Getting yourself a coffee maker is less complicated than getting an espresso machine – a machine that brews coffee by forcing a pre-determined amount of water (almost reaching the boiling point) through coffee grinds. Read on to know what makes each distinct or different from the other, how they both operate, and what is an automatic espresso machine vs semi-automatic.
While various espresso makers exist on the market, many people are familiar with semi-automatic espresso as well as the fully the automatic (or super automatic) machines.
What is an Automatic Espresso Machine?
Automatic espresso machines are units that implement sensors, pumps, grinders, and valves in order to automate the brewing process. In this brief segment, we’ll cover everything you need to know about automatic espresso machines, so stick around.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
Dating back to the 1940s, semi-automatic machines were created by an Italian barista brand by the name of Gaggia. Semi-automatic machines were built with user-friendliness in mind. Units in this class are equipped with an electric pump that helps them generate around 8-9 bars worth of pressure, which is an ideal pressure range for brewing espresso.
Being semi-automatic units, users are required to do a bit of manual work. Grinding and tamping the coffee is pretty much what you need to do when using a semi-automatic espresso unit. Keep in mind that the coffee needs to fit perfectly into the portafilter. Once the portafilter is connected, you just lay back and let the machine take it from there.
The semi-automatic espresso machines are an invention of Gaggia in 1940 being an improvement from the Piston brewers, which were more complicated and inconvenient. They use of an electric pump to produce at least nine pressure bars (ideally the maximum for an espresso). One has to do several things before brewing commences, as they are not fully automatic.
You will also need to grind and tamp it to ensure the coffee fits well into the porta filter. Besides, the machine does the rest of the work once you fill the portafilter.
The machines are common in homes as they are affordable, easy to handle, and have other options such as tea brewing.
Automatic Espresso Machines
Fully-automatic espresso machines aren’t very different from their semi-automatic counterparts, considering that you’ll still be grinding and tamping the coffee before letting the machine handle it from there. However, the primary difference between the two is that fully-automatic units don’t require you to press the coffee once more in order to stop the water from flowing.
Being fully automatic, the machines require less human input. Once you turn it on, the machine will determine the amount of water to be pushed into the coffee ground. Once brewing is complete, the machines turns off automatically. This makes it unique from the semi-automatic one.
This machine is preferred by people who prefer doing other things while brewing. They are mainly used for commercial purposes as they give the barista ample time to make other drinks.
The only similarity between the fully-automatic and semi-automatic machines is that their quality is similar.
Semi-automatic machines make brewing unpredictable since you first have to tamp and grind the coffee then fill the portafilter for the machine to take control.
On the other hand, fully automatic machines make the brewing of espresso more convenient by taking control of the amount of water that goes through the grounds.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
Like you may have figured, super-automatic espresso machines are all-inclusive units that don’t require you to do anything at all. You, as the operator, are only needed to add water to the unit if the machine isn’t connected to a water line and fill the bean hopper. All of the grinding, tamping, and brewing is taken care of by the machine. Some units even offer automatic milk frothing.
Semi-automatic espresso machines offer total control over the variables in the brewing process, but there’s a learning curve involved. Automatic espresso machines offer users control over the variables and they’re consistent, but you can’t influence the shot timing. Lastly, super-automatic espresso units offer the convenience of hands-free operation, but they might affect the quality of the espresso since there’s no manual grinding and tamping involved.
An In-Depth Look At The Features Of A Fully-Automatic Espresso Machine
To see what makes a fully-automatic espresso machine amazing, read on to have an in depth understanding. Despite being fully automatic, the espresso does not spill as the brewing occurs, and makes awesome espressos.
As long as you turn the machine on and provide the coffee beans, you don’t have to do anything else. The machine takes care of the grinding, cleaning, brewing, and any other thing needed in the brewing process. Your espresso will be ready in less than half a minute!
Just like the ‘regular’ espresso machines, a fully automated espresso machine has all the basic features plus additional ones, such as the coffee grinder, and an internal computer that monitors the activities ensuring smooth coordination.
This level of efficiency and consistency eliminates any form of guesswork in brewing, with the result being an amazing espresso all the time. These features are:
Internal Brew Group
One feature for this group is an automatic brew system at the center of the machine.
This brew group takes care of all the essential brewing tasks that include: processing the coffee ground by the coffee grinder, tamps the coffee, pre-soaks the grinds, coffee brewing, and depositing the grind into the dumping box (internal). The brew group readjusts itself on each espresso shot, and the process continues.
Internal brew group that is Removable
Some machines come with a removable brew group. This makes it easier to get the group out, inspect and clear the grinds and other coffee residues that may have accumulated. To access this, you only need to push the release lever after opening the service door and then slide it towards you.
Besides the burr grinder, is a pre-grinding feature. It enables the machine to grind a different shot while the first one is brewing and make it readily available for the brew group. This occurs when a button is pressed in the course of your first brewing.
This ability comes in handy when preparing multiple drinks.
The ability to adjust the settings on your grinder gives you control over the type and taste you wish to make. You get to choose whether to have a bitter, stronger, or weaker espresso just by adjusting the grind settings.
Fully automatic espresso makers give you the power to choose the quality of your liking.
This is the part that lets you choose the amount of coffee you wish to grind. It is advisable you grind at least seven grams of coffee for a single shot of espresso. However, when you need a different type, some features will let you.
This feature lets you play around with the settings to get an espresso of your desired strength. It gives you the ability to adjust the amount of coffee to grind for your brew. For a higher dosage that will have you brewing double-shot espressos, you only need to press a button and boom!
The doser has a knob that you turn to indicate the number of grams you want to grind. Makers with removable brew groups allow the doser to adjust from six to nine grams. Other machines, depending on the brand, allow up to 15 grams.
The machine has a pre-grinding feature, which is a tiny chute usually at the top of the machine. This allows one to brew coffee that is different from the one kept in the bean hopper of the espresso maker. This feature comes in handy when you want to sample different espresso types.
Adjustable Liquid Control System
This allows you to control the volume of water compared to coffee in any brew.
Liquid Volume Control
The amount of coffee you get into your cup when you press the brew button is what is referred to as Liquid Volume. The standard volume is determined by the machine’s dial selector.
However, with the liquid volume control system, you can choose the amount that passes through the grinds, thus having an impact on the brew dispensed to you.
A programmable liquid volume control lets you readjust the settings when you brew different drinks (meaning you don’t need to write down the settings you used before lest you forget).
Water Filtering System
Regardless of the machine you are using, the water you use affects the overall drink. Fully-automatic espresso machines have a water filtration system that enables you to have a drink with the perfect mineral combination, free from any impurities and additives.
Brands such as Jura and Capresso have these systems that eliminate lead, copper, Chlorine, and other minerals from the water you use. Carbon additives are removed by safe organic components found in the system, doing away with the need for decalcification of the machine.