The 3 Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
Whether you're a long-time barista or a new espresso drinker, the best semi-automatic espresso machines can give you quick and easy access to your favorite drinks — cappuccinos, lattes and more! But, since semi-automatic espresso machines require a bit more work than automatic ones (as the name implies), it's important you choose the right one for you.
Keep your budget top of mind. If you're willing to spend the money, you'll find a few standout options that give you the freedom to make the espresso your own, but are nearly as easy to use and convenient as an automatic machine. Since you'll have to do your own grinding and dosing, finding a machine with a built-in grinder or an automatic dial to control the grind of your coffee is clutch. Less expensive models will leave you to your own devices, so you'll have to keep better track of the dosages when you're perfecting the strength of your espresso.
If you're shopping for a coffee shop or restaurant, you may want to consider a dual boiler machine, which simultaneously can make espresso and steam milk, allowing you to turn around the most espresso-based drinks in the quickest period of time.
Editor's note: What you really get when you spend the extra money is a longer-lasting machine. Unsurprisingly, a $500 machine can last years or even decades in your kitchen. If your budget won't allow, you can still get a cheaper model that'll serve you delicious espresso in the short term, but likely will need to be replaced down the line.
But, let's get you caffeinated. Now presenting, the best semi-automatic espresso machines.
1. The Best Overall, All Things Considered
With nearly 2,000 reviews and a 4.4-star rating on Amazon, this Breville semi-automatic espresso machine is a standout option. Not only does it have a built-in conical grinder for dosing your coffee, but you can even adjust the amount of coffee it grinds with the twist of the dial. This gives you all of the freedom of a semi-automatic machine, but all of the convenience of an automatic model.
It has a powerful, 1600-watt motor and a digitally-controlled temperature setting that deliver consistently delicious espresso. You can easily switch from one shot to a double shot with the push of the button, and the steam wand couldn't be simpler to use: Simply pour your milk into the (included!) stainless steel milk jug and bring it up to the steam wand. The longer you leave it in, the more texturized and thicker your milk will be. Even better, it comes with a self-cleaning feature and cleaning discs and tablets, as well as a brush. While this option is pricey, it's hands down the best one to buy if you're looking for a long-lasting and easy-to-use machine with plenty of included accessories and attachments.
2. The Most Affordable
If budget is a concern, this affordable semi-automatic espresso machine will still serve up quality espresso for a (very tiny) fraction of the price. A one-touch control panel on the side allows you to switch from a single to a double shot, and a removable water tank in the back heats up to brew your espresso. Fill the separate tank with milk and adjust the froth dial to determine if you're making a latte, a cappuccino, or something in between. Then press a simple button to steam it. Unlike some of the more expensive semi-automatic espresso machines, you'll have to grind and dose the espresso beans yourself. Since this machine doesn't come with one, you may need to purchase your own coffee grinder. (Would you look at that? Here are the best coffee grinders under $100.)
This espresso maker wields 1040 watts of power, making it the weakest of the machines on this list. But for the price, you won't find a better model. Nearly 3,000 reviewers have tried it out and have given it a 3.9-star rating on Amazon. Their biggest complaint? They loved it while it lasted but, for many people, it kicked the bucket after one year.
3. The Best For Cafes Or Restaurants
While a near-$2000 price tag might seem exorbitant, this semi-automatic espresso maker is the best if you're making professional-quality espresso drinks for a cafe or restaurant. It has a laundry list of features that make it the easiest and fastest machine for making a lot of espresso. First, its built-in grinder makes it super simple for you to adjust the strength of your espresso as needed, or set it and forget it. Second, two stainless steel boilers allow you to simultaneously make your espresso and steam your milk, so you won't waste any time making cappuccinos or lattes.
The digital LCD screens clearly display the temperature of the steam (which can be adjusted), the coarseness of your grounds, and the number of seconds before you have to pull. As with any machine on this list, just push a button to switch from a single to a double shot. The long and short? This powerhouse option takes the guesswork out of making espresso with a semi-automatic machine, but still allows you to customize your drink to your liking. And, because its ease-of-use is unbeatable, no matter the skill level of the operator your drink will come out delicious every time.
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