Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
So, let’s make this simple. A semi-automatic espresso machine allows you to pair your own grinder of choice, dose, and tamp your roast. The machine pulls the shot for you. Semi-automatic machines have steam wands for frothing milk and allow you to create your own milk-based espresso drinks.
What to Look For in a Semi-Automatic Machine
There are a number of key features to focus on when buying an espresso machine, and semi-automatics are no different. A quality semi-automatic features commercial-style portafilters similar to those you would find in a cafe. They also offer either E61 group heads or saturated group heads to keep the water temperature consistent. Additionally, the type of boiler, milk frother, and water temperature controls are the key components to look for in a semi-automatic machine.
- Water Temperature Controls: Dialing in the right water temperature is crucial for consistently pulled shots. Semi-automatic espresso machines generally feature a PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) controller to manage brew temperatures. A PID machine typically displays the water temperature. Its controller uses an algorithm to keep the temperature consistent, and in most cases, it features controls to adjust the temperature.
- Milk Frothing Options: Semi-automatic espresso machines typically feature a manual steam wand that froths milk in a stainless steel frothing pitcher. Properly frothing milk does take time and practice. However, some machines do offer automatic milk frothers for those who don’t want to deal with the hassle of frothing milk.
- Type of Boiler: Single boiler espresso machines use one heating element to brew espresso and steam milk. Because of that, they are often cheaper than other machines. These machines are among the smallest and most compact, making them not only a budget choice but also ideal for those with little counter space. They do offer the benefit of a steam wand for steaming and frothing milk. One downside is that they require a cool-down period between shots of espresso. Double boiler espresso machines, unsurprisingly, have two heating elements or dual boilers: one for brewing coffee and one for milk. Thus, there is no need for a cool-down period like single boiler machines. Because they have two heating elements, they are also bigger, bulkier, and more expensive, but they are easily capable of making double shots. Heat exchanger espresso machines use one heating element to create the benefits of a double boiler machine, without the bulkiness and hefty price tag. The single heating element heats both the water for brewing and milk. With a heat exchanger machine, there is little to no need for cool-down time between shots of espresso.
Pairing Your Semi-Automatic With a Grinder
Pairing your espresso machine with the right grinder is essential to pulling the perfect shot. Not just any old coffee grinder will do! Precision grinding and dosing will make or break your espresso experience, and quality espresso grinders offer either stepped (preset settings) or stepless (unlimited settings) to control how fine of a grind you desire. Need help deciding? Touch base with a Curated Expert today!
Is a Semi-Automatic Machine Good for You?
Not sure if a semi-automatic espresso machine is right for you? Reach out to a knowledgeable Curated Coffee & Espresso Expert to set you up with the perfect machine to fit your lifestyle and budget. Because semi-automatic machines do not have espresso grinders, your Curated Expert will also help you pair the perfect grinder with your new machine!
Talk With an Expert
Coffee & Espresso Experts here at Curated want to hear about your favorite experiences with your semi-automatic espresso machine, and how you started building confidence and pulling better shots! Your Expert will help narrow down the pool of options by considering your specific needs and get you the best semi-automatic espresso machine for your home. Reach out to an Expert here on Curated now and start enjoying a freshly pulled shot in no time!