Semi-automatic espresso maker offers ultimate control over your coffee. With a little practice and creativity, this machine will allow you to show off your barista skills at home.
With your options ranging from the most basic choices to commercial-grade machines, it’s hard to choose the right one.
To help you make the cut, I’ll share with you my top choices for the best semi-automatic espresso machine.
We’ll go over the features that make them stand out, as well as their pros and cons.
Let’s jump straight in!
Best Semi Automatic Espresso Machine: Our Top Choices
- Breville Barista Express (Best Overall)
- De’Longhi La Specialista (Fastest Brewing Machine)
- Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine (Best Value)
- Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine (Most Durable)
- Mr. Coffee Café Automatic Espresso & Cappuccino Machine (Budget Pick)
- Breville ‘Barista Touch’ Espresso Machine (Most Customizable Machine)
- DeLonghi Dedica (Most Compact)
- Nuova Simonelli Oscar (Best Design)
- EspressoWorks Espresso Machine & Cappuccino Maker (Best For Beginners)
- KitchenAid Metal Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine (Best For A Large Coffee-Drinking Household)
Breville Barista Express
The Barista Express offers all the necessary features for making proper espresso without breaking the bank.
The intuitive control panel allows you to customize your drink with just a few buttons. Whether you’re a first-time or an experienced barista, you’ll love how simple yet customizable making coffee is with this machine.
This model has a built-in burr grinder, meaning you don’t have to buy a separate machine. Fresh grounds go directly into the portafilter – you’re both hands and mess-free! There are 18 grind sizes to choose from, so you can fine-tune your cup of espresso.
With a 67-ounce water reservoir, you can make about 30 cups of espresso before it’s time for a refill. And since it comes with a water filter, you don’t even have to descale the machine. Just remember to change the filter every two months.
The main reason why this espresso maker works for both newbies and pros is the manual steam wand. You can do a 360 with it, which makes frothing so much easier. Right next to the wand there’s a hot water outlet that allows you to make Americano or to warm up cups.
With indicator lights for cleaning or emptying, it’s hard to fall behind on maintenance. The machine also comes with cleaning accessories as well, including tablets and a brush tool.
De’Longhi La Specialista
The thing that stands out the most to me about this machine is how quickly it can make you a cup of coffee. It’s hot and ready to brew as soon as you turn it on.
What’s more, this model has separate heaters for brewing and steaming milk. The dual system allows you to make one cup after another, without pausing. This is quite handy if you have a large household of coffee lovers.
La Specialista has a built-in grinder that automatically doses the grind amount you need for making coffee. That way, you can never get stale grounds in your cup.
This machine takes the guesswork out of steaming milk. It features a Pannarello wand that does all the hard work. You just need to choose between making froth or microfoam.
To save on electricity, la Specialista goes into standby mode after being idle for a while. You can customize the auto-off function to happen after a different time interval, as well as to remove it altogether.
I love how simple upkeep is with this espresso maker. The machine has a rinse function that you can run after every use. There’s also a descaling program with an indicator light, so you can’t skip cleaning.
Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine
Don’t let the simple look of this espresso maker fool you.
The Classic Pro comes with professional-grade elements. These include the steam wand, group and filter holder. These features make pulling consistent shots a piece of cake.
With the dimensions of 9.5 x 8 x 14 inches, this espresso maker is ideal for small apartments, dorms and RVs.
Given its affordable price tag, I was pleasantly surprised by this model’s build quality. The body is made of brushed stainless steel, which is not something you often see at this price range.
With just three switches, the control panel couldn’t be any simpler. That also means the machine doesn’t leave you much room to customize your coffee.
But what it does is it lets you have full control while steaming and frothing milk. With a little practice, you can easily achieve perfect microfoam and even work on your latte art skills.
This model comes with single and double espresso filters, both compatible with coffee grounds and pods. There’s also a crema perfetta filter, which allows you to create dense rich coffee foam.
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
This is one of those models that you can pass down to your kids – it’s that durable. With an iron frame and stainless steel side panels, this thing can probably survive through an apocalypse.
This model features only four switches, so there’s no need to flip through a manual before first use. But while the control panel is straightforward, pulling the shot is not so much. Without a pressure gauge, you need to rely on your sense to make a good cup of coffee.
Steam wand, on the other hand, is much easier to use. Made of stainless steel, the wand has a full range of motion, which allows you to create microfoam as well as latte art.
While this espresso maker doesn’t have a hot water outlet, it does feature a decently sized cup warmer on the top. It allows you to preheat up to six cups at a time, which is especially useful when making coffee for your guests.
When it comes to cleaning, be ready to get your hands dirty. You need to wipe the exterior with a cloth to get rid of fingerprints and stains. As for the removable parts, you can rinse them under the sink. But there’s no autocleaning function, so you’ll have to descale it manually.
Mr. Coffee Café Automatic Espresso & Cappuccino Machine
This model by Mr. Coffee is a great choice for beginners for two reasons – cost and convenience. It’s significantly more affordable than most models on this list, but it still makes a pretty decent cup of coffee.
