Coffeeness and automatic espresso machines go together just like Arne and good coffee. So it was high time to update this ultimate guide on how to find the best espresso machine. It’ll give you all the latest information about the models that have been featured on my little blog over the last few years.
And I mean all the information.
It’s gonna be long and it’s gonna be thorough. Here you’ll find all of the espresso machines that won the tests in all the different categories, along with information about how they’re built and how they work. You’ll also learn how to clean your machine, as well as some extra tips only a seasoned barista can teach you. That’s the kind of information you’ll not find in any user’s manual.
Table of Contents
- Top Picks Best Cheap Cappuccino Machine The Mid-Range ChampThe Rolls Royce
- The Best Super Automatic Espresso Machines Machines under $300Machines under $500Machines Under $700Insider Tip: Gaggia Anima PrestigeMachines Under $1,200Machines for Over $1,200
- Test Winners by Category Best Small MachineBest Quiet MachineBest Easiest to CleanBest DesignBest Machine with a Manual Milk SystemBest Machine with an Automatic Milk Foam SystemBest Machine FunctionsBest Machine for Office UseBest Machine from Melitta
- 5 Quick Questions
- What Is a Super Automatic Espresso Machine? What Are the Advantages?What Are the Disadvantages?Differences Differences Coffee Machine
- What Drinks Can an Automatic Espresso Machine (Really) Make?
- What Parts of an Automatic Espresso Machine Are Especially Important? The Grinder Thermoblock or Boiler?The Brewing UnitCappuccinatores and Milk-Frothing SystemsThe PumpControls, Displays and Touchscreens“Must-Have” FeaturesDouble” FeaturesWater Filter: Yes or No?
- How to calibrate Set the Water HardnessAdjusting the Grinder CoarsenessAdjusting the Amount of Ground CoffeeAdjusting the Amount of WaterAdjusting the TemperatureAdjusting the Cleaning Program“Adjusting” the Beans: Which Coffee Beans are Best for Automatic Espresso Machines?“Adjusting” the Milk: What Kind of Milk is Best for Automatic Espresso Machines?
- The Most Important Manufacturers of Super Automatic Espresso Machines DeLonghiKrupsMieleWMFMelittaBoschSiemensJuraPhilips / SaecoNivona
- Special Features Two Bean CompartmentsApp-Based ControlsWhat Does Stiftung Warentest Say How Does Coffeeness Test and Review The Espresso Beans Are Important The Milk Is ImportantThe Most Important Test QuestionsShipping and Packaging
- Cleaning an Automatic Espresso Machine Why So Fussy?Cleaning the Brewing UnitCleaning the Bean ContainersCleaning the Coffee Grounds Tray Cleaning the Water TankCleaning the GrinderWhat Cleaner Should I Use?
- Decalcifying an Automatic Espresso Machine Does Using a Water Filter Mean I Can Decalcify Less Often?
- Greasing and Lubricating an Automatic Espresso Machine
- Automatic Espresso Machine FAQ – You Asked, Coffeeness Answers
First, let’s cover the basics so we’re all on the same page: I’ll be using the term “cappuccino maker” interchangeably with “super automatic espresso machine” because it’s way shorter to type and essentially describes the same thing: a machine that makes espresso-style coffee beverages, usually with some kind of foamed milk or milk substitute (soy, almond, oat, etc). Also, in some cases I’ll only use the term “espresso machine” when referring to super automatics because this article focuses on these types of machines.
With that out of the way, let’s dive right into the best machines on the market today:
The Best Espresso Machines – The Usual Suspects Go At It Again
No matter how many machines I test or what innovations the manufacturers include in their new machines, three particular machines always seem to overshadow the competition in three price classes. These “Eternal Three” are:
Best Cheap Espresso Machine with a Great Balance Between Price and Performance: DeLonghi ECAM 22.110
Basically nothing in the entry-level class can outperform the DeLonghi. Sure, you’ll have to make a few compromises in terms of features and performance, but for such a laughably low price, you really can’t ask for more. You can learn more about the DeLonghi ECAM 22.110 here in my review.
Melitta Caffeo CI: The Mid-Range Champ
If you move from the DeLonghi to this Melitta machine, you’ll have to pay more than twice as much, but it sets a benchmark that lets you know what automatic espresso machines can actually do. It’s quiet, small and quick, plus it has two bean compartments and makes great foamed milk – what more could you want? OK, maybe a few more settings would be useful, but that’s about it.
This review will give you a good overview of the Melitta Caffeo CI (review currently only available in German).
Only available in the UK: amazon.co.uk
Siemens EQ 9 Connect: The Rolls Royce of Super Automatic Espresso Machines
So far, no challengers have been able to knock the Siemens EQ9 from its champion podium. No other machine is quieter or has better features, and no other machines has had such conclusive test results. At least not for me.
Being able to control this machine through an app is just the cherry on the top. Even though you’ll need to budget well over a grand to buy it, it’s still worth it. Learn more about the Rolls Royce of automatic espresso machines here in my review of the Siemens EQ9 Connect (review currently only available in German).
Only available in the USA: amazon.com
Speaking of price classes, we’ve made a video for you that lays out the different price ranges, as well as what you can expect to get for your money. It can be your first guide on your journey to buying a cappuccino maker for your home.
The Best Super Automatic Espresso Machines – Recommendations from Coffeeness
As you’ll often see throughout this review, there’s no single, ultimate automatic espresso machine whose splendor will bring tears of joy to everyone’s eyes.
Small, sturdy and easy to clean
That’s just what happens when so many different machines and options go up against so many different user needs.
Therefore, I’d instead like to give you an overview of the most fundamentally compelling models that I’ve come across in recent years. I’ve sorted the machines in roughly ascending order based on price (and functionality):
- DeLonghi ECAM 22.110.B Review (The winner of best price-performance balance among inexpensive automatic machines)
- Melitta Caffeo Solo Review (It’s a bit tiny, but still good and classy)
- Siemens EQ 3 Review (Of course Siemens can also compete in the entry-level category – review currently only available in German)
- Melitta Caffeo CI Review (Winner of mid-range category – review currently only available in German)
- Gaggia Anima Prestige (Great mid-range benchmark machine in terms of price and performance)
- Saeco Moltio Review (Currently only available used, but still great – review currently only available in German)
- Bosch Veroaroma 700 Review (Good and quiet, though a bit old-fashioned – review currently only available in German)
- Saeco PicoBaristo Review (Extremely classy for its price)
- Siemens EQ 6 Review (Modern and quite convincing -review currently only available in German)
- Delonghi Caffe Corso ESAM 2800 Review (Good price-performance balance)
- Melitta Caffeo Varianza Review (Niche machine with an exciting espresso feature – review currently only available in German)
- Miele CM 5500 Review (Super classy plus Miele’s dependability – review currently only available in German)
- Siemens EQ 9 Connect Review (Winner of the top-range category – review currently only available in German)
- Jura E8 Review (Even though I don’t like Jura, this machine can really cook – review currently only available in German)
- Saeco GranBaristo Avanti Review (Pretty close to the Siemens – review currently only available in German)
- Saeco Xelsis Review (New at the 2017 IFA consumer goods show; looked splendid – review currently only available in German)
- Melitta Caffeo Barista Review (Buzz-worthy contender that has the goods – review currently only available in German)
- Miele CM 6350 Review (Smaller than its big brother, but still great)
I had more than a few small issues with the following machines, but I’ll still include them in the interest of thoroughness and to help you make an informed decision:
- KRUPS EA8108 Review (Average build quality and drinks)
- DeLonghi ESAM 3000 Review (A bit weak – in every sense – review currently only available in German)
- DeLonghi ESAM 3300 Review (This machine had functional flaws – review currently only available in German)
- DeLonghi ESAM 3500 Review (Definitely not for fans of milk foam – review currently only available in German)
- Jura Impressa c60 Review (An expensive flop through and through – review currently only available in German)
That’s not every machine that we’ve put to the test at Coffeeness—not by a long shot. The other machines were all capable enough, but were neither especially good or especially bad. They were just fine, you could say. Those machines include:
- DeLonghi ESAM 5500 Review
- Philips HD8829 Review
- DeLonghi ECAM 23.420 Review
- Philips HD 8834 Review
- Miele CM 7500 Review
- Philips HD 8834 Review
- Melitta Caffeo Varianza Review
- Melitta Caffeo Barista Review
Every reviewed machine that I’ve listed here will come up for further examination somewhere along the line later on in this guide. As I’ve mentioned, looking closely at both the good and the bad ones can be useful in helping you make a decision.
If you want detailed reviews with all the bells and whistles, you should check out the full reviews for the machines you’re interested in.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines by Price Classes – What Makes the Price Difference?
For those of you who always look at the price tag first, let’s have a closer look at prices. We’ll see which machines and which manufacturers are setting the price expectations, which models will give you the most bang for your buck, and what you should expect to get from each price category.
Espresso Machines Under $350
The fact is, if you’re not willing to pay at least $250 or so, you’ll not find a super automatic espresso machine that’s worthy of the name. But you can find something pretty good for under $350. You may also occasionally come across a sale on Amazon or another retailer that’s selling a No-Name model for about $200.
Run away! A cappuccino maker is a deceptively simple-looking machine that’s actually quite complicated, and which should meet certain standards for materials and functions. And you’ll just not get that for so cheap.
However, when you go just above $300, you’ll start getting somewhere – and you’re likely to trip over any number of DeLonghi machines at that price. The Italians at DeLonghi have really made a name for themselves in the entry-level category by offering reasonable performance at an even more reasonable price. You can check the price for the DeLonghi ECAM here amazon.co.uk or here amazon.com.
Still, at this price you need to take a really close look at the test results and reviews. With DeLonghi, there’s a thin line between a top machine and a flop machine, and the model line name will only help you so much—you really need to do a bit of homework here.
The two main DeLonghi series are the ESAM and ECAM lines. Both lines have several machines and model numbers, which are often only distinguishable through small differences. Nevertheless, my tests have shown that the ECAM series is always the better choice, at least in the lower price class.
