There are times when you want your coffee fast and with no effort.
And I’m sure you don’t want to sacrifice beverage quality for the sake of convenience?
If so, a super-automatic coffee maker would be ideal in this case.
So, are you ready to start enjoying fuss-free brewing? Then let’s learn how to pick something that would suit your needs perfectly.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines Explained
Super-automatic espresso machines are quite popular these days thanks to their simple operation and easy controls. To brew a cup of coffee, all you have to do is press a button, and the machine will do the rest. How awesome is that?
I mean, if you appreciate the convenience of capsule Nespresso machines, a super-automatic espresso maker will blow your mind, as this type usually brews incredibly delicious beverages. Using the needed pressure to extract espressos (1), super-automatic models do not sacrifice the beverage quality for the sake of speed.
Typically, such coffee makers grind the beans, transfer the grounds into the portafilter, and brew coffee. Many of them allow users to choose between different beverage types, such as espressos, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and so on.
When compared to other types of coffee brewers, super-automatic models seem the most convenient (and ideal for multi-taskers). For instance, with a semi-automatic espresso maker, you need to tamp the grounds and control the extraction time manually. Or if we look at drip coffee makers, those require you to fill the filter basket with the needed amount of coffee (and don’t forget that you have to grind it first).
All things considered, super-automatic espresso machines require no effort on the user’s part and allow for the most fuss-free brewing process.
Types of Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
Super-automatic espresso machines come in a variety of styles and designs, each of which has its benefits and drawbacks. Familiarizing yourself with the main categories of espresso brewers can help you narrow down the list of items and get rid of everything that won’t work for you.
Now, the first big category of super-automatic espresso machines involves specialty beverages. If you drink cappuccinos or lattes at least weekly (or maybe even daily), you might want to get an espresso brewer with a milk frother.
There are two types: a steam wand and an automatic frother. With a steam wand, the process is manual. You get total control over milk frothing and can work with different settings and batch sizes on any given day. However, this method does require some effort and a bit of adjusting.
Automatic milk frothers do all the work for users. They usually dispense the milk into the mug through the spout right after frothing. While this option is more fuss-free and would be perfect for beginners, automatic frothers cannot achieve the same results steam wands can. The foam turns out a bit different. And it’s hard (almost impossible) to achieve a good microfoam with a regular frother. In this case, a steam wand would do a better job.
Another big category of super-automatic espresso machines is linked to the boiler type. The most common options on the market are single and dual boilers. With a single boiler, the espresso machine uses one heating system for both brewing and steaming milk. This means you won’t be able to get on with both processes simultaneously. Therefore, super-automatic machines with a single boiler require more time to make beverages. It will take you even longer if you need to make more than one coffee drinks.
A dual-boiler system uses two separate heaters for making espressos and steaming milk. In this case, you will be able to start frothing while your expresso is still being pulled. This really helps speed up the process. Such a brewer design is ideal for someone who wants their beverages faster or needs to brew coffee for multiple users.
Now, super-automatic espresso machines often come with an integrated grinder to deliver fresh beans into your cup. The most common grinder type in modern brewers is burr. Now, you have a variety of options here. Firstly, a burr grinder can be either conical or wheel. The latter is less expensive and operates faster. However, it is nosier and more prone to clogging. Conical grinders work slightly slower and make less noise (2). Additionally, they can accommodate more types of beans and aren’t that likely to clog often. Some of the best espresso machines with a grinder use conical ones rather than the wheel type.
Burr grinders may also differ in terms of the material used. You can pick between steel and ceramic burrs. Steel grinders are more common and widely available. They are durable and sharp but tend to lose their sharpness with time. Ceramic burrs are considered to be even more durable (3). Additionally, they don’t heat up when grinding (unlike steel burrs) and therefore, do not affect the coffee flavor in any way.
Another great feature of super-automatic coffee machines is that they may feature a milk reservoir. If your brewer packs a fully automatic milk foaming system, it will most likely have a tank that will prepare the milk while the coffee maker brews an espresso, thus speeding up overall preparation time.
Plus, a super-automatic coffee brewer may have a cup warmer that will help the aroma of the coffee bloom and reveal the hidden notes. Just try to drink your espresso from a warmed cup, and you immediately feel the difference.
Things to Know When Shopping for the Best Super-Automatic Espresso Machine
Here’s the deal:
You don’t have to be an expert to find the best espresso brewer for home use.
You just need to understand what you are looking for exactly. And to do that, consider the most important factors when shopping for a new super-automatic espresso machine:
- Size. When shopping for a new espresso machine, consider its footprint and your counter space. Some models tend to be quite bulky, especially the ones that have a large bean hopper or a huge water reservoir. Also, consider the height of your new espresso maker. Many of them emit steam when brewing and frothing milk, so keeping such models under the cabinets (especially wooden) might not be the best idea.
- Functionality. How much adjustability do you want? Are you okay with a few presets, or do you want the freedom to use your custom settings? Do you want multiple beverage types or prefer espressos only? Some super-automatic espresso machines allow users to adjust almost any setting or small details, while others function with a strict list of programs. Keep in mind that more functionality usually means a higher price.
- Purpose. Once you determine the purpose of your new machine, it will be much easier for you to narrow down the list of options. Do you want to brew espressos or other beverages? Are you going to be the only one who will use the machine? If not, what brewing capacity should it have to be enough for multiple users? Do you need a simple model for home or a more powerful option for office use? Once you decide on the purpose of your espresso maker, all the unsuitable options will disappear from your sight.
