Adam holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Linguistics, and creative writing has always been his greatest passion. For more than 25 years he's been working for several well-known automobile and travel magazines as an editor and expert consultant, but when Adam started his writing path here, at WisePick, it turned out that he's capable of writing practically anything about everything.
Initially being an engineering specialist, Tom has never stopped learning and acquiring other knowledge and skills. Now he’s involved in technical support for a well-known household appliances manufacturer, so no wonder he knows everything about almost everything you buy for your home.
Last updated: May 19, 2021
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Semi-automatic espresso machines are undoubtedly the most popular type of coffee makers because they blend the convenience and consistency of fully automatic models with the control and flexibility that coffee purists prefer in manual espresso machines. With the best semi automatic espresso machine, you get more control of the water flow and extraction time as well as adjustable volume of the shots, tamping pressure and grind size for a unique personal flavor.
Before making your purchase, you should consider the capacity of the water tank to ensure it can churn out the amount of espresso you need. This will also reduce the frequency of refilling it. Next, you should evaluate the dimensions which can fit in the space available. You will also need to check whether the unit comes with a grinder if you don’t have a separate one. Lastly, confirm whether the espresso machine can work with ESE pods for more brewing options and greater convenience.
We compared the individual features of several models and the feedback from verified buyers to compile our recommended list. In this review, you will find a comprehensive buying guide which will serve as a useful checklist for your reference. We have also included detailed reviews of each model after the comparison table below.
Breville BES870XL is a bestselling and top-rated model which embodies the best home semi-automatic espresso machine for both novices and experienced baristas. It boasts of multiple automated features and accessories which can be adjusted to suit individual tastes or switched between manual and automatic modes for flexibility and convenience.
The built-in stainless steel conical burr grinder allows you to brew single or double shots from freshly ground coffee in 60 seconds. You can either use the dual wall pressurized filters for preset grinding options or the single wall non-pressurized filters to choose your preferred grind size, grind amount, and tampering pressure. It also allows you to choose the filter size for the automatic dosage of single or double shot or manually determine the volume of the shot.
In addition to thermo coil heating system, this model comes with a top-loading eight-ounce bean hopper, a PID for accurate temperature and a pressure gauge to prevent a burnt taste or a watery taste with no crema.
Other notable features include a conventional steam wand and a stainless steel milk jug.
Upon purchase, you will also get accessories such as razor dose trimming tool, port filter, coffee scoop, cleaning disc, and tablets, cleaning brush, Allen key, carbon resin water filter, and water filter holder.
Although not a deal breaker, the most constant complaint from customers is the mess and spillage created by the integrated grinder. Frothing milk may also take a while.
EspressoWorks All-In-One Espresso Machine & Cappuccino Maker is equipped with everything you need to transform into a bravura barista and replicate your favorite coffeeshop drinks in the confines of your home. The seven-piece espresso set includes a plug-in electric grinder, tamper, measuring spoon, stainless steel frothing cup, two 3.5-ounce ceramic espresso cups and a pressurized portafilter with two baskets for single or double shots.
The portafilter, shot baskets and frothing cup are made of brushed stainless steel while the water tank and drip tray feature BPA-free plastic construction.
To save energy, the auto-off feature is activated after 25 minutes of inactivity, 25 minutes of continuous usage, or if the pump operates continuously for three minutes. To power off the machine fully, press the On/Off button for four seconds until the light goes off.
With advanced Thermoblock fast heating system which primes the machine for brewing in 45 seconds, a full tank which extracts 16 to 18 shots of espresso, a steam wand which heats and froths milk, and separate settings for brewing and frothing which allow you to do either at any time, this model provides you with endless experimentation with coffee-based beverages, making it probably the best semi-automatic espresso machine for homes. The included illustrated guide with tips will help you out along the way.
We like the detachable frothing device for creamy cappuccinos and the inclusion of the blade grinder because you can grind whole beans for a fresh espresso flavor. You can also use pre-ground coffee, but not ESE pods.
De’Longhi EC155 is a budget-friendly coffee maker equipped with a patented dual filter holder with 3-in-1 functionality which allows you to enjoy your favorite caffeinated beverages in a single or double shot as well as ESE pods, making it one of the best value semi automatic espresso machines.
Two adjustable thermostats and a durable stainless steel boiler maintain the right temperature for cappuccinos and espressos while the rotating jet frothing wand adds creamy foam to your latte. Each refill of the 35-ounce water tank produces eight to ten shots.