The DeLonghi ECAM 22.110.B is proof that you can get a highly functional machine that makes good espresso for around $350. The DeLonghi ESAM 3000.B, on the other hand, sells for about the same price but didn’t perform as well.
The ESAM 3200 did even worse in my tests. That machine actually functioned well, but that fact was overshadowed by its many flaws.
You can easily see the advantages of these inexpensive DeLonghi machines:
- Excellent balance of price and performance
- Very simple to use
- Major settings don’t need major adjustments
- More than enough options
- Easy to clean
Still, the manufacturer did have to make some cuts somewhere so that it could actually make a profit. Unfortunately, you can also see the results of these cuts just as easily:
- Lots and lots of plastic
- Questionable design aesthetics
- The grinders easily get overwhelmed when using fine settings
- No display or other option for more precise setting controls
- “Only” have a foaming wand; no milk foam system
I go into more specific details about these points in the advice section of the guide.
The test of the KRUPS EA8108 showed that manufactures can really get carried away with using plastic and allowing for “imprecise performance,” which results in only mediocre coffee. When that’s the result, it’s probably not even worth it to buy an automatic espresso machine.
However, there still is a clear contender, and its name is Melitta. The Melitta Caffeo Solo review was generally a treat, both for the eyes and for the palate.
There’s a big “but,” though: the entry-level model of the ultra-chic Caffeo Solo completely does away with a milk foam system. That may not bother coffee purity fundamentalists, but let’s be honest: the typical owner of an automatic espresso machine will probably want foamed milk. I’m sure of it.
One machine that I’ve not yet tested, but which is well known among “my people,” is the Philips 3000 Series HD8827/01. According to reports, it does have some idiosyncrasies, it keeps things very basic and it’s generally a pretty weak contender. What’s more, it’s rather noisy.
And yes, even if you don’t think it’s a problem now, the noise will likely eventually start to bug you! We’ll find out later exactly why.
As a rule of thumb, though, we can say that in terms of functionality, the cheaper models actually are barely behind their more expensive competitors. At least if we’re talking about getting “coffee at the touch of a button.” After all, the ability to do that actually has barely anything to do with price.
But when it comes to appearance, the quality of the different materials, the range of features, and the number of baubles on the machines, the cheaper ones will always have to admit defeat. Those are aspects you can’t fake, and that’s something that you can’t really change. I’ll have more to say about all that in the guide (currently only available in German) to the best espresso machine under $350.
I also go into more details in this video (in German):
Espresso Machines under $500
By adding just 100 dollars or so to your budget, you’ll notice right away that the machines already look a lot better in terms of physical appearance. Sure, there are still lots of plastic parts, but at this price range, the manufacturers make more of an effort to hide that fact.
However, that price difference won’t necessarily get you huge upgrades in terms of technology. Usually some other factor—whatever it may be—is the deciding factor for many buyers.
That’s why you should have a look at the DeLonghi ECAM 23.420 review if you’re a fan of machines with displays. Or, if you want a cappuccinatore milk foaming system, check out the Philips HD8829.
The DeLonghi ESAM 2900 is more proof that even in this price class, the Italians are almost unbeatable in terms of performance for price, even though here there’s actually a wider selection of manufacturers and brands to choose from.
Siemens also occasionally throws its hat into the ring in this category. Our Siemens EQ 3 review clearly shows that the EQ series can only really compete in this price category with a bare-bones machine that’s only fitted with the most basic options.
You can get a more thorough overview in the guide (currently only available in German) of the best cappuccino makers under $600. [
In the end, I’m still not sure if jumping from a $350 machine to a $500 model is actually enough. I almost think that the price differences aren’t always justifiable. In other words, I’d say you should either pick up a cheap machine for around $350, or if you want something better, go right ahead and double that price to improve your possibilities.
Best Espresso Machine Under $700
This is where things start to get really interesting. There’s more variety in terms of functionality, build quality, materials and performance. Of course, there’s also still plenty of plastic to go around, but you’ll start to see more and more stainless steel as your budget increases.
Stainless steel not only looks classy, it also makes these machines more sturdy. Additionally, you’ll find more gimmicks on these models, which is good news if you’re a fan of playing around with different settings. It’s also good news for fans of milk foam.
We’ve had it in our office for over a year and are very happy with it!
Almost all cappuccino makers around $700 will have an integrated, automatic milk system. Almost! Interestingly enough, the best machine in this price class costs just under $700 and “only” comes with a cappuccinatore milk foaming system, but at least it comes with a milk container.
Nevertheless, the Melitta Caffeo CI really won me over, and it sets absolute standards for the mid-range class. It’s pretty compact, very quiet, really quick, and even has two bean chambers so that you can separately store and grind two kinds of beans (if you want regular and decaffeinated beans, for example).
Other automatic machines in this category can also hold their own, though. For example, some have water filters, special energy-saving programs or even touchscreens. Sure, at the end of the day it’s all about the coffee, but the easier the machine makes it for you to get that coffee, the better.
There have also been some significant innovations in this price class over the last year. The DeLonghi ESAM 5500 is getting a bit long in the tooth, relatively speaking, but the machine itself remains a best buy.
The Philips HD 8834 review (currently only available in German) also was released a while back, but the machine still feels young and spry.
On the other end of the scale there are some real duds, though. Here it’s also becoming clear that DeLonghi is quickly losing steam in the race against other competitors to control this price class. The DeLonghi ESAM 3500 review showed that quite clearly.
Some of you are probably wondering why I’ve not yet mentioned the brand Saeco a single time. Along with Melitta and the others, Saeco clearly belongs among the top dogs of the mid-range and upper-class machines.
There’s a simple reason I’ve not mentioned it: I want to present the Gaggia Anima Prestige in more exact detail because it’s a reference model that has continually delighted me ever since the very first time we tested it at Coffeeness.
Insider Tip: Gaggia Anima Prestige
While testing the Gaggia Anima Prestige, it became very clear to me that it embodies almost all the things that I value in an automatic cappuccino maker. Above all, that includes:
- Lots and lots of stainless steel
- Very compact
- Very quiet due to its ceramic disc grinder
- Great coffee at an excellent price
- No frills
- Very acceptable milk foam
The reason that the Gaggia Anima Prestige didn’t make it to the test winners’ podium alongside the Melitta Caffeo CI was mainly due to the fact that the Melitta machine did a bit better in our year-long office test, and the Melitta is just a tad more suited for frequent, long-term use by several coffee drinkers.
But when it comes home use, the Gaggia Anima Prestige is a true insider tip. I can very comfortably recommend it to anyone looking for a great combination of appearance, taste and “whisper-quiet” operation.
You can find the Melitta Caffeo CI here on amazon.co.uk
Super Automatic Espresso Machines Under $1,200
The next giant leap in terms of functionality comes when we look at cappuccino machines that cost up to around $1,200. You’ll probably have to pay at least $1,000 if you want extremely high build quality and a ton of settings.
And this is also where we come to one of the favorite espresso machine debate topics among the members of our Facebook group:
Siemens or Jura?
This debate can get a bit rough, so I’d rather not get too mixed up in it, at least not in this guide. But I will say one thing:
The Swiss folks at Jura have massively disappointed me in the past – just check out my review of the Jura Impressa c60 and you’ll see what I mean. Plus, a built-in, non-removable brewing unit is simply a no-no. What’s more, Jura loves to talk as if it invented the automatic espresso machine, but then they don’t actually deliver the goods.
My test and review of the Jura E8 definitely put things in perspective. That machine was really well thought out, although it’s still just one model. And the brewing unit is still almost always built-in.
The EQ series from Siemens, on the other hand, once again gave us great results, real innovations and simply excellent machines. The EQ series really gets exciting around $900 or so, and the Siemens EQ 6 is practically a blueprint for success in this price class.
Excellent, quiet machine for super espresso
At this point I must once again mention the Melitta Caffeo CI – in particular, look at the higher-quality model for around $1,100. The difference in quality as compared to the cheaper models is actually negligible, but that doesn’t do anything to change my opinion of this machine.
I also tested out two models that I would absolutely recommend, although they may seem like complete opposites:
- Bosch Veroaroma 700 Review
- Miele CM5500 Review
The Bosch machine is surprising mainly because of its manufacturer, which very rarely shows up in this category. And it’s also nearly identical to the EQ 6, even though it’s just a tad more complicated and its appearance gives off a bit of an old-school vibe.
The Miele CM5500 was a brand-new feature at the 2017 IFA consumer goods show, and it immediately grabbed our attention due to its design. The minimalist look works well in basically any kitchen, although it also means dealing with other reductions here and there. It certainly has everything you need, but it’s just not as luxurious as you might expect from a machine in this price category – just look at the milk system.
Of course, we can’t forget to mention Melitta here as well, with its small BaristA model, nor can we exclude Saeco, with its equally small BaristO model. The Melitta Caffeo Barista test was just as successful as the Saeco PicoBaristo test. Both machines are better than you’d expect for such a relatively inexpensive price.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines for Over $1,200
Early in my career as a product tester, one thing became abundantly clear to me:
Once you’ve leaped over the $1,200 hurdle, there aren’t any more technical innovations that you’ll get in return. Sure, everything is made better and simply looks a lot nicer. And sure, you’ll probably get one or twelve more settings and options to play around with.
Rated very good on Coffeeness - German quality
I’ll admit that it certainly would have been noteworthy if the machines in this price class hadn’t done a good job. And I’ve definitely awarded lots of stars to many models in this category.
However, the only machine that got the absolute maximum number of points was one of the “cheapest” machines that I tested in this price range. I didn’t have any qualms about the Miele CM 6350 costing just over $1,200 because even though it’s been around for a while, it’s still worth every penny. You can take a closer look at the Miele CM 6350 here on amazon.com.
Nevertheless, I found my test winner when I reviewed the Siemens EQ 9 Connect. It really hurts to pay over $2,000 for it, but if this machine doesn’t make the best coffee you’ve ever had, you’re probably doing something wrong.
