Alex has never been professionally involved into the world of coffee, however he knows much more than any average barista. Being an avid coffee lover, Alex is constantly searching for new tips, tools, and techniques to make his morning cup of java even more perfect.
Mary has been dealing with coffee almost all her life long: in her teenage years, she worked as a barista in a number of well-known coffeehouses, later developing her knowledge and skills while studying at the university as well. Several years after graduation, she managed to open her own small coffee bar.
Last updated: March 02, 2021
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Imagine how your mornings could be transformed if you woke up knowing that you’d have an espresso drink in hand with just the push of a button. That’s what the best super-automatic espresso machine can do for you. These espresso makers are designed to completely eliminate the work of brewing your morning caffeine.
We reviewed 32 different super-automatic espresso machines and ultimately landed on the Gaggia Babila espresso machine as our Editor’s Choice pick. In addition to a double boiler and large tank capacity, it has 15 different grind settings, both a manual frothing wand and an auto-frothing carafe, and eight different drink options. We also identified 11 other super-automatic espresso machines that we think are well worth a closer look.
When looking at these machines, we had a lot to think about. Ease of use was huge, since no one wants to spend minutes trying to figure out which button to press to get espresso. We also considered whether a machine required ground beans, or could accept either ground or whole beans. Finally, value was big for us here – a super-automatic espresso machine should be less expensive than what you’d pay at the coffee shop over time. You can find all our top picks in the table below, followed by detailed reviews of each machine. Our buying guide covers everything you need to know about choosing the best super-automatic espresso machine for you. Finally, we’ll sum up our three overall favorite machines on the market today.
This extremely impressive super-automatic espresso machine won our Editor’s Choice pick. This machine has it all: a double boiler, a ceramic burr grinder, frothing carafe, and plenty of customization options.
Let’s start with all of the things you can customize about this Gaggia espresso machine. It offers eight different drink options, each customizable by strength and drink size. You can even make small changes to your drink temperature, which users found was helpful for making sure that coffee comes out hot. On top of that, the ceramic burr grinder has a whopping 15 different grind settings – by far the most we saw from any espresso machine in our review. There’s also a flow controller, which theoretically changes the machine’s pressure slightly. However, users found that this didn’t seem to change anything about their espresso or bean extractions.
Users also loved the fact that you can choose between a frothing carafe and a manual steam wand. Office users typically turned to the carafe, while home users found the manual steam wand better for frothing small amounts of milk.
Customers also liked that this machine has a large but reasonably sized water tank and bean hopper. Keep in mind that the machine won’t automatically stop brewing if it runs out of beans halfway through a grind – you’ll end up with a weak espresso instead. In addition, there’s no way to hook up a water line to this machine for commercial uses.
As far as the LCD screen is concerned, users tended to like it. Some had issues with how it displays strength and drink volumes, but this is something you can get used to after a week of using the machine. It’s not a touchscreen, but that’s hardly necessary either.
What we liked:
Customizable drink size, strength, and temperature
Ceramic burr grinder with 15 settings
Frothing carafe and manual steam wand
Eight drink options
Reasonable hopper and tank sizes
Accommodates a high mug
What could be better:
Won’t automatically halt brewing if it runs out of beans
This super-automatic espresso machine from Breville is expensive, but it’s arguably the best upgrade pick if you have an unlimited budget or want to upgrade your existing machine. To start, all of the machine’s controls are on a touch screen, with just a single button to power the machine on and off. The touch screen is high resolution, so there are clearly readable and understandable text options rather than the cryptic symbols you’ll find on a lot of other espresso makers.
Users liked that this espresso machine has a double boiler and a professional-quality conical burr grinder. There’s also a digital temperature control, which gives you far more customization than the three-position dials on other machines. You even have a fair amount of control over your water pressure thanks to the inclusion of an over pressure valve.
As far as programming goes, there are five standard presets plus eight customizable settings. So, you can easily create any brew strength, cup size, and temperature combinations that you want and then save them to the machine for future use.
There are some other neat features to this machine, like the ability to brew two espresso shots at once. You can even attach a portafilter and use it as a semi-automatic espresso machine rather than super-automatic one if you want to try out a different bean or grind. We would have liked to see both a milk carafe and steam wand, but we did like that the temperature on the steam wand is controllable so you can adjust the texture of your milk froth. Last but certainly not least, the water tank on this espresso machine is enormous – at 84 ounces, you won’t have to worry about replacing the water very frequently at all.
This versatile super-automatic espresso machine from De’Longhi uses a double thermoblock to heat water, which makes it impressively fast. You can typically brew espresso in under a minute, and steamed milk is right behind, since steam is on a separate heating block.
