We are often asked difference between manual, semi-automatic, and super automatic espresso machines. We use this table as a first reference for customers in our shop who ask that question.
Reference Table: Manual vs. Semi-automatic vs. Super Automatic Espresso Machine
There are really a spectrum of features and automation that go from 100% manual to 100% automatic at the push of a button. The fuzzy area for features is in the semi-automatic column. Over time, espresso machine manufacturers have made more and more of these semi-automatic features similar to super automatic features.
For example, traditionally semi-automatic machines don’t include a coffee grinder. But now you can find grinders in semi-automatic machines. Similarly, fully automatic machines increasingly offer recipe customizations like semi-automatic machines. So just use the chart above as a as a guideline to features but pay attention to the exact features in any espresso machine you might consider.
What is the difference between manual and semi-automatic espresso machine?
Fundamentally, the difference between a manual espresso machine and semi-automatic or super automatic machines is that each step the manual machine must be manually performed by the operator.
The most obvious difference is that manual espresso machines have a lever that the operator must use to generate pressure to force the water through the coffee grounds.
Semi-automatic and automatic espresso machines use a pump to perform that same process without manual effort.
Further, semi-automatic or fully automatic espresso machines will generally perform major portions of the process of grinding beans, heating water, forcing the hot water under pressure through the coffee, dispensing the result and even adding crema or foamed milk.You might also like to read: our top 10 highest rated semi-automatic espresso machines.
What’s the difference between super automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines?
While the distinction between super automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines grows fuzzier every day, the differences primarily are that super automatic machines transport the ingredients through all the steps from bean to cup and, importantly, control the flow of water via a timer.
It used to be that semi-automatic machines did not include a built-in grinder or automation of all of the steps in the process of producing espresso. But some newer semi-automatic machines are beginning to look a lot more like super automatic machines.
The main benefit of semi-automatic machines is that the barista has more control over all of the details of the process whereas the process of making fine espresso is controlled programmatically in the super automatic machine.You might also like to read: our 33 best super automatic espresso machines.