The same generally goes for two other top-of-the-line machines:
Both of these automatic espresso machines are perennial favorites at Coffeeness. They make great coffee and great milk foam, and they also look great.
Many of you could hardly wait for the review of the Saeco Xelsis after you saw it at the 2017 IFA. This machine actually took a step backwards in terms of digitalization. It doesn’t have an app, but it does have very intuitive and precise touchscreen controls on the two more expensive models.
The Xelsis absolutely won me over, especially because there have also been some significant discounts on the machine in the meantime. The price was also my biggest critique since I thought it was simply overpriced when it came out.
But now here’s the bad news: Generally, you can otherwise forget about big discounts and rebates in this category. The manufacturers know why you’re buying these machines. They’re not for Everyday Joes – they’re for people who see an automatic espresso machine as a status symbol.
This is the machine I’d like in my own kitchen
Here’s the real deal: A lot of the machines that cost more than $1,200 are just bluffing. They offer smoke-and-mirrors features that have very little to do with what real coffee lovers value. After all, an automatic espresso machine is a kind of compromise in and of itself.
For that same price, you could instead buy around 40 kilos of the best coffee money can buy, or you could also get a really good traditional espresso machine and a grinder, without making any compromises or sacrificing quality. But latte machines are convenient and easy, so you need to consider what matters most to you.
To finish up this little discussion about prices, I must add that all of the Amazon prices mentioned here were current as of publishing but they can certainly change.
Also, some of the machines that I tested may eventually no longer be available, they may become available only as used models, or they may not currently be available in some areas. That can happen to any of the machines in this guide. So please don’t get up in arms with me if Model A or Model B suddenly isn’t available anymore.
I do however regularly check to see if these machines are still available and I must say the tried-and-true machines are surprisingly steadfast. The oldies but goodies are almost always available because the machines in this category are high-quality, making them “future proof” in some ways.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines – Test Winners by Category
Speaking of quality: Now that we’ve seen the winners in the different price ranges, I’d like to present a few automatic espresso machine ratings and winners in different categories based on features and functions.
You can decide which features are most important to you. We’ll also learn a lot about the different factors that you should consider when buying an automatic espresso machine.
But you should rule out one machine right away: The perfect machine that does everything perfectly. Because it doesn’t exist.
I know you’d probably like a clear answer about what machine you should buy, but it all depends on price, design preferences, your preferred milk system, and any number of other factors.
I also continually update this list, so it can certainly change in the future. That’s why it’s a good idea to add this page to your favorites and come back now and then to see what’s new.
One more tip: Check out our guide (currently only available in German) for super automatic espresso machines that are perfect for home use!
Best Small Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Just because you have a small kitchen doesn’t mean you can’t have an automatic espresso machine. One Coffeeness team member even fit an espresso machine on a super-tiny surface in her super-tiny kitchen. Sure, doing so meant that she had to do without a real stove, but that’s the kind of sacrifices Coffee People need to make. We need to keep our priorities straight.
The smallest machines are generally in the lowest price categories. The milk foam system also plays an important role because it takes up more space, whether it’s an integrated system or a cappuccinatore. You can find the Gaggia Anima Prestige here on Amazon.
The simplest machines come with a steam wand for frothing milk, but many of you understandably don’t like to use those. They’re more work and are also messier.
That’s why if you get a machine with a milk system of some sort, the milk container should always be removable and integrated into the front of the machine.
Generally, machines that let you do everything in the front and on the top are the best choices for small kitchens.
The Gaggia Anima Prestige cappuccino maker is a true winner here. Practically no other model offers so much high-quality functionality in such a small space. The Philips HD 8834 is a bit cheaper, though it doesn’t quite deliver as good of results.
The Melitta Caffeo Solo is even smaller, but you’ll have to do without any milk kind of system if you get that one. And of course we can’t forget our test winner in the compact class, the DeLonghi ECAM 22.110.
Small and well designed. An automatic espresso machine with something for the whole family.
The consensus from the Saeco GranBaristo Avanti test was a bit contradictory. After all, who’s going to spend over $1,600 on a machine, only to then put it in an ultra tiny kitchen? Still, that doesn’t change the fact that this machine is really compact (and good).
For more information about these compact machines, check out my guide to automatic espresso machines for singles (currently only available in German). After all, single-person households are more likely to have a small kitchen, right?
The Best Quiet Super Automatic Espresso Machine
There’s nothing quite as soothing as being jarred awake by your coffeemaker banging around in the kitchen, right? Yeah, not so much, and especially not if you haven’t had your first cup of coffee yet.
Noise may not be the most decisive factor in buying a cappuccino maker, but the more you use your machine, the more any excessive noise will eventually get on your nerves.
The grinder is responsible for a big part of the noise these machines make. Ceramic disc grinders are quieter than steel ones. That makes sense because metal on metal can be quite noisy. The build quality of the grinder also makes a difference, and it matters how loud the pump rumbles and in general how the mechanical parts work together.
I’ve had two test winners in this category. The Siemens EQ 6 700 is surprisingly quiet, and is bested only by the Siemens EQ 9.
As a counter-example, I’ve tested several machines that sound like jet engines starting up. The Jura Impressa c60 and the DeLonghi ESAM 3000.B are two that stood out in a negative way.
With these machines, you can say goodbye to peaceful, lazy mornings in your apartment, and tough luck for anyone who feels like sleeping. But it’s not a huge loss, as these machines aren’t particularly impressive anyhow.
All other models are somewhere in the middle of the decibel scale. You’ll definitely hear them doing their thing, but they won’t wake up the whole house.
The Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine – Easiest to Clean
I must continually bring up this unfortunate topic because you absolutely must thoroughly clean your automatic espresso machine. And yes, you have to do it more than once a year.
Coffee grounds can get nasty quicker than you can say “peep.” And let’s not even talk about milk, which can happily grow shady-looking bacteria within a single day.
That’s why it’s generally better, hygienically speaking, to have a milk system made up of only a few parts. Steaming wands are even bent towards the front so that you can easily “flush” them out after every use, clearing them of milk residue.
Any complicated machine should have as many removable parts as possible, and they should be simple to remove and machine washable. That’s not always the case, however.
Another issue is when wet coffee grounds get stuck in areas such as the catch tray, the water tank and, worst of all, the brewing unit. This also comes into play in the battle between Jura and Siemens.
Jura defenders say that their machines have excellent self-cleaning programs, so it’s not necessary to take them apart. My ruling: That’s only true up to a certain point.
Ground coffee really manages to work its way into every part – including the places that the cleaning jets don’t reach. Therefore, simply taking out the brewing unit and washing it out under running water is easily the better and more convenient solution.
Generally, though, automatic espresso machines are all easily cleanable these days. I’ll give bonus points here to Miele in particular because their individual parts are clearly labeled as to whether they can go in the dishwasher, and it seems like almost the whole machine can. You can see what that looks like in the review of the Miele CM6350. You can also find an overview of all Miele super automatic espresso machines here on amazon.com.
On the whole, manufacturers have been putting more thought into cleaning when they design their new machines. The Saeco Xelsis series, for example, has so-called HygieSteam technology. It automatically cleans the milk foam wand immediately after each use.
That’s basically the modern version of “flushing” out a steam wand, and it’s a great idea. The only dumb thing is that it starts cleaning right away, even while the drink is still sitting under the spout. HygieSteam takes it a step further by having its own mount and a separate program to clean the hose.
Rated very good on Coffeeness - German quality
The only thing you have to do to use it is to put the hose in position and press the button. That’s pretty snazzy. Any step that effectively makes a machine more automatic increases the likelihood that you’ll be happy with your machine and continue to make good drinks with it for a long time.
Here’s a good place for another quick tip: Before leaving for vacation, ALWAYS run any cleaning programs that your machine might offer. Otherwise, you’ll come home to find that your cappuccino machine has turned into a kind of terrarium, and that’s hardly an exaggeration.
To recap: The general winner of the cleaning category is Miele, whether it’s the aforementioned CM 5500 or another machine such as the Miele CM 7500, for example.
The Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine - Design
It’s great fun to get into lengthy arguments about appearance, but it’s hard to dispute that ugly plastic boxes simply look worse in your kitchen than machines with a shiny, high-quality stainless steel housing. The manufacturers have been paying attention and have taken advantage of our desire for pretty things. In other words, nice design will also cost you more.
There’s no doubt that the current winner in this category is the Miele CM 5500. Its minimalist appearance and fashionable colors, along with its high performance, all let it easily get the job done.
If we’re looking for simplicity, the Melitta Caffeo Solo also naturally gets points, even though buying it means you’ll have to do without a milk system. The Siemens EQ 3 solves that problem, however.
And yes, Jura does make some real slick machines, and the Jura E8 also performs well.
When considering style, you might take issue with my high opinion of the Gaggia Anima Prestige because it’s not very streamlined. But seeing as this machine fits a whole lot of stainless steel into a compact area, and at a good price, to boot, this model remains on top for now.
The Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine with a Manual Milk System
There are actually people out there who buy a cappuccino machine just to have the steam wand. Usually they’re people who actually want an espresso machine, but who get scared off when they see the cost and realize how much work an espresso machine can be.
Although a cappuccino maker with a steam wand can’t come close to replicating what you’d get from a machine with a portafilter, with a bit of practice and a good milk pitcher, you can learn to make some really excellent milk foam.
You don’t actually have to do that much yourself, but you can still easily make a trendy drink like a chai latte or a matcha latte.
You should therefore not automatically rule out a manual milk system, even if you don’t think you’ll use it. You might find yourself making hot chocolate for your kids or a dirty chai for yourself – after all, the same machine will give you espresso at the push of a button.
You’ll see that steam wands are a common feature on entry-level machines, even if they’re a bit of a contradiction – you might want an automatic machine because you’re a bit lazy, but then the machine still makes you work to get your drink. In any case, nothing outcompetes the DeLonghi ECAM 22.110.
