Super automatic espresso machines can actually do quite a bit when it comes to creating the perfect cup of espresso. If you are looking for something that will work with just pressing a few buttons, then the super automatic machine is for you. The super automatic machine can take care of grinding the coffee beans, boiling the water, brewing the coffee, and will even clean up after you. Yes, the machine can do all of that with just pushing few buttons. In fact, they can do all of this in under 30 seconds, which is pretty amazing and faster than we could ever do it on our own.
Super automatic espresso machines are designed for beginner and espresso connoisseurs alike. No matter what your taste is, or how delicate your taste buds are, you will find a super automatic coffee machine to suit your style…and hopefully budget.
As super automatic’s are some of the more expensive of the coffee machines you can buy, it’s important that you figure out exactly what you need for the price you are willing to pay. This guide aims to help you find the best super automatic machine for your needs and budget.
Super Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic
Semi-automatic espresso machines take more of your attention than super automatic espresso machines. They have a portafilter, boiler, and a switch that activates and deactivates the pump to perform the extraction. The last part is where the semi-automatic part comes in. You will need to hit a switch when you want the extraction to stop and control the flow of water. This gives you more control over the type of shot you create, whether it is stronger or weaker.
Another difference with semi-automatic espresso machines is the frothing/steaming part of creating your drink. Some machines can steam and brew at the same time, where others cannot. Either way, you will need to work the milk to get a good froth out of it. You will need to practice this a few times to get it right, but it does give you more control where the super automatic does this part for you.
Super automatic machines make the entire drink for you. From grinding the coffee beans to steaming the milk, all you have to do is push a few buttons and wait for your drink to be ready. You can program the machine for a certain grind, temperature, etc. In addition, the super automatic machines are consistent and will give you the same shot of espresso every time. Yet, you will not have the control like you will with a semi-automatic espresso machine.
Do You Want a Semi or Super Automatic?
Before buying a super automatic (or any expensive coffee machine), you need to nail down exactly what you are looking for in a coffee machine.
Semi Automatics Are Better For People Who…
Basically, for the best espresso’s possible, semi-automatic’s are the better choice. Skill requirement and more brewing time (and cleanup) are the downsides. If you suck as a barista-in-training and don’t devote time to improving your skill, you’ll likely get better regular espressos with a a super automatic than a semi automatic.
Super Automatics Are Better For People Who…
For a good enough (for most people) espresso done with the press of a button, Super Automatics are the better choice.
If you are a coffee connoisseur and you want the absolute best tasting coffee no matter what, then I’d suggest the semi-automatic. But for the rest of us who can’t devote the energy and time to mastering how to brew espressos, well, a super automatic is a god send of a machine — it’s the coffee machine I, a huge coffee fanatic myself, prefer to use at the end of the day due to the sheer convenience of it.
Types of Coffee’s You Can Make with a Super Automatic
So just what type of drinks can super automatic espresso machines create? They can make about any kind of espresso-based drink you can think of.
Most of the machines are equipped with an automatic frothing system for milk or a steam wand. In addition, if you are craving café crème, which is not as strong as espresso, just program your super automatic espresso machine to make that as well.
The more expensive models give you more adjustable features for the types of espresso drinks you can make. The cheaper machines usually just give you the basic espresso, cappuccino, and late options. You may be able to selection double or triple shot espressos or make two at the same time, models depending.
If you want to make some of the fancier espresso’s like a Ristretto. 22 ml concentrated. espresso, Macchiato, Café Noisette and such, you may need one of the higher-end models that let you fine-tune the espresso strength.
How Good is the Coffee that Comes Out of a Super Automatic Espresso Machine?
Super automatic espresso machines do a pretty good job of making coffee, however; they will not give you outstanding espresso’s, as compared to a talented barista or even the semi-automatic home espresso machine (with a decently skilled person). They do make better than average espresso and the higher end models will certainly have better taste. Yet, don’t expect the coffee to taste the same as you get from your favorite coffee shop.
Super Automatics do make better than average espresso. In my experience (I’ve owned several), they produce much better coffee than a drip machine or French Press, and usually give a better espresso / cappuccino / americano than Starbucks. However, you’ll get a better espresso at a local coffee shop.
