Espresso Machines

espresso machine guides to types and styles


In this guide we explore the four primary espresso machine types, as well as the secondary machine type. The purpose of the guide is to help you decide on which type of espresso machine is right for you. If you like the art and science of brewing espresso, commonly known as the Ritual of Espresso Making, then you might opt for a manual or a semiautomatic espresso machine. If your passion is good espresso and you don’t want to deal with some of the rituals involved, you might opt for either an automatic or a super automatic espresso machine where more of the work is done for you.

A Brief History of Espresso Machines

The history of the espresso machineIn 1901, an Italian businessman named Luigi Bezzera patented a design for a machine that could produce coffee in less time, and consequently reduce the amount of time his employees spent on coffee breaks during working hours. This machine used pressurized steam to force water through coffee and brewed it quicker than gravity would allow naturally. Although the coffee was much quicker to produce, it tasted rather bitter.

In 1905, Desidero Pavoni bought the patent from Bezzera and thus, espresso culture was born. After examining the variables, Pavoni discovered that coffee was best brewed at a pressure of 8-9 bar, and at a temperature of 90 °C. This modified design was operated by a lever, which was lifted when the boiler was at the right temperature. The water seeped through the coffee into the cup and when this happened, the lever was pressed down to force the rest of the water into the cup.

The modern espresso machines, equipped with a pump, force water at 90 °C (195 °F) and 7 bar or higher of pressure through finely ground coffee. This process produces a rich coffee syrup through extraction and emulsification of the oils in the ground coffee. A double shot of espresso usually takes 20-25 seconds for dispensation, timed from when the machine’s pump is first turned on. This time can be tuned by using finer or coarser ground coffee, and by altering the tamping pressure.

Ironically, the espresso machine is normally the largest piece of equipment in a coffee bar, but the authentic espresso drink is served in the smallest cup, called a demitasse.

The Espresso Drink

The process of making espresso is considered an art, and the masters of this art form are hailed as baristas.

The Espresso Beverage:

A strong, flavorful coffee beverage brewed by forcing hot water under pressure through finely ground roasted coffee beans. In Italian, espresso means ‘to press’, and refers to the pressure applied to the water as it is forced through the grinds. This form of brewing produces a thin layer of creamy, golden froth known as crema, which floats on the coffee’s surface.

For making espresso, the beans are ground finely using a burr grinder, a type of grinder that uses two flat or conical burrs to grind the coffee to a fine powder without heating. However, the beans are not ground as finely as Turkish coffee, as the powder could obstruct coffee flow and prevent crema formation.

The basic principles are to extract only the best part, using water which is not quite boiling and under a lot of pressure. Machines that can do this all at once were only invented in this century. The machine works by first filling the portafilter with about 6.5 grams of finely grounded coffee beans. Then the beans are tamped or compressed with about 30 pounds of force resulting in a puck.

The Basics Of Any Type of True Espresso Machine

You are now halfway to becoming as espresso expert, a true Barista (a term used to describe the person working behind the coffee bar). You have learned the important bits of information to help you greater understand that there is more to making espresso than meets the eye. But having the right coffee bean and grinding it just right are only part of the equation. Now we will discuss the tool used to reach espresso nirvana, the espresso machine.

Espresso has been defined in this Guide as a method of brewing coffee using finely ground coffee and pushing high-pressure water through the bed of coffee. Let us provide a more concise breakdown of what is involved in making espresso, at least where the machine itself is concerned.

The Modern Day Espresso Machine

Semi-automatic and fully automatic espresso machines are usually used home espresso making purposes.

This section deals with modern day espresso machines that use an electric water pump vs. a lever and piston design. They use a separate water reservoir where water is stored for later use by the boiler and they have special temperature and pressure monitoring devices. In short, these machines make the production of espresso much easier and consistent.

In addition to making the preparation of espresso easier, they (like lever style espresso machines) can produce steam for frothing milk used in lattes, mochas, and cappuccino.Nowadays, many espresso machines are equipped with pumps and are fairy simple to operate.

**Guide to the best espresso machine brands and manufacturers from around the world. There may be hundreds or thousands of them, but these are the most significant

At its simplest, an espresso machine must do all of the following:

Produce brewing water that is between 190 and 195 degrees F in temperature. It produces this water temperature either by means of an internal boiler or a thermoblock device (some exotic methods are used and most commercial machines you see in cafes use what is called a heat exchanger)

Use a pump (either rotary or vibratory), or a spring system or a lever to deliver pressure to the water at approximately 9 BAR or 135 PSI

Channel that pressurized water into a brewing chamber or apparatus (this is usually made up of two parts including a grouphead and a portafilter (where ground coffee sits in a filter basket usually steel, sometimes aluminum).

The brewed beverage is then channeled through the filter basket into spouts and the brewed espresso pours out into a cup.

All this is either activated mechanically (in semi-automatic, automatic and super automatic machines) or manually (in lever piston and lever spring machines).

That’s pretty much what an espresso machine is. The result of the list above is a machine that can commonly brew a double espresso shot in under 30 seconds. When you consider most automatic drip coffee makers take 8 or 10 minutes to brew, espresso is pretty fast and therein lays another explanation for its name. Espresso, in a loose translation in French or Italian, can also mean fast or quick.