That machine gives you more than enough steam and also makes a tasty espresso, and does it at a low price. You can find it here on amazon.com
By the way: The Siemens EQ 3 managed to partially automate the steam wand. You only need to put the wand inside the container, then the machine does the rest. It’s really cool!
The Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine with an Automatic Milk Foam System
By the time you get to the middle of the price range, most machines will have some kind of automatic milk foaming system. Depending on the machine, some integrate the container and milk system into the machine, while others use a hose (with a cappuccinatore) that attaches to a separate milk container.
We’ve had it in our office for over a year and are very happy with it!
Both of these systems have advantages. A fully-integrated system makes many things simpler and does some things better than systems with a hose. Hose systems are usually much easier to clean, though, and are generally less hassle. On the other hand, a fully-integrated system takes up less space.
Those trade-offs are also why it’s so hard to determine a clear winner in this category. The Melitta Caffeo CI always leads the pack even though its container sits next to the machine. But its foamed milk is simply excellent – and at a good price. You can find the CI here on amazon.co.uk.
The foam from the Jura E8 is in the same league, and it also uses an external milk system. But it has to compete against the very noteworthy Melitta Caffeo Barista.
The Saeco PicoBaristo is a good standard bearer among the machines with an integrated system, even though the milk foaming system was unnecessarily loud for some inexplicable reason.
The Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine Based on Range of Functions
This category focuses on the bells and whistles and all the possible features that you can get with an automatic machine. That includes gimmicks like dual bean chambers, for example, but also more useful features such as the number of programmable drinks or user profiles.
Here the Saeco Xelsis and the Melitta Caffeo Barista are quite ahead of the competition. Thanks to its great app and its many possible settings, the Siemens EQ 9 Connect is another winner.
I also have to mention and praise the Philips HD 8834, which really delivers despite its price category and compact size. Still, for every additional doodad that you want your machine to have, you’ll have to reach a bit deeper into your wallet.
I believe that the Saeco Xelsis is currently the most modern and sensible option. It doesn’t have an app but it does have a bunch of easy-to-use touchscreen menus.
The Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine for Office Use
I think that the office is both a natural habitat for automatic espresso machines as well as an absolute justification for their existence. There you can fully take advantage of the features of a good model by storing different user profiles, doing many things (or everything) automatically, and even quickly switching between different drinks without batting an eye.
But there’s one big problem with the office espresso machine: usually nobody feels responsible for cleaning it. What’s more, it has to work relatively quickly since everyone wants a cappuccino once break time rolls around.
This is the machine I’d like in my own kitchen
You’ve probably already guessed that cappuccino machines in the cheaper price class aren’t ideal for offices – at least if you’re talking about more than three employees. You’ll have to pay at least $700 if you want to meet the needs of most offices.
We’ve been using the Melitta Caffeo CI in our own office for a whole year now, although we don’t have too many employees. The Siemens EQ 9 is also a good choice for an office because it’s made to work for many users, plus in general it’s very clean and classy. You can find the EQ 9 here on amazon.com.
Once the number of employees gets into the double digits, I’d recommend getting a larger, catering-style machine – perhaps one from WMF or Nivona. They make more sense if you’re going to make a whole lot of coffee.
You can find more information in our guide (currently only available in German) to automatic espresso machines for the workplace.
The Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine – Balance Between Price and Performance
You’ve already heard their names several times, but I still need to mention once again the three winners in the entry-level, mid-level and upper-level tests. They’re still the best options:
- DeLonghi ECAM 22.110. Review
- Melitta Caffeo CI Review (currently only available in German)
- Siemens EQ 9 Connect Review (currently only available in German)
A Quick Note: The competitors often just have one or two small quirks that hold them back from winning. And perhaps my own personal opinion influences my choices. But that’s just how it is with these machines. Objective criteria can only take you so far, and the rest is based on personal preference.
You can find these three test winners here on amazon.com:
You can find these three test winners here on amazon.co.uk:
The Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine from Melitta
I want to single out Melitta yet again because this German manufacturer can sometimes fly under many buyers’ radars, but they make a wide range of machines with interesting features and they continually deliver excellent results.
We’ve had it in our office for over a year and are very happy with it!
Melitta’s developers have apparently thought a lot about target groups and are trying to fill certain product niches. That may not always translate into great sales numbers, but these models deserve a special look.
The models that I’ve examined carefully are:
- Melitta Caffeo Solo Review (around 300 Euro)
- Melitta Caffeo Varianza (around 600 Euro) (Review currently only available in German)
- Melitta Caffeo CI (around 900 Euros) (Review currently only available in German)
- Melitta Caffeo Barista (around 1000 Euros) (Review currently only available in German)
There’s no doubt that the Caffeo CI is the best of the four. It’s also the one that I named the winner of the mid-range test in terms of performance and price, and so far no other machine has knocked it from its top spot. It simply sets the standards.
The Caffeo Solo is unique among automatic espresso machines because it doesn’t have a milk system. That may scare off some buyers, but the concept itself isn’t actually so dumb.
If you drink your coffee black and are very fastidious about coffee bean selection and taste, then this model does everything right. It really does a great job using the brewing process to get the best results possible from the raw materials.
And if you really do start to miss foamed milk, we at Coffeeness have reviewed many milk frothers. There are many good ones that are small and relatively inexpensive, and which would complement your Caffeo Solo perfectly.
The Caffeo Varianza goes its own way in terms of grinding. The “My Bean Select” model grinds and brews single servings of beans completely separately for each espresso.
That’s great because it lets you use two kinds of beans one right after one another – like if you want to sample a new brand or if you’d like more or less robusta in your blend. It’s a cool feature for the tinkerers or experimenters among us, as well as for thrifty folks who absolutely can’t stand wasting coffee.
The top-of-the-line Caffeo Barista also gives you this bean selection option, though its higher degree of digitalization also gives you more functionality and more optional settings. I also have to mention the excellent milk foam it makes – it really knocked me out.
Many drink possibilities and choices
I’m not entirely sure why many customers tend to treat Melitta so shabbily sometimes. Maybe it’s because the brand is known more for its coffeemakers and filters. But in terms of functionality, Melitta manages to skillfully sneak ahead of some of its more beloved competitors.
5 Quick Questions (Plus One Question to Rule Them All): Do I Even Need an Automatic Espresso Machine?
Some people will probably roll their eyes here: OF COURSE I need an automatic espresso machine. I wouldn’t even be here otherwise!
Still, as I’ve done this job over the years, I’ve talked to many buyers, friends and acquaintances who purchased these machines. Again and again, I hear them tell me that everything started out wonderfully but after just a little while, they started to ignore their machines.
There are many possible reasons for this. Maybe nobody cleans the thing and eventually it starts making gross sludge. Or maybe they thought they’d try out a different coffee drink every day but eventually got stuck in an americano rut.
Or maybe the machine has a few faults – it’s too noisy, it keeps giving you weird error messages, the drip tray is too small, etc. – that eventually bug you so much that you switch back to your French press or other trusted coffee device.
With starting prices around $350, these automatic espresso machines are definitely an investment. And I believe that you really need to consider whether it’s worth investing that money.
Because even if you just buy cheapo supermarket beans (but please don’t), the cost of the coffee and machine upkeep will still eat into your budget.
A cappuccino maker also comes with recurring costs – especially if you’re serious about bean quality. Therefore I only recommend that you get one if you can answer the following questions with an unqualified “Yes”:
- Are there many coffee drinkers who will use the machine besides just myself, and do they like different kinds of coffee drinks?
- Am I willing to learn how to use the different features?
- Am I willing to be disciplined when it comes to cleaning the machine?
- Am I willing to learn about coffee beans and roasts?
- Am I willing to actually pay more for good coffee beans?
- Do I actually want an automatic espresso machine? (Or do I just have a feeling that a traditional espresso machine and a grinder are simply too expensive?)
That last point is especially telling. Many people expect a cappuccino maker to give them the exact same experience as the café around the corner. But that’s just not correct, and many a buyer has been left feeling disappointed.
An automatic espresso machine is not a traditional espresso machine, no matter what the manufacturers tell you. That’s because the way they work is different – and we’ll take a closer look at that topic now.
I’ve put together 10 tips you should keep in mind, along with the questions above, when buying a super automatic espresso machine. I’ll also include other important ideas you should understand.
What Is a Super Automatic Espresso Machine?
Super automatic espresso machines, or cappuccino makers, only earn their name if they can automatically do some of the tasks that you’d need to do manually with a traditional espresso machine with a portafilter. Good automatic espresso machines can do the following things by themselves:
- Grind coffee (a traditional machine needs a separate grinder)
- Pack the coffee into a puck (a traditional machine needs a tamper)
- Correctly position the puck (you need some experience to do this with a portafilter)
- Foam milk (you need a LOT of experience to do this with a portafilter machine)
- Correctly make different espresso drinks (you need barista skills to do this)
- “Dispose” of the puck (you also have to do this yourself with a portafilter)
- Clean the machine (that can take forever with a portafilter)
The funny part about all this automation is that you can only get involved up to a certain point. And automation also implies making sacrifices. We’ll take a closer look at these sacrifices later on.
What Are the Advantages of an Automatic Machine?
Everyone who loves their machine will surely recognize these advantages right away:
- It saves time – and is a less stressful way to make coffee.
- Using the machine is child’s play – anybody can press a button.
- It can make almost everyone’s favorite drink.
- It usually takes up less space than a traditional machine and a grinder.
- It always freshly grinds the coffee (one of the Coffeeness Commands).
- It makes a good imitation of espresso (true espresso needs pressure).
- The price per cup is indeed higher than with a traditional espresso machine or pour-over filters, but is still significantly cheaper than with a K-cup machine.*
- It cleans itself, mostly automatically.
*I don’t want to get into a long rant against K-cup machines here because doing so always raises my blood pressure. You know the deal: People who drink K-cup coffee have let their lives spin out of control. But the fact is that many people who buy automatic espresso machines had previously owned a K-cup machine, but found themselves wanting better functionality and less waste, all at a better price. Congratulations: when you get to that point, you’ve passed the first test!
What Are the Disadvantages of a Super Automatic Espresso Machine?