The machine also offers a ton of customization features. You get 11 preset drink options and seven one-touch recipes. There are four temperature settings to choose between, and you can change everything from drink size to strength. There are even options for double shot drinks, since the machine can brew two espresso shots at once.
Users also liked that you can choose between a milk carafe or steam wand. That makes this one of the best super-automatic espresso machines for home use, since you can use the steamer if you’re the only one making espresso or pull out the milk carafe for the entire family to make drinks. The fact that the water tank and bean hopper are relatively large doesn’t hurt, either.
Cleaning is also extremely simple on this machine. The steaming tubes self-purge with steam, so you don’t have to worry about cleaning them after each use. As you’d expect from a machine at this price point, the brew group is non-removable. The only potential pitfall that users found was that the grinder doesn’t handle oily beans particularly well and can jam up if you don’t clean the hopper frequently.
At the end of the day, there are very few things not to like about this espresso machine. Users were generally thrilled with it, and the customization options were a big plus. We’d love to see a two-year warranty on the machine given its high price, but users didn’t experience any longevity issues and some reported back good experiences with De’Longhi support.
This exquisite super-automatic espresso machine from Saeco offers a whopping 12 one-touch drink options and a ton of customization. The touch screen display allows you to choose from any of the preset drink options, or to define up to six personalized recipes of your own. In addition, the machine offers a really cool ‘Coffee Equalizer’ function, where you can use bars to perfectly customize the ratio of grinds to water in any of your drinks and to determine how much milk you want to add from the frother.
The milk carafe on this machine is a little strange. Rather than having a dock, there’s tubing that you plug into the top of the carafe. But, users didn’t seem to mind this compared to more traditional carafe setups, and the Latte Perfecto technology allows you to layer frothed milk around your espresso shot. We were disappointed that there’s no frothing wand included as well at this high price point, but that’s also something that most users seemed okay with.
Where there were more issues was temperature control. Numerous customers reported that the milk and espresso temperatures were lukewarm even at their hottest settings. So, if you want your espresso drinks to be very hot, this probably isn’t the unit for you.
Another thing to watch out for is the grinder. The ceramic burr grinder is great and offers 12 different grind settings. However, it really struggles with oily dark roast beans, so you have to be careful about what types of beans you’re going to use with this machine. Customers also reported that Saeco’s support is pretty unhelpful about resolving issues with the hopper or temperature.
What we liked:
High-end touch display with Coffee Equalizer function
This modestly priced super-automatic espresso machine from Krups offers an impressive value. To start, it’s built with one of the larger water tanks we’ve seen and a sizable bean hopper to boot. It also offers plenty of room for large mugs and small travel containers, without being overly large for most kitchen counters.
We liked the 15 different drink presets and the overall level of customization on the machine. There are three temperature settings, as well as options to control the strength and volume of your brew. We would have liked to have seen more than just three options for grinding settings, but it’s not a huge deal to ding this espresso maker on.
Importantly, the machine is able to pour two shots of espresso at once. That’s great whether you want to make two espresso drinks, or a single double-shot drink. Krups also includes a milk carafe, which connects to the machine via a plastic tube and can be put in the fridge when not in use. Users appreciated that frothed milk can be layered around your espresso shots with this machine.
On top of that, the brew group isn’t removable on this espresso machine. That’s a big deal at this price point, since it dramatically reduces the amount of cleaning you’ll need to do after every brew. The single thermoblock heating system isn’t perfect, but it’s fast and contributes to the relatively low price of this espresso machine.
However, there’s a big caveat to all of this. Some users reported that their machine stopped working after a few weeks or a few months of use. It’s unclear what’s wrong with Krups’ construction, but there are problems with EA89. You’ll be covered by the two-year warranty, though, so you don’t have to worry too much about the cost if the machine stops working unexpectedly.
Priced at less than $1,000, this super-automatic espresso machine from Gaggia has a lot to offer. First of all, it’s a unique construction design. The water tank is loaded from the front of the unit, so you can easily use it under low-hanging wall cabinets in your kitchen. The bean hopper also has a low profile to help with this placement, and the bypass doser is easily accessed from the side.
The espresso machine only has a single boiler, but it includes three different temperature settings. Importantly, users didn’t have as many issues with drink temperature with this machine as they did with other espresso machines priced under $1,000. In addition, the espresso maker is customizable with five different strength settings and it has presets for five different types of drinks.
The ceramic burr grinder is also nice, offering 10 different grind settings. Even better, users didn’t report any issues with oily beans getting caught in the hopper of this machine.
We liked the aesthetically pleasing milk carafe on this machine. It’s easy to remove so you can store it in the refrigerator in between uses. There’s no steam wand, but that’s not surprising given the budget price of this model.