Anatomy Of An Espresso Machine

A simple espresso machine uses internal pressure (that is generated from heating water inside a sealed vessel) to force the water through the coffee. In this type of machine, the coffee is packed into a funnel-shaped piece of metal that has a tube extending to the bottom of the reservoir. A few liters of water are put into the reservoir and the top is screwed on.

When the water is heated over a fire, pressure builds inside the vessel, and the only way for it to escape is up the tube, through the coffee and out of the tube in the top. Since the end of the tube is under water, the pressure forces the hot water up through the tube.

There are some disadvantages to a machine like this. The pressure in the system depends on the temperature of the water, and the temperature required to build up enough pressure to force the water through the coffee might exceed the ideal brewing temperature.

Recommend features of an espresso machine (for domestic/home purposes)

Metals Used:

All espresso machines heat water in a metal unit, and the metal(s) used can affect the taste of the espresso. Brass and steel are a better choice than aluminum which can leave a hint of a metallic taste in the espresso. But aluminum is also cheap and lightweight, so it’s used in all the low-end models.

Heating System:

Espresso demands a constant temperature. Very low-end machines use a thermoblock to heat the water. Boiler systems are preferable as they are generally more powerful than thermal blocks or coils.


Metal or heavy plastic housing is better than lighter-weight plastic housing. Brass or plated brass filter holders (portafilters) get hot and stay hot while brewing, and can withstand being roughly handled when emptying spent grounds. Aluminum portafilters don’t hold heat as well and are less durable.

Removable Water Reservoir:

A removable water reservoir avoids the build-up of bacteria as the water can be taken out of the machine. For health reasons, it’s advisable to not leave water in the machine for extended periods of time.

More Power:

Units that heat up quickly, generate enough steam to brew and froth at the same time, and reheat quickly between brew cycles (have a short recovery time) are better than those that don’t.


Other important features include a cup-warming surface and removable drip tray. The design is an important consideration for those who plan to make their machine a showpiece in the kitchen or dining room. If you have space constraints, be sure to measure your counter space before making a purchase, as some of these machines can be pretty big.

A typical espresso machine consists of the following parts:


The reservoir holds the cold water used in the espresso machine. It is not pressure-tight or heated, and it is detachable.


The pump draws water out of the reservoir and pumps it into the heating chamber at high pressure. Sometimes salespeople make the pressure of a pump seem like it’s the most important feature. This isn’t necessarily the case, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. A more powerful pump means a finer grind can be used, increasing the surface area of the coffee and unlocking more of the beans’ flavor. Additionally, less expensive steam-driven models can’t maintain the correct water temperature or generate the high pressure needed for brewing. Piston-lever models are difficult to master, and super automatics are prohibitively expensive for most people.

Heating Chamber:

The heating chamber is a sturdy, stainless-steel structure with a heating element built into a groove in the bottom. The restive heating element, which is quite simply a coiled wire, is similar to the filament of a light bulb. The coil is embedded in plaster to make it more rugged. The heating chamber also contains a one-way valve that allows water into the chamber from the pump, but not from the pump to the water chamber.


The portafilter is a small basket type, detachable part of the machine that holds the ground coffee. The ground coffee is packed inside the basket in a small removable screen. There are two spouts underneath the portafilter from which the espresso comes out.

Steam Wand:

The steam wand, commonly used to heat and froth milk, is connected to the heating vessel. When the user puts the valve in the steam position, steam from the heating vessel is released out of the wand and into the milk. Stovetop and manual lever machines don’t usually include a steam wand, but most others do. Some pump machines have two boilers, one for the espresso in which the water doesn’t really boil and one for creating steam. This isn’t necessary, but it allows the user to make lattes, cappuccinos, etc. faster.

It is important that the frothing mechanism (steam pipe) should work well, have a movable wand, and be easy to clean.

Control Panel:

The control panel normally contains the on/off switch, two indicator lights, and a control valve. Separate lights indicate whether the machine is on or off and if the heating chamber is at optimum temperature. The valve is used to start the flow of water through the coffee in the porta-filter or to start the flow of steam from the steam wand. It also engages one of two micro-switches that control the pump and heating element.

Terms Associated With Espresso Machines


It refers to the pressure rating used on pump driven espresso machines. 9 bar, the typical accepted pressure for brewing espresso is 8.8 atmospheres of pressure or 130 pounds per square inch. Almost every consumer espresso machine with a vibratory or rotary pump is capable of producing this pressure consistently.


Tamping refers to the act of pressing and compacting a bed of loose, finely ground coffee, in preparation for brewing espresso. Different machines require different tamping methods. Steam powered espresso requires a leveling tamp, whereas a piston lever, spring lever, and pump espresso requires a more compacting action. Some prefer a heavy tamping action (using 25 or more pounds of pressure), while others prefer a light tamping action (less than 15 pounds of pressure exerted).