Even though we actively use automatic espresso machines at Coffeeness – and not just for testing – we still realize that these machines don’t always do justice to coffee and its subtleties. Plus, when you look more closely, they can actually involve quite a bit of work:
- You have to clean them regularly – REGULARLY!
- It may seem like they have a lot of settings, but they’re more limited than you may think. The coffee quality can also suffer as a result.
- Many models are very loud when grinding beans.
- If you use traditional whole-bean coffee, you’ll get results that are a thousand times better if you simply use a pour-over filter or a French press.
- You can only get true espresso from an espresso machine with a portafilter. Period.
- Many models can only make one drink at a time; only more expensive models can make two simultaneously.
- If anything breaks on the machine, get out your wallet.
- If the machine gets dirtier than it should be, it can be hazardous to your health.
A good automatic espresso machine can make up for many of these disadvantages – and we’re always on the lookout for those models.
Differences Between an Automatic Espresso Machine and a Traditional One
I don’t want to go into a lot of detail here about what an espresso machine is. You can learn more about that in our reviews and our guide to espresso machines.
For our purposes, we’ll only concern ourselves with one main difference between a traditional machine and an automatic one: the entire brewing process.
A traditional machine with a portafilter heats the water to approximately 195 degrees Fahrenheit (90 Celsius) then uses 9 bar of pressure to push it through an extremely compacted coffee puck. The coffee must be ground especially fine so that it can withstand the pressure.
This pressure builds up directly in the portafilter, which is mounted directly above the coffee cup. This special brewing process makes a typical espresso, the most noticeable characteristic of which is its crema, which is the thin layer of creamy foam and bubbles on top. The crema is basically just a visible sign that you’ve correctly made your espresso.
Automatic espresso machines imitate this process, but not every detail of it. They always grind the beans a bit coarser, and they shoot water through the pressed puck while it’s inside the machine. It does use pressure, but it’s not enough and it’s in the wrong place.
After brewing, the finished coffee has to move through a hose from the brewing unit to the spout, where it flows into your coffee cup. These details are the reason that what comes out of your automatic espresso machine isn’t actually a true espresso.
Because it’s difficult to explain all of that to their customers, the manufacturers came up with a trick: Right before the coffee comes out of the spout, the machine “whips” it with a whisk or a bit of air. That gives the coffee a kind of artificial crema, but it’s not the real thing.
True espresso crema is a separate layer that comes from extraction and which “grows” from the bottom up during the brewing process. A fake crema is basically just whipped coffee.
That may sound nitpicky to many people, but this difference is extremely important. The “espresso” from an automatic espresso machine is a different kind of drink altogether, and it’s only distantly related to true espresso. They’re cousins, let’s say, but not siblings.
You might only notice the difference if you look really closely, but that’s likely also the case with your favorite people: Once you’ve noticed their flaws, it’s impossible to ignore them.
Additionally, and I must emphasize this point, a traditional espresso machine is an expression of coffee as an indulgence and a ritual. You have to intensively engage with each step of the process and slowly build up your barista skills. With every refinement you make, you come one step closer to the perfect cup of coffee.
An automatic espresso machine is a consumer product. Period. Here the important thing is the destination, not the road you take to reach it. You can adjust lots of things, but the machine is still doing the actual work without you. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s an important point.
Differences Between a Super Automatic Espresso Machine and an Automatic Coffee Machine
The little word “super” clearly separates these automatic espresso machines from another category of coffee machines: automatic coffeemakers. Here we’re talking about coffeemakers with built-in grinders.
These machines are evolved versions of the traditional drip coffeemaker because they freshly grind the beans. But otherwise there’s no difference between them and a regular coffeemaker. These machines don’t use any pressure and don’t make any milk foam. They just make good old drip coffee, which tastes a lot better than a mix of water and pre-ground supermarket coffee.
By the way, I’ve made a very unambiguous video about this very topic: “Supermarket Coffee? No, thanks!” (Currently, only available in German)
The advantage of a coffeemaker with a grinder, as opposed to an automatic espresso machine, is clear: it can make a whole bunch of coffee at once. It’s a good argument if you’re planning on having friends over for coffee or if you just want to drink a lot of it. And you can also buy a milk frother to go with it.
I’ve made another video to help you decide what kind of machine is right for you:
What Should I Get? Automatic Espresso Machine, Portafilter or Coffeemaker – Avoid Buyer’s Regret!
What Drinks Can an Automatic Espresso Machine (Really) Make?
Let’s come back to our “fake” espresso. The manufacturers will make all kinds of claims, but the claims don’t always match what actually comes out of the machine.
I’ve sorted through different coffee drinks and preparation methods and made the chart below for you. Here you can see what the drinks are and what you need to watch out for.
Reminder: When I’m talking here about espresso, I’m talking about “espresso” from super automatic espresso machines.
|Espresso Drinks||What Is It?||Can You Make It with an Automatic Espresso Machine?|
|Ristretto||An espresso extracted using little water. Especially strong.||Yes|
|Espresso||A simple espresso (with different pre-set amounts – most are usually above the actual maximum of 30 ml).||Yes|
|Espresso Macchiato||A single or double espresso with dabs of milk foam.||Yes|
|Doppio||A double espresso.||Yes|
|Lungo||An espresso extracted using extra (!) water. Especially mild.||Yes|
|Americano||Espresso (usually 2 or 3 shots) with hot water added after (!) brewing. The automatic espresso machine’s version of “normal” coffee.||Yes|
Espresso Drinks with Milk
|Espresso Drinks with Milk||What Is It?||Can You Make It with an Automatic Espresso Machine?|
|Cappuccino||Espresso and freshly-foamed milk. The espresso and milk foam are touching directly.||Yes, but most automatic espresso machines don’t make good cappuccinos. Making one is more nuanced than you might think.|
|Caffè Latte||Espresso with hot milk and milk foam on top.||Yes|
|Latte Macchiato||Hot milk and hot milk foam, with espresso on top.||Yes, but many automatic machines can’t make proper layers or correctly balance all the components|
|Flat White||Like a cappuccino, but with less volume in the foam.||Only theoretically. The flat white is an especially elegant drink, and most machines are too rough.|
Drinks with Coffee
|Drinks with Coffee||What Is It?||Can You Make It with an Automatic Espresso Machine?|
|Coffee||Filtered coffee made with a pour-over filter (or coffeemaker), with a French press or with a stovetop espresso maker.||No – at least not based on my definition of “coffee.”|
|Red Eye||Single espresso mixed with drip coffee.||Using coffee from the machine|
|Black Eye||Double espresso mixed with drip coffee.||Using coffee from the machine|
|White Coffee||Coffee with milk; some also call it a caffe latte (see above).||Using coffee from the machine|
|Caffè Misto||Drip coffee mixed with foamed milk.||Using coffee from the machine|
Drinks without Coffee
|Drinks without Coffee||What Is It?||Can You Make It with an Automatic Espresso Machine?|
|Hot Milk||Hot milk, with or without foam.||Yes|
|Hot Water||Hot water.||Yes|
|Chai Latte, etc.||Powdered drink mixes with hot milk (with or without foam).||Kinda. Only makes sense if you have a model with a steam wand.|
I’ve also put together a few guides about some drinks you can make with an automatic espresso machine. The guides touch on some important points (and drawbacks) you should know about the preparation methods:
- Latte Macchiato with an Automatic Espresso Machine
- Can an Automatic Espresso Machine Make “Normal” Coffee?
If you enjoy these guides, I’d be happy to write more of them with advice and tips about other coffee drinks. Let me know in the comments below!
What Parts of an Automatic Espresso Machine Are Especially Important?
It makes sense that when buying a highly-automated device like an automatic espresso machine, it’s just as important to keep the technical components in mind as it is to consider the features, the price and the different drinks it can make.
All the stuff that’s “under the hood” can play a big role in determining the longevity and value of the machine, not to mention the quality of the drinks. I’d therefore like to get a bit technical while I present to you the “heart” and “motor” of an automatic espresso machine.
The Grinder (Built-in Coffee Grinder)
I’ve already emphasized many times elsewhere that the grinder is the first and perhaps most important step on the path to perfect coffee. There’s a reason that coffee lovers are willing to pay almost as much for a grinder as they’d pay for an espresso machine with a portafilter.
If you get an automatic espresso machine, you’ll have to take what you get, but the grinder and how it works is still very important:
- It should grind the coffee beans uniformly so that they can be extracted evenly.
- It also plays a big role in determining how loud the machine is.
- It’s usually the first thing to break – because it’s used the most. It should therefore be extremely high quality.
The grinders in automatic espresso machines are distinct for two main differences: the materials they’re made of and the shape of the grinding tool.
You can choose between ceramic and stainless steel, and between a conical or flat disc grinding tool.
Ceramic grinders are supposedly quieter. That’s not always the case, but it is proven impressively true on the whisper-quiet Gaggia Anima Prestige and the Siemens EQ 6 700, for example. And it’s definitely true that they don’t rust.
In terms of durability, ceramics also supposedly have a very long expected lifespan, but I’m a bit skeptical about that. I think steel is innately better here. But in any case it’s still most important to know how well made the grinder is, if the materials are good quality, and other similar considerations.
Steel is usually used in the lower price classes – which also means that manufacturers tend to strongly promote any inexpensive machine that has a ceramic grinder.
I’d say that it’s more important whether a grinder has a flat disc grinder or a conical one – regardless of what material they’re made of.
Disc grinders are very common and consist of two discs that sit on top of each other; the inside has a concave shape, and the outer edges of the discs come close to one another.
The smaller the distance between the two discs, the finer they grind your coffee. The larger the discs, the less time it takes them to grind – and that helps improve your coffee’s flavor.
Disc grinders are built into many automatic espresso machines these days so it’s almost impossible to give one example that stands out at first glance. You really need to look at how adjustable the discs are. The finer you can adjust them, the better.
A good cappuccino maker with a grinder should be able to move the discs so close together that you almost (almost!) get a true espresso-quality grind. The Gaggia Anima Prestige stands out once again here, though other competitors such as the Jura E8 are also setting benchmarks.
