Manual, Semi or Fully Automatic Espresso Machines
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Manual, Semi or Fully Automatic Espresso Machines?

What`s The Difference Between Manual, Automatic And Fully Automatic Espresso Machines?

There are many good espresso machines on the market today, and there are a host of solutions and opportunities in the world of espresso, but what is the difference between a semi-automatic, an automatic and a fully automatic espresso machine – and what to choose?

Manual, Semi or Fully Automatic Espresso Machines

The espresso machine comes into being

In 1938, Achille Gaggia patented a steam-free coffee machine, which brews by pressure by forcing water through ground coffee. This patent became the beginning of Italian Gaggia, and this patent is the foundation of the espresso machines that we know and love today.

Today, Gaggia is one of many that manufacture and specialize in espresso machines, and the range has grown explosively. In this blog post, we will try to guide you on the advantages and disadvantages of the different types to your needs.

Semiautomatic espresso machine example

Semiautomatic espresso machine

Automatic espresso machine example

Automatic espresso machine<

Fully automatic espresso machine example
Fully automatic espresso machine

The difference between the three machine types

The main differences we have chosen to illustrate in this diagram, to give an overall impression of the various machines. Further down in this post you can read a full description of what the different types of espresso machines can do.

  Semiautomatic Automatic fully automatic
Built-in grinder No Yes Yes
milk System Steamer Steamer Automatic
Automatic brewing No Yes Yes 
Automatic milk drinks No No  Yes 
Automatic cleaning No Yes  Yes 

What is a Semiautomatic Espresso Machine?

semi-automatic espresso machine is also called a manual espresso machine – here you invest in a craft and the whole experience in the process of brewing coffee. 

It may sound complicated, but once you understand the principle and the technique, it is actually quite easy and the result is in a class entirely by itself with the primary focus to get the most optimal aroma and cream.

The coffee brewing on a semi-automatic espresso machine takes place by pouring finely ground coffee into your portafilter, after which you have to bump the coffee with a tamper – here you ensure that the water gets the correct throughput time (about 20-25 seconds) through the coffee.

If the lead time is too short you just get a thin coffee, and if the lead time is too long, you typically get a bitter and very small espresso. 

The port filter is now attached to the machine and you simply turn on the water and let your freshly brewed espresso run down your cup.

The principle of brewing is the same on all semi-automatic machines – some are more technical than others, and for example have the ability to program the desired amount of coffee, whereby others it is controlled manually.

A semi-automatic espresso machine requires extra equipment for the absolute best result, and this should clearly be included in its considerations in relation to eg budget.

We recommend that you purchase the following equipment:

  • Espresso grinder
  • Tamper
  • Milk pitcher
  • Stamping mat / tamper station

espresso grinder example

Espresso grinder

pitcher example


tamper example


tamperstation example

Stamping mat / tamper station

An espresso grinder is a must if you want to get the best result with the most aroma and crema possible. 

There are many types of ground coffee on the market, but it is often ground for filter coffee and is therefore not suitable for an espresso machine because it requires a finer grinding degree to prevent water from seeping through during brewing.

In addition, ground coffee is often too dry for espresso brewing and therefore you do not get the optimal taste out of the coffee.

There are many espresso grinders on the market and you can read much more about that here.

If a cappuccino or latte is one of your favourites, a steel milk pitcher is required as semi-automatic machines are equipped with a steamer which, using steam, foams and heats the milk.

The foaming requires rotations in the milk and this can only be achieved by means of a steel jug. 

Now pour the required amount of milk into a large glass and get an espresso shot in – now you have a creamy and delicious drink that you know from the cafes.

The maintenance of a semi-automatic espresso machine is also manual. 

Here it is important to remember to descale and clean the machine according to the correct regulations and with the right products. 

A semi-automatic espresso machine for you who likes to have complete control over your coffee brewing and who likes to “do the work yourself”.

What is an automatic espresso machine?

An automatic espresso machine is in principle a combination of the semi-automatic and a grinder – this type of machine has a built-in grinder and thus handles all the work for you.

With an automatic espresso machine, you can brew 1-2 cups of coffee or espresso with just a touch of a button. 

The machine first grinds the amount of coffee it needs and then sends it down into a small chamber in the brewing machine. In the brewing unit, the coffee is drained, after which the water flows through and comes out as freshly brewed coffee.

An automatic espresso machine has a steamer, so if you want to brew a latte or similar milk beverage, it is done using a steel jug and steam – exactly the same method as a semi-automatic espresso machine.

This type of espresso machine allows you to choose how strong a coffee you want – the stronger you choose, the more coffee the machine will grind for each cup. 

Often you also have the option of choosing how much a cup of coffee you want.

The cleaning and maintenance of an automatic machine is often something that the machine manages itself. 

Simply start it and make sure the right products are used.

An automatic espresso machine is for you who enjoy a good cup of coffee and appreciate the taste and experience – without too much trouble.

What is a fully automatic espresso machine?

fully automatic espresso machine brews coffee and espresso just like an automatic machine. 

Here is also a built-in grinder that grinds the portion of coffee that is needed for each cup.

The very big and clear difference between an automatic and a fully automatic espresso machine is that the fully automatic has an automatic milk system, so you can brew cappuccino and latte macchiato at the touch of a button! 

This type of machine is often equipped with a milk tube, which is placed in your milk carton.

The machine even sucks up the right amount of milk, warms it and foams it, then it spills into your cup, followed by the coffee.

In some cases, the machines are equipped with a milk carafe, but it depends on the make and model.

Because the fully automatic machine has an automatic milk system, it also means that it has a large number of coffee and milk drinks on the program, where an automatic often simply has coffee and espresso. 

This gives you more choices and setting options to get the coffee you like best.

Fully automatic espresso machines have built-in software that tells when it’s time for cleaning, filter change and more, and the processes just need to get started. 

As with the other two machine types, cleaning is an important process and we recommend using the original care products that fit the machine.

A fully automatic espresso machine is for you who enjoy a good cup of coffee and/or drink milk drinks and who will have the least trouble during brewing.

What should you choose?

It is important to consider what you expect from the espresso machine and how much time you will spend on coffee brewing and any foaming of milk.

With a semiautomatic machine, you get your hands on the craft and get the feeling of brewing the coffee, where you get an intelligent/fully automatic espresso machine, an intelligent machine that can do the job yourself.

We recommend that you look at your needs and try to look ahead so that you choose a machine that is “future-proofed”. 

An espresso machine is an investment that can last for many years and your taste may develop over time.

For example, if you are pouring into an automatic espresso machine, consider whether you will be missing the automated milk system and the several settings that you get for example with a fully automatic machine.

If you’re leaning towards a semiautomatic espresso machine, it’s important to remember that the technique needs to be learned and that the coffee brewing is more manual than you might be used to. 

It is not troublesome or problematic, but it is a pity to regret.

Personally, I spend a few weeks contemplating which machine was best suited for me and my family, and in the end, we settled on a Sage barista express.

That is a more manual espresso machine, but its a coffee machine that offers the possibility to make all types of coffee, and have milk frothier.

On top of that, the quality is superb. last but not least, I ..

Maybe I am old, but i don’t trust the longevity of a touch screen in the kitchen, compared to something more manual.

Something steel. Something un-breakable. 

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