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.
The EspressoWorks All-In-One Espresso Machine & Cappuccino Maker, which is one of the best semi automatic espresso machines under $300, extracts 16 to 18 shots of espresso while the 67-ounce tank of the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine churns out up to 50 cups in a day. If capacity isn’t a big deal, you might also consider getting a single serve coffee maker.
If it comes with a grinder
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.
Our recommended list of the best semi automatic espresso machines for homes include ESE-compatible models like the Gaggia RI8525/01, the De’Longhi EC155, and the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine which requires a separate adapter kit for compatibility.
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.