The unit also comes with a built-in tamper which gives budding baristas more control although most buyers have opted for a separate handheld tamper to reduce the mess created by the coffee on the counter and drip tray. Fortunately, both the tank and drip tray are removable and dishwasher safe for convenient cleaning.
A red light comes on when the machine is warming up, followed by a green light after two minutes. However, the manufacturer recommends allowing the self-priming unit to preheat for 15 mins for better espresso flow and milk froth.
The downside to this model is the low clearance – approximately three inches – of the espresso and steam wand, which makes it hard to fit cups and pitchers. You may have to use shot glasses and six-ounce latte glasses. Buyers also report malfunctioning of the thermostats after a while. Otherwise, this best seller is the best bargain for budding baristas and coffee aficionados with space restrictions or limited budget.
Since its founder patented the first modern steamless espresso machine in 1938, Gaggia has become one of the most prominent brands for making the best home semi automatic espresso machines.
Featuring a pressurized portafilter, Gaggia RI8525/01 is a great choice for beginners who won’t have to worry about achieving the right tamping and consistency for the ground coffee. The manufacturer actually cautions against using a tamper since there is already one integrated into the unit.
There are two filters for brewing ground coffee and ESE pods. The machine also features Pannarello steam wand which aerates the milk to create a silky texture for lattes and cappuccinos or dispenses water for tea and Americanos. The wand can be removed for more creamy foam.
The pre-infusion function wets the ground coffee before brewing it for a more even extraction which yields a richer flavor while the auto shut-off function activates the idle mode after nine minutes to save energy.
Once you turn this machine on, it performs a rinse cycle to preheat the portafilter. If rinse mode quickly depletes water in the front-loading 47-ounce tank, you can disable it temporarily or permanently.
The boiler is made of stainless steel although the unit mostly features plastic construction, which makes this espresso maker light enough for portability but also prone to tottering.
Buyers like the two spouts which can fill two cups at once, the yellow flashing light alert which reminds you to descale, and the cup warmer which keeps your coffee hot. However, many users have complained about the poorly-written manual.
Coffee pundits who enjoy tinkering with various aspects of the brewing process to tailor the results to their preferences will love Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine because of its professional quality in terms of build, features and the skills required for effective operation. Owners describe it as a commercial machine which has been condensed down for home use and which froths milk like a pro.
The unit features a water boiler equipped with mechanical valves for regulating pressures and three switches for making espresso, using the frother and dispensing hot water.
It works with pre-ground coffee although you can use capsules and ESE pods if you acquire an adapter kit. Most customers recommend investing in a grinder for the best results.
As expected, novices will have a steep learning curve because they have to get the right grind fineness and tamp pressure and understand how this single-boiler espresso maker works with different temperatures for different functions. Due to the high temperature required for steaming, you should let water run for about ten seconds in Espresso mode to vent all steam before switching from steaming to brewing to avoid bitter espresso and a burning taste.
We like the spacious removable tank which can also be refilled from the top and churn out 50 cups per day, multiple thermostats, patented portafilter for single or double shot, and the sturdy construction which makes this model a durable investment. Some customers have reportedly owned it for more than a decade.
We have broken down the most important features to help you determine the best home semi-automatic espresso machine that will match your needs and lifestyle. We also explain the differences between a fully automatic model and a semi-automatic espresso machine and provide answers to the most pertinent questions in the FAQ segment at the end of this detailed guide.
How a semi-automatic espresso machine differs from a fully automatic one
The main difference between the semi-automatic espresso machine and a fully automatic model is the level of control you can have in the extraction process, especially regarding the water flow, filling the ground coffee, grinding, tamping and duration.
Automatic machines use an internal timer to automatically stop delivery of the predetermined volume of water after the extraction process is complete to ensure consistency in every shot or to start up and shut down at set times. They also feature push buttons which are convenient and easy to use but they are less flexible and pricier than their semi automatic counterparts.
On the other hand, the best value semi automatic espresso machine combines the best of automatic and manual espresso machines, allowing you to adjust the grinding and tamping settings and start and stop the device to control the extraction time. This gives you more flexibility to customize the final results while automating temperature and pressure to reduce human error.
