If you’re looking to buy an espresso machine, the first thing you need to figure out is if you want a semi-automatic espresso machine or a super-automatic espresso machine.
While they conveniently automate some steps, semi-automatic espresso machines give you ultimate control in producing a consistent, high-quality shot. They automatically regulate boiler water temperature and pressure. But you fine tune the water and steam flow, and determine when to activate and turn off the pump.
Semi-automatic machines don’t include a built-in grinder, and require that you manually fill the hopper with a pre-measured amount of ground coffee and tamp the grounds. You can purchase coffee already ground. But if you want to make the best-tasting shot of espresso, we recommend you purchase a grinder and grind your own fresh coffee beans.
Semi-automatic machines may require a measure of skill to operate, but they give you the ability to fine tune the process and make an espresso shot that meets your precise, individual preferences.
These machines are engineered to perform nearly all of the steps required to brew espresso. They’re the “set it and forget it” espresso models. Machines in this category include a mechanism that automatically grinds, tamps, and extracts the espresso shot. You only need to fill the coffee bean hopper and (if the machine isn’t connected to a water line) add water. With the touch of a button, you can produce consistently good espresso shots. Some of the higher-end models also automatically froth and dispense milk for making caffé latte-type drinks.