Understanding The 4 Different Types of Espresso Machine

This espresso machine review is for those who are lured into espresso bars every time they set foot in Italy.

It is also for those who would love to relish a creamy cup of this specialty drink at any time of the day. Originating in the land of die-hard coffee fans,  Italy,  espresso has gained popularity far and wide and has become a preferred beverage  in almost all corners of the world.

Love for espresso is something that most coffee lovers foster and almost all of them would love to have an espresso machine in their homes.

An espresso machine is the specialty equipment which is a must have for brewing a frothy shot of espresso anytime in your own home. Understanding the different types of espresso machines can help one comprehend the coffee making procedure in a better manner, get a clear idea about how each type of machine performs and make an informed purchase as per specific requirements.

What many people would be surprised to know is that an espresso machine is in fact, the last step of the full coffee brewing procedure, which begins with the coffee beans being grinded in a special grinder.

And the perfect espresso can come out of the machine only if one employs the right grinder for grinding the beans.

An espresso machine is usually priced between $100 -$1000 and sometimes above. And of course, if that amount of money is going to be spent for coffee brewing, it is always better to get updated about the different types of machines, their features and their functions before purchase.

Coming to espresso machine types, these are broadly divided into 4 different categories –

  • PISTON
  • SEMI-AUTOMATIC
  • FULLY AUTOMATIC
  • SUPER AUTOMATIC

A lever or manual machine

PISTON ESPRESSO MACHINE

A piston espresso machine is nothing less than a piece of art and each component of the equipment has been meticulously designed by its founder, Achille Gaggia in 1938. Piston machines are the pioneers of espresso making and ruled the market before the arrival of its automatic counterpart.

Beautiful they may be, but buyers must not rule out the fact that they need more of manual effort than the other varieties available in the market.

The body of a piston espresso machine is crafted out of copper and/or brass with handles which are wooden. Yes, they are a visual delight but mastering espresso making in it might demand a lot of learning from the barista.

Just as in the case of a semi-automatic espresso machine, here also one has to grind, measure and fill the coffee by himself and in addition to that also set the variables like temperature and pressure.

Time and effort, both are needed in huge quantities to bring out a good cuppa and provided one has both, as well as eagerness to learn the procedure, this machine is a lifelong purchase. Otherwise, it runs the risk of ending up as a piece of charming decoration.

One plus point of piston espresso machine is the fact that it is reasonably sized and fit for household use.

The Rancilio Silvia. A semi-automatic espresso machine

SEMI-AUTOMATIC ESPRESSO MACHINE

To be very frank, a semi-automatic espresso machine scores much above its fully automatic counterpart and espresso lovers all over the world have shown a definite preference for this one. It helps the user to enjoy “traditional” coffee making in the modern way.

How does it work and what makes it so popular? Well, actually only a flip of the switch is needed to set the pump in motion and it begins pumping in the water through the coffee brewing head.

Manual machines need manual operation at this stage and it is here that the semi-automatic variety differs from them. However unlike fully automatic machines, one needs to shut down the pump as well.

The whole procedure of extraction claims 20-25 seconds and hence is quite an achievable job – nothing too lengthy.

Other good features are –

  • Affordable price (beteeen $100 and $600)
  • Ease of use
  • Exceptionally good coffee brewing capacity
  • Separate water reservoir
  • Brew temperature is quickly reached
  • Small size and available in a wide variety of colors
  • Programming options to customize your drink
  • Semi-automatic espresso machines are categorically divided into 3 sub-classes:
  • Single Boiler Dual Use ( most popular/features 2 thermostats)
  • Single Boiler Heat Exchanger(both brewing and steaming can be done)
  • Dual Boiler (most expensive/2 independent boilers/both steam and brew).

FULLY AUTOMATIC ESPRESSO MACHINES

A fully automatic espresso machine does everything that a semi does but also adds a system that controls the amount of water pumped through using an electronic mechanism.

Delonghi Magnifica - One of the most popular super automatic machines

SUPER AUTOMATIC ESPRESSO MACHINES

This one seems to be the master of them all. A One-Touch Button is the control master here and its super specialty lies in the extra features that it holds. They are also the most expensive.

The touch button can control the quantity of coffee that one likes in his cuppa; control water extraction; control temperature and some special models have self-frothers incorporated in the design along with LCD screens for digital display.

No need to worry about the coffee brewing mess – everything is done inside the machine.

The extra features which make it the future of espresso brewing are the following:

  • Grinder Setting
  • Thermo bloc Heating element
  • Digital display
  • Programmable
  • Liquid volume control
  • Pre-grinding/Pre-brewing options for multiple drinks
  • Temperature Control
  • Adjustable coffee dosing
  • Cup warmer
  • Water Filtration arrangement

Choosing the right espresso machine is actually all about one’s taste and preferences. Prices vary as per type and model, depending upon the degree of automation integrated into each. All espresso machines can however be made to churn out a perfect shot of espresso if one has the passion and desire of making espresso and enjoying it.

Cheers!

For first time buyers we recommend having a quick look at our top 7 espresso machines.