The one big thing to watch out for on this machine is that the brew group is removable. This is true of most espresso makers we saw in this price range. Unfortunately, that means you have to take the brew group out and clean it after every few uses, or else you’ll get grinds spilling out into the interior of your espresso maker.
Still, this machine stands out in this price range for its two-year warranty and overall otherwise high quality. Users were quite happy with this super-automatic espresso machine.
This compact and inexpensive super-automatic espresso machine is a great choice if you’re on a tight budget. It features many of the same internal components as its more expensive competitors, including a non-removable brew group, 13 different grinder settings, and a double boiler system. It even has a cup warmer so you can pre-warm your mug for optimally hot drinks.
Where this machine cuts corners is primarily in the build construction. There are a few plastic components – most notably, the waste bin has plastic tabs that can easily break off and allow it to move around. In addition, several users had issues with beans getting stuck in the grinder very frequently, something that couldn’t be resolved simply by cleaning the hopper. That’s pretty annoying, since you’re essentially forced into grinding your own beans and using the bypass in that case.
In addition, the heat-up time on this machine is somewhat long – about 75 seconds, compared to less than one minute for most other automated machines. It’s not a huge deal though, especially given how much money you save on this espresso maker.
It’s also important to note that the machine doesn’t have an integrated milk carafe. Instead, there’s a milk frother wand that you can use, but this introduces some manual action into making a latte or cappuccino.
Still, users liked the way this machine works. It’s easy to vary the strength of your brew by changing how much water and grounds you use for each cup. There are five different drink options, and a hot water spout that can be used for cleaning or for making tea. Users noted that it takes some playing with the settings knobs to get your drinks exactly right, but they appreciated the level of customization this machine affords compared to more premium options.
What we liked:
Very customizable ground and water mix
Five different drink options
Steamer wand included
13 grinder settings
Double boiler system
What could be better:
Some users had issues with beans getting stuck in grinder
This unique espresso machine is hands down the best super-automatic espresso machine for macchiatos and other chocolatey espresso drinks. It has a dedicated chocolate carafe and a chocolate dispensing function, which you won’t find on almost any other machine. This also works for making delicious hot chocolates, although some users complained that getting the milk hot requires quite a bit of steam and can add too much water.
Users liked the Latte Creme system, which uses a milk carafe and frothing wand to dispense layers of frothed milk around your espresso shot. You can make some beautiful layered drinks just liked you’d get in a coffee shop. The milk carafe is also detachable so you can put it in the fridge in between uses, and the steam wands will purge themselves so you don’t constantly have to worry about cleaning.
However, in exchange for these highly specific functions, you give up on some general features that we like to see. Although this machine offers six personal profiles, customization features are otherwise lacking. You can’t really control the temperature, although thankfully you do have some options around brew strength. In addition, the machine isn’t all that great at making non-milk espresso drinks like americanos.
It’s also worth noting that the water tank on this machine is pretty small, at just 47 ounces. That’s not a huge deal, but you’ll need to replace the water every other day at least. On the other hand, the machine comes with a ceramic burr grinder that’s of very high quality. It even offers 13 different grind options, and users didn’t report any issues with oily beans getting stuck in the hopper.
This Jura super-automatic espresso machine offers an impressive value. It’s priced well under $2,000, but offers many of the same features as its more expensive competitors.
Unfortunately, starting out with this machine can be confusing. There’s no LCD screen – instead, you just have a few dials to work with that are marked with somewhat cryptic symbols. These dials together allow you to control what type of drink you want to make and how strong it should be brewed.
But notably, you can’t control many things about your brew. For example, there are no options to adjust the grind size or the temperature of your espresso. You also can’t choose to adjust the volume of coffee or water that you want to pour.
We also would have liked to see a bit more cup height under the nozzle. The nozzle height is adjustable, but it only goes up to a maximum of 4.4 inches. So, you really can’t fill a large mug with this espresso machine.
It is worth noting that although you can’t control the temperature on this machine, users found that it is consistently hot. That’s a big plus, since even machines that cost $500 more receive a lot of complaints that they’re not making espresso or milk hot enough. In addition, the single thermoblock system is incredibly quick and switching between the brew line and the steam line is very simple.
The milk frothing wand is nothing special. You’re up against the same mug height limitations as for the rest of the machine. Overall, we got the impression that this machine isn’t particularly designed for milk-based drinks, in part because there’s no steam purge. But, it’s good for the occasional latte or cappuccino.
This single boiler automatic espresso machine from Gaggia is surprisingly inexpensive given all the features it offers. The machine is capable of making five different espresso drinks and allows you to closely control the strength of your brew each time. Better yet, users loved that it comes with three temperature settings so that you don’t end up with a cold coffee drink.
The LCD screen is pretty basic on this machine. You’ll have to spend some time figuring out what the different symbols mean, but most of the controls are in the surrounding buttons.
