There is nothing better than smelling and drinking freshly made espresso in your own home. When you want the taste of traditional, coffee house espresso on demand, you want a semi-automatic espresso machine. The semi-automatic espresso machine features a switch to activate/deactivate the pump, a portafilter, and a boiler. The first feature allows you to control when the extraction begins and ends, which is important if you want to control how much water is pushed through the coffee grounds. In addition, you will have your espresso in about 20 to 30 seconds. Read on to find the best semi-automatic espresso machine for your needs and our recommendations.
Our Best Pick
The Rancilo HSD-SILVIA Silvia Espresso Machine is our best pick when it comes to semi-automatic espresso machines. This machine is under $1,000, which is a good price when it comes to semi-automatic espresso machines, and is built with commercial grade materials that will give you the perfect cup of espresso every time. Of course, you can control how much heat and extraction goes into each cup, which adds to the features making this our top pick. Besides giving you a great cup of espresso, the espresso machine looks great, is reliable, and powerful. The machine has stainless steel casing and brass components through it. In addition, it has a commercial-grade steam want to give you top of the line microfoam milk for your cappuccinos and lattes. This semi-automatic machine also allows you to control the temperature within one degree of where you want it, making it very precise. From the price to the many features this machine has to offer, this has many reasons to be our number one choice.
Types of Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
Once you start shopping for a semi-automatic espresso machine, you may start to notice subclasses. We will go through these subclasses so you know just what they are and if you want them as your espresso machine. Each has their pros and cons, so it is important to know what they are before purchasing a certain types of machine.
While these tend to be more expensive, they more advanced than the single boiler versions. Some say to be a true home barista you need a dual boiler machine. The dual boiler function offers you to control the brewing temperature separately than the steaming temperature. This gives you stability for the perfect shot. The dual boiler will also be more consistent than other versions of the semi-automatic espresso machines. Each time you make a shot, you will experience the same taste and quality as the one before it. One downside to these types of machines are all the electronics inside of them. Things can be more prone to go wrong because of the high heat and moisture combined with the electronics. Yet, most come with manufacturers warranties so that is something to keep in mind as well.
Single Boiler, Heat Exchanger
These are in the medium range when it comes to price. The boiler in the machine keeps the water at 240 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This keeps it at the perfect temperature to produce steam. Water is heated up by going through a coiled tube located inside of the boiler. It heats up fast so it comes out the right temperature. With these machines, you can brew and steam at the same time.
Single Boiler, Dual Use
This is the most common type of semi-automatic espresso makers and come at a lower price than the other two. Inside of the machine it has a boiler and two thermostats. There is one thermostat for brewing coffee and one for the steam. When you flip a switch or press a button, the machine goes from one thermostat to the other. This type of machine canoe steam and brew at the same time. When you make shots, these are not as consistent as dual boilers. You will be able to get two to four consistent espressos or lattes at a time before the consistency starts to go down, such as the foam not being produced. If this happens, just turn it off for a bit and start over. These do heat up quickly so that is the upside to this type of macine.
How to Choose the Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
Semi-automatic espresso machines come in the three subclasses listed above, so think about what is most important to you and how much you are willing to spend. One of the best features of these machines is controlling the water flow with every espresso shot you make. This lets you control how strong the espresso is and when to end your shot.
When shopping for an espresso machine, look for something that is simple to use. Bright indicator lights are a good feature to have. Some machines, especially older ones, have dim lights that are hard to see under brighter kitchen lights. This can be frustrating when making espresso.
Another thing to look for is how the portafilter handle sits in the machine and whether you have to hold the clasp in pace or not. Also see how far over the handle has to go to lock in place and whether you have to hold it to keep the basket from falling out. If you don’t want to keep holding the handle, then look for one that locks in place.
What kind of cups do you want to brew espresso in? Do you like lots of espresso or want to brew a single shot at a time? Check how much room there is between the drop tray and the spouts. This will help you decide what type of machine will work for the type of espresso/drink you are making.