Types Of Espresso Machines

There are several types of espresso machines on the market. However there are only four espresso machine types that are most often thought of when one has an espresso, these are the machines we see in most coffee shops or in the home of coffee lovers.
The four traditional mainstream types of espresso machines are as follows:

  • Manual Espresso Machines
  • Semi-automatic espresso machines
  • Fully Automatic Espresso Machines
  • Super automatic espresso machines

The four secondary styles of espresso machines & espresso “styled” drink makers are as as listed:

  • Capsule Espresso Machines
  • Pod Espresso Machines
  • Stovetop Espresso Maker – The Moka Pot
  • Steam Espresso(Like) Coffee Maker

All of these require a separate coffee grinder, except the super-automatic pump machine.
Manual Espresso Machines, Semi-automatic espresso machines, Fully Automatic Espresso Machines, and Super automatic espresso machines

Here are the types of espresso machines (later on, we’ll go into greater detail on each type of machine and provide specific examples, but for now, let us define each major type:

Espresso Machine Types By ImageEspresso Machine TypeStyleCup’s QualityEase of useAvg. PriceCommentsDisadvantages
Lever Espresso machineManual Espresso MachinesHomeExcellentVery
The Original Espresso machine Most require human power to operate, have extrem control of the extractionNo milk frother
No coffee grinder Can be a bit complicated
Semi Automatic Espresso MachineSemi-Automatic Espresso MachinesHomeExcellentChallenging$500-
most popular & common espresso machines available, long history, easier then lever but you still control the brew processNo built-in coffee grinder
Fully Automatic  Espresso machineFully Automatic Espresso MachinesHomeExcellentChallenging$500-
About the same a semi auto but with a bit more automationNo built-in coffee grinder
Super Automatic Espresso Machine  Super Automatic Espresso MachinesHome
Fully automated basically load with coffee/water, push a button & done
Built-in coffee grinderAuto milk frothing possible
Quality makers usually are very expensive
Espresso machine types - Capsule Espresso MachineCapsule Espresso MachinesHome
Uses preloaded packets of coffee, load in maker push buttonProprietary only, expensive price to cup capsules. Lot of plastic waste
pod-type-of-espresso-machine typePod Espresso MachinesHome
Semi-auto machine with a pod system, slimier to capsule, but with more options, non proprietary & fully biodegradable ESE sachets Lower quality semi-auto machines \Poor price to cup ratio
stove top moka pot espresso makerStove-Top Moka Pot Espresso MakerHomeGoodOkay$20-
Easy to make, simple/adorable makers Produces a nice drinkNo coffee grinder No milk frother
The Steam  Espresso MachineSteam Espresso Coffee MakerHomePoorOkay$20-
Uses heated water to produce limited steam pressure to force water through the coffeeNot true espresso, does not produce enough BARS
Commercial Espresso MachinesCommercial Espresso MachinesCommercialExcellentEasy$2,000-
Ultra auto One touch programing brew, Plumbed Water. Auto grind, Dose, & milk frothing Very expensive to purchase and maintain. Heavy maintenance required

Manual Espresso Machines

Lever Espresso machineLa Pavoni was the first company to produce espresso machines in quantity. In 1905 Desiderio Pavoni purchased the patent rights for the first espresso machine from Luigi Bezzera. Luigi’s machine was developed to help reduce the time his employees took for a coffee break. The owner of a manufacturing company, Bezzera had the need to increase the production of his employees so a faster coffee maker was the key, he thought. His invention yielded a coffee maker that used a combination of water and steam, which was forced under high pressure through coffee grounds to rapidly brew the coffee. It was dubbed the “espresso machine” because espresso means fast in Italian.

However, there was a downside to Luigi’s machine. The combination of steam and hot water under pressure brewing method did produce a better cup of coffee and faster than other brewers of the time. But, the resulting brew was bitter. The bitterness was mainly caused by the steam and the very high temperatures it imposed on the coffee grounds.

With a few design changes and modifications, Pavoni eventually perfected the manual or Piston Espresso Machine. It was determined that espresso was best produced at certain pressures and temperatures. The experimentation of Pavoni led to the excepted brewing pressure of 8 – 9 BAR (or atmospheres)of pressure necessary for a true espresso, and a temperature of 195 degrees.

The electric pistons are best suited for people who thoroughly enjoy the ritual of making espresso, a hobbyist or other coffee culture enthusiast. The ease of use is low and the learning curve is high. However, the coffee that they are capable of extracting is at par with the best machines.

How does the manual lever espresso machine work?

The machine consists of a large boiler, seen in the picture as the vertical barrel shaped component. All of the water the machine contains is kept in the boiler. Water is heated within for either brewing espresso or frothing milk. When the boiler is at the correct temperature for brewing espresso the operator simply lifts the lever, which raises a piston inside the grouphead.

Water begins to flow from the boiler into the grouphead and seeps down through the coffee grounds in the portafilter. The coffee begins to drip from the spouts into your cup. When this happens the lever is then pressed down, that also pushes the piston down, which serves to plunge the rest of the water through the coffee grounds. When the lever is pushed all of the way down, the brew cycle or extraction of espresso is complete and then you can repeat the process to make more espresso.

With a piston lever espresso machine and you are the machine’s pump, applying direct pressure by means of the lever for pushing brew water through a finely ground, compacted bed of ground coffee at pressures of 8 BAR or greater.

These machines are not very easy to figure out and commence using, but they reward the diligent – those who invest hours or days of practice with the machine to become true espresso connoisseur who can literally “pull” the most amazing shots possible.

These machines are not for weekend warrior espresso fans. These machines are for the diehard espresso lover. But if cappuccino, lattes, or mochas are your thing, then their large boilers provide ample steam for producing perfect foamed and steamed milk.

