Top Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine Picks
Buying a semi automatic espresso machine does not need to be difficult. In fact, you have already made a big step by deciding that the semi automatic system is what you are after! Now that the hardest part is over, it is time to choose an actual model. Below we have listed 5 of the best semi automatic espresso machines on the market and reviewed each to make the decision easier for you! If you are unfamiliar with the benefits of semi automatic systems, we will go over those below as well.
What are Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines?
Semi-automatic espresso machines are the most popular of the pump machines, if not any type of espresso machines, on the market for home use. They have automated pumps and temperature gauges, as well as controls for the boiler. The only difference between semi-automatic espresso machines and automatic and super-automatic espresso machines is that you must manually start and stop the brewing process with a delivery switch.
The Subclasses of Semi-Automatic Machines
– These are the most expensive of the 3 subclasses. Dual boiler semi-automatics allow for separate and dual control over both the brewing temperature and the steaming temperature. They are much more consistent, and make much more consistent espresso shots. They require higher tech and more electronics, which allow more control; however, electronics tend to break in high temperatures, moisture, and pressure conditions (such as the inside of an espresso machine). Most manufacturers protect these in their warranty, but no one wants to have to buy their espresso at a coffee shop for a few weeks while their SAEM is out of service.
Single Boiler + Heat Exchanger
– These semi-automatics are right in the middle of the pack in terms of price. Single boiler-heat exchange machines don’t allow you to control or regulate the temperature, as they do it automatically, although the water usually heats up fast enough that there isn’t much of an issue.
Single Boiler, Dual Use
– These are the cheapest and thus the most popular of the three subgroups of semi-automatic espresso machines. The machine has one boiler and two thermostats, one for brewing the espresso, and the other for steam. They heat up quite quickly, and steam and brew simultaneously. Espresso shots are not as consistent as shots from a dual boiler. Can produce 2-4 espressos at a time before the shots start to get sloppy and the foam comes out less frothy.
Advantages of Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
– Perfect compromise between fully manual and automatic espresso machines
– They are much cheaper than super-automatic espresso machines, and come in a variety of price ranges
– Shot performance of a semi-auto espresso machine is much better than super-automatics, and semi-automatics give you more control over the shot than a super automatic. If the machine is pouring more slowly, you can let the pump run longer to perfect the shot, avoiding a more bitter and less frothy shot
– Maintenance for semi-automatic espresso machines are much lower and easier, especially with a high-quality grinder
– Reliable operation
– Much simpler machine structure, easier to use
– Gives you complete control over the activation and deactivation of the pump, allowing you to control how much water is pushed through the coffee grounds, giving you the perfect espresso in half a minute or less
– Semi-automatics require more experience and practice for safe use
– Doesn’t have a built-in grinder. Requires either an external or separate grinder, or pre-ground coffee beans
– Takes practice and getting familiar with your machine to make the perfect shot of espresso. Also takes practice with frothing the milk to get the right amount of creaminess and frothiness in the perfect shot of espresso
– Some semi-automatic espresso machines come with a non-pressurized portafilter, which can make grinding the coffee more important, but also more difficult
Things to Consider
Semi automatic machines allow users a higher degree of control over the espresso they brew. However, there are still some things to consider before you make the leap and purchase.
Things to consider before buying
- Ease of Use – Do you want something easy to use or more complex with more control?
- Aesthetics – Do you prefer something that looks more “traditional” or “new age”?
- Features – What features are make or break for you and your needs?
Our 5 Top Picks
1. The Breville BES870XL Barista Express
Housed in a stainless steel metal casing, the Breville BES870XL is a very modern looking and stylish option to go with. It has an integrated burr grinder, which automatically drops grinds into the portafilter, making getting the perfect amount of espresso a breeze. The Breville also features a stow compartment behind the drip tray for convenient storage of baskets and cleaning supplies. High-strength grip feet ensure the machine does not “walk” across the counter or table when it is activated, and a host of controls and preset-able options allow the user to decide how much control they want over their brew.
2. Rancilio HSD-SILVIA Espresso Machine
The Rancilio HSD-SILVIA espresso machine looks more like traditional at first glance however, under the stainless steel exterior are a host of high end components that allow this particular machine to produce truly delicious espresso. It includes a mix of brass components, stainless steel, and chrome plating, which come together to make an exceptionally powerful machine.In terms of output, the commercial grade 58mm portafilter allows for excellent extraction, and the single boiler boasts the largest volume capacity in its class.
3. The Nespresso Pixie D60 (Best for Budget)
Not only is the Nespresso Pixie D60 one of the most budget friendly semi automatic espresso machines on the market, it is also one of the fastest of its kind with a heat up time of 30 seconds or less. However, the low price is made apparent when it comes to flavor, as it takes capsules made by Nespresso. This is a trade off that may be unacceptable to those who value the rich flavors freshly ground beans have to offer, but the price makes it an easy winner for those seeking a quick, budget friendly espresso machine.
4. Breville BES840XL – The Infuser
Another great semi automatic espresso machine from Breville, the BES840XL The Infuser comes with a host of features to make brewing easy, quick, and efficient. It includes programmable volume control, temperature settings, and more. As with all of their other models, The Infuser has a stylish exterior and a highly efficient interior, with things like pre-infusion technology helping it deliver a delicious and even grind extraction every time.
5. Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine
One of the heavier machines out there (20lbs), the Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine still brews great tasting espresso with excellent speed. This is in part due to the 3-way solenoid valve that allows the machine to release pressure once the pull is complete, yielding quick and full-flavor brew. The portafilters and grouphead are both made of heavy-duty marine-grade brass, and in tandem ensure the espresso is brewed at a stable temperature. This is the primary factor that makes the Gaggia 14101 an excellent choice and a top contender in the list of the best espresso machines under $500.