Interestingly, Gaggia equipped this machine with an ‘Adapting System’ that learns from your preferences. It’s not clear how well this works in practice, but in theory the machine will default to your preferred grind and strength after a handful of uses. Keep in mind though, this feature is pretty unhelpful if the machine gets used by multiple different people in your home or office.
Users liked the removable milk carafe, which could be easily store in the fridge in between uses. But, bear in mind there’s no steaming wand. Users were also happy to find that the construction is tall enough for most mugs, and even some short travel mugs.
Still, there are some things to watch out for about this espresso machine. The brew group is removable, which is supposedly for the benefit of easy cleaning. But, because its removable, you need to clean it after every few uses rather than just once a month. In addition, the machine only has a single boiler, so it can take a while to make steam for frothing milk and your espresso can get cold in the meantime.
This relatively inexpensive super-automatic espresso machine from Saeco has a lot going for it. It offers six different beverage choices and three temperature settings, so you can always make your espresso as hot as you want it to be. On top of that, it has a nearly six-inch maximum mug height and a pretty large 60-ounce water tank capacity.
Users liked the bypass doser function, which could be used for making decaffeinated coffee from grounds. However, there were some reports that this bypass stopped working after only a few months of use. The grinder on the machine is a professional-quality ceramic burr grinder, but it only comes with five different grinding options.
The milk carafe was another plus to this machine. It’s easily removable, so you can store it in the fridge in between brews.
However, beware that you get what you pay for with this machine. It only has a single boiler, so you double your wait time if you want to steam milk for lattes and cappuccinos after brewing espresso. In addition, users noted that the milk frother doesn’t automatically purge itself after making steam. So, you need to be careful to clean this off after every use or you’ll build up crust.
The brew group also needs to be cleaned with high frequency because its removable. That means that if you don’t clean it, you can easily end up with coffee grounds all over the inside of your espresso machine.
On top of that, it’s important to note that Saeco only offers a one-year warranty on this machine. Other than the bypass doser issues, users didn’t report any problems with the espresso maker. But, it’s worth keeping in mind that you’re losing out on a full year of protection.
This incredibly compact espresso machine from Jura is best if you’re limited on space. The water tank is just 37 ounces – just over half of what many of its competitors offer – and the bean hopper is just 4.4 ounces. So, plan on replacing the water and refilling the machine with coffee beans with high frequency.
We also weren’t huge fans of the controls on this machine. There’s no LED screen, and it’s only useful for making ristretto, espresso, and coffee. Since there’s no milk steamer, this espresso maker can’t be used for brewing any milk-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
The upside is that this espresso maker is pretty simple. Users liked that there aren’t tons of options to sort through, especially if they primarily want a machine for making espresso shots. Cleaning is also simplified by the fact that there are simply fewer parts to this machine, and the brew group is non-removable so you don’t have to worry about frequent cleaning.
Users also appreciated that brewing with the Jura maker is fast. It uses a single thermoblock, which allows you to heat up water and pour out espresso in well under one minute.
However, for the price, there are a couple options with more features. It’s worth noting that you can’t control the grind options with this machine at all, and users had some of the same issues with getting hot coffee that are true of many automatic espresso machines. Plus, the warranty is the same two-year policy as what you’ll find on many of these more complex espresso machines.
Buying the best automatic espresso machine under $500 doesn’t mean you’re getting a low-quality unit, as this model proves. The Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine has a great low price for the budget-conscious coffee user, without sacrificing the features you’re looking for.
This model has a stylish design, with stainless steel front panels that make this machine look great on your countertop. It also has a compact design, with a front-loading water reservoir and dreg box, so you can slide it under a cabinet without hindering the way you use it.
The Gaggia espresso machine is easy to use, with only a few buttons to control and an LED screen to help you brew the perfect drinks. The Brera also has an adapting system, which learns your settings as you use it. It then adjusts how the grinder works, based on your preferred bean choices and grind settings.
There is a bean hopper for grinding your own beans, plus the bypass doser for using pre-ground coffee if that’s what you prefer. The Pannarello steam wand has an intake hole which siphons air right into the milk, which creates a thick, rich foam for making lattes or cappuccinos. It also heats the steam in a matter of seconds.
For easy cleanup and maintenance, the brew group is removable. This way, you can rinse it out daily without too much effort. The drip tray is also easy to clean if any spills happen.
You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a fantastic automatic espresso machine. The Espressione 8212S has a slim design, so it will fit pretty much anywhere in your kitchen, plus it looks sleek and elegant.
This model has a thermoblock boiler system for heating the water fast, maintaining the perfect temperature throughout the brewing process. In fact, the very first drop of coffee drips after only 22 seconds from the espresso machine’s standby position, so you don’t need to wait for your morning brew.