These machines are considered pieces of functional art and their elegance finds a place on display shelves of houses and art museums. Today, you still see lever machines in commercial establishments, and for one specific reason: when used by someone who knows their stuff the espresso is beyond good – it is as good as espresso can get. That’s where the La Pavoni machine comes in – you can get this kind of direct and intimate connection with quality espresso in the home or office.

For the most part, lever style machines have been pushed aside by modern technology and the desire for great espresso with less effort. Electric pump driven machines with sophisticated temperature and pressure monitoring devices and computers are the way of the future it seems, but it will be tough to replace the old world charm and reliable function of the lever espresso machine.

Popular brands for Lever and Manual Espresso Machines include:

La Pavoni:
La Pavoni Romantica PC-16 Espresso Machine $900-$1250
La Pavoni Europiccola EPC-8 Espresso Machine $700-$850
La Pavoni Professional Espresso Machine 16 cup Price $1,1250 -$1,550
ROK Espresso Maker in Black $150-$175
Handpresso Wild Hybrid Outdoor Set $140-$160
Handpresso Pump Pop $50-$60

Bezzera Strega Commercial Espresso Machine Price $2,000-$2,500
Ponte Vecchio:
Ponte Vecchio Lusso Espresso Machine 2 group Price $1,000-$1,400
Ponte Vecchio Export Espresso Machine Price $800-$900
Elektra S1 Microcasa A Leva Espresso Machine Price $1,250-$1,600
Ambiente Espresso Ventus Price $5,000+

Semi-automatic espresso machines

Semi-automatic espresso machines are designed for home use

Semi Automatic Espresso MachineOne of the most popular home espresso machines available, the Semi-automatic machines were first introduced by Gaggia in the 1940’s and gets it roots from the lever style machines because they still use the concept of heating water to around 195 degrees, which it is then forced through a bed of finely ground coffee at 8 or 9 BAR of pressure. However, the modern day espresso machine is quite different than the lever style machines discussed in the previous section. This is a machine that automatically regulates the activity of the water temperature for brewing and steaming. It also regulates the activity of the built in electric water pump. It is a “semi” because it requires you to activate switches or buttons to change the machine’s mode. A semiautomatic espresso machine has an electric water pump, boiler, and a portafilter. Additionally, it contains either large reservoirs or direct feed lines for water, which allows it to brew more cups of coffee.

Most machines use a boiler, which also has an overheating protection device, like a thermal fuse to protect the machine as well as the user. The newer generation heating devices use a thermoblock or thermocoil system instead of a boiler. You must control the brewing function by turning on and off the brew switch. The extraction typically takes about 20 to 25 seconds.

Frothing on these machines vary from simple to those requiring some skill. The machines with frothing adapters help in the aeration process; however, those with more traditional steaming wands are easier to master once the user becomes familiar with the technique.

How does a semiautomatic espresso machine work?

A semiautomatic espresso has a power switch that you turn on. When the power is turned on, the machine automatically begins warming the water in the boiler up to a certain temperature. When the temperature is reached a light will signal that the machine is ready to either brew espresso or dispense hot water from the boiler out of the steam wand for making tea or other hot beverages.

All pump driven espresso machines have the ability to dispense hot water from the steam wand by opening the steam wand and/or pushing a button that activates this mode. The exception to this rule is an espresso machine that has a heat-exchanger boiler. This system can dispense water from the boiler, but the boiler must be up to a certain temperature and pressure first. The water will exit through a spigot vs. the steam wand however.

After the machine is at the proper temperature for making espresso you will place finely ground espresso coffee into the portafilter or filter holder, which is a device that holds the small filter basket where the ground coffee is placed. The grounds are then tamped down to make sure they are firmly set in the basket. This helps ensure that hot water flows uniformly through the coffee grounds and under the proper pressure in order to achieve the proper extraction.

The portafilter is then placed into the machine and locked into place. To start the brewing process, you simply push the coffee brew switch causing the electric water pump to draw water from the boiler and force it under pressure through the portafilter and coffee grounds. The espresso will begin to ooze from the spouts on the portafilter into your cup. When the proper amount of espresso has been reached, you simply turn off the brew switch and you are done. To clean the machine, remove the portafilter from the machine and discard the used coffee grounds and then rinse the portafilter with water.

Making Steam With A Semi-Auto Espresso Machine

As we mentioned, you can also have the machine dispense steam from the steam wand for making cappuccino, lattes, mochas, and other milk based drinks. When the steam valve is opened, steam is released from the boiler and is directed down the steam pipe and into your milk. The steam rapidly heats the milk and with the proper technique, you can also use the steam to make foam.

The key thing to remember when trying to determine the difference between a semiautomatic espresso machine and other types is that you manually control the flow of espresso from the machine by turning on and off the switch that controls the water pump, thus the flow of water through the coffee grounds. The longer the pump is running, the longer water will flow through the coffee grounds. And the longer the water flows through the grounds, the weaker the espresso will be.

The Gaggia Classic, Rancilio Silvia, and Saeco Classico are some examples of semiautomatic espresso machines.

