Guide to automatic and superautomatic coffee machines

The best-known type of coffee is espresso coffee, which gives its name to the coffee maker with which it is prepared; the espresso machine.

There are many other methods of coffee extraction besides espresso. Each extraction method requires a different coffee maker. However, automatic coffee makers imitate the way of preparing coffee in espresso machines.

All espresso machines are born from a common idea, heating water to the ideal temperature for coffee, around 90 – 92 degrees Celsius, and passing the hot water through the ground coffee at high pressure, 9 bars.

The aim is to get the water through the coffee quickly, in about 25 seconds, to obtain an espresso coffee with all its aroma and flavour. Pushing the coffee through at high pressure can extract all the flavour, resulting in an intense and delicious coffee.

Within these espresso coffee machines, we make a classification according to the characteristics and the degree of automation of the same ones thus:

  • Manual coffee machines.
  • Superautomatic.
  • Automatic.

In today’s post, we will deal with the automatic ones, although we will necessarily talk about all of them throughout the post.

History of espresso coffee machines

An espresso machine is a coffee machine with a certain history; it was born in the 19th century in Italy.

The espresso machine is the result of the industrial revolution in two ways:

  • It was born with a specialisation of a steam machine.
  • And it was born out of the need to serve coffee very quickly when the workers had to drink it fast.

And this is its main characteristic, speed: an espresso can be made in less than 25 seconds by passing water at 92 degrees centigrade and 9 bars of pressure.

As you can imagine, over a long journey, the machine has undergone considerable evolution, and lately, the performance of each type of espresso machine has also become very different.

Classification of espresso machines according to their degree of automation

From the lowest to the highest degree of automation, we have:

1. Manual espresso machines

Automation in this type of machine is minimal. Baristas use these machines to make coffee at a professional level, but there are also domestic versions of these machines.

In these professional manual espresso machines, a certain degree of skill and knowledge of the coffee machine is required to achieve Italian-style coffee.

They allow you to regulate all aspects of extraction, temperature, brewing time, pressure bars, etc.

This fact is good for a professional as it will allow him to regulate his manual espresso machine as the barista wants to extract that coffee.

The problem arises with those who are not professionals, as there are many parameters to take into account, and to obtain good results, experience and knowledge of the manual espresso machine are needed.

They use coffee, which has to be finely ground, finer than in a Moka pot but coarser than the coffee powder we use for Turkish coffee.

It is, therefore, necessary to have a professional grinder that allows grinding to that degree of very fine and uniform grind, which is necessary to obtain a great coffee.

➡️ Their main feature is that they allow the user to control precise parameters such as the proportion of coffee and water, the pressure at which the water passes through the filter, etc. However, not everyone has the knowledge to operate them.

Thus, automatic espresso machines were born to make it easier for people without much knowledge of coffee to prepare espresso coffee at home or even in small coffee shops.

2. Automatic espresso machines

Unlike the previous ones, these coffee machines regulate the whole coffee extraction process by themselves. In other words, the extraction part of these machines is fully automated.

The water flow time, the water temperature and the pressure bars are determined by the machine, and you don’t have to do anything for the machine to extract the coffee. This is a huge advantage if you have no idea how to make espresso.

But it is very limiting if you are a professional barista who prefers to regulate your machine to the taste of the coffees you will extract.

What you do have to keep doing is to grind the coffee correctly, for which a professional grinder is ideal. Some of these coffee machines have a built-in coffee grinder.

In automatic coffee machines, the intervention of the person handling the espresso machine is less than in the previous case.

For certain cases, such as self-service in hotels and restaurants, or for those who do not want to go to the trouble of making good espresso, super-automatic coffee machines have arrived.

3. Super automatic coffee machines

They make it easy to enjoy espresso coffee at home at the touch of a button. The machine takes care of everything automatically, from grinding the beans to preparing a wide variety of espresso and milk coffee recipes.

The user selects, for example, a cappuccino coffee through the display, places the coffee cup underneath, presses a button, and the machine delivers a rich cappuccino coffee in seconds.

However, a barista would run away from them like hell, as the preparation of the coffee does not require a human being for anything more than placing the cup under the coffee spout.

Is an automatic coffee machine better than a manual coffee machine?

Actually, rather than thinking about which is better, you should consider which coffee machine you need. If you are a real barista, a manual coffee machine is a must. But an automatic may be fine if you are only interested in having an espresso at home without studying how to make a better one.

As in everything, there are levels. A professional manual coffee machine is not the same as an automatic coffee machine for a private individual. And a manual coffee machine for the home is also different from a professional manual coffee machine.

And of course, there are also differences between professional automatic coffee machines and automatic coffee machines for home use.

With professional coffee machines, you will always be able to obtain a constant pressure of 9 bar. Home coffee machines, whether manual or automatic, usually give 12, 15 or even 18 bars of pressure.

The question arises as to why they deliver more than the recommended number of bars for espresso coffee.

➡️ The answer is simple, the pressure pump is usually vibrating, which means it needs to get more pressure so that when the water passes through the coffee, it has that recommended pressure of 9 bars.

Which coffee machine should I choose, automatic or manual?

Professional machines are considerably more expensive than those designed for domestic use. This is because they are usually more precise and powerful and are designed to withstand long working hours in the catering industry.

On the other hand, the decision between an automatic and a manual coffee machine should be made based on the following considerations:

  • Do you have the know-how to make coffee in a manual espresso machine?
  • If you don’t have the knowledge, are you willing to invest the time to learn how to make espresso, or would you prefer the coffee machine to do it all for you?

So no one machine is better than another but machines that meet your expectations better or worse. But if you are a professional, you will need a professional espresso machine because of the workload it will carry.

Is an automatic or a super-automatic coffee machine better?

I repeat what I said; it depends on your needs. Super-automatics for professionals (baristas or coffee shops) do not make sense in this case. These coffee machines are suitable for private individuals and self-service in small hotels.

I think combining an automatic coffee machine and a professional grinder that does the grinding your coffee machine needs would be the best option for any user. But If you are lazy when making coffee, you can think about a super-automatic, which is usually more expensive.

In any case, you have to decide whether to invest time in preparing a good coffee in an automatic coffee machine or whether you prefer to press a button and get a lower quality but effortless coffee.

Final considerations on automatic coffee machines

As much as many posts insist on saying it, with the clear intention of selling you the coffee machine, it must be said a single dose is not an espresso machine.

  • An automatic or manual espresso machine is a coffee machine that uses ground coffee beans to make coffee.
  • It also uses water at about 90 degrees and nine bars of pressure to make the coffee.
  • And it certainly does not use any coffee pods in the process.
  • It generates no waste besides reusable coffee grounds as fertiliser or other uses.

Do we compromise on taste by choosing one type of espresso machine over another?

Both types are perfectly suited to the needs of a coffee lover.

  • The manual espresso machine is more suitable for those who enjoy the preparation (and not just the taste) and have more time and desire to experiment.
  • On the other hand, the automatic or super-automatic is perfect for consumers with busy lives and time-poor mornings who are not willing to compromise on the quality of their cup of coffee.

If you are a professional, your decision will always have to be between a professional manual or automatic espresso machine, so evaluate your desire to train yourself to make great espresso and make the decision that suits you best.