10 Best Semi Automatic Espresso Machines: Make Each Brew As You Like

Once you start looking for an espresso brewer you will see that your options are truly endless. If you are a skilled barista, or even if you’re not, a semi-automatic espresso machine may be the best way to go.

It provides you with versatile programmable features and functions you can adjust to your liking. This means that every cup you make can be different. Keep reading to learn more about how they work and why they are so desirable.

The Rundown

Breville Barista Espresso Machine RundownBreville Barista Espresso Machine
OVERALL RATING: ★★★★★
Due to its PID temperature control, this espresso machine delivers optimal brewing results with every single use.
Jump To Review

Nuova Simonelli Espresso Machine RundownNuova Simonelli Espresso Machine
OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆
Its commercial-grade design makes this espresso machine suitable for use in restaurants, hotels, and coffee shops.
Jump To Review

Mr. Coffee Espresso Maker RundownMr. Coffee Espresso Maker
OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆
With its automatic frothing system, this espresso machine froths and dispenses the perfect amount of milk into your cup.
Jump To Review

What Is A Semi-Automatic Espresso Maker?

The semi-automatic machine is the most popular type of espresso brewer because it provides you with complete control over the brewing process. You get to adjust its grinding performance, tamping, extraction pressure, etc.

How Does It Work?

Each semi-automatic brewer comes with a manual switch that activates or deactivates the pump which creates the needed extraction pressure. While other features of the brewer are automatic you are in complete control of when the extraction process begins and ends. You can also control the dosage, brewing volume, etc.

Who Is It Made For?

These models are made for all the experienced baristas and everyone who wants to have control over the brewing parameters and the process. However, they are not the best choice for beginners that don’t know how to program and adjust the brewing parameters. If you are a beginner, you might find fully automatic models much more enjoyable.

How Are These Machines Different From Fully Automatic Models?

The main difference is that semi-automatic models offer versatile programmable features and functions, while fully automatic ones come with pre-programmed features and functions you can adjust and switch between by pressing a button.

Why Do You Need One?

A semi-automatic model is truly an amazing choice for you if you:

  • want to have complete control over all brewing parameters
  • want to develop and perfect your brewing skills
  • enjoy the user-friendly manual equipment
  • like grinding your coffee beans freshly before you start the brewing process
  • want to control the brewing volume and time the shot

Why Do You Need A Semi Automatic Espresso Machine
However, you might want to avoid it if you:

  • don’t like the learning curve it requires
  • don’t want to spend too much time perfecting your brew
  • are not interested in standing next to a machine while it brews the coffee

Are They Made For Home Or Commercial Use?

The truth is that they work well for both. You will mostly find them in bars and professional coffee shops that serve barista-style beverages with every order. However, if you are a true espresso aficionado, you can get it for your home too and enjoy the professional results from the comfort of your home.

What To Look Out For?

Although they are amazing, you need to know that semi-automatic machines are the most complicated ones. For that reason, there are some specific things you need to look out for when choosing the best one.

E61 Brew Group

If you want to ensure that each brew you make is at an optimal temperature level, make sure that the model you buy comes with an E61 brew group head. It ensures temperature stability by keeping the hot water from the thermosyphon system constantly circulating.

E61 Group Head Espresso Machine

Commercial Portafilter

All commercial-grade machines feature a 58mm portafilter. There are two main types you can choose from:

  • pressurized portafilters – they collect the coffee in the holding area which is then pushed through a tiny hole in the portafilter’s bottom. They provide perfect espresso crema no matter the ground types you use. This makes them much more forgiving and suitable for beginners.
  • non-pressurized portafilters – They are a bit more sensitive to the grind size and therefore more suitable for professional baristas that know what kind of grind size is needed to achieve the perfect brew.
Different Portafilter Types
Home Grounds

Boiler Type

Boiler type is the factor that determines how efficiently the brewer heats up. It also determines the temperature at which the brew is made and dispensed. When it comes to the boilers, there are three different options you might come across:

  • a single boiler
  • a dual boiler
  • a heat exchange boiler

Single Boiler System
Single boilers are the most common ones. They split the temperature between the brewing and the steaming process. Their main pros are:

  • their price – they are the most affordable option
  • they take less time to heat up
  • they are much more cost-effective

Their only con is that you can’t brew espresso and steam milk at the same time.