On the top of the machine is a large LED panel, with multiple touch keys for choosing your selections. You can choose from a variety of different beverage options, so you always get your favorite type in no time.
Another great feature that this espresso machine has to offer is the built-in stainless-steel coffee grinder, which is much quieter than many of the other models on the market. It runs at only 70 decibels, with five precise fineness levels to choose from.
There is a frother next to the spout, which allows you to foam some milk to make macchiatos or cappuccinos quickly and easily. This gives you even more options when it comes to your coffee selections.
To make using this machine even easier, it has an auto-clean cycle, which kicks in whenever you start it up and before you shut it down. This helps keep old coffee from altering the flavor of your new cups.
If you love espresso but don’t want to pay those high café prices, the Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker may be the automatic espresso maker for you. It costs less than $200 and comes in four great colors, so you can choose the black, red, silver, or titan model to match your other kitchen décor.
The Inissia is compact and lightweight, so you can put it pretty much anywhere you like without sacrificing too much of your counter space. The water tank is located on the back but is removable to make filling it up even easier. The cup tray flips up to allow larger cups to fit under the spout for added convenience, plus drops back down to catch any drips.
Inside the machine is a high-pressure pump that gives you up to 19 bars of pressure for that tasty barista-style coffee every time. The water also heats up in about 25 seconds for no waiting when you want your favorite brew. After nine minutes of inactivity, the machine shuts itself off to help save energy.
There are only two buttons that allow you to program in the cup size, depending on whether you want an espresso or a larger lungo coffee. It only uses Nespresso capsules, though, so you won’t be able to add your favorite beans to this machine. There is a set of 16 capsules included to get you started, though.
What we liked:
Great low price
What could be better:
Can only be used with Nespresso capsules
Can’t make cappuccinos and lattes
Things to Consider
Now that you’ve learned more about our 12 favorite super-automatic espresso machines, you’re probably convinced that this is the best way to get your morning espresso drink. But, choosing between all of these machines can be extremely difficult if you’re new to the automated espresso game. In our Buying Guide, we’ll take a closer look at what super-automatic espresso machines are and how they differ from manual counterparts. We’ll highlight many of the most important features you need to know about in order to get the best espresso for the least work. Plus, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of these automated espresso machines.
What is a super-automatic espresso machine?
A super-automatic espresso machine is essentially just an automatic espresso maker. That means that water is heated internally, and you have a selectable menu or a set of buttons to tell the machine how much water to dispense, what kind of espresso drink you want, and how concentrated you want your espresso drink.
These espresso machines get termed ‘super-automatic’ because they go above and beyond what many other automated espresso machines offer. While many espresso machines will do the work of heating water for you, you still have to dispense the coffee grounds into a portafilter and connect it to the water outlet manually. With a super-automatic espresso machine, even that step is taken care of inside your espresso maker. So, there’s nothing more you need to do than put your mug under the spout and press the button for the drink you want.
Importantly, super-automatic espresso machines are very hands-off when it comes to making your espresso drinks. In most cases, you don’t even have to deal with the leftover coffee grounds immediately – they’ll be automatically dumped into a waster container.
Of course, these machines aren’t 100% automatic. You’ll still need to make sure that the tank is filled with water, that there are coffee grounds or whole beans in the hopper, and that you empty out the grounds waste bin from time to time. In addition, since almost all the parts of your espresso maker are internal, these machines require you to open them up for cleaning every now and then.
Features to consider before you buy
Super-automatic espresso machines come with a huge array of features – it’s part of what makes these machines so impressive and useful. But, this is where you really get into having to make a decision as to which machine is best for your needs. We’ll help you figure it out by highlighting the features you need to know about and explaining how they can affect your espresso drinks.
Beans or pre-ground coffee?
The vast majority of super-automatic espresso machines take whole beans rather than coffee grounds. That’s because many coffee aficionados prefer whole beans – they hold their flavor better over time, whereas coffee grounds will oxygenate and become bitter before you can even use them.
If your espresso machine can take whole coffee beans, that’s because it has a grinder inside. So, the machine will grind up just the amount of beans it needs to make your chosen drink at the start of the brewing process each time. Keep in mind that some built-in grinders only offer a few grind size options, while machines like our Editor’s Choice Gaggia Babila espresso maker has a grinder with 15 different size settings available.
Occasionally, you’ll find a super-automatic espresso machine that can take ground coffee as well as whole beans. There’s not a whole lot of need to take advantage of this, since your brew time is mostly limited by the time it takes to heat water – not the time it takes to grind beans. But, it can be helpful if you already have a whole lot of ground coffee around the house.
Beans or capsules?
