Best Semi-automatic Espresso Machines

crazy by Editorial Staff | Updated on February 19th, 2021

If you are an ardent coffee lover, by now, you have probably heard about semi-automatic espresso machines. You are also likely to have heard that there are more advance than automatic espresso machines. But what is unique about them, and why should you buy one? This article tells you about key things to look for to buy the right semi-automatic espresso machines plus some of the best units on the market. So, keep reading to learn more!  


What is a semi-automatic espresso machine?

Semi-automatic machines feature a portafilter, boiler, and a switch to activate/ deactivate the pump to perform the extraction. It is that last feature that accounts for the “semi” prefix. These machines give you some control over the brewing process. That means you must have some know-how on how to operate them.

semi espresso machine

The portafilter can either the pressurized or non-pressurized. A pressurized portafilter has a valve that stops water coming out until a certain amount of pressure has been reached. If you have got a somewhat uneven grind or even failed to tamp impeccably, this portafilter will compensate for this. 

A non-pressurized portafilter, on the other hand, is more technical and a bit harder to use, but once you get accustomed, you will pull stunning shots. They are larger and usually made from chrome and sometimes chrome-plated brass.

Most semi-automatic brewers are fitted with a traditional steam wand that calls for you to put in a little physical effort in order to get the best results.

Best semi-automatic espresso machines

Mr. Coffee Espresso Machine

You don’t need to part ways with a lot of dollars to own this unit despite doing a decent job. Throw a few dollars, and it will be all yours. It gets you the right pressure to extract palatable espresso, and with its push-button simplicity, your brew will be the way it should be. It is one of the finest units if you are on a budget.

Key features

  • A one-touch control panel that ensures you to select a single or double shot of espresso, cappuccino, or latte
  • 15 bar pump espresso maker
  • Automatic milk frother that turns your favorite milk into a light, creamy foam with ease. Just choose the frothing level you want, and the brewer will do the rest.
  • A removable water container that is easy to fill and clean.
  • Removable milk reservoir that is easy to fill and clean. 

Pros

  • Simple one-touch operation 
  • Make lattes and cappuccinos as well
  • Generous accessory bundle
  • Excellent value

Cons

  • Fairly flimsy feel
  • Build quality is doubtful

Gaggia Classic Espresso Maker

Looking to benefit from a five-figure unit without dropping a lot of dollars? The Classic Pro will not disappoint. It comes with cool features such as a commercial steam wand, commercial three-way solenoid valve, and brushed stainless steel housing. Other key features include:

  • Easy-to-use rocker switch controls
  • Commercial three-way solenoid valve. Capacity water tank – 2,1 liter

Even if you are not tech-savvy, you will still operate it effortlessly? Don’t think so? Give it a shot!

Pros

  • Reasonably priced 
  • Uncompromising build
  • Very easy to use
  • Many commercial parts for a rugged
  • Solid brand heritage

Cons

  • Quality control is sometimes lacking, so check your package closely upon arrival.

De’longhi EC155 Espresso and Cappuccino Maker

Espresso machines are a bit pricey, and that why most people consider other alternatives. This one doesn’t cost a fortune. It is fairly priced despite featuring cool features, some of which are available in top-tier units. 

It is easy to use, and with a push of a button, your brew will be ready in no time. As long as you are not expecting a 5-figure unit’s benefits, this brewer is sufficient for you.

Pros

  • Cheap 
  • Unbeatable overall value
  • A dual thermostat that allows for real-time brewing and steaming
  • Ideal for making lattes or cappuccinos

Cons

  • Feel slightly brittle
  • Lot of plastic

Breville the Barista Express Espresso Machine, BES870XL

Love pulling shots the Italian way? Then this semi-auto unit is all you need to get everything right. It features a precise digital control that gives you the temperature you need for the ideal espresso and a manual wand that creates foam the way you want it. Not to mention that you can comfortably afford it even when on a tight budget.

Pros

  • Integrated burr grinder
  • Simple and intuitive controls
  • A classic feel
  • Highly customizable
  • Powerful boiler

Cons

  • A more involved process
  • Slightly larger footprint
  • No water temperature control

BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine

This is yet another one from Breville. And just like the Barista Express, it gives you everything you need to get top-tier espresso without needing to leave your home. It comes with PID temperature control and volumetric dosing that take the sting out of operation and automate the main process. 

