If you consider yourself a true coffee connoisseur, or want to become one, you have most likely already heard the terms “semi-automatic espresso machine” and “automatic espresso machine.”
You’ve probably also heard that there are some differences between these machines, and you may be wondering, “What really makes them different?” This great question for anyone to ask, because the differences can be confusing. Let’s learn more!
Types of Espresso Machines
First, let’s take a look at all the types of espresso machines:
What is a semi-automatic espresso machine?
A semi-automatic espresso machine is probably exactly what you imagine when you think of a professional coffee maker. Semi-automatic espresso machines use an automated system to supply water to the group head, while grinding, tamping, and extraction time are the barista’s responsibility.
Semi-automatic machines are a good compromise between human control and mechanized components. You are responsible for the drink, but the pressure and temperature of the water are regulated, so it’s hard to ruin anything.
Semi-automatic espresso makers were invented in the 1940s by an Italian manufacturer. They are convenient and fairly inexpensive to maintain.
These coffee makers have an electric pump that creates guaranteed pressure within the optimal range for making espresso. As the name suggests, you still have to work a bit before you start brewing.
You will still need to grind and tamp the coffee so that it fits correctly in the portafilter. But after you attach the portafilter to the group head, the machine will take over and continue the brewing process.
Many coffee gurus have a lot of experience with semi-automatic espresso machines. These machines are the most popular type for home use and are usually the most affordable option. In addition, they also give you the opportunity to quickly and easily brew coffee.
What is an automatic espresso machine?
Fully-automatic espresso machines are very similar to their semi-automatic counterparts, but these machines also stop the flow of water. This ensures a constant volume per serving and means that you do not need to watch the machine every time to prevent overfilling. Automatic espresso makers are also used in coffee houses.
Fully-automatic espresso machines are useful for home users who plan to be busy while preparing their drink, as the machine gives them the freedom to multitask while the machine is brewing.
Some models include an automatic cappuccino attachment – a nozzle with which you can steam and froth milk. The cappuccino machine takes milk directly from an attached container, prepares milk froth, and pours the milk into your cup with the prepared coffee.
Particularly noteworthy is De’Longhi’s unique system for preparing milk froth. This system is designed in such a way that there is no need to rearrange the cup under the cappuccino machine when preparing the foam.
Coffee makers usually have one boiler for water. Of course, there are also models with two boilers, but these are much more expensive. In simple models, you must use cups of a certain height, and in more advanced ones there are settings for different heights and widths of cups, and for brewing two cups at once.
Some models include a 1-liter thermal container that keeps milk cold for 8 hours. In these models, you can also adjust brewing temperature.
Most modern automatic espresso machines have a flushing and cleaning program for their hydraulic systems. To remove scale, special tablets are used, and these can be purchased at any store that sells coffee equipment.
Automatic espresso makers with filtration systems also provide the advantage of softening water hardness by up to 75%, which significantly improves the taste of the coffee.
What is a super-automatic espresso machine?
Super-automatic espresso machines have an extremely wide range of applications. Such coffee makers can be found in beauty salons, company offices, fast food restaurants and even at roadside gas stations.
Their popularity is simple to explain: they are incredibly convenient and easy to use, and produce consistently high-quality drinks regardless of how experienced a user is.
Among professional coffee makers, super-automatic machines are distinguished by the presence of “smart” electronics, which ensure the entire process of preparing the drink according to programmed parameters.
You can add your preferred amount of coffee, water, milk or chocolate to prepare a serving of a particular type of drink (up to 40 different recipes), and program these settings into the machine’s memory.
Super-automatic espresso machines have one or two built-in coffee grinders and one or two built-in hoppers, which allows you to create your drink with a balanced taste.
A super-automatic espresso maker is a device that allows you to fully program the production process. As a result, it’s very easy to make a drink: just select your desired type of drink and press the button – the machine will do the rest.
What is the difference between automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines?
There is one main similarity between the two types of machines – they both brew excellent espresso! And this is the main emphasis. So if you are often used to drinking only black coffee, then the right choice would be to buy a budget model semi-automatic espresso machine.
But if you like to indulge yourself or you’re pressed for time, then buy an automatic machine. It won’t even need to be washed! The cleaning system is designed in such a way that you only need to press a button. It is incredibly convenient.
But what exactly is the difference in the process of brewing coffee?
Semi-automatic coffee makers require your involvement. So, for example, you may need to grind beans, set a timer or do some other small processes. Coffee is brewed using water that passes through a layer of ground beans.
But an automatic espresso machine will be able to grind beans and determine the portion of grounds and water to make your preferred drink. You hardly need to be involved at all – you just need to press some buttons.
Portafilters and Grinders
Portafilters in automatic espresso machines hold 10-15 grams of ground coffee. The coffee grinder is able to grind the beans very finely.
An automatic coffee maker will grind your coffee and fill the portafilter, while a semi-automatic espresso maker will require you to grind and tamp your own coffee.
Frothing / Steaming
Some automatic espresso machines come with a cappuccino machine, which allows you to achieve a dense foam. Using the foam whipping function, you can make a wonderful latte or cappuccino in a fairly short amount of time.
Semi-automatic coffee makers are in great demand due to their relatively affordable pricing, while the main drawback of automatic espresso makers is that their average cost is $400-500.
Which machine is right for you?
All types of espresso machines have their place in the world, but which one is right for you? Which espresso machine will suit your particular lifestyle, your circumstances, and your preferences?
Let’s consider the basic values and tasks of each coffee maker in order to understand exactly what you need.
If you want to get the lightest, most ordinary espresso in seconds and without much effort, then the fully automatic coffee maker will be your best option.
But what if you are interested in expanding your coffee knowledge and studying each step in the process of making espresso? In this case, the ideal option for you would be a semi-automatic espresso maker, which will give you freedom in each of your actions and allow you to explore your own path.
Like semi-automatic machines, fully-automatic coffee makers will be ideal for you if you have a desire to create milk foam and latte art.
But what if you have a limited budget and cannot afford an expensive coffee maker? Then semi-automatic is a perfect choice!
If you want every member of your family to be able to easily make coffee at any time, then an automatic espresso machine will definitely be appreciated in your household!
Coffee is part of the lives of everyone on the MyFriendsCoffee team. We are a group of professional baristas, coffee bean roasters, and coffee machine repairers. Coffee has connected us, and together we strive to provide the best information to our readers.
Our responsibility is to provide advice on any and all coffee-related issues. And we know that to do this we must be experts in this field.
Coffee consumption culture has changed dramatically over several centuries. New brewing methods, bean quality control methods, roasting methods, and much more have appeared. We are sure that coffee will change further, and we want to be involved in changing it for the better.