5 Different Types of Espresso Machines: Which is Right for You?

Last Updated: by: Amanda T

Types of espresso machines

Espresso machines give coffee connoisseurs an opportunity to be their own barista at home. If this idea excites you, that’s the first step. The second step to making espresso in your home is choosing which espresso machine you want to invest in based on the features they have. Some prefer the art of making espresso, admiring it as a craft. Others place priority on how easy the machine is to use or how fast it gets you your caffeine fix. We will guide you through the benefits and drawbacks of 5 types of espresso makers: a moka pot, semi-automatic espresso machines, automatic espresso machines, super-automatic espresso machines, and a Nespresso.

Different Types of Espresso Makers:

1. Moka Pots / Stovetop Espresso Makers (The Budget Option)

a moka pot

This option is the only stovetop model; they are also available as electric models. What are other benefits and drawbacks to owning a moka pot? Before we get into that, we will explain how it works.

Moka pots work by using induction heat. They have two chambers. One chamber on the bottom is for the water and the top chamber holds the coffee grounds. This is then put over medium heat which makes the water hot enough to pass up through the grounds and produce the espresso. This process usually takes about 10-15 minutes.

Benefits of a moka pot include its easy, simple process. The first time you use it will be as easy as the tenth time. It also has the capability of making multiple cups of espresso at once. This means you can buy a 4-cup moka pot and it will make 4 cups of 2-3 oz espresso. They also have 2, 6, 8, and 10-cup models.

Drawbacks of a moka pot include the possibility of a metallic taste. This usually only happens if you purchase an aluminum moka pot; the stainless steel versions do not have this problem. Another drawback is that it doesn’t use any pressure, only steam. This means the extraction of your espresso might not be as good and could produce a less intense tasting espresso.

Pros
  • Multiple servings
  • Easy to use
Cons
  • Can have metallic taste
  • Less intense espresso

2. Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

a semi automatic espresso machine

This option is the most hands-on and gives you the most control over the brewing process. Former baristas and serious at-home coffee brewers are the ones who will probably prefer this option. This is because this machine can be challenging and requires learning a skill set to make good quality espresso with your own hands. Let’s see how it works.

Espresso machines are pump-driven and are calibrated to the correct temperature and brewing pressure to give you a quality product. Semi-automatic espresso machines require you to grind the beans beforehand, add the coffee grounds to the portafilter, and tamp the ground coffee to give it the resistance against the water flow to create pressure. This type of espresso machine relies completely on you to start and stop the extraction process. This means you have control over the taste of your espresso.

As you can see, more time and attention go into using a semi-automatic espresso machine. However, the process rewards you with an authentic experience and taste, which is the biggest benefit of having one. Another benefit is the ability to craft espresso all on your own.

One drawback to having this type of machine is that it requires good cleaning and frequent maintenance in order for it to last a long time and to continue producing quality espresso. Another drawback for some is the learning curve; being in charge of the extraction timing can be a complicated thing to master. Once you do master it though, you’ll feel empowered and know that you are the reason your espresso tastes so good.

Pros
  • Authentic experience
  • Great quality espresso
  • Craft it on your own
Cons
  • Frequent maintenance
  • Learning curve

3. Automatic Espresso Machines

an automatic espresso machine

The third type of espresso machine is similar to the semi-automatic one, except for the “semi” part. This option is good for those who want to use an espresso machine, but don’t want the extra learning curve and challenges that a semi-automatic espresso machine may present.

This one does more work for you, but you still have to grind your own beans, fill the portafilter, and tamp the grounds. The big difference with this machine is that after you start the extraction process, it stops it for you after 25-30 seconds. The automatic espresso machine will give you the same espresso every time, whereas the semi-automatic can vary depending on your skill. The same cleaning and maintenance is required for this one, which can be a drawback for some.

Pros
  • Consistent results
  • No learning curve
  • Authentic espresso
Cons
  • Frequent maintenance

4. Super-Automatic Espresso Machines

a super automatic espresso machine

If you thought #3 did more for you, then you’ll be surprised to hear that a super-automatic espresso machine does even more. It has all the same functions as the other two espresso machines, but with a few additions. This option is great for someone who wants the full espresso-making setup but doesn’t want to learn the process of grinding and tamping the beans.

This machine grinds the beans for you, filters your water, measures both water and grounds, and goes through its own cleaning process, making it much easier to use than the previous two machines. The first time you use it you have to draw water through the boiler like you do on the other two machines, but that is the extent of your involvement. This option only requires you to turn on the machine (which takes 1-2 minutes), and then press a button or two to make your espresso. The extraction time is the same as the automatic espresso machine, 25-30 seconds. Some models even have milk steam wands, so that you can craft all parts of your favorite espresso drinks in one place.

This option is going to cost the most by far, but it offers unparalleled speed and convenience compared to the options listed above. It also provides the same great quality espresso you would expect out of a “super” machine.

Pros
  • Speed
  • Does everything for you
  • Authentic espresso
  • Milk steam wand
Cons
  • Expensive

5. Nespresso Machines

A Nespresso machine

This is a small, compact version of an espresso machine, but it works differently than any of the other options. It’s a more cost-effective version of a completely hands-free espresso maker.

It works by having the user insert capsules of pre-ground coffee; these capsules come in different varieties for single, double, or lungo espresso, along with options for 8-14 oz coffees. Once the machine is activated, the Nespresso uses centrifusion technology for the extraction process. Activation starts spinning the capsule up to 7,000 times per minute to blend the grounds with water. This produces an espresso or coffee product that pours directly into your cup.

This product is perfect for those who place a lot of value on time and convenience. It works quickly and is a very simple process. The capsules that go with the machine already have great quality blends in them, and the centrifusion technology is what ensures you have great espresso.

Pros
  • Fast
  • Easy to use
  • Good quality espresso
  • Small size
  • Cheaper
Cons
  • Doesn’t give authenticity