Cost will probably be the biggest factor when it comes to choosing your semi-automatic espresso machine. Pick a budget and stay within that range. Keep in mind that machines range from $500 to over $2,000 for the higher end machines.
Features to Look for in an Espresso Machine
One of the first things to think about when shopping for an espresso machine is how much counter room do you want it to take up? If you live in a small apartment or have limited space in your home, you will want something that takes up a small amount of space. If size is not an issue for you, then you are one of the lucky ones.
The semi-automatic espresso machine you purchase should have a 15-bar pump or better. The amount of pressure the pump creates gives the espresso its rich flavor and creates the head of the creama.
Think about how easy the machine will be to clean, especially if you will be using it every day because you will be cleaning it a lot. If it is difficult to clean, chances are you will not use it as often as you would if it was easier to clean.
Another thing to take into consideration is what you like to drink. If you are just starting out making your own espresso from home, it may be best to experiment with you’re a simpler machine before moving to something more complicated. If you have experience making espresso, think about how many boilers you want the machine to have and how steady the temperature stays. It may take some experimenting to find what you like best, but over time you may upgrade to a nicer machine if you want more control over your espresso.
Check the durability of the machine as well as the warranty. You are making a good size investment, so you want to ensure you are getting your money’s worth. Most of the higher end machines come with some kind of warranty. This will also give you an idea of how long the espresso machine will last.
The last thing to think about are extra options. Some semi-automatic espresso machines come with:
- Coffee grinder
- Water filter
- Cup warmer
- Programmable settings
- Frothing wand
Advantages of a Semi-automatic Espresso Machine
The semi-automatic espresso machine is the perfect machine in between a fully manual and fully automatic machine. You still have a lot of control and while some models can be pretty expensive, you can find semi-automatic espresso machines in a variety of price ranges. Furthermore, the espresso will be richer and less bitter for a more flavorful drink. The control you have over the shot with a semi-automatic espresso machine is one of the biggest advantages. If it is pouring slowly, you can let the pump run longer to ensure the shot is complete and tastes the best. Superautomatic machines do not have this option, which is why you might prefer a semi-automatic machine.
Semi-automatic machines will either have a pressurized or non-pressurized portafilter. A non-pressurized are normally found in larger machines, such as 58mm and larger. These types of machines need a precise grind and a perfect tamp. It can be more technical but this is a plus for some people.
Pressurized portafilters do not let water out until the right amount of pressure is reached. They automatically compensate for imperfect grinds or an uneven tamp. So if you do not have a grinder or are not as experienced, the pressurized version may be the better option because they are more forgiving.
Disadvantages of a Semi-automatic Espresso Machine
The semi-automatic espresso machine will take a little practice to make the perfect shot. Some people may get frustrated if this does not happen right away, but just keep at it. Along with this, some machines can be very expensive. If you are not ready to put in the time or truly value a well-made shot of espresso, then the semi-automatic machine may not be for you.
Most semi-automatic espresso machines do not come with built-in coffee grinders. There may be some that do, but most do not. This can add to the cost of the machine making it a disadvantage of the semi-automatic espresso machine.
Another disadvantage of semi-automatic espresso machines is perfecting the grind of the coffee if you do have a non-pressurized portafilter. If you are not used to grinding your own coffee or using a semi-automatic espresso machine, you may find yourself getting frustrated at first. The right equipment can make all the difference, which is why you may need to invest in additional accessories along with your purchase. This is a disadvantage of purchasing an espresso machine because it adds to the overall cost and technical difficulty.
There may be a learning curve with steaming or frothing your own milk as well. The semi-automatic machines need you to work the milk to ensure the froth comes out well. Some may get frustrated by this process, but it can be learned. While some people like the control a traditional steam want offers, others do not because of the difficulty and learning involved.
Semi-automatic Espresso Machine vs. Superautomatic Espresso Machine
Semi-automatic espresso machines give you some control over the espresso shot where superautomatic espresso machine gives you very little control. If you are focused on convenience, the superautomatic is a good option. You can program these machines to the right temperature, brew volume, water hardness, and extraction time. This way, you will get the same espresso shot every time. The superuatomatic machine will control the grinding, tamping, and the brewing of your coffee. They even steam the milk for your shot. There are ways to adjust the shot, but the semi-automatic give you more control when it comes to this. With a semi-automatic, you can control the froth, how strong the water is, and you can brew while steaming.