Single Boiler
Talk Coffee

Dual Boiler System
As the name implies, dual boiler systems consist of two separate boilers, one for the brewing system and the other for the frothing system. Their main pros are:

  • you get to control the temperature of the brewing and the steaming process separately
  • they ensure consistent results with each espresso shot you pull
  • they do not require a cool flush between uses

On the other hand, their cons are:

  • their price – they are much more expensive than single and heat-exchange boilers
  • brewers with a dual boil system cost much more to repair
  • they need a bit more time to heat up and as a result, consume more power
  • the brewing water is pulled directly from a boiler instead of a water reservoir
Double Boiler
Best Espresso Machines

Heat Exchange Boilers
Heat exchange machines allow you to brew and steam at the same time just like dual boiler models do. The difference is that they borrow the heat from a steam boiler and heat the brewing water. They use a single boiler and come equipped with a copper pipe through which the cold water is pulled and heated to the perfect temperature.

Their pros are:

  • they are much cheaper than dual boiler machines
  • they cost less to repair and maintain
  • the brewing water is at its optimal freshness level

On the other hand, some of their cons are:

  • you have no control over the brewing water’s temperature
  • you can not adjust the steam pressure without affecting the brewing water’s temperature
  • there is a need for a cool flush between every shot you make
Heat Exchange Boiler
Best Espresso Machines

Ideal Extracting Pressure

The ideal extracting pressure of a semi-automatic machine is around 15 bars. It allows you to pull a barista-style espresso shot full of all the delicious flavors and rich consistency. No need to worry that you might end up with a watered espresso flavor.

Coffee Grinder

To achieve the best espresso brewing results you need to use the freshest coffee grounds possible. That is why most models come with a built-in grinder. If you do opt for one, make sure that it is a conical burr grinder and that it provides you with multiple grinding settings. That way you will be able to try out different grinding options.

Coffee Compatibility

Semi-automatic models are generally made for use with whole coffee beans (brewers with a grinder) or with pre-ground coffee. Some even work with ESE pods which contain the perfect amount of ground coffee for a single shot. Keep in mind that brewers that are ESE compatible usually require an additional adapter kit.

Frothing Performance

The great thing about an automatic frothing system is that it froths the milk for you and dispenses it straight into your cup. However, you have very little control over it. On the other hand, manual wands allow you to control how much steam is added to the milk and you can stop the process whenever you want. They are the best if you want to try out latte art.

Ease Of Use

No matter which model you buy, make sure that it is easy to use. If you prefer more automated features, choose a brewer with pre-set push-button controls. On the other hand, if you want to control everything, choose one with programmable volume, shot size, timing, etc.

control panel of an espresso machine

Water Reservoir Capacity

The water reservoir capacity lets you know how many espresso shots you can pull without having to refill it. For instance, a 67-ounce reservoir allows you to make up to 50 shots throughout the day before you need to think about refilling it.

User-Friendly Features

There are versatile user-friendly features you can look for when deciding which model you want to buy:

  • control panel – front-mounted panels are the easiest to access and therefore to use.
  • pressure gauge – it allows you to observe how the extracting pressure increases throughout the brewing process.
  • ergonomic portafilter handle – it allows you to have a firm and much more comfortable grip on the portafilter.
  • steam control knob – allows you to adjust how much steam is released while frothing the milk.
  • height-adjustable drip tray – it allows you to brew directly into small espresso cups and larger cappuccino mugs without creating any mess.
  • cup warming tray – it keeps your espresso cups hot and ready for the brew.

Maintenance Level

Whether you are buying a model for commercial or home use you want it to be easy to clean and to require the minimum maintenance possible. However, you don’t want the machine to stop working due to improper care so make sure to:

  • clean the portafilter, rinse the filter basket, rinse out the shower head and clean the upper shower screen and gasket daily.
  • soak the portafilter, filter baskets, gasket seal, and the group head upper shower screen in one container with a specialized cleaner that removes deposits weekly.

