What is the Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine?

What is the best semi-automatic espresso machine? Want to know why you should buy a semi-automatic espresso machine over a manual or automatic? Then this article is for you!

If you enjoy dappling in home coffee brewing, you might be considering an espresso machine. Imagine making your own cappuccinos and lattes at home, dazzling your dinner guests with your barista art.

But now you are faced with the choices manual, semi-automatic or automatic. Today we’ll be looking at the best semi-automatic espresso machines on the market.

Why Consider a Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine?

Manual espresso machines are the ones usually found in coffee shops, cafés and restaurants. We’ve done an article on them before if you want to find out more about the difference between steam operated and pump operated.

What is the Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine?

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The automatic machines, well, they do everything automatically. Basically you add the coffee beans, press a button and everything is done for you.

When you look at the best semi-automatic espresso machines, what they all have in common, is offering you the best of both worlds – the hands on experience of a manual machine, and the ease of an automatic.

With a semi-automatic you can determine how strong you want the coffee by controlling the pump. The machines feature an automated pump and automated temperature controls for the boiler.

Inside info: there’s another type of machine that seems to be similar to an espresso machine, but it is only steam-driven.

These ones you will be able to buy for under $100. Although the coffee produced may seem like an authentic espresso, it is in fact just a very strong coffee, similar to a Mokka pot or stovetop brewer. If you aren’t a coffee snob (or shall we say coffee connoisseur), then it is fine to get one of these machines, they are very user-friendly and the coffee is still delicious.

The Key Features of a Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine

Each type of machine can be further classified by three subclasses: Single Boiler, Dual Use Machines; Single Boiler, Heat Exchanger Machines and Dual Boiler Machines.

The Single Boiler, Dual Use Machines are usually under $1,000. They have one boiler and two or more thermostats inside. The one thermostat is in charge of regulating the water temperature, for brewing the coffee. The other one is set to a higher temperature, produce steam for milk frothing. You can switch between the thermostats by flipping a switch or pressing a button. But the machine can’t brew coffee and steam milk at the same time.

The Single Boiler, Heat Exchanger Machines are a bit more common and will cost just over a $1,000. The big boiler maintains the water temperature at around 240°F or higher, which is ideal for producing steam. From the water pressure and heat the brewing water meanders up to the group-head through a coiled tube. When it is drawn from the reservoir, through the coiled tube, it reaches the ideal brewing temperature. The coiled tube serves as the heat exchanger. With this machine you can steam and brew at the same time.

Dual Boiler Machines are normally quite expensive at roughly $2,000 and upwards. The machine features two independent boilers – a boiler and a thermos-block. The one maintains water at brewing temperatures and the other maintains water at steaming temperatures. With this machine you can also steam and brew at the same time.

What’s the Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine?

It would seem that the dual boiler machines are the most versatile type out of the three options. But something to keep in mind, is your power access. You need enough power to run both boilers at the same time, which draws quite a bit of amps from your average wall socket.

If you want to be able to brew coffee while steaming your milk, then a Single Boiler, Heat Exchanger Machine will be best. With this option it is the most ideal to purchase one with an external reservoir or the option to connect it to an external water supply. This will make a huge difference in the temperature stability of the machine.

What Makes a Great Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine?

Although these machines are a bit hands on, the behind the scenes are still automated. You move the lever, but it pushes an actuator button. If you move the lever back down, it shuts off the pump.

By activating the pump and deactivating it, you control the water flow per espresso shot. As mentioned above, one of the nice things about this in-between machine option, you can decide how strong you want to brew your coffee.

The best semi-automatic espresso machine will manage all the behind the scenes technical details for you. It will maintain the perfect brewing temperature by automatically turning on and off the heating element inside when the machine detects a boiler temperature drop.

The machine will also regulate and maintain the pump pressure, meaning consistent pressure on the bed of espresso coffee grounds. With a manual machine, you have to maintain this pressure to push water through the coffee. It will maintain the correct temperatures for steaming and other important safety concerns within the machine, usually through a third safety thermometer.