Semiautomatic espresso machines require the use of pre-ground coffee or espresso pods (single servings of espresso wrapped in a paper pod) that are placed into the filter basket. We will talk more about pre-ground coffee and espresso pods in our guide entitled The Art of Brewing Perfect Espresso. Semiautomatic pump driven espresso machines can cost as little as $99, but can go as high as several thousand dollars and have a wealth of special features and different functions.

Popular brands for Semiautomatic Espresso Machines include:

Capresso EC PRO $249.00
Capresso Café PRO Price $299.00
Capresso EC100 Espresso Machine Price $149.99
Elektra microcasa – Price $1,599.00
Elektra SXC Microcasa Price $1,999.00
Elektra SX Microcasa – Price $1,999.00
Rocket Espresso:
Rocket Espresso Appartamento Espresso Machine $1,550.00
Rocket Espresso Giotto Evoluzione R Espresso Machine $2,450.00
Rocket Espresso Giotto Type V Espresso Machine $1,950.00 
Rocket Espresso R60V $4,550.00
Rocket Espresso R58 $2,800.00
Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato Type V $1,999.00
Rancilio Silvia $1,040.00

Breville BES980XL the Oracle $1,999.95
Breville Infuser Espresso Machine $499.99
Breville Oracle BES980XL Espresso $1,999.99
Breville Duo-Temp Pro $399.99

Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine $599.99
DeLonghi EC 155 Espresso Machine $99.95
DeLonghi EC 702 Pump Espresso Machine $199.95
DeLonghi Dedica EC 680.MB $299.95
Expobar Brewtus IV with Vibration Pump $1,949.00
Expobar Brewtus review
La Marzocco:
La Marzocco GS/3 Espresso Machine $7,100.00
La Marzocco Linea Mini $4,500.00

ECM Germany Technika Profi IV Price $2,379.00
ECM Germany Barista Price $1,899.00
ECM Germany Classika Price $1,299.00

Semiautomatic Espresso Machine Reviews & Comparisons 

Semiautomatic Machine reviews

Fully Automatic Espresso Machines

Fully automatic espresso machines make the process of brewing an espresso or a cappuccino more convenient for consumers.

Fully Automatic Espresso machineThis term confuses most people because they may think automatic implies the machine does everything including grinding, tamping, and disposing of the used coffee grounds. This isn’t the case. Nor will it automatically froth your milk for you.

The automatic espresso machine is very similar to the semi-automatic, with the exception that it has a one-touch system. This implies that the machine will continue to extract until a predetermined volume of espresso has been satisfied and then it will stop on its own. All of the steps of preparing the coffee for brewing including putting the grounds or pods into the filter basket and tamping of the grounds still apply.

As a matter of convenience, you can choose among two to three programmable brewing buttons. The buttons can be programmed by you to tell the machine to run a certain amount of water through the coffee grounds in the portafilter, then automatically stop. Since it can take up to 30 seconds to brew two shots of espresso this automatic feature frees you to prepare other ingredients for your beverage while the machine is brewing the espresso.

Many commercial machines use automatic systems such as this to give the drink better consistency and to allow the Barista to prepare other beverages in a timely fashion. Frothing and nearly all other commentaries on the semi-automatics can be applied to the fully-automatics

This is very helpful for when the user has other tasks to perform. Fully automatic machines are preferred in cafes and restaurants but are also available for the home. The selection available for home use is very limited and are based on modified semiautomatic modes.

While some coffee purists prefer the versatility in brewing that a semi automatic espresso machine gives them, others enjoy the consistency and efficiency of the fully automatic espresso machine. It is worth mentioning that an automatic espresso machine will not make a better shot of espresso. All the machine is doing is offering you more convenience so you are not required to stand there and eyeball how much espresso has been dispensed before you have to flip the switch. Programming an automatic espresso machine is quick and easy. Most models only require you to press and hold the brew button until the desired amount of espresso is dispensed into your cup and then let go. The machine will remember the amount of water it pushed through the grounds for next time.

Popular brands for Fully Automatic Espresso Machines include:

Krups Barista Fully Automatic Espresso Maker Price $2,499.95
Saeco Gran Baristo Avanti Espresso Maker $2,999.95
Saeco Minuto Espresso Maker Price $1,100
Saeco PicoBaristo $1,499.95 
Saeco PicoBaristo Automatic Espresso Maker $1,299.95
Miele CM6110 Fully Automatic Espresso Maker $1,499.95
Miele CM6 Fully Auto $1,999.95 

Fully Automatic Espresso Machine Reviews & Comparisons 

Fully Automatic Espresso Machine Reviews

Super automatic espresso machines

Super Automatic Espresso MachineWe will only briefly describe super automatics in this section. For a more detailed look at super automatic espresso and coffee centers, please see my article entitled Buyer’s Guide to To Super Automatic Espresso & Coffee Centers.

Simply put, super automatic espresso makers are amazing. Yes, they make espresso and Caffe Crema, (strong coffee & really good), but also they are capable of making all coffee house drinks like lattes, mochas, cappuccino and more. Most of these steps are done automatically by the machine all at the press of a button.

A super automatic machine has all of the same basic components that semi and automatic espresso machines like an electric water pump, boiler, water reservoir, switches and dials, and a steam wand. What makes super automatics different is that they have an automated internal brewing system and a high-quality burr coffee grinder. All of these components come together with the help of an on-board computer to quickly and effortlessly produce perfect and consistent espresso without the mess and guesswork that one might experience with either a semi or automatic espresso machine

These do everything from grinding, tamping, pre-infusing and brewing through disposing of the used grinds. The machine is equipped with a coffee grinder that teams up with an on-board coffee bean hopper that holds whole coffee beans.