Repairing An Espresso Machine

Warranty Period

When it comes to their warranty period, semi-auto machines are usually covered for one to two years. However, you might want to consider purchasing an extended warranty as it covers versatile defects and machine malfunctions for a longer time. Also, you want to make sure that the machine you buy has proper customer support available, easy-to-access replacement parts, etc.

10 Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

Even though all models are semi-automatic brewers, each one is different and offers amazing performance. The first model comes with a powerful coffee bean grinder, the second one is more suitable for commercial use, the third one offers an automatic frothing performance, etc.

Breville Barista Espresso Machine

Breville Barista Espresso Machine

SPECIFICATION:

Dimensions: 12.5 x 12.6 x 13.1 In
Weight: 23 Pounds
Material: Stainless Steel
Wattage: 1600 Watts
Pressure: 15 Bars
Frother: Manual Wand

Since this machine comes with a powerful conical burr coffee grinder, it will provide you with the freshest brewing results possible. Its dose control dial system delivers the perfect amount of grounds straight into a portafilter. It works perfectly with any roast of bean you like.

Its PID temperature control system ensures that every espresso shot is delivered at an optimal temperature level. Since the machine uses a slow, low-pressure pre-infusion process, you can be sure that it will extract all the delicious flavors from your coffee grounds.

OUR RATINGS

Overall: ★★★★★
Pressure: ★★★★★
Quality: ★★★★★
Functionality: ★★★★★
Power: ★★★★★
Safety: ★★★★☆

PRICE RANGE

from $700 to $900
depending on eCommerce offer (Amazon, Walmart, eBay) and discounts

REASONS TO BUY:

  • It features a classic, robust stainless steel design.
  • Comes equipped with a conical burr coffee grinder.
  • Offers a powerful and efficient boiler.
  • Uses an accurate PID temperature control system.

REASONS TO AVOID:

  • Requires a bit more involvement in the process.
  • Lacks the technology of the newer models.

Nuova Simonelli Espresso Machine

Nuova Simonelli Espresso Machine

SPECIFICATION:

Dimensions: 16 x 12 x 16 In
Weight: 13.01 Pounds
Material: Stainless Steel
Wattage: 1200 Watts
Pressure: 15 Bars
Frother: Manual Wand

This machine comes in a bit bulkier size, meaning, it takes up more countertop space. However, its bottom comes with non-slip feet that ensure you can safely secure it atop the working surface without worrying it will move too much while you brew espresso.

If you are looking for a commercial model, this one is your best pick. It features a powerful copper boiler and a professional-sized group head that, when combined, delivers great results with every pull. Its frothing wand goes all the way down to the drip tray to ensure that you can fully submerge it into a milk jug.

OUR RATINGS

Overall: ★★★★☆
Pressure: ★★★★★
Quality: ★★★★☆
Functionality: ★★★★☆
Power: ★★★★☆
Safety: ★★★★☆

PRICE RANGE

from $1400 to $1600
depending on eCommerce offer (Amazon, Walmart, eBay) and discounts

REASONS TO BUY:

  • Compatible for use with an attached water line.
  • Allows you to adjust its steaming performance.

REASONS TO AVOID:

  • It does not come with a coffee bean grinder.
  • Offers very limited programmability.

Mr. Coffee Espresso Maker

Mr. Coffee Espresso Maker

SPECIFICATION:

Dimensions: 11.22 x 8.86 x 12.6 In
Weight: 10.37 Pounds
Material: Stainless Steel
Wattage: 1040 Watts
Pressure: 15 Bars
Frother: Automatic

As opposed to the previously reviewed models, this German machine comes with an automatic frothing system. It steams the milk and dispenses froth directly into your cup. Although it is automatic, you can control the amount of steam that is used by turning the small rotating knob above the milk container.

The amazing thing about this model is that it comes with a self-cleaning program. It ensures that each brew you make tastes as fresh as possible. Apart from the internal cleaning system, all parts of the machine are removable and you can easily clean them under tap water.

