semi-automatic coffee machines
Moving on now to semi-automatic machines. There’s quite a range available from entry-level appliances starting under two hundred dollars up to refind handcrafted machines built for decades of service.
Now, semi-automatic machines, they do require some skill to operate. If you’re a beginner, there are entry-level machines that are good for learning the ropes. But understand that semi-auto espresso is a game of controlling variables, including parameters like grind size, coffee dose, and brewing temperature. Fine control of those variables tends to be more difficult, and results are maybe a little less consistent when using lower-cost entry-level machines.
Now, most entry-level espresso appliances are using undersize pressurized portafilters. These are much smaller and lighter than the 58-millimeter commercial portafilters found on more expensive machines and pressurized water filters are really kind of a cheat that tends to produce lower quality espresso.
On the upside, they are more forgiving of grind size so you can start your espresso journey without purchasing a grinder and use pre-ground coffee or e pods, Low-cost entry-level espresso appliances are going to use thermo block boilers with the same boiler heating water for brewing and for steaming.
That’s going to mean awaiting for 30 seconds to a minute or so for the machine to get up to temperature when you want to steam milk. And while they will do okay steaming with their auto frothing wands, there is a huge difference in power between these entry-level appliances and more expensive machines with larger volume boilers.
And if you’re interested in taking your skill to the level of pouring latte art, be aware that entry-level machines or any machine with an auto frothing wand is not really capable of troughing to the quality required for that.
If you are at all serious about getting into quality espresso, I’d suggest bypassing those entry-level espresso appliances with plastic construction thermal block boilers and
lightweight pressurized basket brewing and go straight to an entry-level single boiler machine like the Gaggia Classic.
Unlike cheaper entry-level espresso appliances, the Gaggia Classic is a true machine. It comes with a commercial size and weight port, a filter in both pressurized and a regular on pressurized filter basket.
It’s a machine that can grow with you. You can start without a grinder using the pressurized baskets with pre-ground or E.M.S. pods and then move up to grinding fresh when you’re ready using the standard nonpressurized filter basket. The classic has been around for many years and is a past. Consumers Digest Best Buy. It’s built to last and it’s hands down the best value in a single boiler machine.