What Type of Home Espresso Machine? Super Automatic vs Pod vs Semi Automatic
The first decision to make when buying an espresso machine for your home or office is whether to go for a super automatic, a pod machine or semi automatic.
A super automatic will grind the coffee, extract the espresso and even froth the milk with the simple touch of a button. Popular brands include Saeco, Breville, Miele and De Longhi.
Semi automatic machine are used by baristas in coffee shops. When using a semi automatic, the “barista” must grind the coffee using a separate coffee grinder. Once the beans have been ground they prepare the filter with freshly gound coffee, extract the espresso using a semi automatic espresso machine and finally texture the milk with the espresso machine. Obviously the super automatic is much easier to use at home, usually also cleaner and will use less kitchen bench space. But there’s a reason why buyers prefer semi automatic machines, with the proper training the coffee is superior to a brew prepared by a super automatic coffee machine.
In layman terms, choose super automatic for convenience, speed and less mess. Choose Semi Automatic if the quality of the coffee is your most important requirement.
Pod machines are becoming more popular due to the number of machines on the market and George Clooney’s marketing ability. In reality though, the coffee they produce is below the standard which a super automatic machine could make. This is mainly due to coffee becoming stale soon after it’s ground. If you’re looking to buy a simple coffee making solution, we recommend a super automatic whole bean machine rather than a pod device.
How Important is a Coffee Grinder?
If I had to choose between a great coffee grinder or having an espresso machine, I would choose the coffee grinder! With a coffee grinder you can still enjoy freshly brewed plunger coffee. But an espresso machine with no grinder, you’re forced to use pre-ground coffee which is usually stale soon after purchase. There’s also a lack of crema and the flavour is flat and dull.
Ground coffee is stale within days. You can’t make great espresso at home – or anywhere for that matter – without a very high quality burr coffee grinder.
One of the best purchases you can make for your coffee enjoyment is a quality burr coffee grinder, have a look at our Coffee Grinder Buying Guide to learn more.
Volumetric or Manual?
A volumetric espresso machine will deliver an exact amount of water through the ground coffee. With the press of a button, your machine will start brewing and then stop automatically when enough espresso has been brewed. To make an espresso on a manual machine the owner must start the brewing process and stop it when enough espresso has been brewed.
Single Boiler, Heat Exchanger or Twin Boiler?
Espresso machines have two main functions:
- To create Espresso
- To steam milk.
‘Heat exchanger’ and ‘twin boiler’ machines can extract espresso and steam milk simultaneously. On the other hand a single boiler machine can only do one or the other and then must be switched to the other function, which takes 1-2 minutes to be ready. If your espresso machine is only required for one or two coffees at a time, or only dark coffees a single boiler machine will be prefect. However, to make several white coffees in quickly, a heat exchanger or twin boiler machine is recommended.
Both a heat exchanger and twin boiler machine are capable of making an espresso and steam milk simultaneously. There isn’t a lot of difference between heat exchanger versus twin boiler devices. Some prefer heat exchanges because the water used for brewing does not make direct contact with the boiler element and resides in the boiler for a limited time. But other buyers prefer the twin boiler configuration because the espressos temperature can be more precisely controlled.
If you’re still unsure which to machine to buy, visit the local store and make yourself a brew.
Espresso Coffee Machine Summary Table
Our comparison guide of popular home espresso machines includes all the leading models. We always add to the guide as new machines are released so please check back soon. We review coffee makers from Bezzera, Rancilio, Vibiemme, Expobar, Breville and DeLonghi. There is also an easy to read table of espresso machine details, buyers review comments, recommended prices and more. We will also be posting a guide to help you make the right decision when choosing which espresso machine is right for you.
How to Make Cappuccino with your Home Espresso Machine
The answer will depend on your preferences and intended usage, kitchen bench space available and budget. Read our espresso machine reviews to get a few suggestions about what to expect in each price bracket.
Best Espresso Machine under 200 – DeLonghi EC7020
Stores are full with espresso machines under $200. Some of these gems rival the more expensive $500-$1000 dollar espresso machines.
$200 is a great place to start when you’re getting accustomed to brewing your own espresso. At the $200 range you won’t get the fan-dangled features of a super automatic espresso machine. However what you do get is a damn good espresso machine that makes a delicious espresso. What more do you want? More on Espresso Machines under $200 and our preferred pick the De’Longhi EC702:
Perfect for espresso lovers on a budget, De’Longhi’s highly acclaimed EC702 15-bar-pump espresso and cappuccino maker makes your favourite brew just how you like it. Providing owners the option of ground espresso or E.S.E pods with its unique patented dual filter holder. The Sempre Crema Filter, used with two measures of ground coffee, enhances the brewing process to produce a perfect crema. The E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) Filter, used with pods or one measure of ground coffee, makes espresso preparation simple and convenient. Whichever way, the choice is yours, making your espresso truly unique.
Best Espresso Machine under 300 – De’Longhi EC680
The new Dedica Espresso Maker provides the perfect espresso, latte, or cappuccino at home, all while only taking up 6 Inch of your kitchen countertop. It also features thermo block technology which allows the machine to heat up quickly and be ready within 35 seconds. It has sturdy stainless steel construction and buttons for automatic flow stop. The new Cappuccino Frother provides Barista quality foam for your favorite milk based espresso drinks.
Read more about Espresso Machines under $300 and our leading selection the De’Longhi Dedica EC680
Best Espresso Machine under 500 – Breville BES840XL
Okay, there are higher priced models, and they might have some additional features. But you need to ask yourself…do you really need all the bells and whistles in your coffee machine? Once you drop past the $500 price bracket, you’re going to find it difficult to buy a machine that does a better job making espresso. Find more info about Espresso Machines under $500 and our preferred selection the Breville BES840XL Infuser:
Breville’s Infuser Espresso Machine is the leading device under $500 and comes equipped with an host of features that any serious espresso lover will enjoy.
Amazon buyers have rated the Breville as the Best Home Espresso Machine with 4 and a half stars out of 5, making it a consumer top-pick.
Best Espresso Machine under 1000 – Rancilio Silvia
If you’re serious about making your own cafe quality coffee this is the best price range to find a quality espresso machine. This is the price bracket which I paid for my espresso machine, because I wanted the ability to make the prefect espresso. I want the best shot of espresso possible, every time. Click here to read more about Espresso Machines under $1000.