Welcome back for the third and tentatively final blog on the different types of espresso machines. Hopefully, this blog series has given you a bit of an insight on the types of machines available to you, and can act as a great starting point for when you call in to us here at Whole Latte Love. This time around we’ll be discussing the made-for-convenience Super-Automatic espresso machine. The super-auto is ideal for the busy espresso drinker, or someone who doesn’t want to fumble around in the morning for that first infusion of caffeine.
The Machine Does It All
The super-auto literally does everything from the beginning to the end of the coffee brewing process. You put whole beans in the hopper on top, water into a reservoir, and once it’s up to temp, press the brew button. The machine will grind, tamp and brew directly into your cup. It is the ultimate in convenience.
Now to the hard core coffee enthusiast, this will sound sacrilegious and might make a strict enthusiast think: “Don’t be too proud of this technological brewer you’ve purchased. The ability to press a button and brew a shot is insignificant to the power of the barista.” Of course, not all of us are hard core coffee enthusiasts, and you do have a lot of control over the brew process, just in a broad sense. Depending on the machine and features involved, you tell it how much coffee to use, how fine to grind it, and how much water to put through in a shot. Those are basic features actually, and just with those three, the best part of a super-auto shines. Every day, you press the button, and it does the same shot every day every time you press the button. Just set it and forget.
Obviously since the price range runs from $549 up to $3299, there are a number of other features that get added on as your price increases. They all give you options for greater control over the variables of the espresso brewing process. The common ones are: • Bypass Doser – The ability to take a different preground coffee, like a decaf, and brew that directly, not using the beans in the hopper. • Temperature Control – Some mid-level to high end machines have temperature control over the brew. Most have general levels, a normal and one or two above or below that. • Programmability – The ability to program the volume of water that is sent through a shot. Between one and four buttons on most machines that have that feature. • LCD screen – Instead of little LEDs that light or blink, mid to high level super-autos sport a screen that will tell you in plain English what is going on with it. If needs water it says ‘Fill Water Reservoir’. • Active Cup Warmer – The number one place you lose coffee temperature is in the cup. This handy feature on super-autos has a heating element in the top on a tray that will heat the cups for you, cutting down the degrees lost in the cup.
The above are the most common features looked for and contained in mid to high level machines. Use these as a checklist for what you want the machine to do, or like to do.
Removable vs Sealed Brew Groups
One major dividing line in the super-auto category is the removable versus sealed brew group. Of the major manufacturers, Jura Capresso has a sealed brew group, while Gaggia, DeLonghi and Saeco have all opted for the removable brew groups. What does this mean to you?
With removable brew groups, you have the ability to remove the brew group from the machine. You can then clean and lubricate the brew group yourself. However, because of the size of removable brew groups, you are limited to an 8 gram ground coffee capacity in most brands. This means a double shot is really two consecutive single shots.
Since they don’t need to be compact, sealed brew groups, like in the Jura machines, have the ability to hold up to 16 grams of coffee to brew a true double shot. For cleaning and lubrication, you should use the Jura Cleaning Tabs that clean the brew group and also add a lubricant as well.
‘Ultra-Automatics’ – One Touch Machines
Lastly, in the last few years, there has been an emergence of the One Touch super-automatic that will brew, froth your milk and place everything in the cup for you. The One Touch is the natural progression of the ‘machine-does-it-all concept’, these are really well built machines, with varying levels of control over frothing, steaming and volume of milk to each drink, depending on the machine you choose.
These machines are all high end units, ranging between $1499 and $3299. The premier units were the Jura Capresso Z5 and Delonghi Magnifica 3500. The most recent addition to the one touch machines, is the Gaggia Accademia.
What Does It All Add Up To?
What does this mean to your choice of machine? Well, much like semi-autos, it comes down to how much control you want over the shot that comes out. But with the twist that you would set up the variables at the beginning and then they are kept the same every time you brew. No worries about changing variables due to your not being fully awake. Just remember which button to hit, and caffeination is in your cup shortly thereafter.