OUR RATINGS

Overall: ★★★★☆
Pressure: ★★★★★
Quality: ★★★★☆
Functionality: ★★★★☆
Power: ★★★★☆
Safety: ★★★★☆

PRICE RANGE

from $190 to $210
depending on eCommerce offer (Amazon, Walmart, eBay) and discounts

REASONS TO BUY:

  • It needs only about 3 minutes to heat up.
  • Comes with a convenient self-cleaning cycle.

REASONS TO AVOID:

  • Its water reservoir is somewhat smaller.

Gevi Espresso Machine

Gevi Espresso Machine

SPECIFICATION:

Dimensions: 10.83 x 15.08 x 13.7 In
Weight: 8.47 Pounds
Material: Plastic
Wattage: 1100 Watts
Pressure: 15 Bars
Frother: Manual Wand

Since this machine under $200 provides dual temperature control, you can accurately adjust the brewing temperature as well as frothing temperature. Its visual thermometer will help you make the desired adjustments to ensure that every cup you make meets your needs and liking.

The heated metallic plate atop the machine works as a heating plate for your cups. By heating espresso cups before the brewing process you never have to worry that the quality of your brew might be affected by the contact of cold parts.

OUR RATINGS

Overall: ★★★★☆
Pressure: ★★★★★
Quality: ★★★★☆
Functionality: ★★★★☆
Power: ★★★★☆
Safety: ★★★★☆

PRICE RANGE

from $140 to $210
depending on eCommerce offer (Amazon, Walmart, eBay) and discounts

REASONS TO BUY:

  • With its quick 25-second heat-up, this brewer provides highly efficient performance.
  • Its double volume boiler ensures that the brewing water is at its optimal temperature.

REASONS TO AVOID:

  • Since its power cord is a bit short it needs to be close next to a power source.

Calphalon Temp iQ Espresso Machine

Calphalon Temp iQ Espresso Machine

SPECIFICATION:

Dimensions: 13.9 x 11.6 x 15.3 In
Weight: 15.42 Pounds
Material: Plastic
Wattage: 1350 Watts
Pressure: 15 Bars
Frother: Manual Wand

This is another personal machine that comes equipped with a conical burr coffee bean grinder. It provides you with 30 different adjustable settings to ensure you can try out different coarseness settings and find your perfect one. For optimal results, always use freshly roasted beans.

Another thing worth knowing is that it comes with a slightly enlarged portafilter. Thanks to this feature the coffee grounds will be able to get evenly wet during the pre-infusion process. As a result, your brew is much more flavorful and has a rich consistency.

OUR RATINGS

Overall: ★★★★☆
Pressure: ★★★★★
Quality: ★★★★☆
Functionality: ★★★★☆
Power: ★★★★★
Safety: ★★★★☆

PRICE RANGE

from $470 to $700
depending on eCommerce offer (Amazon, Walmart, eBay) and discounts

REASONS TO BUY:

  • It provides a rather quick heat-up time.
  • You get to calibrate the shot volume as you like.

REASONS TO AVOID:

  • Its group head tabs can easily get damaged since they are constructed out of plastic material.

Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine

Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine

SPECIFICATION:

Dimensions: 9.5 x 8 x 14.2 In
Weight: 20 Pounds
Material: Stainless Steel, ABS
Wattage: 1425 Watts
Pressure: 15 Bars
Frother: Manual Wand

This espresso machine features a durable brushed stainless steel housing that ensures its top quality. It is also equipped with a three-way solenoid valve, 58mm chrome-plated brass portability and brew group, and a rotating steam wand. All features combined, it works perfectly for use in professional and home environments.

Its controls feature a simple rocker switch design. They are very easy to use and allow you to switch from the brewing to the steaming process in a second. A small rotating control knob on the side of the machine allows you to control the amount of pressure that is released during the steaming process.