- Boiler type. You already know that there are two main options: single and double. A quick word of advice: if you are a solo user (or plan to share your espresso machine with a partner), a single boiler should suffice. And if you are sure that you will make specialty beverages all the time (and multiple times a day) for yourself or someone else, a dual boiler system would be more suitable in this case as it ensures faster operation.
- Grinder type. To pick steel or ceramic burrs is up to you. Keep in mind that steel models are cheaper but louder and slightly less durable. Ceramic burrs tend to serve longer but also come at a higher price. In terms of coarseness adjustments and grind consistency, both types show great results.
- Price. To save yourself from overspending, it might be a good idea to set a certain budget before starting to shop. If your budget is a bit tight, you can check good espresso machines under $200. However, keep in mind that those might be somewhat limited in terms of functionality. And it can be a bit hard to find super-automatic models in this price category. You will be more likely to find highly-functional brewers among the top-rated espresso machine under $1,000, so if your budget allows for it, go with something more expensive (starting from around $500).
- Cleaning and maintenance. There are a couple of features you may want to consider here. Firstly, some espresso makers have removable parts, which makes cleaning much easier. Keep in mind that some of those parts might be dishwasher safe, which is always a nice bonus. And let’s not forget about the descaling process, which is very important if you want to protect your coffee machine from build-up and prolong its lifespan (4). Now, descaling usually takes quite some time and attention on your part, so if you don’t want to be bothered with the process, pick a coffee machine that has an automatic self-cleaning function.
- Beverage options. Do you want strictly espressos? Or are you a fan of specialty beverages as well? Some super-automatic machines brew espressos only. Others might come with an automatic milk frother and a list of pre-set beverages you can enjoy (such as latte, café mocha, cappuccino, and more). Keep in mind that models that offer the most versatility typically tend to be pricier.
- Durability and materials used. Here’s the good news: many super-automatic espresso machines use stainless steel in their construction, which is very durable. Some might have a few plastic parts or plastic exteriors. In this case, you might want to make sure that the plastic is safe and BPA-free. Additionally, you can read other users’ reviews to find out whether the desired coffee maker has any flimsy or thin plastic parts. But if your budget allows for it, it’s probably a better idea to give your preference to sturdier models that use stainless steel (or sometimes brass).
- Warranty. The rule here is simple: good espresso machines should have a longer warranty. You see, when a manufacturer offers a prolonged warranty period, this might mean a couple of things. Firstly, it can be an indication that the manufacturer used top-notch materials and feels sure of their product’s quality. Secondly, a good warranty period means that the manufacturer is ready to stand behind their product and to take care of their customer in case of a malfunction or defects.
- Brew group: built-in or detachable. The brew group is the mechanism that carries pressurized water into the filter basket with ground beans. It can be built-in or detachable, and the latter is better, maintenance-wise. You can easily remove it for cleaning or repair without having to disassemble the whole coffee maker or replace it completely.
Which type of coffee is best for espresso machines?
You can use any coffee you like. However, medium and dark roasts, as well as medium grind, are considered the best for making espresso, so if you want to enjoy all the complexity of your brew, these roasts can make a good starting point.
Are espresso machines easy to maintain?
Sure. Most of them require regular cleaning — just rinse the parts with water and dish soap or wash them in the dishwasher. Plus, you might need to descale them every once in a while, and some coffee machines have a light indicator that will tell you when it’s time to remove mineral deposits.
What is the optimal pump pressure for espresso?
Espresso machines with 8 or 9 bars make the best espresso with a bold flavor, complex body, and a thick fluffy crema foam. You can drink it as is or use it as a base for other beverages.
Are super-automatic espresso machines dishwasher-safe?
We advise you to check in with the manufacturer for this part. Although some parts of super-automatic espresso machines can be washed in a dishwasher, others may require manual cleaning to ensure their longevity.
How quickly the super-automatic espresso machine can make a cup?
The super-automatic espresso machine doesn’t need your participation in the process: you press the start button, and it does everything from grinding the beans to pouring the frothed milk into a cup. Depending on the beverage, this device may need from 2 to 10 minutes per cup, which is slower than a standard espresso brewer, which only requires 25-30 minutes to brew a shot of espresso or the drip coffee maker that takes 4-5 minutes to brew a pot.
- Robert McKeon Aloe (March 22, 2020). Pressure Pulsing for Better Espresso. Retrieved from https://towardsdatascience.com/pressure-pulsing-for-better-espresso-62f09362211d
- Sean Paajanen (January 09, 2020). What’s the Difference Between Blade and Burr Coffee Grinders? Retrieved from https://www.thespruceeats.com/blade-or-burr-grinder-765770
- Manette Kaisershot (October 01, 2020). How to buy the best coffee grinder. Retrieved from https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/coffee-grinders/article/how-to-buy-the-best-coffee-grinder-amjaM2B9iK7u#headline_steel-vs-ceramic-burrs
- Kimberley Mcgee (March 12, 2020). How to Clean an Espresso Machine with Vinegar. Retrieved from https://www.hunker.com/13409666/how-to-clean-an-espresso-machine-with-vinegar
My name is Yurii Brown. I am a passionate coffee geek and, concurrently, a certified coffee specialist.
I’ve been learning about coffee for a long time, testing various devices and practicing in home coffee brewing. I like to share my experience and insights with fellow coffee lovers so that my readers could enjoy the real taste of quality-brewed beverages.