Articles From Whole Latte Love

What is a Super-Automatic Espresso Machine?

Posted: 08/10/12
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What is a Super-Automatic Espresso Machine?
Saeco Espresso Machine from www.wholelattelove.comWell, it’s not a Semi-Automatic espresso machine right? If you’re a first time buyer, this is definitely a question worth asking before making a purchase. These high speed machines have undergone a number of changes over the years and today they sport a number of fantastic features that have taken the home brewing experience to new levels. In most cases, it will actually be these features that ultimately determine how much you’ll wind up spending on your machine.

At Whole Latte Love, you can find a listing of each machine’s features on both its product landing page and by using our Compare-O-Matic. Now, while this is an excellent source of quick information, simply knowing that a machine has a certain feature won’t really help you if you don’t know what it does. The main purpose of this article will be to educate you on the numerous available features of current Super-Automatic espresso machines so that you know what you’re aiming for when it comes time to pull the trigger.

Before getting into special features however, it’s important to know what the standard functions of a Super-Auto are. All Super-Automatic espresso machines will grind whole beans that are put into the machine and deposit the grounds into the brew group, where they will be tamped and brewed. The user chooses the liquid volume that is dispensed using controls on the machine. Super-Automatic machines can also dispense hot water and steam through the steam wand. Super-Automatic machines usually rely on removable reservoirs as their water supply.

With that taken care of, let’s move on to some of the features you can find on modern Super-Automatic espresso machines.

Bypass Doser
huhiuhiuhThe bypass doser is found on nearly all models of Super-Automatic espresso machines these days. Simply put, it’s a hatch generally located on the top of the machine where pre-ground coffee can be inserted in lieu of using the beans in the bean hopper. The bypass doser is especially convenient if you’ve got a guest that prefers decaf or if you simply want to change things up. Some machines will come with scoops to measure the amount of coffee you add to it, and in most cases the machine will tell you if you haven’t added enough pre-ground coffee.

 


These are just a few of the machines that have a bypass doser:

Single vs. Dual Heating Elements
Super automatic machines average about 43 seconds * to heat up from brewing to steaming temperature, but the inclusion of two heating elements practically eliminates this wait time. Super autos commonly utilize Thermobloc heating elements. These systems pull small amounts of water through at a time. Hence, single Thermobloc systems experience a bit of lag time when switching between brewing and steaming temperature. Dual heating elements make it possible to produce cappuccinos and lattes in a snap and also get rid of the necessity to cool the boiler (letting excess steam and water out of the steam wand) after steaming.

These are just a few of the machines that have dual heating elements:

Digital Display vs. Indicator Lights
gygygogMore and more, machines are beginning to feature LED and full color digital displays in lieu to the traditional indicator lights. Digital displays have helped a great deal in simplifying the process of brewing with and maintaining your espresso machine as it can display its status to you in plain English as opposed to a blinking light.

 

 

These are just a few of the machines that have a digital display:

Programmability
Many of our super automatic machines have programmability options, but the number and type of these settings varies from model to model. Here are some quick descriptions of programmable options that are relatively common.

  • Liquid Volume Control
    Programmability features of espressu machines from www.wholelattelove.comEvery super automatic will allow you to control the amount of water that is dispensed, but not all machines provide this as a programmable option. With this feature, you can program the machine to dispense a specific amount of liquid with the push of a button. One of the most popular uses for this feature is to program one of the buttons to dispense 6 to 8oz of coffee to make café crema. Café crema is a drink that is very similar to drip coffee, but benefits from espresso’s pressure brewing process. One sip of café crema and you’ll be convinced to drop the drip forever!
  • Pre-grinding
    This feature helps to speed things up a bit when you’re making multiple drinks. While you’re brewing, it will grind the next shot and keep it waiting in the brew group. The next time you hit the brew button, the brewing process will begin automatically, rather than needing to wait for the beans to be ground first.
  • Pre-brewing
    When you use the pre-brewing option, ground coffee is moistened with water and steeps for a second before the brewing process begins. This helps to more fully extract flavor from the coffee grounds, but is not necessary for brewing. In addition, pre moistening the coffee helps to avoid channeling, which is when the water finds only one or two paths through the coffee rather than evenly saturating it. You will notice that when the pre-brewing process is activated, the grinder will run, and during a slight pause a few dribbles of water will emerge from the spouts. After this, brewing will commence.
  • Temperature Control
    ProdThe typical preset temperature of espresso is about 184 ¾ °F* degrees upon outlet from the machine. After it drops into your cup, however, the temperature lowers to around 165 ¼ °F*. Pre-heating your cups can reduce this change, but if you are still unsatisfied, temperature control is probably for you. Setting the temperature to "high" will, on most machines, bring the in-cup temperature of your espresso to around 171°F*. As you can see from the numbers above, espresso is brewed at a significantly lower temperature than drip coffee. Espresso may seem cool in comparison to drip coffee, which is brewed between 195 °F* and 205 °F*. Specific in-cup and outlet temperatures for each machine can be found in the performance specs of our Compare-O-Matic.

