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Automatic vs Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine: What’s the Difference?

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Automatic vs Semi Automatic Espresso Machine whats difference

If you love espresso, you may want to skip the coffee shop line and purchase your own machine. But with hundreds of espresso machines on the market, how do you decide what to buy? Espresso machines can be large investments, so you’ll want to have all the facts before you make your choice.

Your first big decision is whether to buy an automatic or a semi-automatic model. Today we will examine the differences so you can choose the one you prefer.

Basics of Espresso Machines

An espresso machine works by forcing hot water through a compounded, tamped, amount of finely-ground coffee. The extraction produces a concentrated coffee known as espresso. Now that you know the basics of an espresso machine we can look at what separates an automatic from a semi-automatic.

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

If you have a strong desire to learn the craft of espresso making or you have been a barista before, a semi-automatic espresso machine is for you. They allow the user to control every step of the brewing process. It’s the brewer’s responsibility to fill the portafilter with coffee grounds, tamp and level the grounds, start the device to draw water from the boiler, and to stop the pump after the extraction of espresso occurs. Controlling the extraction time from beginning to end can change the flavor of your espresso. This puts you in direct control of the final product. This can take time to perfect. However, you gain a skill set and learn more about the various factors that affect the quality of espresso.

Semi automatic espresso machine

The popular Breville BES870XL is a great example of a semi-automatic machine.

Automatic Espresso Machines

An automatic machine is going to do about 75% of the work for you. You still have to grind the beans and tamp the grounds, but you don’t have to worry about timing the extraction. This is because it stops the process for you with an internal timer. This means the machine is in control of your espresso. The machine takes about 15-30 minutes to warm up, but after that you only have to measure, fill, and clean the machine. Some models have built-in timers to start up and shut down at certain times of the day. This can be helpful for people who have a quick morning routine, but don’t want to sacrifice making espresso. Although there are still cleaning and maintenance responsibilities, the automatic espresso machines require less attention than semi-automatic ones. They are great for someone who has never used an espresso machine before, or for someone who has less time.

Automatic espresso machine

The Saeco Incanto is a (super) automatic espresso machine.

Which is Right for You?

If you enjoy learning about brewing methods, experimenting with how things work, or you want a more personal espresso brewing experience, the semi-automatic is for you. These machines also cost less, so they can be a good choice if you’re on a budget.

On the other hand, automatic espresso machines can be quite a bit more expensive but are great for speed and convenience. If you would rather be able to turn on your machine and let it do most of the work for you in minutes, then the automatic espresso machine is for you.