When choosing a machine that uses beans or capsules, there are pros and cons for both of these options. When it comes to the beans, they have a fresh taste no capsule can compare to. The fully automatic machines that use beans cost more than the capsule versions. The pre-ground coffee or the beans themselves are way cheaper than buying those capsules in the long run, though, so you may actually save money with the more expensive model over time.
A decent capsule espresso machine, like the Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker, can cost less than even the low-end bean machines, so they are great for the budget-conscious. You won’t save money on the pods, though, as each one costs up to $1.00, which amounts to hundreds of dollars a year just on coffee. The pods also add to the waste going into our landfills if they aren’t recycled properly. The benefit of the capsule machines is that they are very easy to use and save you a lot of time in the morning, which is a must when you’re in a rush.
Bean container and water tank capacity
The capacities of the bean container and water tank are mostly a matter of convenience. Larger bean hoppers and water tanks will need to be refilled less frequently, so you won’t go to make espresso and find that you need to add beans or water before you can have caffeine.
Many of the super-automatic espresso machines we reviewed offer bean hoppers between eight and 15 ounces, and water tanks between 50 and 80 ounces. Some smaller machines, like the Jura ENA Micro 1, have smaller capacities but also take up less valuable counter space in your kitchen.
The heating system on your super-automatic espresso machine is important.
Most espresso makers have a double boiler heating system. That means there are two boilers – one for heating water to pass through your coffee grounds, and the other for heating water for steam and frothing. This system is highly consistent and efficient, since you don’t have to wait for steam to heat after extracting your coffee.
A single boiler heating system, like found on the Gaggia Velasca and Anima machines and on the Saeco machines, only heats water for extraction or steam alternatively. In some cases, the machine will switch automatically between the two modes, while in others, you’ll need to flip a switch. This takes a bit more care, since you can end up with cool, unsteamed water or water that’s too hot for efficient coffee extraction if you’re not careful.
Finally, some machines, like the Jura, Krups, and De’Longhi models, use a thermoblock system. This is essentially a heated block that water passes along and get extremely hot extremely quickly. These systems are much faster than boilers, but they have the downside of being somewhat less consistent in heating your water to a set temperature. So, they’re not as ideal if you want an absolutely perfect coffee extraction every time. Be sure to check whether the espresso machine has a single thermoblock, or two different thermoblocks akin to a double boiler system.
Grinder type and settings
The type of grinder inside your espresso machine can also affect the quality of your brew. Most of the super-automatic espresso machines we reviewed include high-quality conical or burr grinders. Both of these grinder styles work much better than cheap blade grinders for producing coffee grounds of a uniform size. Importantly, since they work primarily by crushing rather than cutting, they also prevent your coffee grounds from heating up and oxidizing during the grinding process.
The settings available on your grinder are also important. Many built-in coffee grinders don’t offer any settings at all, or just three different grind size options. However, there are a few stand-out super-automatic espresso machines that offer more grind options, like our Editor’s Choice Gaggia Babila machine.
You may not always need this choice if you’re just making espresso shots, but it can matter if you also want to use your machine for coffee.
Espresso machines rely on high pressure in order to push hot water through the puck of coffee grounds. So, pressure is essential to how your machine works, even if it’s not a feature you’ll see heavily advertised by manufacturers.
Pressure settings vary just a little bit among espresso machines, but this isn’t a huge deal. Each machine’s pressure should be optimized for that unit’s plumbing and inner design.
Temperature, like pressure, is extremely important. But like pressure, you won’t have much control over this for any super-automatic espresso machine – it’s one of the things you give up by going automatic.
If you find that your espresso drinks tend to be too cold, you can try preheating your mug by putting hot water in it. Otherwise, heat from your espresso will quickly be sucked into the walls of your mug.
Presets and customization options
Depending on how devoted you are to having your espresso a certain way, the preset and customization options on an espresso machine can make or break that model for you. Some of the most advanced super-automatic espresso machines we’ve seen, like the Saeco Xelsis, De’Longhi Prima Donna, and Breville Oracle, offer customizable recipes and settings so that you can easily define your perfect espresso drink.
Many other espresso machines come with a variety of presets, which take less work but can’t be customized. If you do opt for a machine with just presets, make sure that the presets available fit your tastes.
Milk frothing is essential for drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. There are two main options for milk frothing in the automated espresso machines we reviewed.
The first is a manual steam wand. This requires that you have a small container of milk that can be frothed on its own, and then you have to manually pour the steamed milk into your espresso drink.
The other option is more automatic. Some machines, like the Saeco Incanto, come with an integrated, detachable milk carafe. That gets steamed automatically and then dispensed into your mug right after the espresso and water. But, you have a lot less control than with a manual steaming wand.