And not just espresso. This machine can also make latte as well as cappuccino, all with a single press of a button.
An automatic frother draws milk from the carafe directly into your cup to create a layer of foam. Once you’re done, just store the carafe in the fridge until the next brew.
When it comes to maintenance, this model does the daily maintenance by itself. It features a 30-second auto cleanup function that helps you get rid of residue much easier. But there’s no descaling option, so you have to do it manually.
For a machine with a compact footprint, this model has quite a decently-sized water reservoir. With a 55-ounce capacity, you can make about five lattes or about 25 espresso shots before it needs to be refilled.
Breville ‘Barista Touch’ Espresso Machine
From grinding beans to steaming milk, the Barista Touch allows you to design your coffee with as little input as possible. A touch screen display makes it easy to navigate through premade options and adjust them according to your taste.
This machine gives you complete control over your beverage, from coffee strength to brew temperature. Once you find the perfect setting, you can save up to eight personalized coffee drinks for future use.
Thanks to the fast heating system, this model is ready for use just three seconds after you turn it on. So no matter how busy you might be, you can still find time to brew coffee.
The conical burr grinder offers 16 grind options, so you can adjust ground coarseness depending on the drink you’re making. The machine features doze control, meaning it only grinds the amount you need for your coffee.
Another thing this espresso machine makes simple is maintenance. Once you see the alert on the screen, that’s your cue to run the cleaning cycle. When it comes to removable parts, you can just rinse them under the sink and wipe them off with a dry cloth.
When it comes to footprint, it’s hard to find an espresso maker more compact than the Dedica. At just six inches wide, this model takes up half the space of standard machines. No matter how small your counter space might be, there’s enough room for this model.
This tiny machine is quite a beast. It heats up in just 35 seconds, so you don’t have to wait long to drink a hot cup. It also allows you to make one drink after another without a break.
With a stainless steel body, Dedica is built to last. This material is also easy to clean – just wipe it with a damp cloth before going over with a dry one.
A Pannarello wand turns into a magic tool even in the hands of complete beginners. There’s a slight learning curve, but it won’t take long before you become a frothing master. Just remember to flush it after each use to remove milk buildup.
This model features a double drip tray that helps with keeping the mess to a bare minimum. In case you want to pour coffee directly into a travel mug, you can simply remove the tray to accommodate it under the brew head.
Nuova Simonelli Oscar
This model caught my eye mainly because of its futuristic art-deco design. But there are plenty of other features also worth mentioning.
This machine features a heat exchange boiler that allows you to brew and steam simultaneously. If the water reservoir is low or the boiler is working for more than 90 seconds, the machine shuts down automatically to avoid overheating.
Except for the top and the drip tray, the rest of the espresso maker’s body is made of stainless steel. This sturdy machine looks like it could last you a lifetime.
The solenoid valve makes disposing of used coffee grounds a mess-free procedure. What it does is it sucks all the water out of the filter, so that you can throw away clumped grounds into the garbage.
This model comes in two versions. The first one uses a large water reservoir, while the other can be connected to the water supply instead. This makes the machine suitable for both homes and offices.
EspressoWorks Espresso Machine & Cappuccino Maker
Touch screens or a bunch of buttons and knobs can be quite complicated to use. If you want brewing coffee to be a simple and quick experience, then you’ll love the control panel of this model.
With a single knob that lets you choose between brewing and steaming, there’s absolutely no way you can do it wrong. Then, just pull the shot and watch your cup get filled with espresso.
If you want to drink a latte instead, the machine also features a manual steam wand that makes frothing simple. It gives you control over foam, yet doesn’t leave you enough room to make any mistake.
I was pleasantly surprised by the heat up time of this machine. It only takes 45 seconds to reach the required temperature, after which you can start brewing.
This model has a built-in grinder – although it’s a blade, not a burr type. Blade grinder doesn’t always give you equally ground beans. At the same time, they can heat up and slightly alter the flavor of your coffee.
If you don’t own a separate grinder, this built-in feature can be a handy alternative when you run out of preground coffee. But don’t expect the results to be equally good.
KitchenAid Metal Semi Automatic Espresso Machine
If you live in a household full of coffee lovers, then having a machine that can pull one shot after another is quite handy. In that case, you’ll surely be happy with this model by KitchenAid.
This machine heats up in just 45 seconds, so you can start brewing right away. That’s quite handy for those who are always short on time.
And because it has an auto-purge function, you don’t have to wait for the machine to cool down between steaming and brewing. This allows you to make coffee for the entire family without a break.
While not necessary, a cup warmer is always a nice feature to have. The top of the machine can fit up to two cups at a time, which is great given its compact size.
The steam wand is easy to use – it won’t take you more than a few tries to master it. It’s a bit louder than on some other machines, so keep that in mind if you’re brewing in the morning while the rest of the household is sleeping.
