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Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
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mariog7
Senior Member


Joined: 7 Mar 2011
Posts: 210
Location: NJ
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quickmill Vetrano
Grinder: Vario
Posted Wed Mar 9, 2011, 10:41am
Subject: Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
 

Hello.  I have decided to move up from a Nespresso machine.  My choices are:

Semi-Automatic Gaggia Classic with grinder for about $800 - Click Here (www.wholelattelove.com)

Fully-Automatic Gaggia Berera for $700, which doesn't require a grinder since it's built in - http://www.wholelattelove.com/Gaggia/gaggia_brera_blk.cfm

My question is - why would anyone buy a semi-automatic machine for less than the price of a fully-automatic, like above?  Do some of the semi-automatic machines brew better coffe than fully auto?  

Thank you for your feedback.
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,722
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Wed Mar 9, 2011, 11:00am
Subject: Re: Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
 

There are manual, semi auto, full auto and super auto machines. Manual, Semi and full auto (also known as volumetric dosing machines) will, nearly always and hardly without exception brew better espresso than a super auto machine that does everything for you.

There are just too many things that need attention to detail for a machine to do it all well. This includes the commercial machines such as those you see at starbucks. In fact, a person with a basic starter setup, who is paying attention to what they are doing will have little problem blowing away the espresso from a 5 figure priced superauto commercial machine.

That 3 figure superauto you referenced won't hold a candle to the quality espresso that will flow from the semiauto you mentioned.

Then there is maintainace, consumer grade superauto machines like you linked to, tend to not be long lived unless you are constsntly cleaning and maintaining them.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,722
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Wed Mar 9, 2011, 11:18am
Subject: Re: Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
 

If ease of use is more important than quality espresso, then a superauto may be the machine you want. However, the routene isn't hard to master with a little work on your part and results will be vastly better doing it yourself.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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mariog7
Senior Member


Joined: 7 Mar 2011
Posts: 210
Location: NJ
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quickmill Vetrano
Grinder: Vario
Posted Wed Mar 9, 2011, 11:21am
Subject: Re: Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
 

That is great advise, thank you.  I'm the kind of guy that likes tinkering, especially for a better coffee, so guess I will be going the route of the Gaggia Classic or Ranchilio Silvia.
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randytsuch
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Jun 2009
Posts: 578
Location: LA, Ca
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Expobar Office with...
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Roaster: Customized Alpenrost,...
Posted Wed Mar 9, 2011, 12:41pm
Subject: Re: Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
 

The rocky will work for your grinder, but there are better things out there, for the money.

If you can afford it, the Vario is a better grinder.

Randy
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,372
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Wed Mar 9, 2011, 4:39pm
Subject: Re: Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
 

Mario, let's start with the basics . . .

ONE way to classify espresso machines is by their method/mechanism/capabilities for producing the shot.  

-- Manual machines do not have a pump.  They rely on the operator to force the water through the puck by use of a lever -- like the Elektra Micro Casa a Leva, the La Pavoni Europicola, or the Olympia Cremina.  These are all manual lever machines -- the operator lifts the lever up and pulls it down, pushing the water through the puck.  There are also spring-operated lever machines, like the Bezzera B2006AL, or the Rancilio Class 6 LE models, in which the lever is controlled by a spring -- the operator pulls the lever down, and then a spring draws the lever back to the "up" position, moving the piston and forcing the water through the puck.

-- Semi-automatic machines have a pump to force the water through the puck, but the operator turns the pump on-and-off.  Examples would include the machines like Gaggia Classic, the Faema Legend (the original E61 machine, or the Izzo Alex Duetto II -- which are, respectively, an SDBU, an HX, and a DB machine -- all in semi-automatic formats.

-- Full-automatic machines, also known as volumetric dosing machines, have a pump to force the water through the puck, like a semi-auto, but after a certain volume of water is dispensed (programed by the operator), the pump will shut itself off automatically.  HOWEVER, the pump can also be shut off manually, just as with a semi-automatic.  Examples would include the Bezzera BZ07sde, the Elektra Sixties T1, and the La Marzocco Linea AV models.  Each of these , by the way, is also produced as a semi-automatic -- the Bezzera BZ07spm, the Elektra Sixties A3 (now discontinued, although plenty of other semi-autos are still made by Elektra), and the La Marzocco Linea EE models.

-- Super-automatic machines do everything for you . . . they grind the beans, they make the puck, they pump the water, they discard the pump . . . human beings have very little interaction with them at all.  To make an espresso, you just walk up, push a button and -- PRESTO!  These machines can be incredibly convenient, but there is a considerable trade-off one makes for that convenience, namely a certain lowering or lack or quality.   Additionally, they are prone to break down more frequently.  Starbucks uses super-autos, by the way.  Examples of super-autos for the consumer include the Gaggia Brera (@ $699, it's one of the least expensive super-autos out there), the Jura-Capresso Impressa Z6 ($3299); as well as ones for commercial use, like the Schaerer Coffee Art Plus ($12,495), or the Faema Prestige X3 ($16,720).  Then, there is the OTTO by Schaerer with eight built in grinders -- see the pic below.

THEN you can classify machines by their boiler type:

-- Open boiler machines are relatively rare, and date back many decades.  These can heat the water for espresso, but cannot build up any pressure to steam milk.  To the best of my knowledge, this are all manual lever machines, and include machines like the Arrarex Caravel and the La Peppina.

-- Single Boiler Dual Use (SBDU) machines are the most popular machines for home use.  These have one boiler and two thermostats; the boiler will either heat the water within to brewing temperature or to steaming temperature.  The operator must wait for the boiler to move up/move down before continuing, i.e.: the machine can only brew or it can steam milk -- one or the other -- at a time.

-- Heat Exchanger (HX) machines also have one boiler, but it is permanently set to steaming temperature.  Cool water, either from a built-in reservoir ("tank") or from a water line ("plumbed-in" or "direct connect"), is then flash heated to brew temp via the use of a heat exchanger.

-- Double Boiler (DB) machines have two boilers, one for heating the brewing water, the other for making steam.

ALSO, machines can be classified by their components, if you will, and their target market.

-- Consumer machines are just that, designed for home use by the consumer.

-- Professional (or commercial) machines are designed for high-volume use in busy cafés, restaurants, etc.  They use more robust parts than consumer models, able to withstand their heavy, constant usage.

-- "Prosumer" machines fill in the gap; they are actually low-volume commercial machines that can also by used in a home environment.

/ / / / / / /

So you can have a commercial lever machine, or a consumer lever machine; a full-automatic HX prosumer model, as well as a full-auto HX commercial model, and so on and so on and so on . . . .

Cheers,
Jason

JasonBrandtLewis: otto.gif
(Click for larger image)

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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