Many models, like the Gaggia RI8260/47, allow you to adjust the brew strength and aroma of the coffee you`re brewing. This is done by altering the amount of coffee that goes into each shot. To do this, you need to change the grind settings from coarse, or bigger, to smaller fine grinds.
If you`re making your espresso and you notice that the extraction is a bit slow or that the brew tastes rather bitter, you may want to choose a coarse grind. This allows the water to move more easily through the grinds. If the extraction is too quick or the brew is a bit weak for your taste, you can adjust it to a finer grind to increase the brew strength. Be sure that the grinder is running when you adjust the grind settings, so you don`t damage the burrs.
Cup or mug size it accommodates
Not every mug is the same size, especially when it comes to your morning caffeine. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell ahead of time whether your favorite mug will fit underneath the spout of your chosen espresso machine. The best thing to do here is to check customer reviews for any complaints about mug sizes.
In general, most small- and medium-sized mugs will be fine, while oversized mugs may not fit in many of the automated espresso machines we reviewed.
Ease of cleaning
One of the best things about super-automatic espresso machines is that manufacturers put a lot of thought into making them easy to clean. Many models come with automatically purging steam wands and milk carafes, which saves you from having to clean out residual milk every time you use the frother. You should make sure that the drip tray and waste coffee grounds box can be easily removed for cleaning – they are on all of the machines we reviewed.
In addition, it’s worth looking for a machine with a built-in water filter so that you don’t have to worry about minerals and other crud building up in the plumbing. If your machine doesn’t have a filter, we’d recommend making your espresso with filtered water.
Finally, make sure that the brew group – the internal grounds holder – is non-removable. This is important because it ensures that the unit stays isolated and grounds aren’t able to escape inside the machine.
If you’re planning to place your super-automatic espresso machine in your kitchen, size can matter a lot. After all, kitchen counter space is always at a premium.
Espresso machine dimensions vary quite a bit. Some machines are short and wide, which allows them to fit under wall-mounted cabinetry (make sure you have space to pull it out so you can access top-fed bean hoppers and water tanks). Alternatively, some machines are tall and skinny so that they have less of a footprint on your kitchen counter.
The hopper and water tank capacities are two of the biggest drivers of espresso machine size. So, if space is really limited, it’s worth looking at small machines like the Jura ENA Micro 1 that have miniaturized capacities and overall tiny dimensions.
A super-automatic espresso machine is a big investment, and the automation means that there are a lot of moving parts to worry about. That’s why it’s so important to get a warranty with your machine. It can not only protect your purchase, but also give you peace of mind every time you use the machine.
Two years is the standard warranty period across the espresso machine industry. However, beware that some models from Saeco and De’Longhi have shorter one-year warranties. In addition, Jura covers its machines for two years or 6,000 brewings – that’s about 10 brewings per day for two years, so this is only an issue for machines that will be used in a commercial setting.
There are a few extra features with most of the espresso machines on the market that make them a bit more convenient to use. One of them is a control panel, which allows you to easily alter the settings in temperature, brew strength, or choose the beverage you want. These control panels should be easy to use, with instructions, so you know exactly what you’re doing.
The materials used should be durable and strong, so they last for years. Some models use plastic pieces, which is fine for many of the parts, though the stainless steel used for the Breville BES990BSSUSC will likely last a bit longer, plus adds an attractive look to the machine.
An adjustable stand is handy, especially if you like to make different types of beverages. For instance, an espresso needs only a small cup, while a latte has some extra liquid that will take up a bit more space, requiring a larger mug. If the stand can move up and down, this allows you to fit a variety of mugs underneath the spout. Some models, like the Jura ENA Micro 1, use an adjustable spout instead of the movable stand, which serves the same purpose.
Another handy feature is a removable brew group, which is where the extraction process takes place. If you can take this right out of the machine, it makes it much easier to clean and maintain this piece, to ensure it is in perfect working order, so it produces the best tasting coffee possible.
Advantages and drawbacks of a super-automatic espresso machine
There are a lot of things to love about super-automatic espresso machines, but they’re not without their drawbacks as well. So, what’s great about these machines, and what’s not so great?
The number one advantage of super-automatic espresso machines is that they’re simple to operate. You can walk up, push a button, and – assuming the hopper and water tank are full and the unit is clean – get espresso within a few seconds. Better yet, many models can automatically transform your espresso into a latte or cappuccino with a built-in milk carafe.
Even if you have to use a manual steam wand, the process of making your espresso drink is much faster than with any manual or semi-manual machine.
The other big advantage to these machines is that they’re relatively easy to clean, and cleaning is only required once every week or two. That’s a big contrast to manual espresso machines, which need to be cleaned out after every use. Having a purge function is also helpful if you make milk-based drinks, so that you don’t have to worry about mold or bacteria growing if you neglect cleaning for a while.
