desired time, temperature and pressure the process is easily repeatable.
Loose Grounds and Coffee Pods
Proprietary capsules are generally the most expensive per cup. They are packaged as single serve portions. In situations where the demand for espresso is very light, their convenience and easy cleanup could make them the best option.
Lastly, can the machine handle prepackaged espresso coffee pods? Coffee pods are essentially a tea bag full of coffee instead of tea. They provide convenience approaching the proprietary coffee capsules when desired, but still allow loose grounds to be used.
Serving Size & Temperature Control
The last major consideration is how much control the user has over the serving size and temperature of the espresso it brews. The classic European espresso is served in a smaller cup at a lower temperature than is often found with American espresso.
Because of this, it is important to understand which style the machine serves and whether it can be changed.
Espresso can be anything from a shot of eye opening caffeine to a relaxing beverage that caps off a meal. By paying attention to a few key factors, anyone can choose an espresso machine that makes the drink they desire.
What is a brewhead
The’ brewhead’ or ‘group’ is the portion of the coffee machine that is responsible for forcing the pressurized water through the coffee grounds. The portafilter attaches (or remains attached for fully automatic models) to this and from it the water is pushed through the grounds.
On fully automatic models, this entire unit is housed inside the machine and the grinder drops the grounds directly in the portafilter. The machine automatically tamps the grounds and then brews. When the grounds have been used, they are dispensed in a separate container that usually holds a few batches and is easily removed for emptying. These models generally offer a wide variety of customization options such as coffee strength and amount. Almost all will also have some sort of bypass available if you have separate, already-ground beans you would like to use (for entertaining decaf drinking guests perhaps).
With semi automatic or manual models, the basket is filled by the user. There are specifically designed tamping tools that work quite well as you have the right size. Commercially used espresso machines generally use 58mm portafilters and this size is available on some home models as well but you will be able to find more at around 52mm. Many semi auto units also make use of ‘pressurized’ baskets. This type of basket limits some of your ability to craft your espresso for specific flavor because it reduces the affects of grind fineness and tamping precision. But that also makes it easier for the less experienced to get consistent results. If you would prefer to use traditional baskets, they are readily available from different sources.
The engineering involved in the brewhead is the aspect of each individual machine that determines the quality of coffee produced. Better brewgroups are able to extract more of the oils from the beans, resulting in more crema and fuller aroma.
Alternative Brewing Options
In our fast paced world, everyone considers convenience as one of the top priorities for items used every day. In light of this, coffee makers have found two clever ways of marketing prepackaged, easy-to-use espresso. Both offer consistent decency if not spectacular results and either can actually create espresso with crema.
Easy Serve Espresso or E.S.E. for short, are pods that come in one serving size and automatic espresso machines often come with an extra portafilter basket specifically for the pods. They are generally single shot servings and one of the biggest advantages is that they contain all of the used grounds similar to the way a tea bag does, making cleanup a doodle.
Even more recently, capsule machines have gained some momentum. You must continue to buy capsules from the manufacturer but the results are extremely consistent, if not customizable. As of right now, there are only two prominent brands producing capsule machines, illy and Nespresso. Typically, capsule machines lack options for brewing ground beans and are thus one dimensional. The common complaint users have about the capsule system is difficulty recycling (or reusing) the capsules and composting the grounds. But they are ideal for very busy coffee drinkers and new brewers looking for ease and more quality than pods.
Features & Accessories
Espresso manufacturers are constantly developing new perks to separate their products from those of their competitors. While some are common to very many brands, others are relatively exclusive to particular ones. Here we will outline a few features that may or may not be the tipping point for your purchase decision.
Steam wands allow you to steam and froth milk for drinks and are therefore essential for those who prefer cappuccinos or lattes. This is the most common add-on you will find on espresso machines. In fact, nearly all automatic models produced today have some version of one. They come in varying quality, typically reflective of the price range. They also double as hot water dispensers.
In order to use one effectively, technique is required. We suggest studying and trying out different strategies for frothing if you are a novice. Very often, new home espresso brewers get frustrated with their frother before they properly know how to use it. They can be very effective depending on the type. But cultivating skill with one takes practice.
Some models offer a surface on top that is supposed to heat your cups for you. In our experience, many of these fail to truly get your cups hot but will keep them warm if you get your cups hot first. Most of this lot use passive heat, just utilizing the extra heat generated by the boiler. Some versions however, have their own dedicated heating elements and really heat up. Be careful with these, because they can get very hot and therefore may not be the best for families with adventurous younger members.
Coffee makers are rather complex appliances that may need varying levels of maintenance depending on the care taken by the owner, among other factors. One important recommendation we have for all owners of espresso machines, especially more expensive ones, is to make sure that your water is filtered before it runs through the machine. Some actually come with filtration systems already included. But for those that do not, there are several different kinds available. You must only figure out which are compatible with your machine.
Water filters are such important parts of espresso systems for two big reasons. First and foremost, ‘hard’ water will wreck the inside of your espresso machine. Lime deposits on the inside of your boiler will keep it from getting as hot as perfect coffee needs it to be. Yes, there are descaling solutions and some espresso machines come equipped with descaling programs but descaling a machine can often be a huge hassle. Anyone can see how it is easier to take care of things on the front end than to wait for them to go wrong and need fixing. The second reason this accessory is important is more obvious. The best coffee comes from the cleanest water, plain and simple.
As stated here, the grind of the beans is very important to the flavors and aromas that end up in your cup. Many insist that you should have a grinder that is better than your espresso machine. The best type of grinder for serious home-brewing is a conical burr grinder and these themselves come in different grades. Remember, bean-to-cup models have these included and is actually one of the most important pieces to find quality in. Some fully automatic models that are designed to be compact may have rather small chambers for holding beans and it is never really good for a grinder to run without beans in it so be certain to have it stocked whenever using.
The fineness of the grind is nearly always adjustable and easy to do. Metal-bladed grinders can often leave your beans tasting a litter burnt. Ceramic is a good example of another material that changes the flavor of your espresso less. ‘Long’ Coffee/Americano
As our appetite for coffee steadily increases, larger portions are more often warranted. ‘Long’ coffees are much larger than shots of espresso but are made without milk. Manual machines will take some skill to pull this off and you will likely need one of the pricier ones to make it worth the trouble. A few fully automatics will do this for you at the press of a button. Some of these may actually produce terribly as they just run extra water through the same grounds but others have more unique approaches. If you are the type who prefers ‘Americanos’ for your morning drink, it may really benefit you to look into the models offering this option.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your Semi Automatic Espresso Machines wisely! Good luck!
So, TOP3 of Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
- №1 — Saeco Philips Intelia Deluxe Espresso Machine, Silver
- №2 — Saeco Incanto Carafe Automatic Espresso Machine, Stainless Steel
- №3 — Gaggia Classic Semi-Automatic Espresso Maker. Pannarello Wand for Latte and Cappuccino Frothing. Brews for Both Single and Double Shots.