Semi Automatic vs Automatic Espresso Machines – How to Make the Right Choice - HOMEGROUNDS

The Semi Automatic vs Automatic Espresso Machine - How To Make The Right Purchase 

Semi-automatic vs automatic machines - what's your choice? Most espresso lovers are quite content walking into their favourite coffee shop or espresso bar and getting their caffeine fix.

Not us though, and we're guessing: not you either. For the true espresso aficionado, the end result (the fix) is not what makes us love espresso; the joy is in preparing your favorite beverage from start to finish. When you brew that perfect shot - your day is off to a great start. Agreed?

Tools of The Trade - Semi-automatic vs. Automatic

You're an aspiring home espresso aficionado, so then the first thing you’ll need to equip yourself with is a quality espresso maker. Sure, you could go out and get one of those manually operated piston/lever-driven machines used by most professional barista's. You could even go out and buy a pod machine (heaven forbid). But most espresso lovers, who want to restrict espresso-making to the home, would prefer something else.

Your choice of tools for preparing your "fix" really comes down to either a semi-automatic or an automatic home espresso maker (read more about those here)

Semi Automatic Espresso Machines - You're the Boss

Semi automatic VS automatic

For some things in life – like doing the laundry – a fully automated process is preferred. When it comes to making espresso, lovers of the brew would prefer to "have their say" in how things turn out. And that’s exactly what a semi-automatic espresso machine is designed to do.

Semi automatic machines generally have a boiler, a Porta-filter and an extraction pump; and feature a switch by which you activate or deactivate the pump when you believe it is appropriate.

This "when you believe" is an important characteristic that sets apart the semi from the automatic. Instead of the machine deciding what "appropriate" means, YOU – the brewer –control when to start and stop the extraction process, allowing for a truly personalized shot.

Expect to spend around $500 (which is the sweet spot for a great quality super automatic espresso machine) however if you're looking for a brew on a budget you should consider these models (priced under $300)

Working the semi's - There’s still work that must be done to brew your espresso using the semi-automatic machine. You still need to fill the portafilter with coffee grounds, and then tamp and level the grounds. This last step (tamping) is essential to create the perfect shot, so the grounds fit perfectly to produce the correct resistance required for brewing before you attach the portafilter to the espresso maker.

With most semi’s, you will also need manual intervention to start the device so it draws water from the boiler, and then to stop the electric pump once the espresso has been extracted.​

We Recommend The Breville Barista Express 

  • Control your brew during all stages
  • Designed to be super easy to clean (heck yes!)
  • Sexy stainless steel design

Automatic Espresso Makers - She's the boss

Automatic espresso machine

The automatic espresso maker helps remove a lot of the manual work involved with the semis. For instance, they will grind your coffee beans, tamp down automatically to produce the optimum resistance, and automate the extraction process. In many models, even turning it on each morning, and shutting it down for the day is automated/programmed.

​Auto’s have additional features that make them desirable to some, like allowing grinding of the coffee to various fineness levels, and tempering each shot for strength and quantity.

Working the auto's - Obviously there is work that you need to do in order to get the ball rolling, even with an automatic espresso machine. For instance, you’ll need to add pre-grounded coffee beans into the portafilter, as well as the amount of water needed; and you’ll also need to clean the portafilter once you’re done using it.

​It is important to note the difference between automatic and "super" automatic machines here. While the automatic machines still require manual intervention in the grinding, tamping and dosing parts of the process, super autos do it all!

We Recommend The Delonghi Magnifica Fully Automatic Machine

  • Push-button easy (literally - just push a button or two)
  • Espressos, cappuccinos, lattes - its will do em all
  • Space saving compact design - maybe you could even take it with you....everywhere you go?!
The De’Longhi ESAM3300 Magnifica Super-Automatic Machine

Which is Right For You?

​The answer to that question is: It depends!

If you have an extremely busy lifestyle and don’t care too much about the nuances of taste, flavour and overall "personalization" of your espresso, then you are an ideal candidate for an automatic espresso maker. These devices are more expensive than their semi-cousins but are also easier to maintain, and deliver a consistent espresso experience.

On the other hand, if you prefer to be more in control of the espresso-making process, and like to customize how the ultimate "fix" will turn out, then the semi-automatic machine is probably the one for you. While comparatively cheaper than fully-automated ones, the higher-end semi models even come with programmable features to control the dosage.

Semi-automatic vs automatic machines - you KNOW what's right for you now (if you paid attention for the last few minutes). Now all's that left is to pick one up and get cracking on your next cuppa brew. 

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