That said, the big drawback to these machines is that you lose a lot of control over your espresso. It’s often impossible to control variables like extraction pressure or water temperature, and many machines don’t even give you much control over how your coffee beans are ground to begin with. As a result, you probably need to be fine with espresso that’s only 80% as perfect as what you might be able to achieve with a manual machine.
The other downside to super-automatic espresso machines is that they’re not cheap. Many of the machines we reviewed cost over $1,000, and options from Saeco and De’Longhi were more than $2,000. Even our Budget Pick, the De’Longhi ESAM3300, will run you more than $500. Compare that to the $100 to $200 price tag for a manual espresso machine, and it’s easy to feel the pain in your pocket.
However, you can justify the cost of a super-automatic espresso machine by thinking about how much you’d spend at a coffee shop over the course of the year. If you go to a coffee shop even three days a week and get an espresso drink for $5, that adds up to nearly $800 a year on its own. Your espresso machine should last for years if you take care of it, so you can actually end up saving money in the long run.
How to maintain your super-automatic espresso machine
When it comes to maintaining your super-automatic espresso machine, there are a number of things to consider:
Clean out the drip tray and grounds waste box before they get too full.
Clean out any components involved in frothing milk every few days to once a week at most.
Every few weeks, remove all of the beans from your hopper and wipe it down with a food-friendly cloth and disinfectant to get rid of oil.
Once a month, run distilled water through the machine to help remove any mineral buildup.
Once a month, take a close look at your brew group. If it’s removable, clean it thoroughly with hot water. If it’s not, make sure that the O-rings look good and add lubricant to any moving parts as needed.
Before the end of your unit’s warranty period, you should take it in to a professional repair shop to have them take the machine apart and service it. The techs will be able to flag any issues that fall under your warranty policy.
In general, it’s a good idea to avoid coffee beans that are too oily – ideally, stick to medium to medium-dark roast beans.
Many super-automatic espresso machines have a bypass doser, which is a little side door where you can put in pre-ground coffee. This ensures that you’re not running grounds through your grinder, which can not only clog up the grinder but also spread grounds throughout the inside of your espresso maker. If you plan to use pre-ground coffee, make sure that your machine has a bypass doser or secondary hopper.
Most baristas and coffee aficionados will tell you that 15 bars of pressure is the perfect pressure level for making espresso. However, you won’t have much control over pressure in a super-automatic espresso machine. The pressure will be around 9 bars, but it may be adjusted to optimize for your particular machine.
Conical grinders use two cone-shaped pieces of metal to crush coffee beans, while burr grinders have two stacked rings with teeth on the interfacing sides. Both types of grinders are used by professionals because they produce very consistent grind sizes and don’t produce much heat during the grinding process.
No, fully automatic espresso machines don’t typically have a brew group on the inside. That means that you’ll need to use a portafilter that you manually fill with coffee grinds and attach to the spout of your espresso machine. Super-automatic espresso machines take care of this internally, so you don’t have to do any work at all to make your espresso.
The fineness of the coffee grounds affects the strength of the brew in a very specific way. The coarser the grind is, the easier it is for the water to flow through it. This may lead to weaker coffee, so if that’s what you prefer, a coarse grind is best. A fine grind slows down the extraction process, keeping the water touching the coffee grounds for longer, making the brew strength a bit stronger.
If you prefer a mild taste to your coffee, you should choose beans that have a light roast. These beans haven’t been roasted for as long as medium or dark roasted beans, so they maintain the flavor of the beans themselves rather than taking on more of the roasted flavor. They also have less oil on the surface. Along with the mild flavor, you also get more caffeine with lightly roasted beans, so they are a great option for your morning cup of coffee.
No, the capsules are not more economical over time. The capsule machines are less expensive than the machines that use beans, but the beans themselves are cheaper than the capsules. Each capsule costs up to $1.00, while a bag of beans costs only about $.20 per cup. If you have a cup a day, this amounts to about $365 per year on capsules compared to about $73 on even high-quality espresso beans.
Our three overall favorite super-automatic espresso machines on the market today are the Gaggia Babila, the Breville Oracle Touch, and the De’Longhi Eletta. The De’Longhi machine stands out for its Latte Crema system, which allows you to easily layer frothed milk and espresso shots just like you would get at a coffee shop. It also offers both a milk carafe and steam wand, which was nice for home users. The Breville espresso machine is extremely impressive, with a detailed touch screen display and tons of customization options. The fact that it has a portafilter attachment makes it perfect for commercial use since you get more control over your brew. We feel that the Gaggia Babila is the overall best super-automatic espresso machine because of its numerous features. You get 15 different grind options to start, as well as a double boiler heating system and both a milk carafe and steaming wand. On top of that, every drink you make with this machine is completely customizable.