There are several kinds of espresso machines out there; manual, semi-automatic, automatic, and super automatic.
A manual espresso machine (also known as a Piston machine) is the genuine article in the espresso world. Dating back to bye-gone days of coffee making, these machines are piston-driven. To create the pressure needed to pull a shot, the barista has to manually pump a lever. Specialist skill goes into pulling the perfect shot, as the operation requires focus and precision. Once you master the operation of a manual coffee machine, you’ll have maximum control over your brew. That said, if you want to knock back a couple of espressos on your way out the door in the mornings, you’re certainly not going to have time to fuss with a manual machine.
Semi-automatic espresso machines require you to manually determine how much espresso you want in each cup and they also require you to manually make your own foam. These tend to be the type that is more popular for home users. For many coffee aficionados, a semi automatic coffee machine is the “sweet spot” between a manual and an automatic machine.
Automatic espresso machines automatically dispense coffee and foam, you just press a button and walk away; however, you still need to put in coffee. Once you’ve ground and tamped your coffee beans, fully automatic machines produce your coffee at the push of a button.
Super automatic espresso machines do quite literally everything for you; you just need to fill up the various reservoirs and the machine does the rest. A super automatic espresso machine will grind the coffee, create the foam, brew the coffee, and dispense an exact shot of both coffee and foam. The downside of everything being done for you automatically is that you don’t have much control over the end product.
Not surprisingly, the semi automatic machine sits between the two options, offering a happy medium in terms of control and convenience. Many semi automatic coffee machines boast fully automatic capabilities, which is just what you need if you’re the type of person who needs that first cup of coffee to get the brain cells firing in the morning.
Which semi automatic espresso maker you choose ultimately depends on your priorities and your budget. For example, if you’re out the door early in the mornings and need a coffee pronto, you may enjoy a semi automatic machine with a time-saving self-priming function. You’ll also need to consider the space you want to dedicate to your coffee maker, and the effort you’re willing to put into cleaning and maintenance.
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