When you push the coffee brew button the coffee beans will be ground and the resulting coffee grounds are placed into the internal brewing system. The pump will automatically start the flow of hot water through the coffee grounds and then the coffee is dispensed into your cup from spouts located on the front of the machine.

Immediately after brewing has finished, the internal brewing system will take the used coffee grounds and then place it into the on-board waste box for later disposal. From start to finish you can have a fresh cup of espresso or Cafe Crema in 30 seconds.

The super-automatics often have many other added features, like strength settings, temperature settings, digital displays, powder quantity settings, grinder size selections, and bypass doser.

One shining ability of super automatic espresso machines and the reason they are dubbed coffee centers as well is that they can produce a coffee beverage called Cafe Crema. This coffee is brewed in the same manner as espresso. However, where espresso is brewed relatively slow (about 15-20 seconds for 1.5 ounces), Cafe Crema is brewed at a faster rate. Espresso brews slower because the coffee grounds are required to be very fine, which restricts the water flow through the grounds. This helps give espresso its intense flavor and strength. Simply make a small adjustment to the coffee grinder to make the coffee grounds coarser. This, in turn, will allow the water to flow more freely through the coffee grounds as required for cafe creme. The result is a wonderfully aromatic and flavor-rich coffee that is smooth and not as intense as espresso and it will be topped with a layer of crema (gold foam found on espresso).

Cafe crema is a good replacement for most coffee makers (like a drip coffee maker) because, in about 35 seconds, the machine will brew about 5 ounces of fresh pressure-brewed coffee without the mess. Another benefit is that this brewing method requires far less ground coffee per serving thus saving you money! Many refer to cafe crema as Swiss brewed coffee as it is very popular among Swiss consumers.

Maintenance and cleaning of the super-automatics are on the lowest end of the scale for comparison purposes. They take the used grounds and place them into an internal dump box, and indicate when this box becomes full. The machine also indicates when it is out of the water. Some models have their own cleaning cycles, decalcification cycles, and auto-rinse cycles.

A concern for some users is that the super-automatics take away the control that one gets with the other styles. This could be considered true as the user looses the ability to control the brew pressure manually. Another concern is the tamp pressure. The consistency of tamp pressure is vital, and this can be maintained by periodically changing the fineness of the grind to suite the tamp.

Depending on which model you choose and how much money you want to spend you will the ability to program the amount of espresso the machine brews each time, the temperature, make single or double shots of espresso, program multiple buttons to make different sizes of drinks, use pre-ground coffee in addition to coffee beans for more flexibility, and on more expensive models have the machine automatically froth your milk for cappuccino and lattes. This is only a short list of the capabilities of these machines.

Popular brands for super-automatic espresso machines include:

Jura Impressa C60 Automatic Coffee Center $999.00 
Jura GIGA 5 Automatic Coffee Center $5,599.00
Jura Giga W3 Professional Superautomatic $5,499.99
Jura J95 Carbon One Touch Automatic Coffee Machine $3,599.00
Jura J90 Superautomatic Espresso Machine $2,999.00
Jura Ena Micro 90 $1,399.00
Gaggia Babila One-Touch Coffee and Espresso Machine $1,899.00
Gaggia Accademia Espresso Machine $1,599.00
Gaggia Velasca Prestige One-Touch $1,249.00
Gaggia Anima XL Super-Automatic Espresso Machine $1,100
Gaggia Brera Espresso Machine in Black $400-$500
Saeco Intelia Deluxe Cappuccino HD8771/93 Superautomatic Espresso Machine $1,100-$1,350
Saeco Xsmall HD8645/47 Superautomatic Espresso Machine -$500-$700
Saeco Gran Baristo Avanti HD8967/47 $2,800
Saeco Incanto HD8911/47 $700-$850
Saeco Xelsis EVO Super-Automatic Espresso $3,000
Saeco Royal One Touch Cappuccino $1,500-$1,800
Saeco 4045 Vienna Plus Review

DeLonghi Magnifica ECAM 23210B $1,200
Delonghi ECAM 44660B Eletta Plus Cappuccino Espresso Machine $2,000-$2,500
DeLonghi ECAM 23.260.SB Magnifica S Cappuccino Smart $1,000-$1,400
DeLonghi PrimaDonna S De Luxe ECAM 28.465.M $3,100-$3,600
Delonghi Gran Dama ESAM 6620 Espresso Machine $2,500
DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino ECAM 45.760.B $1,800-$2,300
Miele CM 6310 Coffee System $2,000
Krups Barista EA9010 Superautomatic Espresso Machine $3,000

Super automatic Espresso Machine Reviews & Comparisons

Capsule Espresso Machines

Espresso machine types - Capsule Espresso MachineWelcome to the world of branded coffee. The capsule coffee machines types function essentially like the espresso coffee, but instead of ground coffee use a system in which coffee is already pressed … exact, inside a capsule.

Normal the coffee capsules are usually espresso. However, there are capsules that already come prepared for different types of drinks, like long coffees, cappuccinos, and others.

