What Type of Home Espresso Machine? Super Automatic vs Pod vs Semi Automatic

The first decision to make when buying an espresso machine for your home or office is whether to go for a super automatic, a pod machine or semi automatic.

A super automatic will grind the coffee, extract the espresso and even froth the milk with the simple touch of a button. Popular brands include Saeco, Breville, Miele and De Longhi.

Semi automatic machine are used by baristas in coffee shops. When using a semi automatic, the “barista” must grind the coffee using a separate coffee grinder. Once the beans have been ground they prepare the filter with freshly ground coffee, extract the espresso using a semi automatic espresso machine and finally texture the milk with the espresso machine.

Obviously the super automatic is much easier to use at home, usually also cleaner and will use less kitchen bench space. But there’s a reason why buyers prefer semi automatic machines, with the proper training the coffee is superior to a brew prepared by a super automatic coffee machine.

In layman terms, choose super automatic for convenience, speed and less mess. Choose Semi Automatic if the quality of the coffee is your most important requirement.

Pod machines are becoming more popular due to the number of machines on the market and George Clooney’s marketing ability. In reality though, the coffee they produce is below the standard which a super automatic machine could make. This is mainly due to coffee becoming stale soon after it’s ground.

If you’re looking to buy a simple coffee making solution, we recommend a super automatic whole bean machine rather than a pod device.

espresso machine reviews

How Important is a Coffee Grinder?

If I had to choose between a great coffee grinder or having an espresso machine, I would choose the coffee grinder! With a coffee grinder you can still enjoy freshly brewed plunger coffee. But an espresso machine with no grinder, you’re forced to use pre-ground coffee which is usually stale soon after purchase. There’s also a lack of crema and the flavour is flat and dull.

Ground coffee is stale within days. You can’t make great espresso at home – or anywhere for that matter – without a very high quality burr coffee grinder.

One of the best purchases you can make for your coffee enjoyment is a quality burr coffee grinder, have a look at our Coffee Grinder Buying Guide to learn more.

Volumetric or Manual?

A volumetric espresso machine will deliver an exact amount of water through the ground coffee. With the press of a button, your machine will start brewing and then stop automatically when enough espresso has been brewed. To make an espresso on a manual machine the owner must start the brewing process and stop it when enough espresso has been brewed.

Espresso coffee extraction with bottomless filter

Single Boiler, Heat Exchanger or Twin Boiler?

Espresso machines have two main functions:

  1. To create Espresso
  2. To steam milk.

‘Heat exchanger’ and ‘twin boiler’ machines can extract espresso and steam milk simultaneously. On the other hand a single boiler machine can only do one or the other and then must be switched to the other function, which takes 1-2 minutes to be ready. If your espresso machine is only required for one or two coffees at a time, or only dark coffees a single boiler machine will be prefect. However, to make several white coffees in quickly, a heat exchanger or twin boiler machine is recommended.

Both a heat exchanger and twin boiler machine are capable of making an espresso and steam milk simultaneously. There isn’t a lot of difference between heat exchanger versus twin boiler devices.

Some prefer heat exchanges because the water used for brewing does not make direct contact with the boiler element and resides in the boiler for a limited time. But other buyers prefer the twin boiler configuration because the espressos temperature can be more precisely controlled.

If you’re still unsure which to machine to buy, visit the local store and make yourself a brew.

Espresso Coffee Machine Summary Table

 ProductSuitable forPrice
breville_bes920xl_dual_boiler_espresso_machine_reviewBreville BES920XLWhen combined with fresh beans and a quality grinder this machine makes a brilliant Espresso.$$$$
Best Espresso Machine under $500 breville_bes840xl_reviewBreville BES840XLBrews a quick espresso with its instant hot water design. One of the smaller semi-automatic machines (10"). $$$
DeLonghi EC155 15 BAR ReviewDe'Longhi EC155Affordably priced. Small footprint so doesn't use much counter-top space. Makes a great espresso compared to other machines in its price range.$$
nespresso_pixie_espresso_maker_with_aeroccino_plus_milk_frotherNespresso Pixie EspressoVery easy to use. Just load a Pod and hit the 'brew' button. Optional milk frother for capaccino lovers$$

Our comparison guide of popular home espresso machines includes all the leading models. We always add to the guide as new machines are released so please check back soon. We review coffee makers from Bezzera, Rancilio, Vibiemme, Expobar, Breville and DeLonghi. There is also an easy to read table of espresso machine details, buyers review comments, recommended prices and more.

We will also be posting a guide to help you make the right decision when choosing which espresso machine is right for you.

How to Make Cappuccino with your Home Espresso Machine

Which Machine?

The answer will depend on your preferences and intended usage, kitchen bench space available and budget. Read our espresso machine reviews to get a few suggestions about what to expect in each price bracket.

Best Espresso Machine under 300 – De’Longhi EC680

De'Longhi EC680
De’Longhi EC680

The new Dedica Espresso Maker provides the perfect espresso, latte, or cappuccino at home, all while only taking up 6 Inch of your kitchen counter-top. It also features thermo block technology which allows the machine to heat up quickly and be ready within 35 seconds. It has sturdy stainless steel construction and buttons for automatic flow stop. The new Cappuccino Frother provides Barista quality foam for your favorite milk based espresso drinks.

Read more about Espresso Machines under $300 and our leading selection the De’Longhi Dedica EC680

Best Espresso Machine under 500 – Breville BES840XL

Best Espresso Machine under $500 breville_bes840xl_review
Breville BES840XL

Okay, there are higher priced models, and they might have some additional features. But you need to ask yourself…do you really need all the bells and whistles in your coffee machine? Once you drop past the $500 price bracket, you’re going to find it difficult to buy a machine that does a better job making espresso.

Find more info about Espresso Machines under $500 and our preferred selection the Breville BES840XL Infuser:

Breville’s Infuser Espresso Machine is the leading device under $500 and comes equipped with an host of features that any serious espresso lover will enjoy.

Buyers across popular online retailers have rated the Breville as one of the Best Home Espresso Machines, making it a consumer top-pick.

Best Espresso Machine under 1000 – Rancilio Silvia

Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine

If you’re serious about making your own cafe quality coffee this is the best price range to find a quality espresso machine. This is the price bracket which I paid for my espresso machine, because I wanted the ability to make the prefect espresso. I want the best shot of espresso possible, every time.

Click here to read more about Espresso Machines under $1000.