A conical grinder, on the other hand, is made up of two pieces that clasp onto one another – one is positive and the other negative. It also takes up less space. Conical grinders are therefore more common in small or compact machines. That’s why you’ll find them working very well in the Melitta Caffeo CI and the Melitta Caffeo Barista, for example.
I’m therefore very careful to not give a general endorsement to one material or shape over another. The stainless steel conical grinder in the DeLonghi ECAM 22.110.B, for example, works just as well as the ceramic disc grinder in the Saeco Xelsis SM 7580/00 – even though the rest of the machine might work differently, of course!
That’s why I think some general grinder care tips are more decisive than worrying about what kind of grinder your specific automatic espresso machine has. Remember to:
- Adjust it correctly.
- Clean it regularly and thoroughly.
- Go ahead and take it apart for cleaning. It’s not hard at all.
- Regular care can prevent many problems.
- Be careful with the beans; be sure there are never any little stones or other debris that can wreck the grinder.
Thermoblock or Boiler?
The hot water for your coffee needs to come from somewhere, and automatic espresso machines are increasingly using a so-called thermoblock to heat it. It heats water to approximately 200 degrees Fahrenheit (94 Celsius) for the brewing unit, and makes the steam to froth milk.
Thermoblocks are increasingly replacing traditional boilers because they’re simply more logical:
- They quickly heat up the water
- They’re suitable for long-term use
- They’re resistant against calcification
- They can be pretty exact in terms of water temperature
For those reasons alone, thermoblocks are generally the better choice for automatic espresso machines, even if they’re significantly more complicated and therefore more expensive to repair.
The Brewing Unit
Now we come to a seemingly never-ending discussion: Should brewing units be removable or not? We’re also going to get mixed up in the battle between fans of Jura and fans of Siemens.
Jura (as well as Krups) is a defender of built-in brewing units that aren’t removable. Their argument is that the machines are so good at self-cleaning that nobody should have to get into their machine to fiddle around with its heart.
I have my own thoughts about that:
Even an extremely precise machine can’t completely prevent coffee from working its way into the inner workings of the brewing unit. Plus, an automatic cleaning cycle is never as thorough as a manual cleaning done with running water.
What’s more, many of us aren’t necessarily role models when it comes to cleaning. The displays on our poor, overworked machines might be calling out for a cleaning for weeks before we actually get around to doing it. That’s not an accusation, but rather a fact.
Still, a non-removable brewing unit does have one advantage: You won’t break anything while you’re trying to take it out or put it back in. Too many cappuccino makers have shuffled off this mortal coil because their users tried to remove the brewing unit when it was in the wrong position.
Always Remember: Only try to remove or put back the brewing unit when it’s in the right position and when the machine is turned off. That’s the only way to be sure nothing gets jammed.
Now, back to talking about the machine’s heart. That’s really what the brewing unit is because without it, an automatic espresso machine would just be an expensive electric water kettle attached to a coffee grinder. So what exactly does the brewing unit do?
- The freshly-ground coffee falls into the brewing chamber, where it’s pressed into a puck.
- Hot water is pushed under pressure through the coffee puck. The coffee is extracted and flows through a system of tubes, then drips into your cup.
- The brewing unit then releases the puck and drops it into the catch tray.
There are several mechanical processes at work here, so the better the materials are, the longer the machine will last. The main component of the brewing unit is indeed (durable) plastic, but the more stainless steel you can get into the mix, the better. You have to be especially careful for any hinges or other moving parts.
Cappuccinatores and Milk-Frothing Systems
All integrated milk-frothing systems are essentially nothing more than cleverly built-in cappuccinatores. They basically include some kind of a hose that sucks up milk, and then uses steam to froth it.
The price of the machine is usually influenced by whether the milk comes directly out of the milk carton or jug, or from a special container made for the machine. Still, our tests continually show that simple cappuccinatore systems win out for several reasons:
- They’re significantly easier to clean and more hygienic
- They let you easily switch between different kinds of milk
- They often mean that the machine doesn’t need as much space, and they’re more flexible
The Jura E8 review or the Miele CM 5500 review can give you a few nice examples of this. Nevertheless, there are very few machines that have been able to perfect automatic milk frothing.
The manufacturers are paying close attention here because they know that the first question a potential buyer asks about these machines usually has to do with the milk frothing system.
I’ve got one more comment about the other end of the “Frother Scale,” which is where you’ll find machines that let you manually make foam with a steam wand. These wands are almost exclusively found on inexpensive automatic espresso machines. Check out the review of the DeLonghi ECAM 22.110.B for an example.
Why is that? Well, a SUPER automatic espresso machine should do everything by itself, even the milk foam. But if you pay less, you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and get involved. Still, that’s not actually bad. As I mentioned above, I’m personally a big fan of the manual method.
If you do things manually, you can control everything and improve your latte art skills. You can also easily clean the wand with the push of a button. But a cappuccinatore just imitates that.
When it comes to an automatic espresso machine’s pump and how much pressure it can exert, I’m reminded of the specs for digital cameras. The manufactures like to bombard you with enormous numbers that actually don’t mean anything. That’s why we should look at this topic again.
Camera advertisers talk about how their cameras have 20 megapixels or more, but you don’t actually need that many megapixels unless you’re planning on projecting your pictures onto the side of a house. Cappuccino makers advertise that they have up to 15 bars of pressure, which sounds more impressive than it actually is.
Any halfway experienced coffee drinker should know that you need around 9 bars of pressure to make the perfect espresso. But you don’t need a single bit more! That also means that its completely unnecessary to have the 12.15 bars or 19 bars of pressure that some machines exert.
What’s more, high pump pressure doesn’t mean anything if the solidly-packed, finely-ground coffee can’t build up enough resistance to that pressure. And, unfortunately, that’s not possible with most automatic espresso machines. But if we’re talking about espresso makers that have handles you turn to attach onto the machine, then that’s a different story.
That’s why it’s completely irrelevant that the Siemens EQ 6, for example, can exert 15 bars of pressure, and that the more expensive 700 model can even get up to 19. It has nothing to do with the quality of the coffee it can make.
What have we learned here? The pump is indeed important, but the grinder and the brewing unit are even more important.
Controls, Displays and Touchscreens
Now let’s move from the inside of these machines to the outside. Regardless of how many features and possible drink options your machine might have, each setting still needs to be intuitive and easy to use.
The more you pay for your coffee machine, the fancier the controls will be. And you’ll also get more digitalization. You can get a good sense of the current state of affairs by reading my review of the Saeco Xelsis.
Some model series now include a huge touchscreen, which you can use to perform any function your heart desires – it’s basically a “coffee equalizer.” But not everyone feels like wading through a bunch of menus to get their coffee, especially if they’ve not had their daily coffee fix yet!
That’s why I personally think that simple buttons, without any displays or other frills, are just as good. The main thing is that you should be able to do a few basic functions immediately and without second-guessing. That can happen with or without an app, and with or without a little screen.
I always do a “user’s manual test” with each machine: Can I get an optimally-made espresso and a latte macchiato out of the machine, even without ever glancing at the manual? If so, then I’m fine.
That’s also why I’d never recommend a model with a display over the same machine with simple buttons – because a display simply isn’t necessary if everything else works right. And that also goes for the Siemens EQ 9 Connect, even though my inner child had a great time playing around with its apps and settings.
I’m also completely fine with any kinds of lights or blinking buttons, as long as the lights make sense. Many inexpensive machines are surprisingly precise when it comes to this. For example, have a look at my review of the Philips HD 8829, which has its own kind of Morse code.
The Water Tank
I’ve often heard that a good water tank is a large water tank. But then we’re back to the megapixel fallacy. Fresh tap water is the basis of good coffee because it gives the water the oxygen needed right from the faucet (or filter).
Extra large water tanks allow the water to get stale and stagnant if you leave it in there too long. Sure, you don’t actually need to fill up the tank, but most of us think, “Well, while I’m at it, I might as well!”
Either way, you should regularly rinse out your machine’s water tank and then let it completely dry out before filling it up again. Otherwise, it’ll eventually get stinky, and the only option will be to buy a new one.
More and more models come with a tank that can go in the dishwasher. That’s great, but I’d still manually rinse it out after it comes out of the dishwasher, in order to get rid of any residue that might have been left over from the dishwashing detergent. Miele, which is very serious about their products being dishwasher compatible, once again leads the way.
I’ve gathered together a few super-important points that continually come up in my reviews. Definitely keep all of these in mind before buying a new machine. An ideal one will have most or all of these:
- Large drip tray – The machine goes on strike when it gets full. And constantly emptying it is annoying.
- Large catch tray – Same thing as the drip tray.
- Perfectly adjustable spout with good height – Important for latte glasses! The “Final Boss” in my tests is always an IKEA latte glass that needs the spout to be about 5.5 in (14 cm) high.
- Optimal bean compartment – Not to large, not too small. Same with the water tank. Ideally with an opaque lid (light can make the beans lose flavor).
- Grind coarseness is adjustable without a tool – I’ll get into this more later.
- Cup warming tray – Warm cups make for warm coffee.
Many of you often ask me about two points that have a lot to do with how flexible and “home-friendly” a cappuccino maker is. We continually come across two points:
- Dual bean compartments
- The ability to make two drinks at the same time
The first factor is important if you live in a house where people argue about what kind of coffee beans to use. A divided bean compartment with two chambers is also great if you want to switch between regular and decaf beans, for example.
Quick side note: There have been lots of recent developments in the realm of decaffeinated coffee. Even small roasters now offer great roasts without that “wake-up kick.” I’ll be testing more of them soon because I think it’s a really noteworthy development.
Back to the machines: I’ve closely tested machines with divided bean compartments or even two different chambers, such as the Melitta Caffeo Barista. Melitta is great all-around in this area, as you can see in my review of the Melitta Caffeo CI. I’ll also come back to this topic below.