Cleaning is not too difficult with this model. An automated descaling program requires zero input from your side. As for the removable parts, they’re not dishwasher-safe, so you’ll have to rinse them manually in the sink.
What To Look For In A Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – A Buyer’s Guide
Never owned a semi automatic espresso maker before?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the different features you can find on these machines.
In this section, I’ll cover what you should pay attention to when buying in order to make a well-informed purchasing decision.
Nothing beats freshly ground coffee. If you don’t already own a grinder, then you should consider getting a machine with a built-in grinder. The 2-in-1 models are usually a bit bulkier, but they’re pretty convenient.
Some semi automatic espresso machines only use beans. Others work with just preground coffee. And then, there are certain models that take both.
Let’s say you drink caffeine in the morning and decaf in the afternoon. In that case, having a machine that allows you to switch between different types of grounds can be handy.
Ease Of Use
Let’s be real – who wants to waste time flipping through a manual, trying to figure out how your new machine works?
Compared to automatic machines, semi automatic espresso makers have a slight learning curve. Then, of course, extra functions and preset options make the whole brewing process even more complicated.
Ultimately, it all comes down to whether you value ease of use over customizability.
There’s a semi automatic espresso maker for every wallet. But the saying that “you get what you pay for” is really applicable in this situation.
Low-cost espresso makers usually have entry-level features like a single boiler. In most cases, inexpensive models are made of either plastic or aluminum.
Mid-range machines offer a variety of features, such as grinders and commercial wands. Brew customization is also commonly seen in models within this price range. These espresso makers are a suitable option for both novice and expert baristas.
Models with high-end price tags are practically commercial-grade machines. They usually have fancy features that allow you to play around with different brews. In most cases, these models can be too complicated for beginner baristas.
When it comes to boilers, there are three possible options. These are single boiler machines, heat exchanger machines and dual boiler machines.
Single boiler espresso makers don’t allow you to brew coffee and steam milk at the same time. After you pull the shot, the boiler heats up a few degrees higher to steam milk.
Dual boiler machines have designated boilers for coffee and milk. Steaming requires a higher temperature than brewing. That’s why these two boilers have different inner temperatures. Dual boiler systems are usually found on mid to upper-range espresso makers.
Finally, certain models feature heat exchanger machines. Like dual boilers, a heat exchanger allows you to brew and steam at the same time.
But the heat exchanger only has a single boiler at steam temperature. It features a copper rod that heats up water as it passes through.
If you drink your coffee on the go, then the last thing you need is an espresso maker that takes ages to heat up. In your case, investing in a machine with a fast heating system is a good idea.
However, heating time isn’t something brands usually state on the packaging. So, comparing different models based on this element means digging for more info in order to find the fastest one.
Nine bars is said to be the ideal pressure for pulling a shot of espresso – the so-called “sweet spot.” But if you increase the pressure, you also increase the speed at which coffee gets extracted.
In theory, you could apply tremendous pressure and extract your coffee ground within the blink of an eye. But other elements also affect the final result, including the temperature and brew ratio.
There are many models on the market that go way over nine bars – even up to 18 bar pressure. It’s safe to conclude that these machines can do the job in half the time, right?
Well, not exactly.
Those numbers are more related to the initial pressure they apply, and not the one they end up using for brewing.
These high numbers are usually seen on more affordable models, and these machines gradually lose pressure over time.
So don’t worry about going too high. A machine with a 15-bar pressure will probably give you a final result similar to those marketized as 9-bar machines.
Going too low, on the other hand, can leave you with an under-extracted cup of espresso.
Still a bit confused about the way semi automatic espresso makers work?
In this section, I’ll try my best to answer the most common questions regarding the matter.
What Is A Semi Automatic Espresso Machine?
A semi automatic machine gives you control over a good portion of the brewing process. For instance, you can personalize your drink by choosing the grind size or brewing temperature. Then, the machine does the most tedious parts.
How Long Does It Take For A Semi Automatic Espresso Machine To Warm Up?
The heating time differs from model to model.
The more metal parts a machine has, the longer it takes to heat up. Large commercial-grade espresso makers need more than 15 minutes to reach the desired temperature.
Smaller models often have a quick-start system that heats them up for brewing within a few seconds. But even without it, they shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
What Is The Difference Between Automatic And Semi Automatic Espresso Machines?
Between the two, an automatic espresso maker is easier to use. These machines allow you to sit back and wait for it to finish your drink. The only thing you need to do is decide on what kind of coffee beverage you want to sip.
Semi automatic espresso makers require you to pull the shot yourself. The final result depends on your barista skill. This is something that experts perfect but newbies usually avoid.
To Sum Things Up
When it comes to semi automatic machines, who pays the piper calls the tune.
But the Barista Express by Breville seems to be the exception. For more than an affordable price, this model offers the perfect balance of customizability and simplicity.
Then we have the built-in grinder, large water reservoir and manual steam wand.
These are just a few features that make this espresso maker the perfect choice for both beginner and expert in-home baristas.
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