Semi-automatic Vs. Automatic Espresso Machine

Espresso machines have stood the test of time, and there are no signs they’ll be out of the market soon. Since their invention, these machines have gone through many innovations before arriving at the modern beauties we see today. From Moriondo’s design to Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni’s design to today’s design, a lot of work has been done to perfect the modern gadgets.

Semi-automatic vs. automatic 


When it comes to espresso machines, knowing which types you would like when it comes to how hands-on you want to be is very crucial. Do you want a high level of control over the shot or just some control? Read on to learn more.

The standards

Whether you settle for a semi-automatic or automatic espresso machine, a good one will use the same process to get you perfect espresso. 

To pull the perfect shot of espresso, pump 190°-200° F water through a tightly packed disk of finely ground coffee beans. You need at least 9 atmospheres of pressure to produce about one ounce of espresso. 

white cups in espresso maker

What is a semi automatic espresso machine?

These machines are an improvement of Gaggia‘s design. In 1961, Ernesto Valente came up with a design that removed the need for baristas to manually pump the piston to achieve the desired pressure for a shot. The design allowed baristas to use a lever or button to activate the piston. This made it easier to pull shots by just pressing the lever.

Although this advancement gives you a high level of control over the shot, it is good to note that these machines are not fully automatic. You will still have to grind the coffee, load the portafilter, tamp, and decide when to start a shot and stop it.

Semi-automatics are common in commercial settings and often have more group heads to pull several shots at once.

Fully automatic machines 

They are more advanced than semi-automated machines and eliminate the need to control brew time. They have a flowmeter which regulates the amount of water that passes through the puck. It also stops the flow when the appropriate amount has filtered through.

Although they are fully automated, you will still have to do some things manually. For example, you are still going to have to grind and tamp your beans.

If you love having control over the shot, you will be a bit uncomfortable using these machines. But if looking for a machine that controls how long the shot pulls for, get one.


Super-automatics are the modern invention and have the potential to do almost everything for you. They are designed to be all-inclusive. Here is what they can do:

  • Grind the coffee for you
  • Set up the portafilter and tamp for you
  • Pull the shot for you
  • Steam or froth the milk for you

Are super automatic espresso machines worth it?

Super automatics make great espresso, but there is a fair amount of maintenance work underneath all that automation that has to be done. Coffee making is a dirty process. These machines are doing their best, but they can not do away with that mess.

How to pick the right one for you 

short-coated brown dog


How much are you looking to splash out? If you have more bucks and looking for a machine that can do all the work for you, get a super-automatic machine. But if running on a tight budget but need an espresso machine, a semi-automatic one will not break your budget. However, keep in mind that you may have to buy some accessories such as a grinder if you settle for semi-automatic. So remember to consider that before shopping.  

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Do you like to have control over the shots? If yes, semi-automatic machines will not disappoint. They will honestly give you that moment. If always busy and don’t have time to grind your own beans and tamp, buy a super-automatic. But if looking for something in between, go for a fully automatic machine with semi-automatic backup features or vice versa.

Which is right for you?

All these machines do a decent job. However, semi-automatics give you a greater amount of control over your brew. Super-automatics, on the other hand, do everything for you. So depending on the amount of control over your brew you prefer, you should be in a position to budget for the right gadget.

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