The “two drinks at the same time” feature is more important for many large households. After all, we don’t want dad to get antsy while he’s waiting for mom to make her latte macchiato.
This feature is usually found on higher-priced machines. You can see a good example of how they work in the Saeco Xelsis review. Personally, I don’t think this is an indispensable feature. I just want the machine to reliably work its magic with every drink it makes.
Water Filter: Yes or No?
Water filters will keep coming up often in this article. But here I just want to say one thing: they’re not as important as you might think. Water filters are mainly just useful because they mean you won’t have to decalcify the machine as often.
I even made a video with a general overview of this topic: “Does Your Automatic Espresso Machine Need a Water Filter?” (Video currently only available in German)
An automatic espresso machine can only work correctly if you calibrate it correctly – price doesn’t matter one bit in that sense. There are some things to keep in mind, and the “setup” actually begins before you even start messing around with the machine. That’s because the beans, the water and the milk that you use all play a big role in the results you’ll get.
It’s important to me that you get the best results possible from your machine. That’s why the next section is all about the most important things you need to do to get set up.
Set the Water Hardness
If you can adjust your automatic espresso machine to work with different degrees of water hardness – which is a feature that even some inexpensive models have – it doesn’t change the quality of the water. Instead, it affects how frequently you’ll need to decalcify the machine.
The harder your water is, the more calcium is released with every brewing cycle. There are usually three or four settings for water hardness. In Germany, at least, the four-level scale was replaced by the three-level scale in 2007. Most newer automatic espresso machines just have three levels.
The different levels are:
|Level||Degree of Hardness||Millimoles of Calcium Carbonate per Liter||German Hardness (dH) Degrees||How Often Should I Decalcify?|
|1||Soft||Fewer than 1.5||Fewer than 8.4 °dH||Rarely|
|2||Medium||1.5 to 2.5||8.4 to 14 °dH||Occasionally|
|3||Hard||More than 2.5||More than 14 °dH||Often|
To find out how hard you water is, you can either contact your water company or buy a testing strip.
I’ve already talked extensively about calcium and water – as well as Brita water filters – here on Coffeeness. You can find that information plus more at these links:
- Water filters for automatic espresso machines
- Drink tap water!
- Brita water filters
I’d generally advise you to pay good attention to the machine when it reminds you to decalcify it, even if you might think it’s not very urgent. Decalcifying more often won’t hurt, but doing it less often can be the death of your machine, especially if you live in a large city with harder water. And that’ll also mean the death of your tasty coffee.
Adjusting the Grinder Coarseness
By adjusting the grind coarseness, you can control for practically all of the important extraction factors that affect your coffee’s taste. The general rule: the finer you grind, the more it’s like espresso.
However, there are huge differences between machines in terms of how much and how easily you can adjust the grinder. And the worst is when you can’t adjust it at all.
Ideally, you’ll have many different possible coarseness levels – and even better yet, the levels will be infinitely variable. But that will once again depend on the price. For example, I thought the adjustable grind levels on the Melitta Caffeo CI were really excellent.
Contrast that with the Saeco Moltio. It’s really stupid that you need a special hexagonal wrench if you want to adjust the grinder on that machine. These machines should just have clear, simple knobs that are easy to turn!
One more note for new newbies: Smaller numbers give you finer grinds and larger numbers are coarser!
This step is also where you can see if the grinder, pump and brewing unit all play well together. The final test of a coffee machine is how well it performs with the grinder on the finest setting.
That’s when many machines go on strike. Either the water can’t get through the coffee puck, or the ground coffee gets stuck somewhere even before the brewing starts. If you want to see what this whole thing should NOT look like, check out the DeLonghi ESAM 3200 review.
In summary, remember: The finer the coffee grind, the more pressure is needed, and the more intense the espresso flavor will be.
Adjusting the Amount of Ground Coffee
Of course, the coarseness of the grind isn’t the only thing that affects the final espresso or coffee – the amount of coffee you use is also important. The more coffee you use, the more pressure the machine will need to use to push the water through the coffee, which will give you more intense flavor.
Because many manufacturers don’t want to confuse you, they tend to use a simple “bean scale.” More beans on the scale translate to more ground coffee in the machine. The relationship between the amount of coffee and the grind is really important because this is where problems often come up:
- If the coffee is watery, it might be because the water flowed too quickly through the puck; that could be because of a grind that’s too coarse, yielding too little ground coffee.
- If the coffee is muddy, it might be because of a grind that’s too fine, which packs too much coffee into the puck.
You’ll have to play around until you find the optimum balance – and it also helps if you have an understandable display with foolproof menus. Check out the Saeco Xelsis review to see what I mean.
Adjusting the Amount of Water
Water is the third in the trio of factors that you need to balance to get good coffee. Using more or less water will make your coffee weaker or stronger.
I’m often annoyed by the amount of water many cappuccino makers use to make an espresso. A proper espresso is about one ounce (30 ml), but most machines give you about 1.3 ounces (40 ml). And in the worst case scenario, you can’t adjust that amount.
Pricier models are better at that – but they sort of hide it by calling it “cup size.” Actually, this is normally the first thing I check when making an espresso, and I almost always adjust it downwards.
Side note: Once you’ve finally gotten an optimal espresso by achieving the perfect balance between water amount, grind coarseness and ground coffee amount, I’d be very hesitant about changing anything unless it’s really necessary.
A great espresso is delicious by itself, but it’s also the basis for all the other drinks that your machine can make! So you need to be sure that it’s as good as can be. Always.
Adjusting the Temperature
If your model lets you adjust the temperature of the brewing cycle, you should optimize it to work with the other settings you’ve adjusted. A traditional espresso machine with a portafilter operates at about 195 degrees Fahrenheit (90 Celsius), but automatic machines have different requirements.
When making the first espressos with your machine, check what temperature the machine is operating at. Dial it down a hair if you’re not sure!
You’re more likely to be able to adjust the milk temperature. We could get into an endless debate about ideal temperatures but the fact is, anything above about 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65 Celsius) will noticeably change the taste of the milk.
Even if that’s too cold for some of you, at least it’s warm enough to make good milk foam.
Adjusting the Cleaning Program
Much like the decalcifying program, the cleaning program is often adjustable. You need to be even more meticulous with the cleaning program because it gets out all the “gunk” that builds up in the machine’s small nooks and hoses.
Plus, if you care about your machine, you’ll have to do a few manual cleaning tasks every day:
- Rinse out and dry the catch tray, the drip tray and the water tank.
- Clean the milk system daily.
- Remove the brewing unit and rinse it out with running water. Leave it to dry overnight.
Once you’ve internalized this routine, the whole thing takes only a few minutes. But it can add years to the life of your machine!
“Adjusting” the Beans: Which Coffee Beans Are Best for Cappuccino?
Coffee beans and espresso beans are just as essential to us at Coffeeness as the machines that we test. And people always ask me which beans are best for a cappuccino maker.
Even though I won’t give you a specific recommendation (because every coffee drinker has their own preferences), I’ll once again use this opportunity to preach the Coffeeness Commands:
- Thou shalt use good coffee beans!
- Thou shalt use coffee beans from small roasters!
- Thou shalt not buy supermarket coffee, regardless of what these false idols promise!
- Thou shalt dare to experiment!
To give one example, I personally lean towards the Yirga Santos Espresso from Coffee Circle for my machine. It simply has wonderful body and tastes outstanding with just a few adjustments. Quijote Kaffee has also given me excellent results.
Generally, I’d say that slightly darker roasts are the best option for automatic espresso machines. If you want more flowery nuances, a pour-over filter is a better choice.
At the same time, if you use a particular espresso with a traditional espresso machine and get excellent results, it won’t necessarily work as well with an automatic machine. Automatic machines can tend to get under-extract espresso, which quickly makes them acidic.
My guide to coffee beans for automatic espresso machines can give you a quick overview of this topic.
“Adjusting” the Milk: What Kind of Milk Is Best for Automatic Espresso Machines?
If you’re using cow’s milk to make milk foam, it really doesn’t matter what percentage of fat it has. Sure, higher fat content will give you thicker and creamier foam, but low fat milk also works. So you can disregard any claims that a certain kind of milk has the perfect amount of fat for making latte art, or any other crazy claims like that. That’s just advertising!
Things get tricky when we get to non-dairy alternatives. That’s because the ratio of fat to protein molecules is sometimes very suboptimal. That’s the case with rice milk, for example, which basically can’t be foamed.
Soy milk is the Foam King of the non-dairy world, but it’s also rather coarse and still somewhat controversial (think hormones). Coconut milk or almond milk don’t do well by themselves, but they do work better when mixed with something else.
Homemade nut milk actually foams quite well, by the way. You just have to be careful that the milk is really fresh and that it doesn’t separate into liquids and solids when in the container.
Really, you’ll simply have to experiment. Just note that some machines with a cappuccinatore might need to be readjusted if you switch the kind of milk you use.
The Most Important Manufacturers of Super Automatic Espresso Machines
The market for coffee machines is large and complex. We at Coffeeness know that all too well. Some manufacturers are well known and others are less known. There are many companies making these machines, which means there are also lots of model variations that differ in price, performance and build quality. It’s a lot to wade through.
One thing that continually amazes us: Price and quality actually have nothing to do with one another. There are incredibly expensive machines that are built like junk, while there are very cheap machines that are impressively professional.
In the interest of completeness, in the next section we’ll look again at the most important manufacturers and what makes each one special. When possible, I’ll also talk about some of the cryptic model line names and give you some tips of what to look out for.
DeLonghi is a brand you should know about if you’re looking for an inexpensive option. These Italian machines are practically unbeatable when it comes to market presence and penetration in this price class. In particular, they’ve done extremely well selling machines for under around $350.
According to their own reports, sales in 2017 increased by more than 5.5%, although that also includes the brands Braun and Kenwood. In total, their automatic espresso machines have a market share of around 38% (in Germany), but these numbers are a bit outdated. Here you can find all of the DeLonghi models on amazon.com
However, while at the 2017 IFA consumer goods trade show, I had the impression that the company wasn’t exactly pleased about the success they’ve had with newbies. I asked their press representative about that reputation and she pointed, almost robot-like, at the PrimaDonna series, which is in the mid- to high-price range.
