Why should you choose a super automatic espresso machine?
There are a few reasons why a super automatic espresso machine is such a good choice. These machines are the only way to get coffeehouse-quality espresso in your own home at the push of a button. All you have to do is fill the water reservoir and bean hopper, choose what you want, and push a button. Plus, they make great-tasting coffee that’s brewed to the right temperature using the perfect amount of pressure. That’s something that drip coffee just can’t give you.
How does a super automatic espresso machine work?
Some models have more advanced features than others but there are some standard features that all super automatic espresso machines have. Most of them have a grinder that grinds whole beans and then deposits the grounds into the brew group. The machine automatically tamps the grounds and brewed the espresso, heating the water and using the right amount of pressure to create a shot of espresso. Most also have a steam wand that can be used to heat milk or dispense hot water.
To use one of these machines, you choose the volume you want from the machine, push the button, and wait. Some machines also let you choose from multiple types of drinks that steam and add milk or hot water for you.
One of the biggest differences between the products we chose is price. The range from our $500 budget pick, the Gaggia Brera, to the $5300 Jura GIGA W3. Now, bear in mind, those are two very different machines. Higher-end models have a lot more variety when it comes to the number of drinks they can make and they usually have larger water reservoirs and bean hoppers.
Choose the best super automatic espresso machine by the following features
Here are the specific features you should look for when choosing the right machine for your home or office.
Some of these machines are intuitive and very easy to use. The Breville Oracle Touch, for example, has a simple touchscreen menu that lets you swipe to choose your drink recipe. Some of the menus aren’t as straightforward and may take a bit of practice.
Another thing to consider is how easy it is to access the water reservoir and bean hopper. Front-loading is preferred because you don’t have to worry about clearance if you place your machine under the cupboards.
Most of these machines have built-in grinders. In fact, that’s a pretty standard feature of mid to high-range super automatic espresso machines. If the machine does have a grinder, you can use any whole bean. Some, like the Saeco Incanto, have a bypass system that allows you to use pre-ground coffee, including decaf or half-caf if you prefer.
The one exception to this in our review is the Nespresso by De’Longhi EN80BAE which is designed to be used only with Nespresso capsules.
The pressure is what makes espresso and is very important to the taste and quality of the end product. The ideal pressure for espresso is about 9 or 10 bars, though you will see machines that produce much higher amounts of pressure than that.
If you want a versatile machine that can make a variety of drinks, a milk frother is essential. Some machines, like the Breville Oracle Touch, have a built-in milk frother and steamer where you can adjust the temperature and texture of the milk. Others, like the De’Longhi Magnifica XS, have a steam wand so you can froth your own milk to make your own drinks.
Water and bean containers capacity
If you want a machine that’s appropriate for an office or a setting where a lot of people want espresso, it’s better to get one with a large water reservoir and bean container capacity. Why? Because you won’t have to refill them quite as often. If you’re looking for a machine for your home or to keep on your desk, the capacity isn’t as important since you won’t be using as much water or beans.
As we’ve mentioned, some of these machines have menus with multiple preset drinks. Others have slots to program your own creations. And, yes, there are a few that only make espresso. In the end, this boils down to preference. Do you want something that can make you a cappuccino, macchiato, flat white, or Americano based on your mood? Or is a simple shot of espresso enough?
Another thing to consider is cup size. If you’re only using the machine to make espresso shots, this might not matter as much but if you want a machine that can brew you a cappuccino right into your travel mug so you can grab it on your way out the door, cup size is definitely something to keep in mind.
Heating system and temperatures
If you want your drink fast, look for a machine with dual heating elements. Not only do they work quickly but, usually, you can brew one cup right after another without having to wait for the unit to cool.
Most super automatic espresso machines work by pulling small amounts of water at a time through the heating element. Two heating elements effective doubles the speed of this process.
The ideal water temperature for espresso is around 200 degrees F, which all of these machines are capable of doing. Some might just take a little longer than others to get there.
All of the machines we included in our review are covered by some kind of guarantee, usually a one or two-year limited warranty. It’s important to look closely at your warranty or any coverage that comes with your machine so you know what’s covered and what isn’t. You don’t want to unknowingly do something that is going to void your coverage.
Design and sizes
These machines all have a similar look and style. They’re sleek, usually with a shiny silver surface and black accents. Some of the other design features depend on the features of the machine but, for the most part, they would all look great in any kitchen and would match any stainless steel appliances well.
Most of these machines have an automatic cleaning feature to flush out the system and help prevent scale buildup. Something you might want to consider if you have hard water is using a machine that has a descaling function, too.
Automatic cleaning functions are great for getting the inside of the machine clean but removable brew groups are a good thing to look for, too. This makes it easy to get every last bit of the machine clean quickly and easily.
How to descale a super automatic espresso machine
Every machine will need to be descaled at some point, usually once every one to three months depending on the machine, how often it’s used, and water hardness. Descaling removes the mineral buildup that collects from water constantly moving through the machine. Hard water has more minerals and leaves behind more buildup.
To keep your machine running smoothly, use a descaling solution specifically made for a super automatic espresso machine. Most of the machines have a descaling process already programmed so you’ll just need to add the appropriate solution.
When descaling, the machine feeds the solution through the machine following the same path as the water which means it comes out the same spout as the espresso. Make sure you put a container in place catch it before you start the process.
After the machine finishes running the descaling solution through, it’s very important to rinse your machine. Follow the instructions that come with your machine to be sure but generally running two tanks of fresh water will flush the descaler out of the system.
One way you can prevent having to descale too frequently is to use a machine with a water filter or just use filtered water in the first place. This is particularly helpful if you live somewhere with particularly hard water.