If you are starting to side-eye your receipts and wonder if there is a cheaper alternative to stopping at the local café every morning before work, then you’ve no doubt considered purchasing a super-automatic espresso machine to make barista-level coffee from the comfort of your own kitchen.
You may then wonder if coffee made by a machine could ever compare to what you get at a café, and whether it is worth it to try one out considering the heavy up-front cost of most espresso machines. We’re hopeful that this article will give some clarity on whether automatic espresso machines are worth the cost in the long run.
You can be assured that owning an espresso machine of your own comes with a plethora of benefits, including cost-effectiveness. The biggest benefit is the undeniable convenience of having a quality coffee made for you at the tap of a button. You’d be surprised at just how sophisticated some of the available drinks are, and many machines can even match the professionals in terms of quality and flavor of the drinks they put out.
At the end of the day, there are some objectively great automatic espresso machines out there, and whether this product is right for you depends on your lifestyle and circumstances. Hopefully, a brief introduction to what each machine has to offer will help you decide.
Making a great espresso is not an easy task to do by hand. It requires a lot of skill and patience.
There are coffee machines that require a little more manual labor on your part. You’d have to grind the beans yourself, measure the right amount of grounds for an espresso shot and pack them into a portable filter, and lock the filter in before you can get started. Some machines even need you to heat your water to the right temperature – which isn’t ideal at all considering that a slightly wrong temperature can impact the flavor of your beverage greatly. Sure, it might not be that difficult, but it’s certainly tedious, especially if you are trying to make more than one cup, particularly because you will have to rinse and clean the portafilter between each and every shot.
Manufacturers choosing to automate this process was an inevitability. Few of us feel like getting to work with grinding beans the moment we wake up, and some automatic coffee machines allow you to start the process before you’ve even gotten out of bed by making use of apps.
All you need to do is fill the bean reservoir and the water tank every other day. A super-automatic espresso machine will complete the whole process from bean to cup, including grinding and heating. Not only does the automation of this process add to the convenience of such a device, but these machines are designed for precision, and they always get the perfect pull out by pumping exact amounts of water through the beans at just the right temperature.
The fact that the machine acts on its own does not mean that you have no control, however. The user can program the machine to make drinks to their exact preferences. You have a choice regarding the kind of drink you want, be it cappuccino or Americano, how many cups you want, and all sorts of other options. There are even models that come with their own automatic milk frothers, meaning stirring your own milk is a thing of the past. This further diversifies the machines, as it can go from making a black espresso in one instant to a decadent latte in the next.
Is it Worth the Price?
There’s something truly fantastic about getting a high-quality cup of coffee any time a craving sneaks up on you, not to mention making it happen with only a few steps to the kitchen. Once you’ve bought the machine, your only real expense is the ingredients.
However, there are those that will argue that a drink produced by a machine can never compare to something created by the hands of a professional. If you are especially precise about how you like your drink, you may find that not even highly programmable machines meet your strict requirements.
That’s perfectly valid, but for those of us who like a regular cup of coffee and the convenience of a machine right in our homes, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
Although automatic espresso machines look pricy from the get-go, many coffee lovers are persuaded to buy one on account of how much money you can save in the long term. This is particularly true if you aren’t the instant coffee type and go for the more expensive option of visiting the local coffee shop every day to get your fix.
A trip to the coffee shop is expensive even if you only go a few days a week! Not only is a regular espresso around $5, but you also have to consider transport costs, parking, and whatever other considerations might be relevant. It is estimated that the average person can save around $700 a year if they invest in a coffee machine. That amount can be far more if you are a coffee addict who has one or more cups a day!
Although we are confident that investing in a super-automatic espresso machine will save you money in the long run, this doesn’t mean that the expenses that come with such a machine can’t be a bit of a hit. Some of the expenses to keep in mind are as follows:
The upfront cost of the espresso machine can feel a bit painful. Many high-quality automatic espresso machines cost thousands, and although there are cheaper options out there, you probably want a machine that is safe and sturdy. Paying the high up-front cost is worth it in our opinion, as expensive automatic coffee machines usually come with high-quality, long-lasting components, meaning you won’t have to replace the machine, or its parts, for years.
The second biggest expense is the coffee that goes into the machine. It’s kind of beside the point to get an expensive machine only to used cheap coffee beans, and you certainly won’t get the best flavor out of that combination. No matter how great your coffee machine is, it can’t work miracles and turn mud into a latte.
There are a number of options to choose from when it comes to the coffee you use. Some users use fresh coffee beans, which is likely the cheaper option, whereas others go for pods, which is a bit more expensive but a tad more convenient. The downside of the pods is their plastic container, making them the less environmentally friendly choice. Nevertheless, you’ll always get a quality output if you put quality coffee in.
If you want to mimic the flavors that you can get from your favorite coffee shop, you’ll need to bite the bullet and buy expensive barista beans. These barista mixes can range from $12 to more than $50, but they are undoubtedly delicious. If you like creamier drinks, you’ll have to consider the additional costs of cream or milk. If you like flavored lattes or macchiatos, then you’ll have to consider the prices of syrups or flavored milks. Your preferences, inevitably, will dictate your overall expenses.