Most superautomatic machines come with a built-in grinder, but semi-automatics do not. This means you do not have to perfect the grind if you go with the superautomatic machine. However, if you do want to play with the different grinds, there are limited choices on the superautomatic machine. A separate grinder is normally better for this option as they have a larger number of grind settings. Be prepared that the grinders that come with the superautomatic machines do not do well with dark or very oily roasts. The oil in the beans can cause clogs over time and break down the machine.
Semi-automatic Espresso Machine vs. Manual Espresso Machine
The manual espresso machine is also known as a Piston espresso maker. It makes authentic espresso and you control all of the aspects when making the espresso. To make the right perfect cup of espresso with this type of machine, you need to lift the lever when the boiler reaches the correct temperature. You will be able to tell this by a gauge.
This type of machine is very involved, which can be a downfall if you do not know what you are doing. It will take time to learn the machine and to create the right type of shot. For example, low pressure at the beginning of the extraction can make sure the grinds of moist. Yet, most people prefer semi-automatic machines because they still give you control and are still somewhat automatic. One upside to this machine is they are very quiet as there is no pump noise at all. Furthermore, some do not need electricity to run so if you want to take it to a remote place, a manual machine would still work.
Why Trust Me
Our passion for the perfect cup of coffee and shot of espresso does not just stop with the first cup in the morning. We have drank coffee of all types around the world so we appreciate a good shot of espresso, no matter if it has been made in a high end coffee bar or in our home.
Our mission to create the perfect shot of espresso in our home started with finding the best semi-automatic espresso machine available. Since there are many types, we completed hours of research to find the best one in each category. We didn’t stop there. After we narrowed down the list we read about what other people experienced when using each machine. Most people had positive experiences, but the ones that had too many negative aspects were cut out and we were left with only the best machines on the market.
How We Selected the Best
Through countless hours of research, we created a list of the best semi-automatic espresso machines. We looked at what experts had to say, what dedicated coffee lovers said, and what people loved about the machines. From there, we made and narrowed it down by what features they provide and how much they cost. We took into consideration how long the machine lasts, what it offers, the best qualities, and what it is lacking. We made our list by narrowing it down from there to choose only the best in each category.
We selected the best based on the number of features it offered as well as being affordable when it comes to semi-automatic espresso machines. Since they can range in price, we chose one that packed the most amount of features for the money. Therefore, not only will you learn about the highest quality semi-automatic espresso machine, but you will get the most out of your money as well.
The Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
When you want the best espresso shot, you want the finest semi-automatic espresso machine. The semi-automatic machine gives you a good amount of control while still being somewhat automatic. These machines are the best overall, alternative option, budget pick, and splurge choice. On this list you will find something to suit your needs no matter what your price range is, or what experience you have using semi-automatic espresso machines.
The Rancilo Silvia Espresso Machine is the best value for your money and our choice for the best overall pick. It is made of high-quality materials, is simple to clean, and gives you coffee house style espresso. The machine is sleek looking as it is made with stainless steel and iron, making it a commercial grade machine that is available in your home. This machine is less than $1,000, which is a good deal when it comes to semi-automatic espresso machines. The Rancilo usually comes in around just under $700, making it a solid investment without breaking the bank when it comes to choosing a semi-automatic espresso machine.
The Brew Group brassing gives you consistent extraction to ensure you get even heat and water distribution each time you make espresso. The steamer wand is chrome-plated so you can boil water or steam milk. The machine features a three way valve to reduce splatter, making it easy to clean. The water take is 67 ounces and can be refilled at any time. In addition, the 15 BAR water pump will give you as much flavor out of your beans as possible.
