Table of Contents
- 1 Super Automatic vs Semi Automatic Espresso Machines
- 2 Commercial Espresso Machines
- 3 Steam Espresso Machines
- 4 Manual Espresso Machines
- 5 Different Types of Espresso Machines Conclusion
Do you love a good cup of coffee (or several)?
Have you been thinking about breaking out of the world of drip-brew, made-by-the-pot coffee, and stepping into the world of specialty drinks like the kind you get at Starbucks and other popular coffee shops?
It can be enormously confusing if you’re new to that world. It seems like there’s a dizzying number of different types of espresso machines. And right now, you may not know the difference between super-automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines or the types of manual espresso machines available, or what makes a commercial espresso machine different from the rest.
If that’s the case, this article will surely help. In the sections that follow, we’ll bring those details into sharp focus, so you fully understand the different types of espresso machines that are available today should you decide to take the plunge. By the time you’re done reading this piece, you’ll have a pretty good idea which one is right for you.
Let’s get right to i
t and see what each of these machines are all about!
Super Automatic vs Semi Automatic Espresso Machines
Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
Of all the different types of espresso coffee makers being sold today, the super-automatics are the ones that get the lion’s share of the press and attention. They are the darlings of the industry. The A-list celebrities of the specialty coffee maker world, and with good reason... They do it all.
These are “beans to brew” systems that sport things like built-in grinders and push button controls. High-end models even come equipped with TFT (Thin Film Transistor) computer monitors built into their front face, allowing you to push buttons and navigate your way through a series of menus, find the drink you want, push a button and wait.
After you’ve loaded the beans and water, you just sit back and let the machine do all the work. In about a minute (the exact time varies from one machine to the next), you’re holding your favorite coffee creation.
Of course, there are a few tradeoffs to be had. Coffee purists will say that you lose some control by automating so much of the process. Because of that, purists will argue that the specialty drinks that super-automatic espresso machines make aren’t quite as good as semi-automatic or manual machines.
The other big tradeoff is, of course, price. All that automation doesn’t come cheap, and these tend to be the most expensive machines on the market. Still, there’s a lot to be said for convenience, and if you don’t want to take the time to learn to be a Barista, super-automatics are the way to go.
They give you the freedom to control the major settings (usually at the push of a button or the twisting of a knob) while automating the particulars.
What's the difference between super-automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines? We give you four reasons.
Other Automatic Espresso Machines
Note that there is some overlap between the two. Some espresso machines are called “automatic.” They’re not quite as hands-free as super-automatics, but contain more automation than the semis. The key difference here is that the water dispensing feature can be precisely controlled.
This means you don’t have to manually activate/deactivate the pump, but still retain precise control over the output. The chief drawback here, though, is that you’re not gaining much in the way of automation, and you’re using fragile electronics which will invariably break down to get it.
They occupy a relatively small, niche space in the industry, and for most purposes should be considered in the same basic class as semi-automatics, but that’s why there’s some overlap.
Deciding Factor: Control vs Convenience
Ultimately then, when comparing semi-automatic vs super automatic espresso machines, it comes down to how much you value precise control vs. how much you value convenience. Semi-automatics are currently the most popular machines on the market today, offering the best blend of price and performance, but there’s a lot to be said for the sleek, sexy super-automatics.
Commercial Espresso Machines
Before we start talking about the different types of commercial espresso machines available, it’s important to bring one thing into focus. Some of the larger and more robust types of home espresso machines are fine for office use.
You don’t necessarily need to spend the extra money to get a commercial grade device for a small office, although if your office is filled with power coffee drinkers, it may be worth considering. In most cases, however, you can save money by investing in a high-end machine optimized for home use unless selling coffee is a big part of your business.
Types of Commercial Espresso Machines
As far as types of professional espresso machines are concerned, you find the same choices that you have in the consumer market: Manual, Semi-automatic, a small “gray area” category of automatics, and super-automatics. At this point, you may be wondering what the heck all the fuss is about.
Consumer vs Commercial Machines
While it’s true that there is some overlap between consumer and commercial machines, a commercial grade machine usually has the following differences:
Deciding Factor: Machine Usage
There are a few other differences, but the above mentioned are the big ones. In general, a commercial grade machine is more rugged and robust. It’s built to last and to be a workhorse. Most machines designed for home use are engineered with casual use in mind and would simply fall apart if they tried to keep pace with what a commercial machine can do.
So, when deciding between a consumer and a commercial grade machine, consider how many people will be using the machine, how often it will be used, and how the machine will be maintained.
Steam Espresso Machines
Of the different types of espresso machines on the market today, the lowly steam machines have been pushed to a dim corner of the market, and probably sell the least these days. Purists don’t like them because it’s hard to get a quality shot, and even if you have an extremely tight budget, you can get a low-end semi-automatic or manual that will produce much better results.
Steam Espresso Machine
Types of Steam Espresso Machines
Deciding Factor: Cost vs Quality
If these types of machines can be said to have one compelling advantage, it would be cost. They are incredibly inexpensive, but this is definitely a case of getting what you pay for. You just can’t get the same kind of reliability and quality out of a steam machine compared to anything else mentioned in this article.
Manual Espresso Machines
Of all the types of home espresso machines, the manual probably gets the least press attention these days. The convenience of the semi and super-automatics is just too compelling, and because of that, these have come to dominate the market, relating the different purely manual models to niche status, used by coffee purists and almost nobody else.used by coffee purists and almost nobody else.
Having said that, manual espresso machines do offer some compelling advantages for the right user.
Manual Espresso Machines Benefits
Types of Manual Espresso Machines
There are only two different types of manual espresso machines: Piston-Lever and Direct-Lever.
In the Piston-Lever, you’ll have gauges and dials that tell you what the pressure is, and when you get to at least 9 bars of pressure, you’re ready to release. With a Direct-Lever, you are the pump, and by manually pumping the lever, you build up the pressure.
Of all the different types of espresso machines made, the Direct-Lever manual requires the most experience and finesse to use well, because it’s not as straightforward as “one pump = one bar of pressure.” Every machine is different, so you’ve got to really know yours well, and be a good barista in your own right to create a consistently good shot with these.
Deciding Factor: Time and Skill
Manual espresso makers have a totally different aesthetic, too. They have a decidedly Old World look and feel, and some people take the time and trouble to learn to use them well for this reason alone.
For most people, the extra time it takes to brew your favorite coffee concoctions with a manual just isn’t worth it. We live in a fast-paced, high-tech world, and the vast majority of the market just doesn’t want to wait.
Different Types of Espresso Machines Conclusion
If you started reading this piece with the question “what are the different types of espresso machines?” at the forefront of your mind, our hope is that you not only have a clear understanding of the differences but also have a good idea whether or not you want to take the plunge and dive into this world of fantastic coffee flavors.
Don’t worry; you won’t have to say goodbye to “regular” coffee because these machines can make an excellent Cup of Joe. On the other hand, with so many different amazing flavors and possibilities at your fingertips, no matter which type of espresso machine you purchase, you may embrace this new flavor frontier and never look back.
Either way, happy hunting, and here’s to you enjoying a world-class cup of caffeinated magic, any time you want, from the comfort of home!
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