Some machines will need a few more pieces of equipment before they can get the job done. This isn’t the case for those that use pods since the coffee is already finely ground and compact. All you’d need to do is place the pod into the designated slot and press the button. But if you are using fresh beans, you’ll need a grinder. A flat grinder or conical burr is the best option, as those with blades have a tendency to reduce the flavor of the beans before extraction. Some espresso machines have a built-in grinder, which is pretty convenient and will save space, but these models tend to be on the pricier side of things.
If you like a frothy drink, you’ll want to purchase a steam wand to mix the foam. Some models do automate this process, but some users prefer to have more control over the firmness of their foam.
One of the best things about having a coffee machine in your home is that you can have your coffee to get you out of your post-sleep daze rather than having to trudge through your morning routine without your caffeine boost. You could have a fresh cup of high-quality espresso before you’ve even changed out of your pajamas.
The machine is there whenever a craving hits. There’s no having to leave your house, stand in a queue, and squint at the unintelligible menu with lists upon lists of complicated three shots of, double latte, shaken not stirred – it’s just simpler!
And you may be dubious to set aside the café barista that has learned your order, but these machines are clever things, and many of them are programmed to adapt to your preferences over time.
What Kinds of Espresso Machines Are There?
There are four main kinds of espresso machines to select from, each of which has its own benefits and potential downsides. We will discuss each in order to help you make an informed decision about what kind of machine best suits your lifestyle and preferences.
Manual Espresso Machines
As the name suggests, there’s some manual labor involved in working with a manual espresso machine. The benefit is that you have greater control over the coffee-making process and, as such, you can make sure that everything is precisely how you like it. The downside, however, is that not everyone has the time to manually grind, froth, or prepare their drinks, and the manual espresso machine is still pricy despite there being more effort on the part of the user.
For those who are new to espresso-making, you will need to practice, and will probably experience a few failures at first. This could be frustrating and a waste of ingredients. If you aren’t keen to learn how to use all of the components of the machine and would rather just have a barista do it for you, then a manual machine probably isn’t the product for you.
If you are willing to develop a new skill, however, you might find that the manual espresso machine is stylish and fun to use. They are also designed to be durable and won’t let you down. If you maintain your machine properly, it should last from 5 to 15 years.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
Semi-Automatic machines do reduce the manual labor on the part of the user significantly. The machine will heat the water itself, but the user will have control over the grinding process and over how the water streams. The user will also have to tamp the beans to make their espresso.
For those who want to learn how to make espressos, a semi-automatic machine is a good choice, and its pricing is similar to that of fully automatic models. A quality model should be able to last between two and ten years, especially if you maintain the machine and handle it with care. These machines are reliable, and a nice middle ground between manual machines and fully automatic ones.
Fully Automatic Espresso Machines
A fully automatic espresso machine completes most of the coffee-making process for you. Using an electric pump, the machine will add water to the espresso mix in precise amounts to extract as much flavor as possible. The user does not need to stop the water as they would have to in the case of a semi-automatic machine, but it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on things, since you can lose flavor if the timer cuts off too early or too late.
The user’s only job is to measure out the beans or grinds to insert, tamping, and pressing a button. If you are on a tight schedule, the fully automatic machine is definitely up your alley.
Fully automatic machines tend to be particularly expensive on account of the convenience and the automation of the coffee-making process, ranging from $200 to the thousands. However, these machines tend to be durable and reliable when maintained. They may be in need of more frequent repairs than manual machines on account of all of their electrical components, but they still perform well over a long period of time.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
If you love coffee but hate manual labor, the super-automatic espresso machine is definitely the product for you. These machines render your efforts zero by automating the entire coffee-making process from bean to cup. All you do is add your coffee and press a button to have a delicious beverage within minutes.
A super-automatic machine will grind your fresh coffee beans, adjust the portafilter, tamp the coffee, and pull a flavorful espresso shot in 25 to 30 seconds. It’ll even steam your milk and froth your foam, meaning your days of stirring are over.
Super-automatic machines tend to be the most costly of the bunch, ranging from multiple hundreds to multiple thousands of dollars. Their expense increases when it comes to maintenance, as they require professional cleaning and repairs to keep their multitude of electrical components in top shape. Nevertheless, many of these machines are sturdy and long-lasting, with unmatched performance that won’t slow down for ages.
Are Super-Automatic Espresso Machines Worth Buying?
If you are looking for ultimate convenience, a super-automatic espresso machine is a very sound investment. You’ll get a quality, barista-level coffee made from your own kitchen. No driving, no walking, no getting dressed!
There are those out there who are very picky about how they like their coffee done and won’t be willing to give up control to a machine, which is fair enough. If you are good at making coffee, you may find that you will get a more flavorful brew out of a manual machine than out of a super-automatic model.
Although you can’t control, with complete precision, the flavor of your coffee in the case of a super-automatic machine, many models are capable of various adjustments or customizable programs to get your drink close to perfect. Another downside is that you can’t play around and make latte art if the machine does the entire foaming process for you.
Super-automatic espresso machines are objectively great, but that doesn’t mean they’re right for everyone. They provide great value for money, but they certainly aren’t worth the price if they don’t fulfill your needs. So, consider whether you like the idea or not. If not super-automatic, you may find your right model in the semi-automatic or manual range.