To get the perfect espresso shot, you will need to have a precise grind for your coffee beans. It is best used with a high-end grinder for the perfect espresso shot with this machine. This can add to the cost if you do not already have a nice grinder and it may take some practicing to get the correct grind. However, once you find that perfect grind you will understand the fuss over the perfect grind of coffee.
Pros and Cons
Pros: This machine is simple to operate and it is a nice high end machine for the price. In addition, the heating element can be removed so repairs are easy.
Cons: You do need a precise grind for the perfect flavor of espresso, this can take some time to figure out how to use and what type of grind is right for your machine.
Why It’s Worth It
For around $700, you can customize your espresso shot in the comfort of your own home. You can experiment with different coffees and flavors, while perfecting your espresso making skills. The machine is simple to use, even for beginners, so you can start making the perfect cup right away with just a little bit of practice. If you normally purchase coffee at a coffee shop, this machine will pay for itself in no time. Furthermore, you never have to leave your home again for the perfect cup of coffee, cappuccino, or latte.
Who It’s For
If you love coffee house style espresso and want to make it in your home, this is the machine for you. It gives you a good amount of control while still being somewhat automatic. You can make a wide range of coffee drinks, besides espresso shots. The machine can be used by both beginners and experienced espresso makers, so no matter your skill level, you will be able to use this machine.
- Chrome plated steamer wand
- Consistent extraction
- Warming surface
This will give you the most for your money and is the best value when it comes to semi-automatic espresso machines on the market. It is durable while being affordable and so simple to use that beginners can make the perfect shot of espresso.
The Breville BES920XL Semi-automatic Espresso machine will make you professional quality espresso right in your house. This is our alternative pick to the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine. The BES920XL is the upgraded from the 900XL, and now you can clean it at home instead of having to take it to a professional. This upgrade makes it much more convenient to use than the previous versions.
The 920XL has programmable volumetric control. It also features a pressure gauges so you can monitor how much pressure is made during the process to create the perfect shot of espresso. The steam wand is commercial grade and can move 360 degrees so you can froth milk to the perfect texture. The water tank is 84 ounces and can be easily removed to be refilled. An indicator light will let you know when the tank needs more water.
Another cool feature about this product is an auto-start that will preheat the machine at a certain time. Program it the night before so it is ready to go when you wake up in the morning. The machine does have audio alerts to let you know when it is ready in case you are away from the machine.
Other features include:
- Adjust the temperature from 265 to 285 degrees Fahrenheit
- Advanced options for more customizations
- Dual boiler
- Two year limited warranty
Some customers say the Breville 920XL needs to be professionally serviced every four to five years. This can be somewhat expensive, so that is something to keep in mind. Yet, you have invested a good amount of money into this machine so it is important to keep it in good working order. Others have expressed concerns that this semi-automatic espresso machine is relatively new to the market. However, it is a solid machine and has been tested by many reviewers who swear by it.
Why It’s Worth It
The Breville 920XL is somewhat pricey, but you are investing in a semi-automatic espresso machine that makes coffee bar quality shots. The dual Italian pumps and dual boilers allow for brewing and steaming at the same time. The electronic PID temperature control will give you the perfect water temperature and will maintain it at the correct temperature. All of these features plus those listed above make the Breville 920XL a great investment for the perfect semi-automatic espresso machine.
Who It’s For
The Breville 920XL is for both experienced and beginners. For beginners, it may take a little bit of practice to get the perfect shot. For those who are experienced, you will most likely be able to figure out the system pretty quickly. It may still take a little trial and error, but you should pick it up pretty fast.
- Dual Boiler
- Programmable Options
- Simple to Use
- Easy to Clean
- 2-Year Manufacturer Warranty
This updated version will give you an adjustable steam boiler temperature so you can create the perfect shot of espresso. The machine is simple to use and can be cleaned easily.
The Pasquini Livietta T2 is a high-quality espresso machine that will not take up too much counter space. It has a 15 bar pump and two thermoblocks so you can steam and brew at the same time. The machine heats up in just two minutes to brew and only four minutes to steam. The price point falls between the first and second choice, making it a suitable option for third place.
