Before you go shopping for your perfect espresso machine, ask yourself one very important question:
What exactly do you want? Since different machines’ faculties and specialties vary, the first step in your espresso-stential journey is asking what type of machine best suits you. So let's jump right into the different types of machines that are available...
Four main categories of machines — manual, semi-automatic, fully-automatic, and super-automatic — are offered on today’s market, and deciding on one of these types will greatly focus a buyer’s search.
Manual machines are like a restored car from the early 1900s — a beautiful homage to heritage, but more complicated compared to the most advanced models available today. There are no crank start mechanisms or chokes to contend with on manual espresso machines, but because they don’t maintain constant water pressure on their own, users must push water through the coffee manually, which can vary the quality of the final product. In short, My Espresso Shop recommends that these machines should be considered by "professional" baristas only.
Semi-Auto espresso makers came to be thanks to Achilles Gaggia’s 1938 patent, which introduced electric pumps to devices, resulting in even, hands-free water pressure. Because operators can decide when to turn the pump on and off (hence “semi” automatic), and because boiler temperature controls are automated on these makers, this is the most popular type of traditional machine in use today.
Fully-Auto machines are very similar to semi-auto machines, but include an electronic nanny to regulate the amount of water passing through the espresso. It is often the case that fully automatics include redundant semi-automatic controls.
Super Automatic machines have all the bells and whistles, frequently including a built-in grinding apparatus and other related gadgets. Currently, “caffe crema” — essentially espresso-brewed coffee diluted to the strength of regular joe — has come into vogue as a result of the prevalence of super automatic machines.