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Manual Vs Automatic Espresso Machine. Which One Is The Best For You

Investing in a high-end espresso machine can be daunting, given the plethora of different models available.

From manual to automatic, semi-automatic, and super-automatic options, the choices can be overwhelming. Wondering what each term signifies and which might be the perfect fit for you? Continue reading to discover more. 

What Does a Manual Espresso Maker Entail?

In the context of espresso making, which inherently requires high pressure, a manual espresso maker is one where the pressure is generated manually. These machines are often referred to as piston or lever machines due to the lever that the barista pumps to achieve the necessary 9 bars of pressure.

With a manual espresso machine, the user controls every aspect of the espresso shot. This includes grinding the coffee, measuring out the correct dose, packing and tamping the filter basket, pumping the lever, and applying the appropriate pressure for the correct duration to extract the shot. While this might sound labor-intensive, it’s part of the appeal for some.

Why would anyone want a manual espresso maker, given the effort involved? For those seeking a simple, elegant solution for quality drinks, a lever machine turns espresso making into an enjoyable experience and an engaging conversation starter. Many baristas concur that these machines produce the best espresso. It requires practice and fine-tuning of various factors, and you may make some less-than-stellar espresso along the way. However, once you’ve perfected your recipe, the control you have over every aspect allows for the creation of the perfect shot.

Moreover, manual machines often have a distinctive steampunk aesthetic, making them a striking addition to your kitchen.

What Constitutes an Automatic Espresso Machine?

Defining an automatic espresso maker can be challenging due to the various types available. However, all automatic machines share a common feature: a built-in mechanical pump, eliminating the need for manual pressure generation.

A super-automatic espresso machine does everything for you, akin to having a robotic barista. It grinds, doses, tamps the beans, and pulls the shot. Often, it even froths the milk for your latte, all at the push of a button. While automatic machines have programmable settings, they don’t offer as much control to the user.

Fully-automatic espresso machines are similar, but the user may have a few more responsibilities. You may need to handle the grinding, dosing, or tamping of the beans yourself before handing over control to the fully-automatic machine.

Semi-automatic espresso machines strike a balance and are our personal favorites. With a semi-automatic machine, you grind the beans, measure the correct dose, and tamp, similar to the fully-automatic option. However, you also control the timing of the shot. This additional control allows you to finesse your espresso, making the semi-automatic machine a preferred choice for those wishing to perfect their espresso.


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: duysoranguyen