The portafilter is made of chrome-plated marine brass to give you the finest tasting espresso without losing any heat. The dual boiler system allows you to steam milk for cappuccinos and latte while you brew your espresso shot. This makes creating your drink much easier and faster so you do not have to wait too long. There are three switches that let you control steaming, brewing, and power to the machine. It is simple to use no matter what your skill level is.
Some have complained that the steam function failed after just six months of purchase. This could be due to a faulty part or a badly designed product. Check the warranty to see if it is covered before purchasing the machine. Some people did not have any problems, so that is something to keep in mind. Others have noted that a high-quality coffee grinder is needed to complement this machine in making the perfect shot of espresso. This can add to the price unless you already have a nice coffee grinder.
Why It’s Worth It
The Pasquini Livietta T2 allows you to control the pump pressure and control the water flow. It has 15 bars of pressure, which will give you a perfect tasting espresso shot. This semi-automatic espresso machine is higher in quality than cheaper machines, but it is not as good as the high-end machines. This is somewhat of the middle of the line semi-automatic machine, which is why it is our third option.
Who It’s For
This machine is best for intermediate users, but it can be used by both beginners and experienced people. For beginners, you may need to read the instructions and watch a few videos until you get the hang of it. It may take some trial and error to make the perfect shot of espresso, but it will be worth it once you create it in your own home. For those who are experienced, this machine will allow you to play with heat and flavors when it comes to different types of coffees. You will be able to pull out subtle flavors that you may have not been able to taste with lesser quality machines.
- 15 Bars of Pressure
- Compact Machine
- Stainless Steel
- Fast Heat-up
- Steam and Brew
- Cup Warmer
This semi-automatic espresso machine will give you high-quality espresso without taking up too much room on the counter. It can brew and steam at the same time to cut down on time.
If you are looking for a budget pick when it comes to semi-automatic espresso machines, the Gaggia 1401 is a good choice. The machine is made of stainless steel so it looks good on your counter while still being durable. The reservoir can stay in place while you refill it because it is served by a plastic flap that is covered by a chute. The only time you will need to remove it is when you want to clean it. Furthermore, the Gaggia 14101 features energy conservation to keep your running costs down.
One nice feature of this semi-automatic espresso machine is the brass grouphead and brass portfilters. These will give you increased temperature stability to ensure your espresso shot comes out at the temperature you expect. The bar pump is 17 ½ and comes with a high voltage boiler. The bar pump will give you exceptional pressure when extracting your shot.
The Gaggia 14101 comes with a double shot and single shot filter basket. Along with this, you will get a tamper and scoop. The entire machine is made of commercial quality, but comes at a budget price which makes it perfect for those wanting coffee bar espresso without breaking the bank.
This semi-automatic machine can accommodate only small or medium sized cups, so if you are looking for something larger this will not work. There is also no cup warmer on this machine, so if that is something you need, then you may want to look elsewhere. Furthermore, the machine does take a while to heat up, longer than other machines. The machine does not make more than espresso, which is unlike other modern semi-automatic coffee machines. Yet, this is a budget pick, so you will not have all the features of the high-quality machines.
Why It’s Worth It
The Gaggia 14101 makes quality espresso shots every time, which makes this the top budget pick. Even after a year or two of being used, this machine will still give you the perfect shot. The machine is also made with high quality parts, which makes it a great budget pick. The energy conservation aspect is nice as well because you will not have to worry about it sucking up energy when it is not in use.
Who It’s For
If you are wanting coffee bar espresso in your home without breaking the bank, then the Gaggia 14101 is for you. It comes at a good price and will last you a few years. Whether you are experienced or a beginner, you will be able to use this machine pretty easily.
- Budget Pick
- Engery Conservation
- Brushed Stainless Steel
- Steady Temperature
This budget pick can make the perfect shot of espresso without breaking the bank. It comes in a smaller size making it an attractive addition to your countertop.
Do you want the best of the best and do not have a problem spending any amount of money to get it? Then you should be looking at the Pofitect Pro 700 Dual Boiler Espresso Machine. It is a combination of Italian tradition and German engineering to create a solid machine. The frame is made of steel so you won’t have to worry about it bowing or bending over the years.
