Super-automatic, semi-automatic and automatic coffee machines

What is a semi-automatic coffee machine? What is the difference between a semi-automatic and a semi-automatic coffee machine? How does a super-automatic coffee maker work? These and many other questions can assail the less experienced consumer when he or she first approaches this segment of coffee machines. Because we often get caught up in the categorisations:

  • It is one thing to categorise coffee machines according to their mode of operation (manual, semi-automatic, automatic or super automatic), which is what we are going to deal with in this article.
  • A different categorisation is that of coffee machines according to the type of coffee (which can be capsules, espresso, filter, etc.).

Let’s not get confused, friends. A semi-automatic coffee machine can be of many different types, as we shall see below. And a coffee maker of a certain type (espresso, for example) can have various modes of operation. So let’s find out in detail how coffee machines are divided up according to their mode of operation:

What is a manual coffee machine?

OK, let’s start at the beginning to better understand the other categorizations we’re going to address. Manual coffee machines are those in which there is no type of automation or user intervention. For example, Italian coffee makers, Neapolitan coffee machines and piston coffee machines are 100% manual.

What is a semi-automatic coffee machine?

A semi-automatic coffee machine is distinguished by the fact that there is a part of the extraction process that is not automatic but must be controlled manually by the user. Specifically, the control of the water flow for each cup. This is normally done with a button, which must be pressed to start the extraction and then switched off so that the extraction stops.

This detail forces the user to keep an eye on the process because if he forgets to stop the extraction, the result will be a very watery coffee and an overflowing cup. And it is the culprit that the extraction process is not 100% automatic.

The semi-automatic operation is the most common in the coffee industry.

Most pod coffee machines, many filter coffee machines and some espresso machines (the so-called manual espresso makers) have a semi-automatic mode of operation. Here are a few examples, which, as you can see, collect coffee machines of very different conditions:

De'Longhi Distinta ECI341BK Traditional Pump Espresso Machine - Black
De'Longhi Distinta ECI341BK Traditional Pump Espresso Machine - Black
Practical cup warming plate, to keep your coffee cups warm, just like at the coffee shop.; Self-priming system means machine is always ready for use.
Bosch TAS3203 coffee maker - coffee makers (freestanding, Semi-auto, Pod coffee machine, Coffee...
Bosch TAS3203 coffee maker - coffee makers (freestanding, Semi-auto, Pod coffee machine, Coffee...
Large variety of over 40 drinks from many popular brands; Perfect drink quality thanks to Intellibrew

What is an automatic coffee machine?

In automatic coffee machines, the user does not control the process of extracting the espresso. The volume of water is programmed for each cup, so the coffee maker knows exactly when to stop the extraction. To operate an automatic coffee machine, you only need to press the start button to start the process. We don’t have to worry about stopping it.

This is more convenient and also allows the user to do other tasks while preparing his coffee. But of course, it takes some control away from the process, which is why the more puristic prefer semi-automatic coffee machines, where they can calibrate the brewing times more precisely.

What is a super-automatic coffee machine?

Finally, in super-automatic coffee machines, the extraction works in the same way as in automatic machines (the user only intervenes to start it up). But they also add another element of automation: the grinder.

The difference is that an automatic coffee machine starts with a dose of ground coffee, and a super-automatic starts with the coffee beans (although some models also have an additional input for pre-ground coffee). Everything that comes after (grinding, dosing, filtering, stopping the extraction) is automatically controlled by the coffee machine. The user only has to press a button and wait a few seconds to enjoy his freshly ground coffee. For this reason, super-automatic coffee makers are also known as One Touch coffee machines.

In practice, over the years and with the advance of technology, super-automatic coffee machines have become popular (and cheaper) to the point of absorbing the previous segment. It is already very difficult to find an automatic coffee maker that does not include the built-in grinder so that coffee machines can really be divided into two groups: manual espresso machines (which are semi-automatic) and automatic espresso machines (which include both automatic and super-automatic makers). This is reflected in the information structure and menus of our website.