OUR RATINGS

Overall: ★★★★☆
Pressure: ★★★★★
Quality: ★★★★★
Functionality: ★★★★☆
Power: ★★★★☆
Safety: ★★★★☆

PRICE RANGE

from $450 to $800
depending on eCommerce offer (Amazon, eBay) and discounts

REASONS TO BUY:

  • It offers a commercial quality design.
  • Features simple rocker switch controls.

REASONS TO AVOID:

  • Customers have reported production-related issues.

De’Longhi La Specialista Espresso Machine

De'Longhi La Specialista Espresso Machine

SPECIFICATION:

Dimensions: 14.48 x 15 x 17.5 In
Weight: 29.7 Pounds
Material: Stainless Steel
Wattage: 1450 Watts
Pressure: 19 Bars
Frother: Manual Wand

Out of all listed models, this brewer provides the highest 19 bars extraction pressure. As a result, you get to enjoy all the flavors from the beans that would otherwise remain trapped inside the grounds. Its control panel features a simple pressure gauge that allows you to check the pressure as it rises through the brewing process.

Apart from brewing espresso and espresso/milk-based beverages, you can also make americano, tea, or even hot chocolate using this machine. This is due to its additional hot water spout that can dispense hot water on demand whenever you want.

OUR RATINGS

Overall: ★★★★☆
Pressure: ★★★★★
Quality: ★★★★☆
Functionality: ★★★★★
Power: ★★★★☆
Safety: ★★★★☆

PRICE RANGE

from $820 to $1200
depending on eCommerce offer (Amazon, Walmart, eBay) and discounts

REASONS TO BUY:

  • It uses a smart sensor grinding technology.
  • Its dual heating system ensures optimal brewing and frothing temperature.
  • Comes with an additional spout for hot water dispensing.

REASONS TO AVOID:

  • Its water sensor might display some quality control issues.

Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine

Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine

SPECIFICATION:

Dimensions: 9.2 x 11.4 x 13.3 In
Weight: 30.8 Pounds
Material: Stainless Steel
Wattage: 993 Watts
Pressure: 15 Bars
Frother: Manual Wand

With its commercial quality group head, this Italian brewer ensures amazing heat stability and extraction quality with every single use. Its portafilter comes with an ergonomically designed handle to ensure that you can have a much more comfortable grip on it.

Apart from ground coffee, you can use this machine with coffee pods and capsules too. However, to do so, you will need an additional adaptor kit. One does not come included in the package, you will need to purchase it separately.

OUR RATINGS

Overall: ★★★★☆
Pressure: ★★★★★
Quality: ★★★★☆
Functionality: ★★★★☆
Power: ★★★★☆
Safety: ★★★★☆

PRICE RANGE

from $830 to $1310
depending on eCommerce offer (Amazon, Walmart, eBay) and discounts

REASONS TO BUY:

  • It provides you with complete control over its performance.
  • Comes equipped with three separate thermostats.

REASONS TO AVOID:

  • You might need some time to master its performance.
  • If you want to brew espresso using ESE pods you will an additional adapter kit.

Gaggia Carezza Espresso Machine

Gaggia Carezza Espresso Machine

SPECIFICATION:

Dimensions: 11 x 8.3 x 11.8 In
Weight: 13.2 Pounds
Material: Stainless Steel, ABS
Wattage: 1300 Watts
Pressure: 9 Bars
Frother: Manual Wand

When compared to the rest of the listed models, this retro brewer provides the lowest extracting pressure of only 9 bars. While this is still considered an efficient pressure for espresso extraction, it is a more suitable choice for home use.

The amazing thing about this model is that it comes with a pre-programmed shut-off program. It automatically turns off the machine about 9 minutes of inactivity so you don’t have to worry whether you turned the machine off or not. This makes it a much more energy-efficient and eco-friendly choice.

OUR RATINGS

Overall: ★★★★☆
Pressure: ★★★★☆
Quality: ★★★★☆
Functionality: ★★★★☆
Power: ★★★★☆
Safety: ★★★★★

PRICE RANGE

from $330 to $600
depending on eCommerce offer (Amazon, Walmart, eBay) and discounts

REASONS TO BUY:

  • It features a compact and lightweight design.
  • Its pressurized portafilter ensures even extraction performance.

