Fully-Automatic vs Semi-Automatic Espresso machines

Fully-Automatic vs Semi-Automatic Espresso machines

Those looking for their very first espresso machine will no doubt end up wondering just what the difference is between the various types of machine that are available both online and in stores.

In essence, the type of machine you decide to purchase will determine the control system that is used to make all manner of coffee you plan on selling.

What is an automatic espresso machine?

This is a question that we often get asked, with many non-coffee people or budding baristas not really knowing what that term means.

In simple terms, a volumetric espresso machine pumps out water at the right dosage volume, which in some cases can also be pre-programmed by the barista should they wish to do so.

Sometimes referred to as an automatic espresso machine, the name does give an indication of the key differences between these two core machine types from the get-go.

Each button has a corresponding water dosage which is set to run through the machine when initiated, this means that a espresso should always produce 30ml of liquid and a doppio 60ml.

Automatic espresso machine control scheme

Before the introduction of these machines, the barista would either have to control the entire espresso brewing process, often using a machine that would require the usage of levers for operation and nuance to produce the right amount of espresso. Or use the sometimes seen semi-automatic machine, which pumps water out at the right pressure and temperature, but won't stop doing so until you tell it to. The semi-automatic option is also popular with what you could call 'coffee-hipsters'.

Whilst there is an underground coffee scene that still favours these somewhat classic methods, the average coffee shop owner doesn't need an extra level of stress when they've got a queue of customers waiting for their hot cup of Joe.

Key automatic espresso machine features

  • One-touch brewing
  • Automatic water and pressure control managed by the espresso machine
  • Ability to focus on other coffee-making tasks
  • Sometimes include an integrated grinder
  • Takes the guesswork out of brewing espresso
  • Many new machines include semi-automatic features as standard

What is a semi-automatic espresso machine?

Semi-automatic espresso machines are less commonly used nowadays but are a popular option for the aforementioned 'barista hipsters' that want coffee where they can have management of the dosage level.

Accurate timings are needed to produce quality coffee via a semi-automatic machine, with the machine controlled the water pressure and temperature, the barista simply starts the flow and then stops the flow based upon their own feelings, instinct or timings.

Semi-Automatic espresso machine control scheme

Whilst it may seem a daunting prospect, if you want unique or truly bespoke espresso with due care and attention paid to every part of the brewing process, then often the semi-automatic espresso machine is a true champion option.

A lot of espresso machine manufacturers have moved away from the semi-automatic method, now utilising technology to achieve the same precise control method but with individual twists.

Key semi-automatic espresso machine features

  • Precise control over espresso dosage
  • Normally cheaper than the fully-automatic counterpart
  • Commonly found on home brewing equipment
  • Capable of brewing more than just coffee

Still feeling confused?

We don't expect everyone to fully understand the nuances of the various types of espresso machine after just the very first look, instead we aim to inform, educate and hopefully entertain.

Should you be interested in opening your own coffee shop, or be looking to invest in your very first espresso machine, then by all means, call our sales team to learn a little more about the most important piece of kit you'll need to run a successful coffee shop.