The most famous espresso capsule systems in the world come from Nespresso (Nestle) and Lavazza. The capsule and the machine form a proprietary system that allows the resulted cup to be of good (but not great) quality, although it is not ground fresh, nor pulled manually.

A basic difference with any other type of coffee: some brands of capsule coffee makers allow you to prepare other beverages besides coffee (chocolates, infusions, soft drinks, mixed drinks). Some even allow you to prepare both hot and cold drinks. This is the case, for example, of the Tassimo coffee makers, or the Dolce Gusto coffee makers.

This is, in fact, the most popular espresso system in Europe, mainly due to the ease-of-use. Just plug the capsule and press a button. Once done, dump the capsule and that’s it. You can also choose your coffee by the cup which is a big plus for an environment with many users.

The unique combination of a good cup of coffee, fast, and clean, does come for a price though. On the surface, the capsules look cheap (usually between .50 and 1.20 price). However, each cup of coffee is eventually more expensive, as the price of coffee capsules is higher than buying bulk ground coffee. Generally, a cup of coffee from these machines end up costing twice as much as a similar cup from any of the others…and switching for another brand is unfortunately not possible.

They are faster, cleaner and more comfortable than express coffee makers. Maintenance is practically reduced to decalcification every few months

Popular brands for Capsule Espresso Machines include:

Ascaso Kap Tronic Capsule Price $499.00
Breville Nespresso Creatista Espresso Maker $499.95
Breville Nespresso Creatista Plus Espresso Maker $599.95
Breville Nespresso Essenza Mini Espresso Maker by $149.95
Nespresso Essenza Mini Espresso Maker with Aeroccino $199.95
Nespresso Essenza Mini Espresso Maker by DeLonghi $149.95
Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker with Aeroccino $199.95
Nespresso Citiz Espresso Maker $250
Nespresso Citiz Aeroccino Espresso Machine Review

DeLonghi Nespresso Lattissima Touch Espresso Maker Price $499.95
DeLonghi Nespresso Lattissima Pro Espresso Maker $599.95
De’Longhi Dolce Gusto Genio 2 $130.00
De’Longhi Nespresso Inissia $150.00
Starbucks Verismo Espresso Machine
Francis Francis
Francis Francis for Illy 60068 Y5 Duo Espresso & Coffee Machine $169.00
Francis Francis X7.1 Iperespresso Machine $250.00

Capsule Machine Reviews & Compairisons 

Pod Espresso Machines

pod-type-of-espresso-machine typeMany of the semi-automatic espresso machines also double as pod machines. The pod type system is very similar to that of the capsule. It provides a clean and quick way of making an espresso. Insert the pod in the handle (portafilter) and run the hot water through it with a push of a button. Once done, take it out. Easy!

Easy for anyone to create authentic espresso, cappuccinos or lattes every time! The New & Improved version ESE is adaptable for use with ground coffee or coffee servings (pods)! Also, you can buy pods from an endless list of suppliers which allows the price to be nearly half that of the capsules. However, keep in mind that since this is not a closed proprietary system, like the capsule one, the quality may be at times somewhat compromised.
This will fit well a household with a mixed bag of users. Some who wish the best coffee possible and do it manually, and some who wish the convenience of the pods.

Popular brands for Pod Espresso Machines include:

Rancilio Silvia with E.S.E. Pod Adapter
La Piccola
La Piccola Cecilia Manual 2 Group ESE Pod Machine 7+7g $1,586.45
Didiesse Frog ESE pod Machine for Espresso $350.00
Delonghi BAR32 Pump Driven $97.96

Ascaso Dream Pod Only Espresso Machine Price $299.00
lly Mitaca POD1 Espresso Machine $175.00
Francis Francis
Francis Francis X6 Trio Pod $167.55
Elektra Nivola Espresso Machine – pod only Price $1,099.00

Tassimo Capsule Espresso Machine Review
Tassimo espresso makers by Bosch

Stovetop Espresso Maker – The Moka Pot

stove top moka pot espresso makerIn these pots, the water reservoir rests on the stove.

The non-electric stovetop espresso maker style continues to be one of the most popular methods of making espresso in Italy, and it is a popular alternative to the more expensive electric espresso machines.

The stovetop espresso coffee maker or moka pot/espresso pot is a small device that contains a few simple parts:

  1. The base
  2. The brewing basket
  3. The basket screen
  4. The collection chamber.

The coffee rests on top of the reservoir, enclosed by screens on the top and bottom. When the water boils, the steam goes up through the lower screen, into the coffee, and out the upper screen. From the upper screen, the coffee extract travels up a small pipe and into the top chamber, where it trickles down and is kept warm. Even though it takes between 12 and 17 minutes to brew five cups of espresso coffee, the coffee that a stovetop espresso maker yields are a full-bodied one with an excellent aroma.

Popular brands for Stove-top Espresso Machines include:

Bialetti Venus Stovetop Espresso Coffee Maker $40.
Bialetti Musa Stovetop Espresso Coffee Maker $45
Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop $30
Bialetti Mokacrem $50
Bodum Chambord Aluminum Stovetop Espresso $40

Delonghi EMK6 Alicia Electric Moka $60
Ilsa Express Espresso Stove Top $55
Bellman Stovetop Cappuccino and Espresso Maker $100

Steam Espresso(Like) Coffee Maker

The Steam Espresso MachineThis was the first type of espresso machine to receive popularity in the American mainstream coffee culture. In an electric steam machine, the water poured into a reservoir is heated to come to a boil.

