Which automatic espresso machine is best?
For many people, starting the morning with a hot cup of coffee is an enjoyable part of their daily routine. However, taking a trip to your favorite barrister every morning is both time-consuming and expensive. An automatic espresso machine automates the coffee-making process, delivering perfect results from the comfort of your kitchen.
In the espresso-making market, such machines are abundant, each with different features requiring different user interaction levels. The Breville Barista Express is a top-of-the-range machine with a built-in burr grinder and digital temperature controls. Alternatively, there are many other models with various features to suit most budgets.
What to know before buying an automatic espresso machine
Depending on the level of involvement you prefer, there are three main types of automatic espresso machines: semi-automatic, automatic and super-automatic. Semi-automatic machines use a pump to deliver water at a constant temperature yet still allow the user to decide how much water to add to the coffee. Automatic machines are very similar. However, they deliver an exact amount of hot water. Super-automatic machines also grind the beans, fill the portafilter and add the hot water at the touch of a button.
Espresso forms the basis for most popular coffee drinks, for instance, latte and Americano. A machine with a milk steamer allows you to make other drinks like cappuccino or macchiato. Beyond this, you can use cream, cocoa, syrups or liqueurs to make more indulgent drinks such as mocha, frappe or Irish coffee.
Most of these espresso machines accept either whole coffee beans or pre-ground coffee. Some options like the De’Longhi Nespresso Essenza aim to simplify the process further by using single-serve pods. These are great for trying various blends, intensities and flavors but are usually more expensive than loose coffee.
What to look for in a quality automatic espresso machine
Choosing an espresso machine that is suitable for your needs often comes down to its size. Compact options work quickly and efficiently without taking up too much space on your countertop. However, as they only have a small water boiler, they can only produce two or three cups at a time. Larger families or businesses will need a model with a built-in reservoir.
The capacity of the boiler and the size of the heating element both determine how long you will be waiting for your morning coffee. A small boiler will heat up much quicker than a large one. If you expect to make coffee for the whole family, then a larger boiler will serve more people and a larger heating element will improve the waiting time. However, these features can add a lot to the overall purchasing cost.
As discussed, super-automatic espresso machines come with the most features. However, this can often prevent you from changing basic things like the strength and amount of coffee per serving. Look for a model that allows you to choose the grinding coarseness, water volume and temperature if you want more control over the outcome.
How much you can expect to spend on an automatic espresso machine
Initially, these machines do seem expensive. However, when you consider that the average cost in a coffee shop is $3-$4 per 16-ounce serving, it is understandable. Basic semi-automatic models can be found for under $100, whereas a fully loaded super-automatic option can be as high as $1,000.
Automatic espresso machine FAQ
Can I use regular ground coffee in an automatic espresso machine?
A. Yes, you can. Most espresso machines accept pre-ground coffee. The most important thing is the coarseness of the grinds. For these machines, the coffee should be finely ground to the consistency of table salt.
Are automatic espresso machines expensive to run?
A. This depends largely on the wattage of the heater. Most home espresso machines have a 1000-2000 watt heating element and will cost around 2-10 cents per cup in electricity. If the machine stores hot water, then this may increase the cost significantly.
How do I look after an automatic espresso machine?
A. Many modern espresso machines have a built-in cleaning cycle to flush out the internal pipes. Others have a warning light to indicate that it needs cleaning. You should use a soft brush or a vacuum cleaner to remove any loose coffee from the internal mechanism, while you can use a damp cloth to clean the outer shell.
What’s the best automatic espresso machine to buy?
Top automatic espresso machine
What you need to know: This super-automatic machine has a built-in burr grinder and allows you to select the coarseness.
What you’ll love: It has a milk steamer and frother, a single or double strength selector and stainless steel finish.
What you should consider: It uses water cartridge filters that you will need to replace periodically.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top automatic espresso machine for the money
What you need to know: It has user-friendly controls and can make two single shots of espresso at once.
What you’ll love: Its 40-ounce water reservoir is removable for easy filling and cleaning.
What you should consider: The milk steamer is a little underpowered, so it won’t froth the milk.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Its compact size and one-touch buttons make it easy to use.
What you’ll love: It has a built-in stainless steel grinder with five coarseness settings and an adjustable steamer for frothing milk.
What you should consider: This model only works with beans and cannot accept pre-ground coffee.
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Chris Gillespie writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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