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Quick Look: Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 25, 2011 at 5:03 PM
Related Categories: Espresso Machine Guides

What is a semi-automatic?

Brewing a shot on a semi-automatic espresso machineTo truly get the best from your espresso, you need to have full control over your machine. Semi-automatic machines are designed to brew superior espresso by combining the reliability of an electric pump with the benefits of personal touch. The electric pump eliminates any margin for error by generating consistent water pressure, while the design of the semi-automatic gives you the freedom to be creative with your grind, tamp and brew time. Thanks to this unique combination, you're in full control of your espresso from start to finish, so you can fine-tune your technique until your espresso tastes just right. Though all semi-automatic machines are based on the same brewing concept, each machine has its own unique style that sets it apart. When shopping for a semi-automatic, it's best to compare the different features of each model to decide which one suits you best.

Is a semi-automatic right for me?

The precision and flexibility that come with owning a semi-automatic are unmatched by any other kind of espresso machine, but it's important to understand what these benefits mean for you. Getting the best espresso takes practice, and a big part of the joy of owning a semi-automatic is perfecting the art of making espresso.

Though semi-automatic machines are capable of producing the best tasting espresso, many coffee lovers prefer the consistency and ease that come with owning a super automatic. Super automatic espresso machines are designed to perform the entire brewing process, from grinding to pouring, at the press of a button. If convenience is your main goal in making espresso, perhaps a super automatic espresso machine is right for you, but for many espresso connoisseurs there's just no substitute for a semi-automatic.

While semi-automatic machines are lower in price than super automatic machines, a stand alone grinder is an essential accessory. Grinding your own beans is a sure way to get the freshest coffee possible, and if your goal is to make the perfect espresso, consider a stand alone grinder a necessity. Unlike super automatics, semi-automatic machines put the brewing process in your hands, and no matter which one you choose you'll always have full control. If you enjoy the art of making espresso as much as you enjoy drinking it, then a semi-automatic is the perfect match.

Diagram of a semi-automatic espresso machineWhat makes a semi-automatic so great?
The essential features found on all semi-automatic machines:
  • Every semi-automatic comes with a specialized portafilter, a key component in hands-on espresso making.
  • A removable water reservoir makes refilling fast and splash free.
  • Each machine comes with a removable drip tray to eliminate spills and to make cleanup simple.
  • If you want a cappuccino, latte or Americano, all pump driven semi-automatic machines feature a built-in steam and hot water dispenser for all of your frothing and steaming needs.

Can it get better?
Additional features that make some semi-automatic machines a cut above the rest:
  • A marine brass, 58mm chrome coated commercial portafilter was only found on professional machines in the past, but now it's featured on high quality home models as well.
  • For machines that feature heat exchanger boilers, there's absolutely no wait time between brewing and steaming.
  • A pressure gauge is the most precise way to monitor the pressure inside your boiler, so you can be sure every shot you make gets the proper amount of pressure.
  • When you brew with machines featuring E61 Brew Groups, temperature control is truly at its best as your espresso follows a preheated path, all the way to your cup.
  • Machines with a solenoid, or 3-way valve will eliminate the excess water and pressure in the brew group so you can remove the portafilter without any mess.
  • A built-in cup warmer compliments most semi-automatics, eliminating any need to manually preheat your cups before brewing.

Can it get easier?
Optional features and accessories that will add more convenience to your brewing routine:

  • Some semi-automatic machines feature a pressurized portafilter to eliminate the need for precise tamping, so you can always be sure you're brewing with the proper amount of pressure.
  • Pod or capsule capable portafilters can use single shot, pre-packaged espresso inserts for a clean and convenient brewing experience.
  • Although all semi-automatics come with a steam device of some sort, some machines include a frothing aid to make frothing and steaming an easy part of espresso making.
  • Some models are compatible with auto frothing attachments to eliminate manual frothing altogether, so you can be sure you're getting the best froth every time.
What does it all mean?

Semi-automatic machines are designed to bring out the true joy of espresso making. If pulling the perfect shot gives you as much satisfaction as enjoying the results, then a semi-automatic espresso machine is just what you're looking for.
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