This same water is then used to steam milk and brew the espresso. This method gets the water pressure up to about 1 bar (not the needed pressure at which espresso is brewed is about 8 bar) the water is then forced through a filter with ground compacted coffee.

This is how steam espressos differ from traditional espresso makers (the 8+ BAR machines) in that their pressure is much lower since the latter uses a pressure pump to push the water through the ground coffee filter.

For this reason, steam coffee machines are also are sometimes known as semi-press or semi- press espresso machines

People who favor a stronger brew of coffee normally prefer the electric steam espresso machine. The steam espresso machine’s inability to make enough crema is another drawback.

In contrast, water-pressure (or pressure-to-steam) coffee makers convert water into steam, and it is the pressure of this water vapor that is responsible for passing through the coffee filter. A much lower pressure than that achieved with a pump.

  • They usually reach a maximum of 3.5 bar pressure.
  • They do not produce the cream layer characteristic of a true espresso.
  • They are small, fast and much cheaper than express coffee makers: barely exceed $40-$50.
  • They have limited capacity: they usually only produce 3-4 cups of coffee.
  • Your water tank is completely emptied with each extraction.
  • It is recommended to use medium grind (not as fine as express coffee machines).

Popular brands for Steam Espresso Machines include:

Mr. Coffee
Mr. Coffee ECM160-NP Espresso Machine $30
De’Longhi BCO 430 10-Cup Drip Coffee Maker and Espresso Machine $225
De’Longhi EC 5 Espresso Machine – $95
Bialetti Steam Espresso Maker $60
Oster bvstem4188 red steam espresso cappuccino maker $60

Commercial Espresso Machines

Within the types of espresso machines there can be found two different general styles:

Commercial Espresso MachinesOne is for home use and the other is to be used commercially inside a coffee bar or other type of shop. They both operate in about the same way, but the commercial professional models are constructed to a higher stander to make sure they will endure under constant use. While home systems are smaller and might be housed in plastic rather than metal.

Super-automatic commercial espresso machines are generally used for large-scale commercial purposes, whereas small-scale businesses tend to use semi-automatics or fully automatics.

Commercial espresso makers, need to be sturdy, easy to use, as well easy as to clean and maintain, and one which will also make the very best achievable espresso.

Some of the top firms that make remarkable commercial machines are the Italian- based La Pavoni, VFA Express, Grindmaster, and Rancilio.

These heavy-duty commercial units can sometimes be found as semi-automatic or fully automatic styles, however, most truly Commercial Espresso Machines will be a super automatic machine or what is called an ultra-automatic espresso machine.

An ultra automatic model that will automatically grind the beans, draw out the espresso, and froth the milk from an interior container that can produce a whole drink using the push of a button.

You can expect to pay over $5,000 for a professional machine even if you choose an economy model.

Benefits of a commercial super automatic espresso machine include:

  • * A smaller footprint so that it won’t take up a lot of space you do not have
  • * Old-world timeless style
  • * Push button ease-of-use
  • * And even USB port which allows someone to download program configurations

There is a large selection of options with a commercial espresso machine. As long as you stick to an established brand, you can have a decent confidence of the products quality you’ll be getting for the money.

Quality commercial espresso makers can be very expensive, but they’re also well-worth the price. It won’t pay in an attempt to make do with a budget model because it will not only be less sturdy than its more costly counterparts, but it may not stand up a number of grinds, frothings, and extraction needed to be performed on daily basis.

Popular brands for Commercial Espresso Machines include:

Cecilware ESP2-220V Venezia II $3,700
Cecilware Venezia II ESP3-220V $4,600
Bunn 43500.0000 Espress B&W3 CTS $18,500
La Marzocco
La Marzocco Linea 3 Group Mechanical Paddle Espresso Machine, Espresso Machines
Expobar Brewtus IV-P, Espresso Machines $1,900
Expobar Office Lever Plus $1,400
La Pavoni
La Pavoni Commercial Volumetric BAR-STAR 4V $8,000

Nuova Simonelli Aurelia 3 Group Espresso Machine $15,000
Nuova Simonelli MOP1400104-BLK Oscar II $1,300
Grindmaster 66101 Korinto 1/2 Commercial Espresso Machine $3,600
Grindmaster 66102 Kobalto 1/3 Super Automatic Espresso Machine $6,500
Breville Oracle BES980XL $2,000
Rocket Espresso Boxer Alto Commercial Espresso Machine $6,500.00
Profitec Pro 500 Espresso Machine $1,6000

The Key Thing to Remember Is This:

Most of the folks that visit this guide are looking for an alternative means by which they can make all of their favorite coffee house drinks like mochas, lattes, cappuccino and other coffee house drinks they enjoy every day.

All of the primary espresso machines types that we listed can produce the drink you currently buy at the local coffee bar! The espresso machine is the basic ingredient in every beverage found on the menu board unless it is a smoothie or other non-coffee drink. This also excludes regular drip coffee. By and large if it is a café mocha, latte, cappuccino, Americano, or whatever, you will need an espresso machine to make it.