Below we have listed the top five best semi-automatic espresso machines for you to consider, ranging them from cheapest to most expensive.

De’Longhi EC155 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker

Enjoy a delicious espresso made your own way! You can choose to brew with ground espresso or E.S.E pods, courtesy of the unique patented dual filter holder. The two separate thermostats will ensure you create the perfect espresso or cappuccino every time.

The user-friendly swivel jet frother will help you produce delicious milky drinks. The special self-priming feature eliminates the annoying start-up preparation. A removable water tank and drip tray makes it easy to clean. Plus the high-quality stainless steel boiler ensures many years of delicious espresso making.

Customers like the size, noting that it doesn’t take up too much room on the kitchen counter. The water tank is a reasonable size, you can make about 8 to 10 shots before you need to refill it.

Mr. Coffee Café Barista Premium Espresso/Cappuccino System, ECMP1000

The one-touch control panel makes it very easy to select single or double shot options for espressos, cappuccinos or lattes. It features an automatic milk frother for effortless milk frothing. The removable milk tank fills, cleans and stores easily.

The adjustable cup tray can fit various cup sizes, from dainty demitasse cups to big travel mugs. The drip catcher is also removable for easy cleaning. A single shot filter, double shot filter, measuring scoop, tamper and coffee recipes are included.

You can effortlessly switch between the automatic or manual settings, depending on your level of expertise. The machine has three preprogrammed beverage options.

Customers did note that the pressurization capacity is quite sensitive, so you need to keep a close eye on it, servicing it regularly.

Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine, Brushed Stainless Steel

This is a bestselling model, loved by coffee aficionados everywhere. It features commercial chrome-plated brass portafilters and grouphead for excellent heat stability. The intuitive controls make the machine easy to operate. It is fitted with both commercial and pressurized filter baskets, perfect for beginners and baristas as well. Fitted with a coffee tamper as well. A 7-gram measuring scoop is included.

The removable water tank has a capacity of 72-ounce. The machine uses a 17 ½ bar pump with high-voltage boiler. It has both a single and double-shot stainless-steel filter basket option. The convenient commercial drip-free operation feature creates a dry espresso puck that you can easily knock out.

The rugged construction of heavy-duty materials ensure longevity and high performance. The forged brass components helps to stabilize temperature with a three-way solenoid valve and a independent expansion valve. This machine will turn anyone into a barista in the convenience of their own home.

Customers noted how consistent the machine is, maintaining the perfect temperature and the pump strength remained strong as well.

Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine

You are guaranteed the freshest cup of coffee with this machine, it has an integrated burr grinder. You will be able to go from beans to sipping your espresso in under a minute – in the comfort of your own home.

With the special purge function, the water temperature is automatically adjusted after the steam function has been used, to create the ideal espresso extraction temperature. The machine is great for beginners, it comes with two dual-wall, pressurized filters to regulate the pressure and to help optimize the extraction. More experienced baristas can use the two single-wall, non-pressurized filters, offering you more room to experiment with grind sizes and amounts, plus tamping pressure.

Customers really enjoy the built-in grinder function, making it much simpler to use, as well as the variety of different specialized features it has.

Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine

This is a very popular, traditional style semi-automatic espresso machine, built to last with an iron frame and stainless-steel side panels. It features an ergonomic porta filter handle and commercial-level group head for excellent heat stability plus extraction quality.

The articulating steam wand offers a complete range of motion and the professional steaming knob provides precise control over the steaming pressure. You can order an optional pod and capsule adaptor kit as well. The single boiler has the largest volume capacity of any home machine in its class, holding 12oz.

The machine includes a 7 gram coffee scoop, plastic tamper and two filter baskets (single and double).
Customers enjoy the fact that the machine operates very quietly. Make sure you purchase a good grinder to match the quality of the machine.

Hopefully you now have a better idea to make sure you select the best semi-automatic espresso machine for your specific needs. What do you think, do you agree with our selections or can you recommend another model?