This balance of control and consistency makes them an ideal choice for newbies who don’t mind the learning curve to improve their brewing skills and baristas who prefer tweaking the settings to experiment with various espresso beverages and customize the taste and texture.
Features to consider while choosing a semi-automatic espresso machine
Since the choice and volume of drinks, as well as the available space and budget, varies from one individual to another, keeping the following features in mind will help you choose the best value semi automatic espresso machine that will suit you.
Water tank capacity
Hot water from the tank flows through the ground coffee at high pressure to make espresso. This subsequently determines the total volume of shots you can produce on a full tank and how often you may need to refill. This is why it is important to consider the tank capacity before making your decision.
Some coffee purists consider a grinder more important than the espresso machine because the fineness and consistency of the grind has a great impact on the final results.
Some espresso makers like the Breville BES870XL feature a built-in grinder which grinds fresh coffee beans using preset settings which can be switched to manual use to customize the grind size and volume while others like the EspressoWorks All-In-One Espresso Machine & Cappuccino Maker come with a separate grinder. A burr grinder is preferable to a blade grinder because you can customize the grind size.
Although some semi-automatic espresso machines which do not include a grinder and only accept pre-ground coffee, some models such as the Gaggia RI8525/01 and the De’Longhi EC155 work with both pre-ground coffee and ESE pods.
If it can be used with ESE pods
Easy Serving Espresso (ESE) pods come in paper filter covering containing seven grams of fine pre-ground and compressed coffee for a single shot. This makes them convenient because they provide instant and consistent espresso by taking the guesswork out of grinding, measuring, and tamping. Simply toss the pod inside the single shot filter or change the filter in your portafilter and brew. ESE pods are also easier to clean up.
Confirm whether your intended model is compatible with ESE pods by checking the sign on the manual or on the unit itself. A compatible model will typically work with pods with a diameter size of 44 to 45 mm.
More features and components and a large water tank may yield superior and greater amounts of espresso, but they will mostly come with a large machine. Consider the space available on your countertop to determine the best home semi-automatic espresso machine that can fit on it and leave enough room for operation and accessibility and other kitchen appliances.
Warranty for semi-automatic espresso machines typically range from one to two years. An extended warranty can protect you against defective units and malfunctioning components. Checking out online reviews from verified buyers gives you a clear picture of the brand’s reputation, warranty, customer support, and expected longevity of your intended model. You can also find out more about the availability of parts for replacement.
Control panel: It features the controls you need to operate the unit and displays the current temperature and pressure settings and alerts.
Adjustable cup tray: This allows you to adjust the height to fit in mugs and cups of various sizes. It is convenient if your unit has an awkwardly placed spout or low clearance, which makes pouring difficult.
Frothing wand: This is an important feature for making specialty drinks like latte, cappuccinos, macchiato, and americanos. All the models in this review include it.
Ease of cleaning: Due to constant exposure to moisture, your unit will need regular cleaning to maintain top performance and extend its lifespan. Look for parts that can be easily disassembled and reassembled and dishwasher safe. You can also use descalers and cleaning tablets periodically.
Material: An espresso machine should be made of a material that can withstand heat and maintain the right temperature without breaking down or overheating. You should know how much the espresso machine can handle before purchasing it. Some parts, like grinders and tampers should be sturdy enough to handle the pressure of grinding and tamping.
These compact machines provide countless drink choices without costing you a fortune. With the best semi-automatic espresso machine for under $200 only, you can brew espresso, cappuccino, latte, macchiato, americano, mocha, breve, ristretto, affogato, long black, vienna, and cortado, or use the dispensed hot water to make tea and other infusions.
The pump in semi-automatic espresso machines can generate noise in some models, but you don’t have to worry about that with the units we have recommended in this review. However, when you use the milk frother, it will unavoidably create some noise, but it lasts as long as you need it to.
It’s Breville for beginners and baristas. Our Editor’s Choice, the Breville BES870XL, incorporates multiple settings which can be automated to reduce the learning curve for newbies and ensure consistency in every shot, or modified to manual mode to give coffee connoisseurs control of every aspect of the brewing process, from grinding fresh beans to pouring out the piping hot espresso shots.
The De’Longhi EC155 was our Budget Pick and is also one of the best semi-automatic espresso machines for under $100. Featuring a built-in tamper, two adjustable thermostats, a steaming wand, single and double shot filters, and ESE pod compatibility, it is an affordable choice for newbies to expand their skills to macchiato maestros.