Understanding the Three Varieties of Espresso Makers

So you are considering buying an espresso maker. Well first of all, congratulations! In reading this section, you have taken your first step into the divine and delicious world of home espresso brewing. Desiring an espresso maker is the easy part. Deciding which type of espresso maker to purchase is often times a bit more challenging!

Between our thorough explanation of the three styles of espresso makers and our always available and knowledgeable customer service staff, we are excited to assist you in finding the espresso maker which lends itself to the perfect combination of user friendly mechanics and user control. Finding the balance between these two combinations is the key to insuring that you receive the most use, the best tasting espresso, and most importantly the optimal enjoyment out of your espresso maker. In order to achieve these three goals, it is important to understand the intricacies of the three different types of espresso makers.

Piston Espresso Makers

Lever-Style Manual Espresso MachineThe Piston espresso maker, also known as a Manual espresso maker, is a classically designed piece whose old world charm possesses functionality as well as aesthetic appeal. The Piston was the first true espresso maker, its style allowing the barista to generate the 8 to 9 atmospheres of pressure essential in producing authentic espresso.

Hidden behind the Piston’s fine lines are a series of mechanical components such as a boiler, levers, a piston, a grouphead and a portafilter (an attachment that holds ground coffee during the brewing process). These components are one half of the equation that allows the Piston to make superb espresso. The second half of the equation is fulfilled when the barista physically lifts the espresso maker’s lever. This is done when the Piston’s boiler reaches the correct temperature for brewing as indicated by a gauge. Pulling the lever, raises an internal piston which forces water in the boiler through the coffee grounds in the portafilter. The equation ends with espresso dripping from the spouts of the Piston into your cup.

The second half of the Piston equation, in which the Barista physically lifts the lever of the espresso maker and creates the pressure necessary to produce espresso, is by far the most important component in creating excellent espresso with this manual machine. The lifting of the lever requires both arm strength and consistency in the pull in order to produce a tasty brew.

Semi-Automatic Espresso Makers

Semi-Automatic Espresso MachineInvented in the 1940’s by an enterprising and imaginative Italian barista named Gaggia, the Semi-Automatic espresso maker succeeded the Piston simply because it is more user-friendly. Unlike the Piston, the Semi-Automatic espresso maker possesses an electric pump which guarantees the production of pressure at the 8 to 9 atmospheres necessary for making good espresso. While the Piston is equally capable of this feat, it’s manually pulled lever leaves room for human error. For this reason, the Semi-Automatic espresso maker quickly became the machine of choice for both commercial and home users upon its invention.

The Semi-Automatic espresso maker is named such because it requires its barista to do a bit of manual work before it is ready to brew. Like the Piston, semi-automatic espresso makers have a portafilter which requires filling with ground coffee. This means that the user must first grind their chosen coffee properly and also tamp (or compact) the coffee properly so it fits correctly into the portafilter. This process is essential as it creates the right amount of resistance needed for brewing. Next, the user must attach the portafilter to the espresso maker and press the on/off switch. At this point, the espresso maker’s electric pump takes over and draws water from the boiler which is then forced under pressure through the portafilter and the coffee grounds. When the espresso is extracted from the espresso maker, the user simply presses the on/off switch.

Semi-automatic espresso makers are the most popular espresso makers for home use. They are extremely user-friendly as their manual requirements are easy to learn and the machines built in electric pump insure a consistent brew. Furthermore, these espresso makers posses an internal reservoir which stores more water than the Piston allowing users the option of making teas or café Americanos.

Fully-Automatic Espresso Makers

Fully-Automatic Espresso MachineFully-Automatic espresso makers are extremely similar to semi-automatic espresso makers. The two espresso makers’ only difference lie in the fully-automatic’s one touch extraction (brewing) system. In other words, a user of the Fully Automatic espresso maker need only press the on/off switch once and the espresso maker will automatically control the volume of water that is dispensed through the coffee grounds and when the pre-determined amount of espresso is brewed, the espresso maker will stop on its own.

Fully-Automatic espresso makers are useful for home users who plan on being busy while preparing their espresso since this machine allows them the freedom to step away from one task and on to another while the machine brews a consistent and set amount of espresso. For this reason, Fully-Automatic espresso makers are extremely popular for commercial use since the free up the barista to prepare multiple drinks at one time. For home users however, Fully-Automatic espresso makers offer the same quality of espresso as Semi-Automatic espresso makers which are usually priced at a more consumer friendly level. In addition, selection of Fully-Automatic espresso makers for home use is limited.

Super Automatic Espresso Makers

Super-Automatic Espresso makers, as their name implies, are indeed super! With the touch of a button, these espresso makers effortlessly perform each and every task necessary to produce the finest and most consistent brew of espresso in a fraction of the time that manual or semi-automatic espresso makers require.

Super Automatic Espresso Machine

While Super-Automatic espresso makers contain the same basic components of a semi or fully-automatic machine, they also contain a built in automated brewing system with a high quality burr coffee grinder. Once the user pushes the brew button on these espresso makers, it immediately starts grinding the right amount of beans, tamps the ground beans, extracts a predetermined amount of coffee whose remains it disposes of into an internal dump box. All of these procedures are monitored and consistently fulfilled thanks to an integrated computer system.

Super-Automatic espresso makers are loaded with options and special features which provide the user with complete brewing flexibility. Strong espresso, weak espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, decaf espresso, and café crema, super-automatic espresso makers do it all! Between their ease of use and their user flexibility, there is little mystery as to why these espresso makers are the fastest growing style on the market.


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