The 0.75 liter boiler is designed specifically for brewing where the two liter boiler is dedicated exclusively for steaming. This means you can steam and brew at the same time. The steam want features a four-hole steam tip and is insulated. Since it is insulated, you will be more protected from burns and keep the milk from being burnt as well. The display shows both the steam and brew temperatures so you can adjust them accordingly. This is important when brewing different types of coffee because you will be able to discover different flavors.
Some people did not like the tamper that came with the machine saying that it was plastic and made pretty cheaply. The recommendation is to purchase your own high-quality tamper for a better experience. The machine is pretty heavy, so you may need two people to put it in place, depending on your strength. In addition, do not expect to move it once it is in place because of how heavy it is.
Who It’s For
Both beginners and experienced people can use this machine. If you are a beginner, some have noted that the instructions needed more explanation. If you are having trouble, there are videos that may be more helpful than the instructions that come with the machine. For those who have used machines like this before, the instructions should be enough to get you going.
- Dual Boiler
- Top of the Line
- Built-in Shot Timer
When you want the best of the best and money is no object, this is the semi-automatic espresso machine for you. Simple to use, yet superior in quality to other machines.
Other Equipment You Should Purchase
When you make an investment in a semi-automatic espresso machine, you want to make a few other purchases to go with it. Not only will these accessories improve the quality of the shots, they will improve the taste as well. Each accessory comes in a wide range of prices, anywhere from $10 to $200.
The coffee grinder is a key factor in making good coffee. The right grind of beans can bring out different flavors of the coffee so you can taste thee deep flavors that would have otherwise been missed if the beans were grinded differently. Furthermore, if you grind the beans just before brewing the coffee, your coffee will be more aromatic and flavorful.
Normally the semi-automatic espresso machine will come with a plastic tamper, one that does not do a great job. The tamper is like a painter’s paintbrush, it is a necessary tool for you to use when making coffee. When shopping for tampers, make sure it is the right size for your machine.
Having a knock box will make your life much easier, and cleaner, when making espresso. The basic boxes cost about $20 to $30, but can cost a lot more if you customize your own.
There are two types of steaming pitchers that are ideal for frothing milk. The first is a tapered nose style and the second is the Allesi design. The main thing to think about when purchasing a steaming pitcher is a narrow spout. This will ensure you pour the macchiato or cappuccino properly without having to use a spoon.
Other Machines to Consider
While these are the best machines we have found, there are a few other you can consider. These other machines are high quality, but did not make our list for various reasons. They will still make you a good shot of espresso, but some may be more expensive or not have all the features of the ones above.
The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso Machine is a semi-automatic espresso machine that is pleasing to the eye. It also has high-performance component, such as the 58m group head and the heat-exchange boiler. This machine lets you regulate how much steam flows through the wand with its manual level. It does have a futuristic look to it while providing you with high quality espresso.
The Rocket Espresso R58 Espresso Machine V2 is an expensive choice but comes with lots of features. It has a dual boiler, commercial rotary pump, commercial parts, and each machine is handcrafted in Italy. This machine will give you consistent heat with every shot you make.
A cheaper choice is the Breville Duo-Temp Pro. It has both non-pressurized and pressurized portafilter baskets, so you can take your pick. The steam wand is commercial style and moves 360 degrees so you can froth in any container. This machine is designed for any level, especially beginners who are trying to increase their espresso making skills.
Choosing the right semi-automatic espresso machine is a personal choice and will vary depending on your coffee tastes, habits, and price range. Think about what is important to you when it comes to creating the perfect espresso. Do you want to make a shot or have the option of creating a latte and cappuccino as well? Will you prefer a pressurized or non-pressurized portifilter? Are you a beginner or are you more advanced when it comes to using an espresso machine? If you are willing to learn, then think about a machine that is slightly above your current level so you can grow into it some. Take all of these things into consideration when choosing your semi-automatic espresso machine and you will find one you absolutely love.