REASONS TO AVOID:

  • The machine is not as durable as you would want it to be.

Michelangelo Espresso Machine

Michelangelo Espresso Machine

SPECIFICATION:

Dimensions: 15.47 x 14.13 x 7.8 In
Weight: 7.28 Pounds
Material: Stainless Steel
Wattage: 1450 Watts
Pressure: 15 Bars
Frother: Manual Wand

This machine comes in a compact size and offers a narrow design thanks to which it takes up the minimal amount of space possible. It fits perfectly into the smallest kitchens. Even though it is somewhat smaller, its water reservoir can still hold up to 34 ounces of fresh water.

Its 2in1 filter holder comes equipped with 2 different dual-wall filter baskets that allow you to choose whether you want to make a single or a double espresso shot at once. With its double-cup splitter, you can brew into two separate espresso cups at the same time.

OUR RATINGS

Overall: ★★★★☆
Pressure: ★★★★★
Quality: ★★★★☆
Functionality: ★★★★☆
Power: ★★★★☆
Safety: ★★★★☆

PRICE RANGE

from $160 to $240
depending on eCommerce offer (Amazon, Walmart, eBay) and discounts

REASONS TO BUY:

  • It provides you with options of brewing both a single and a double shot.
  • You are in control over the amount of steam that gets released during the frothing cycle.

REASONS TO AVOID:

  • You might have some trouble achieving the desired results with its frothing wand.

How To Use A Semi-Automatic Brewer?

Even though they are the most complicated type, semi-automatic machines are still easy to use:

  1. First things first, make sure that your brewer fits securely atop your countertop surface.
  2. Check that the water reservoir is full and ready for use.
  3. Make sure that the brewer is warmed up within the proper temperature range.
  4. Check the extraction pressure gauge and that it moves within the expected pressure range.
  5. Purge the group head before you pull an espresso shot.
  6. Dose coffee beans depending on the size of the portafilter you are using.
  7. Grind coffee beans to the perfect consistency.
  8. Tamp the grounds using a manual tamper or a tamping station and lock the portafilter in its place.
  9. Start the extraction process and stop it once you are satisfied with the amount of dispensed espresso.

If you want to make a latte or a cappuccino use the steamer to froth the milk to the perfect consistency. Most models allow you to control the amount of steam so you can get both silky milk foam and a thick froth.
Frothing Milk

A Few Tips For Achieving The Best Results

Here are some additional tips that might help you improve your brewing skills:

  • always use freshly roasted coffee beans. Stale beans don’t have the same flavor and your brew will end up tasting like a watered version of espresso.
  • it is very important that you master the perfect grind size. That way you will be able to make a perfect shot topped with a rich espresso crema with every single use. For espresso, you need to grind your beans into a fine powder to extract the optimal amount of flavor.
  • If you have a single boiler brewer let the machine to pre-heat for at least 10 minutes, longer for dual boiler machines. If you do have the option of PID temperature control, set it around 200°F.
  • You might need some time to get the hang of how much coffee you need to add to the portafilter per shot to get a full-flavored brew so try out different amounts.
  • If possible, use a somewhat heavier tamper to press the grounds inside the portafilter to achieve the best results.

Check out this video made by experts to get more tips:

To Wrap It Up

To sum everything up, we recommend buying Breville Barista Espresso Machine. It comes equipped with a powerful grinder, dose control dial, a smart tamping station, and a precise PID temperature control system. Its multiple controls and adjustable features make it an optimal choice both for commercial and home use. As all semi-automatic machines provide you with complete control, you can count on great results with each and every one.

Patricia
Patricia has a Bachelor’s in Economics and experience in the restaurant. She finished her education in 2015. and joined a cooking team as a restaurant manager. Her work with chefs helped her to become a successful freelance writer. She writes about kitchen appliances by chefs’ recommendations but in accordance with the interests of ordinary people. Except for appliances, she writes about receipts she has collected through her work before she joined the Kithentoast team in 2020.