Its manual frother gives you the control you need to personalize your drink the way you link it. It is simply a brewer that will not let you down when craving a great cup of espresso. 

Pros

  • Thermocoil heating system 
  • Solid build and commanding design
  • Pre-infusion gets things started the right way
  • Volumetric dosing and manual override

Cons

  • Pricey but currently discounted
  • Fairly bulky

Why settle for a semi-automatic espresso machine?

  • Most features are automated for your ease of use, making it easier to operate it
  • Gives you some control over extraction time. Ideal for you is don’t like a completely automated experience 
  • Some boilers allow for concurrent brewing and extraction. Depending on the type of boiler, you could enjoy the freedom to brew at the same time as you are steaming. This is a good thing when in a hurry.

What to consider when choosing a semi-automatic espresso machine

If you have decided you are more comfortable with a semi-automatic espresso, here are some things we enjoin to consider when purchasing:

Boiler type

There are three types of boilers fitted in these units:

Single boiler and dual-use

As the name suggests, these machines come with a single boiler. However, you will benefit from a pair of thermostats. One that controls the water temperature and the other one is responsible for the steam of milk. Sadly, you won’t be able to perform both tasks at the same time. You just need to flip the switch to shift from one function to the other.

Single boiler and heat exchanger

Semi-automatic espresso machines equipped with a single boiler equipped and a heat exchanger keep the water at the optimum temperature for creating steam. They are capable of brewing and steaming at the same time. 

Dual boiler

Semi-automatic espresso machines in this sub-group are a bit pricey. A unit here either has a boiler and a thermoblock or two separate boilers. As with the heat exchanger variant, simultaneous steaming and brewing present no problem.

Ease of use

We don’t need to over-emphasis this. Simply, go for a machine that you can comfortably use. Otherwise, you will be kicking yourself. If buying online, we recommend you check it out in a store first to be sure it is what you need.

Grinder

Very few semi-automatic espresso machines come with a grinder. You will need to budget for a third grinder or use pre-ground coffee. If looking to taste the best espresso, we enjoin you to grind your beans instead of using pre-grounds. Make sure to get a burr grinder for the best experience.

Build quality

It is worth going for a machine that will last you for years. Keep in mind that price goes hand in hand with the build quality and features. Think about it!

Dimensions

Do you have limited space in your house? A more compact unit is then ideal for you. In a nutshell, don’t pick a machine that will make your kitchen look more crowded.

Design

We feel design should play some role in your decision. Do you think so? This is true if you value the look of the things in your house. If you are also looking for something that will please your eyes, consider design when choosing.

Price

Semi-automatic espresso machines are priced differently, and it crucial to buy one that won’t break your bank. Hint! Pick one that is worth every penny you are willing to drop.

Crema enhancers

You will come across some manufacturers claiming their units have built-in crema enhancers. We are here to tell you, run when you see such units as such addition will spoil your brew instead of improving it.

Bars of pressure

A good machine utilizes the right bars of pressure. Nine bars of pressure is often the benchmark for marking espresso. While some manufacturers claim their products offer more bars of pressure, be careful with such units as they may spoil the fun.

Frother aiders

A froth aider can get you up and running instantly, but it is really not that challenging to learn. As a quick tip, when you are frothing, stop introducing air when the temperature hits 95 °F. When you reach this point, push the steaming wand well into the milk and continue heating it. With fast and easy tips like that, soon you will create the right microfoam without the needless assistance of a froth aider

Steam buttons

When you are steaming, you will need the control of a knob to manipulate that steam. Models that come with a button instead of the knob give you an all-or-nothing experience without the finesse you need to whip up the microfoam you desire. Overlook this advice, and you will undoubtedly come to regret it!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links. Remember to support us by purchasing through the Amazon/Walmart/Impact Radius links provided. Last update on 2024-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Disclosure: No compensation or free products were received in exchange for writing this review.

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Editorial Staff

The editorial staff at Crazy Coffee Crave is a team of coffee enthusiasts & Baristas who enjoy the one thing we all think about as soon as we get up in the morning. Trusted by thousands of readers worldwide.