The higher end models may, depending on the mode, have better taste than the cheaper models. Keep in mind though the main selling point is the sheer convenience. You hit a button and 40 seconds later you have a pretty decent espresso. That’s itself is a win.
Main Features in a Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Here’s a list of the main features that a good super automatic will offer. Depending on HOW much you spend, you may or may not get some of these features — so not ALL will have them.
The steaming feature comes standard on all super automatic espresso machines. One thing to think about when looking at the steam feature is the delay time between steaming and brewing. If you have dual heating elements you will not have to worry about this, but if you have a single heating element take note of this delay time. Some machines also need to be flushed before making another espresso, so that is something to take into consideration as well. The delay time can cause frustration if you are making multiple drinks at once, so that is something to keep in mind if you usually make more than one drink at a time.
There are a couple different styles of steaming.
A steam wand may be attached to your machine, which releases steam from the tip. To properly steam the milk, you move the container around so the milk froths properly. It takes a little practice to get used to the steam wand and be sure to clean it off when you are done.
Automatic Milk Foamer Attachment
Some machines come equipped with an automatic frothing device, which is normally where the steam want would be. All you have to do is put the tube into a cup of milk and turn it on. Foam is automatically sucked through the tube, foamed, and then comes out the spout again. It is very simple to use, but it is hard to customize. So if you are looking for something customizable, you might want to go for a steam wand. However, this is perfect if you have no experience steaming and want the machine to do it for you.
A more advanced and higher-model feature is a separate container where you add milk and that milk is automatically sucked in, foamed, and directly combined with the espresso to make a cappuccino, latte or specialty milk-based drink. Note that you don’t tend to get this on the entry-level models.
Coffee Bean Grinder
Most super automatic espresso machines come with a decent coffee bean grinder. Some of the cheaper (under 500 espresso machines) super automatic espresso machines will NOT have a grinder. So while this is a standard feature, it’s also dependent on the price. At about 500 or 600 dollars, you’ll usually get a grinder included in the machine.
The grinders are made for coffee and are conical burr grinders that are that very reliable and last for many years. They are perfect for creating a nice grind of espresso, which can be adjusted on all of the machines, so you can bring out the flavor in all types of espresso you like to drink.
Note that the included grinder will be inferior to a good dedicated coffee bean grinder you buy separately. Some of the better grinders will cost you hundreds of dollars. You’ll likely get a decent but not outstanding grinder with your Super Automatic.
Super automatic machines offer the option of pre-grinding as a standard feature. If you are making more than one drink, this feature is very handy. Pre-grinding happens as soon as you hit the button to brew your drink. This makes your next drink ready to go as soon as your first one is done.
Grind settings are another standard feature on a super automatic espresso machine. By changing the grind setting on espresso you can bring out different flavors depending on the type of bean and grind. The general rule is the finer ground the coffee is, the more flavorful the espresso comes out. However, if this grind is too fine the coffee may turn bitter. If the grind is too course, the espresso may come out weak and lacking flavor. The super automatic machines give you a chance to experiment with the grind to find the setting that fits your espresso style. This is perfect for someone who does not already have a coffee grinder or who wants to experiment with different grind settings.
Internal Brew Group
The internal brew group controls all the actual brewing-coffee functions inside the super automatic espresso machine to create the ground coffee you love. The brew group performs the coffee grinding, tamping, pre-soaking the grinds, the brewing, and dumping the coffee grinds. Every time an espresso shot is complete, the brew group resets itself so it is ready to create the next espresso shot.
If you are willing to pay extra, you can get a machine with a removable internal brew group. The higher end brands have these and the brew group slides out all in one piece. It weighs about two and a half pounds and can be easily cleared of coffee grinds and residue from time to time. If your machine does not have a removable brew group to clean, the super automatic machine will do it all by itself.
The standard feature that comes with all super automatic espresso machines is the heating element, which is also known as Thermobloc or simply the ‘boiler’. The Thermobloc elements pull water through the tank in small amounts at a time to heat it within 45 seconds. Since a boiler is one of the more important features of a super automatic that impact everything from the time required to brew and the quality of the brew, you should pay particular attention to this feature. We feel it’s probably the most important one!
Single vs Double Boiler
Most budget to mid-range models will have a single boiler. But mid to higher range model super automatic machines come with dual heating elements (dual or double boilers). There’s a significant advantage of a double boiler over a single boiler, and coffee experts will tell you a double boiler machine will make a better espresso and milk-based espresso drinks.