These are just a few of the machines that have these programmability options:

Adjustable Dosing
Another way to adjust the flavor is by controlling the amount of coffee that is ground. As you can imagine this will be very helpful for adding or subtracting strength based on the size of the coffee you will be brewing, or for whom you are brewing! This control is great for tailoring to each coffee lover’s individual tastes. The machines with the removable brew groups provide for a wide option of dosage control; between 6 and 9 grams per single shot. A typical shot of espresso is about 7 grams, so you have the ability to go stronger or weaker. The built-in brew groups are configured to allow dosages of between 5 and 16 grams per shot depending on the machine. You could use the 16 gram dose as a double shot espresso, a very strong cup of crema coffee or two regular crema coffees.

These are just a few of the machines that have adjustable dosing:

Removable vs. Non-removable Brew Groups
Espresso Machine Brew Group image from www.wholelattelove.comThe brew group is the portion of the machine where brewing takes place. The advantage to the removable brew group is that you have the ability to physically inspect the system for cleaning and maintenance. Removing this type of brew group is a painless process that requires no tools. You will need to do this fairly often to rinse it of any coffee oils and residues that may be clinging to it. Machines that have non-removable brew groups replace manual rinsing with an automatic rinse cycle that is performed both on start up and shut down, additionally you may want to take a damp cloth to the shower screen periodically.

 

These are just a few of the machines that have..

Cup Warmer
Active Cup Warmer on an Espresso Machine from www.wholelatelove.comMany super automatic espresso machines have cup warmers, but they are not always a standard feature. Using cold cups is one of the biggest opponents of hot coffee. Using a cup warmer to preheat your cups can only make your coffee better. The most efficient cup warmers are active; they have their own heating element. Passive cup warmers utilize residual heat from the internal components of the machine, so they take a bit longer to be truly effective.

These are a few of the machines that have an actively heated cup warmer:

Water Filtration Systems
Using filtered water to make your espresso not only improves the flavor of the product, but also helps to lengthen the life of the machine. Internal water filtration systems accomplish both of these ends, and reduce the amount of decalcification that needs to be performed to clean the machine. The filters usually need to be changed every 3 to 4 months.

Jura Capresso is the only manufacturer who includes a water filtration system that will eliminate lead, chlorine, aluminum, and copper. A few other machines come with large particle filters, but these only keep larger foreign objects from making their way into the boiler system.

These are just a few of the machines that have a water filtration system:

It’s All About Taste!

The following options are available to give you control:

Grinder Settings
Espresso Machine Grinder Settings from www.wholelatelove.comMost super automatic espresso machines allow you to change the grind setting. If your shots of espresso or café crema taste weak, too strong or bitter this is one adjustment that will come in very handy. For instance, a finer grind will bring out more flavor. However, if it is too fine the coffee can taste bitter. On the other hand, if the grind is too coarse your coffee will taste weak and lack the robust flavor you are striving for.

 

 

 

Adjustable Dosage
Espresso Machine Adjustable Dosage from www.wholelalttelove.comAnother way to adjust the flavor is by controlling the amount of coffee that is ground. As you can imagine this will be very helpful for adding or subtracting strength based on the size of the coffee you will be brewing, or for whom you are brewing! This control is great for tailoring to each coffee lover’s individual tastes. The machines with the removable brew groups provide for a wide option of dosage control; between 6 and 9 grams per single shot. A typical shot of espresso is about 7 grams, so you have the ability to go stronger or weaker.The built-in brew groups are configured to allow dosages of between 5 and 16 grams per shot depending on the machine. You could use the 16 gram dose as a double shot espresso, a very strong cup of crema coffee or two regular crema coffees.

 

Automatic Milk Frothing
A number of machines sold these days feature automatic milk frothing functions to simplify the process of making frothed milk for drinks like cappuccinos. Some machines use attachable carafes that connected to a preexisting frothing system, whereas others utilize special peripheral attachments that connect to the machine’s steam arm.

These are just a few of the machines that have an automatic milk frothing system:

Wrapping Things Up
Hopefully this has helped to clarify what benefit these features can provide. Considering what drinks you will be preparing the most and what environment the machine will be in will aid in choosing the combination of features that’s right for you.

  • If you would like to compare super automatic machines by their features, our Compare-O-Matic should be your first stop.
  • You can also watch our video collection to see how some of these features work in action.
  • If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to give our sales staff a call 1-888-411-5282!

* Averages based on performance specifications listed in the Whole Latte Love Compare-O-Matic