Licensed Q Arabica Grader, M.A. Journalism
- December 28, 2019
I might as well be upfront here: Super-automatic espresso makers don’t quite reach the same levels as the traditional espresso machines.
However, if you’re too busy to bother with geeky details such as measuring, dosing, and tamping, this type of device is your best bet.
Whether craving a latte or espresso shot, it should still be better than the various capsule machines available today (and probably also cheaper in the long run).
My top pick from Breville is rather different than the other automatic espresso machines, since it has an actual portafilter, however, if money is no object, it should be on your radar.
Okay, the first benefit of this category of espresso makers is manifest; they are super-automatic!
Translation for the non-geeks: You don’t have to grind, measure, tamp, and measure your shots while brewing. The auto does it all.
There are many coffee lovers out there who are either very lazy or very busy. These people need to get a cup of coffee without getting too deep into the process.
Disclaimer: You will sacrifice some flavor when getting a super-automatic. Not because the technology is bad per se..
It’s just that getting perfect coffee requires a high level of attention when it comes to stuff like:
None of these criteria are probably going to be high on your list of priorities. Hence, the coffee will not be perfect. Still, it should be more than drinkable unless you have developed the same kind of hypersensitive palate as yours truly.
But there are also many pros when it comes to these machines.
The next point that I think dovetails nicely into the convenience-aspect, is the cleanliness of these models.
Yes, you’ll likely have to empty a compartment in which the machine stores spent coffee grounds, but this can be done less often than if you are using a standard portafilter. Some of the higher end models even have self-cleaning functions that eliminate the need for you to do this, but I’ll talk more about that later.
Perhaps my favorite benefit of these machines is that they’re perfect for everyone, irrespective of skill level. Yes, crafting coffee is an art, but beautiful coffee isn’t just for those who work in a coffee shop. I like to think of these machines as egalitarian because without even putting on street clothes, everyone can enjoy their favorite beverages.
|Jura E6 Automatic Coffee…|
|Saeco Incanto Plus…|
|De’Longhi ESAM3300 Magnifica…|
|Breville BES990BSS Oracle…||159 Reviews|
Jura is a Swiss brand that is renowned for quality commercial machines in Europe. This particular model is a well-made machine in a slightly higher price bracket for the discerning espresso purists. Its intuitive full-color display permits each person to tailor the strength and size of their espresso beverage, which is prepared using a pulse technique for perfect extraction.
You can make six different beverage types without even moving your cup. If you’re making one for a friend or entertaining, you can also brew two espressos simultaneously. While it does come with a two-quart reservoir and can steam chilled milk right from the carton, it doesn’t have a bypass for ground coffee. You must use whole bean coffee only.
Pro Tip: If you want an extra sweet deal, be sure to check out the refurbished versions. Often there are some really good discounts on practically new Jura-models here.See more reviews
In the market, it is considered as one of the more reasonable models out there. In general, I’m also a fan of removable brew groups, because it makes cleaning and maintenance simple. With the Incanto, you can access the grounds compartment and other essential parts via a side aperture.
Loading whole bean or ground coffee and refilling the reservoir is also simple and straightforward, accessed through the top of the machine. Lastly, if you enjoy steaming your own milk, the Incanto has a panarello wand. This makes steaming milk correctly a simple process, even for beginners. It also comes with a special attachment if that’s not your jam.See more reviews
DeLonghi has a long history of crafting high-quality espresso machines for the home and offering superior customer service. For some time, that cost a pretty penny. However, this highly affordable super automated home espresso system comes with all the quality and care its more expensive models do without the lofty price tag.
It is simple to clean, steams the milk perfectly for every beverage, and provides consistent excellence consonant with DeLonghi’s reputation. The interface is, by comparison, low-tech, with knobs and buttons. However, it can still be programmed to create your favorite beverages faithfully.See more reviews
I always wanted an espresso machine that greeted me in German, but not just because I’m strange. Miele has an international reputation for excellence and the well known German habit of precision, so this clean, minimalist espresso machine is indeed welcome in any kitchen.
You can make two beverages at once, steam your own milk to perfection, and warm your cup with a dedicated heating panel on top of the machine. The controls are easy to operate, and the digital readout has four lines of text. In addition, you can modify your own user profile to keep track of your preferred drinks.
In the event that I could purchase this machine, I likely would. Not because it does everything for you, which it does, but because you can program it and elect to steam your own milk if you want to.
This is one of those high-end super-duper impressive models with a full-color display of programmed beverages that you can brew to specification every time. You swipe to select, as you would on a smartphone or tablet. However, the features—such as the commercial portafilter and the authentic steam wand—are true to barista form. Even the most rigorous purist will warm to this beautiful model, especially if they love to create latte art.See more reviews
So far, I’ve extolled the benefits of not having to dress to enjoy a beautiful espresso beverage and the accessibility these machines provide. Who should consider purchasing one of these models? To some extent, I advocate that everyone ought to give it some thought. However, I think it’s safe to leave the coffee artists and purists to their own devices. That leaves the rest of us who know a good thing when we taste it but may not have time or patience to craft each espresso shot to our exacting standards.
It has to be said that all well-made super automatics are pretty snazzy. However, they do fall along a range. The more cost-friendly models will have fewer bells and whistles.
In consideration of this range, it’s essential that you decide what features you must have and which are merely luxury.
For example, if you prefer to steam your own milk, you shouldn’t go for a model with an automatic steaming function.
Brew group installation is another point to consider. Generally speaking, while having a self-cleaning espresso machine is a lovely thing, it does usually mean that the brew group mechanism isn’t removable. In some cases, it’s not even accessible to the user.
Depending on your need to assess and troubleshoot, this might be a feature you’re comfortable living without in lieu of a little more control. However, many find it an excellent feature, because then they need never fuss with the internal mechanisms of their espresso machine.
Another suite of features revolves around how many different types of espresso beverages you enjoy, whether you prefer to use fresh whole bean coffee or pre-ground, and how coordinated you are first thing in the morning. One-touch machines are precisely that—you touch a button and coffee is magically deposited in your cup. In several models, this extends to perfectly frothed milk as well. Your role as a prospective buyer is to decide how much input you need and what sort of interface works best for you.
For this article, the trade-off refers to what we might be sacrificing for convenience and cleanliness. To some extent, what you’re giving up is control. Super automatic machines are designed and calibrated to produce specific results. And while some of the higher end machines offer more liberty with the extent of milk aeration, beverage temperature, and espresso strength—they’re still automated.
This feature is tied to the need to produce consistently excellent espresso and steamed milk—something that only skill and experience can do on a manual espresso machine. And while I have nothing but nice things to say about these machines, you should also consider that the automation comes with a different set of owner responsibilities.
This can be as simple as ensuring that you follow the directions and don’t drop it from a third story window. It can also include aspects such as ensuring that your machine receives proper cleaning, depending on its brew group status. The brew group refers to the parts of the device that handle the grounds and steam the milk. If they’re removable, it means you’ll have to practice tidy use habits. If they’re not, you must remember to regularly offer a cleaning tablet to your resident espresso dragon.
Manual machines are pretty straightforward—just add talent and experience, coffee you ground yourself and tamped adequately, water for ample steam and perfect espresso shots. Super automatic machines have substituted acquired skill with finely crafted mechanisms that do all of this—barring adding water or placing milk in the right container. As much as I love old manuals, which are works of art, super-automated machines are seductive.