For double boiler machines, there are two types of boilers. The machine will have one of each.
Dedicated brew Boiler – the boiler that heats the water to run through the coffee grounds. This ensure the ideal water temperature is used for every single espresso brew. This water temperature will be much less than the other boiler.
Dedicated Steam Boiler – the boiler that heats the water for the steam wand / milk frother device. The water in this boiler is hotter than the brew boiler.
Advantages of the Double Boiler Setup
There are some real advantages to the double boiler.
Double Boilers Make Faster Cappuccino / Lattes
Double boilers allow separate temperatures for each boiler. That is, water can be heated up separately in two different compartments to different temperatures. This means you can extract the coffee from the grounds with the water from one boiler while heating up the milk via the steamer from the other boiler. This saves time for drinks like Cappuccino where both the milk and the espresso can be made simultaneously.
Double Boilers *May* Give Better Espresso
For some drinks, you get a better espresso to because the water passing through the grains needs must be a lower temperature than the water needed to steam milk. If you have a single boiler, the machine must first make the espresso then heat up the boiler even more to correctly froth the milk, then combine. If the drink requires the milk to be frothed first, the water temperature may be ‘too high’ to provide the ideal (lower) temperature for the coffee grounds. This may require a slightly ‘wait’ while the boiler cools, or in the case of cheaper machines, no cool down and a more bitter espresso.
Double Boilers Are Faster for Repeated Espresso Shots
This makes espresso even faster than a machine with a single heating element. If you constantly make many drinks at a time, the dual heating element is nice because the boiler does not need to cool after steaming. This allows you to go from one shot to the next. If you are looking for a super automatic machine for the office or in a commercial location, dual boilers are highly recommended over single boilers.
What’s Better: Single or Double Boiler
Most people who have a double boiler will tell you it’s far superior to a single boiler machine in every way.
Overall, if possible, it’s better to invest in a double boiler super automatic esspresso machine over a single boiler, even if it requires paying a few hundred dollars more.
The doser allows you to adjust the amount of coffee grind that goes into your brew. About seven grams per espresso shot is recommended. However, this can change on your preference or if you are making a café crème.
Different types of espresso drinks require different amounts of espresso. By adjusting this amount, you can more fine-tune your type of espresso drink.
Adjustable dosing comes standard on all super automatic espresso machines. The adjustable doser gives you an error free setting to select just how many grams of coffee you want to grind and will ultimately go into your shot. The machines with non-removable brew groups have an adjustable doser that ranges from five to 16 grams. The machines with a removable brew group have a doser between six and nine grams.
If you want even more choices, an extra optional feature is a bypass doser. A bypass doser accepts only pre-ground coffee and goes into a small chute at the top of the machine. This allows you to make coffee other than what is already stored in the bean hopper. If you want decaf during the day, this can come in very handy.
Some of the more expensive super automatics may have specific knobs or buttons you can select for pre-programmed ‘fancy’ espresso drinks that require different ratios of espresso. Your basic super automatic likely won’t have this feature.
Adjustable Liquid Volume Control
Liquid volume control may or may not come with your super automatic espresso machine. This feature allows you to adjust the flow of liquid that is put out while making the espresso shot. You can adjust the water amount to make the final brew stronger or weaker, depending on your preference.
If you want something programmable, you will have to spring for the extra feature. Programmable liquid volume control is available for super automatic espresso machines, but it is an add-on. Yet, is it very convenient because you can control the type of espresso drink and the strength. An Americano, for example, can be made via this control setting.
User Indication and Maintenance Systems
Since super automatic machines are designed to do everything for you, it makes sense that their display and maintenance system should be simple to use.
Indicator lights come standard on all machines. They let you know when water needs to be replaced or when you are running out of coffee beans. Sometimes more than one indicator light is used for more than one issues, so it can be a little bit of an inconvenience.
Digital display may cost a little extra but it is usually worth it as you will see a more in-depth analysis and clearer instructions right one the machine. Super automatic espresso machines can be either touch screen or digital displays. They will let you know how many cups you have brewed to the volume of coffee being prepared. Furthermore, the display will let you know when it is time for maintenance and what those options are.
Cup warmers are a nice additional feature and are located on top of the machine. Espresso is extremely sensitive to the temperature outside of the machine, so ti may cool quickly. A cup warmer can help combat that by offering a heated storage space. The cup warmer is heated by residual heat that comes from the espresso maker’s boiler, which is a passive cup warming system. Some machines have active warming systems that can be more effective than the passive system. Either way, putting your espresso into a warm cup will keep it warmer longer and increase its quality.
If you have hard water or just use a water filter on a regular basis, then you probably want to add one to your super automatic espresso machine. The water filtration system can improve the quality of your espresso and ensure it is free of additives and any impurities. Some of the higher end machines come with filtration systems already installed, where others have it as an add-on feature. Most water filtration systems will get out any copper, aluminum, lead, and chlorine. Not only can those leave a bad taste in your espresso, they are not the best for your health either.
Other Features That May Be Offered
- Strength of coffee settings
- Brew pressure settings
- Temperature control settings
- Clock settings
- Automatic Brewing Based on Clock (i.e. machine brews you a coffee in the morning at a precise set time)
- Coffee capacity
How Much Do Super Automatic Espresso Machines Cost: The Price Range
Super automatic espresso machines come in a variety of price ranges.
Ultra Budget: $200
You can’t buy a real super automatic machine for $200. However, you can pick up a decent semi-automatic for about $250 to $350 OR a higher end coffee pod machine for 150-250. A real super automatic machine will cost you at least $400 if you find last year’s model or you buy one on discount.
A real super automatic machine will cost you at least $400 if you find last year’s model or you buy one on discount.
One of the value machines is the Breville Barista Espresso Espresso Machine, which comes in is price anywhere from $600 to $650. For this amount of money, you will get the ability to adjust the temperature, 67oz water tank, and a hot water dispenser. The downside to this value machine is coffee grounds will fall into your drip tray and mix with water to make a coffee sludge. In addition, it does take more effort to work than some of the higher end machines.
For this amount of money, you will get the ability to adjust the temperature, 67oz water tank, and a hot water dispenser. The downside to this value machine is coffee grounds may fall into your drip tray and mix with water to make a coffee sludge. In addition, it does take more effort to work than some of the higher end machines.
Features you are likely to get in the Budget Range
- Single Boiler
- Mediocre Coffee Grinder
- Limited Espresso Brewing Options
- Steam Wand
- Analogue or Digital Display
If you do not mind spending a little more money for your super automatic machine, the DeLonghi Compact Automatic Espresso Machine costs about $889. This is a compact machine that will give you hot coffee and foam control for your milk. It is simple to use because it will make your coffee with just the press of one button. The downside is there is no steam wand, so you have to use the milk frother when steaming your milk. Another downside is the reservoir is pretty small as well as is the area for beans in the coffee grinder.
Features you may get in the Mid-Range
- Dual Boiler (depending on price&model)
- Automatic Milk Foamer Attachment (depending)
- Pregrind brew ability
- Better Coffee Grinder Than Budget Models
- Enhanced Digital Display
High-End: $1200 – $2500
For a high-end machine, take a look at the Saeco Intelia. This super automatic espresso machine will give you a consistent shot, is easy to clean, simple to program, compact, and it takes no time at all to figure out how to make great cappuccinos. The downside to this machine is it does not work well with oily coffee beans, we most super automatic espresso machines do not. In addition, there is a plastic shield on the grinder that it is recommended to be removed so it seems pretty useless to be there in the first place. The price is costly at around $1,100 to $2,500.
Features you may get in the High-End Range
- Dual Boilers with separate PID (temperature control)
- Superior Built-In Coffee Bean Grinder
- Chrome / Stainless steel exterior
- Automatic Milk Foamer Attachment
- Built in water-filtration system
- Clock with programmable brewing times (brew in the morning at a certain time for example)
- Enhanced Display
- More fine-grained brewing control to control all aspects of coffee brewing process (shot strength, water amount)
- Additional espresso-brewing options
The Final Word
Super automatic espresso machines can do just about anything under the sun, when making espresso and espresso coffee drinks. You still get some control over the grind and how much water passes through the system so you can find the perfect mixture for your taste buds. Furthermore, super automatic machines come with many standard features, but there are a variety of add-on features as well. These will enhance the taste of your espresso while also making your life easier, such as programming the perfect cup of espresso.