My impression of these machines can be summed up with a shrug of the shoulders. That’s because the PrimaDonna class doesn’t do anything better than their luxury-class competitors. Inexpensive machines really are the company’s strong point.
With DeLonghi, you can often get top results at bargain basement prices. However, there’s often a big difference between older and newer models of the “same” machine – sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s a dud. Even if a given machine is great, the next year’s updated model might give you completely different results.
Generally, the ECAM series is the cheapest, while the ESAM machines are mid-range. But there’s variation in both directions.
I’d recommend the following machines:
- DeLonghi ECAM 22.110. Review (Winner of best balance between price and performance in the low-priced category)
- DeLonghi ESAM 5500 Review
- DeLonghi ESAM 2900 Review
The following machines only performed averagely during testing here at Coffeeness:
- DeLonghi ESAM 3000 Review
- DeLonghi ECAM 23.420. SB Review
- DeLonghi ESAM 3000 Review (pretty week – in every sense)
- DeLonghi ESAM 3500 Review (if you like milk, this isn’t for you)
I’ve also done a comparison of the DeLonghi ESAM and ECAM machines. The gist: If you lower your expectations, you’ll be incredibly pleased with DeLonghi – as long as you choose the right model.
You can learn what exactly that means by checking out our comparison guide to DeLonghi machines!
I’ve more or less given up on Krups, at least when I think of coffee machines. This German brand, which belongs to a French conglomerate called Groupe SEB, is apparently not too interested in high-quality workmanship. Krups’ machines are squarely in the entry-level category, making them direct competitors with DeLonghi.
However, Krups always seems a bit junky, as you can see in my review of the Krups EA8108, for example. You don’t get much bang for your buck! Plus, you can’t remove the brewing unit on these cheapo boxes.
That might be justifiable on an expensive Jura machine, but it spells death for a cheap, low-quality model.
This company from east Westphalia is well known in the German market, as is Melitta. Melitta makes coffee machines, Miele makes everything else – or so the saying goes.
Rated very good on Coffeeness - German quality
My parents always justified paying high prices for things like a dryer or a washing machine by saying that at least they’d last until Armageddon.
Miele also has similarly high prices in comparison to others on the market. Some – like the ones that can be embedded in kitchenettes – can go for thousands of dollars. Here you can find all the Miele machines on amazon.com.
Miele’s machines are clearly focused on design: definitely lots of stainless steel and little plastic. The (current) king of the pack is the Miele CM 5500, which looks ultra-slick and very Millennial-friendly.
But even older machines like the Miele CM 6350 or the CM 7500 prove that good looks don’t mean compromised performance.
On the contrary: Miele machines are extremely solid and very dependable, and give great results, regardless of how old they are compared to the competition.
That’s why I’d suggest you think hard if you ever find a Miele CM machine on sale. You could certainly do much worse, although it’ll admittedly make your wallet a lot lighter.
WMF is known in the world of catering and hospitality. They’re often very large and expensive machines that can make many cups of coffee in a short amount of time.
But WMF also makes at-home machines for the consumer market. They’re expensive and start at around $1,200. The ratings for these machines are just average, though, which is why I’ve not mentioned them in more detail so far.
In my mind, WMF has much more presence in other product areas, like electric water kettles, milk frothers or simple coffeemakers.
WMF was founded in 1853 by Daniel Straub in a sleepy little town called Gieslingen an der Steige in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Today it’s a conglomerate with billions of dollars in sales.
This company from Minden, Germany, has been making coffee a treat since 1908, when its founder, Melitta Benz, had the ingenious idea to make a paper filter for coffee. Over 110 years it has grown into a company with over 4,000 employees and billions in sales. Yet it’s never quite shaken off its reputation as the “doting mommy” of the coffee world – then again, that might actually be pretty clever marketing for a coffee company.
We’ve had it in our office for over a year and are very happy with it!
Because I’ve already gone into a lot of detail about the best Melitta machines, I’d just like to mention a few more things here.
The machines I’ve reviewed so far were all great in their own way. Here’s the list again:
- Melitta Caffeo Solo Review
- Melitta Caffeo Varianza Review (currently only available in German)
- Melitta Caffeo CI Review (currently only available in German)
- Melitta Caffeo Barista Review (currently only available in German)
The price-performance balance is always very good or outstanding, the design is pleasing to the eye and operating the machines is a charm.
It seems to me that Melitta has adeptly managed to use its market dominance in the area of drip coffee machines to influence the average buyer of an automatic espresso machine.
Bosch is a German company that was founded way back in 1886. These days, this global company makes most of its sales as a supplier for the automobile industry. There’s also often controversy surrounding the company’s role during the Third Reich. If you’re interested, you can check out this article in Zeit.
It’s also interesting to note Bosch’s self-praise when it comes to the topic of coffeemakers. Their website used to say:
“To make coffee masterpieces, you need years of experience. Or Bosch’s Barista Technology.”
I had a good laugh about that a few years ago and wondered what in the world “Barista Technology” was. Apparently that nonsense got old because now they just talk about how their coffee is as good as coffee made by a barista.
My review of the Bosch Veroaroma 700 shows that their machines above $600 or so can actually come pretty close to fulfilling that promise. But they’ll certainly never replace human baristas.
The only reason that we’ve not tested many Bosch machines here at Coffeeness is because they’re actually identically-built to Siemens machines. And Siemens is a hotter brand for consumers.
Siemens’ cappuccino machines are frequent visitors at Coffeeness. So far, I’ve taken a close look at the following machines and always use them as references:
- Siemens EQ 3 Review (currently only available in German)
- Siemens EQ 6 Review (currently only available in German)
- Siemens EQ 9 Connect Review (currently only available in German)
For a company founded in Berlin way back in 1847, they can still make some extremely capable machines. Especially in terms of functionality and ease of use, Siemens isn’t messing around, and they’re ahead of other companies.
Excellent, quiet machine for super espresso
Their prices start in the mid-range and can easily go over $2,000. It remains to be seen whether that’s really necessary. What is clear, though, is that you probably won’t feel swindled, even at that price, since these machines can also do great things. You can find all the Siemens machines here on amazon.com.
In the past, the Swiss company Jura also did other things unrelated to coffee. But these days, the name Jura is the embodiment of expensive automatic espresso machines.
It certainly isn’t a coincidence that they don’t offer machines in the sub-$400 category – that would tarnish the company’s fancy, high-class image.
Jura also likes to point out that their machines are quieter than the competitors’. Also, that they’re supposedly so clean, you don’t even need a removable brewing unit. They like to talk about how refined their automatic espresso machines are.
Very good drinks and comfortable operation. I heartily recommend the Jura E8!
Jura and Coffeeness are bound by a kind of love-hate relationship. The Jura Impressa c60 I reviewed was a true catastrophe. And because of my qualms with their marketing department, I didn’t test any Jura machines for a while, mainly out of stubbornness.
But then you guys all got on my case until I finally took a closer look at the Jura E8. And I must say that the high price is absolutely justified and that the machine really is excellent.
However, I probably won’t personally become a Jura convert, mainly because of the non-removable brewing unit and the somewhat exaggeratedly high prices. You can find an overview of this brand in my guide to Jura super automatic espresso machines.
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Philips / Saeco
Philips bought Saeco in 2009 and both brands have worked together since then. However, there’s still a clear line between the two. Philips makes the entry-level models, such as:
- Philips HD8829 Review
- Philips HD 8834 Review
Philips’ machines do use some Saeco parts, though, especially for their grinders and other technological components. Saeco is for the mid- and high-range machines, such as:
- Gaggia Anima Prestige Review (An excellent, mid-range benchmark machine in terms of price and performance)
- Saeco Moltio Review (Currently only available used, but still great)
- Saeco PicoBaristo Review (Very high quality for the price)
- Saeco GranBaristo Avanti Review (Pretty close to Siemens)
- Saeco Xelsis Review (Magnificent newcomer at the 2017 IFA)
Saeco plays a really big role on Coffeeness not only because the brand has been offering benchmark products, but also because they continually add updates and new features that make the market and consumers very happy. Check out the “Coffee Equalizer” in the Xelsius series, for example.
The Nivona brand has been around since 2005 and has mainly made its name on the catering supplies scene. Nivona is a combination of three companies in Nuremburg, Germany, but the actual manufacturer is the Swiss company Eugster/Frismag. They make the machines in three locations in Switzerland, as well as in China and Portugal.
Eugster/Frismag plays a larger role in the espresso machine and coffeemaker markets, even though its name is relatively unknown.
Their factories actually also make automatic espresso machines for Jura, Melitta and Miele, essentially making them suppliers for several different competing companies.
Nivona is criminally under-represented here on Coffeeness, and you’re right to blame me for that. I promise to do better! However, when I’ve tested some of these Miele machines, they were basically the same machines as Nivona, yet they’re much better known – and much cheaper!
Until I can fulfill my promise, you can refer to my guide to Nivona automatic espresso machines for further information.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines with Special Features
Here I’d like to take a closer look at some of the “special” features that I mentioned earlier. The reason is simple: Many of you have lots questions about them, and some of you might be looking for a special automatic espresso machine that doesn’t do things by the book.
Cappuccino Makers with Two Bean Compartments
In contrast to the essentially pointless compartment for pre-ground coffee that many machines have, providing dual chambers for different kinds of coffee beans is actually a great invention. Think one for regular, one for decaf.
To avoid misunderstandings, I want to quickly clarify the difference between bean containers, bean holders and bean chambers. Bean containers and holders are the same thing. The one that’s different is the bean chamber.
Most dual bean containers or holders actually have two chambers. A panel divides the two kinds of beans, but they still drop into the same grinder. Depending on what kind you select, the machine opens one chamber or the other.
We’ve had it in our office for over a year and are very happy with it!
It’s a completely different case when a machine has not only two chambers, but also two completely separated containers. Some of those machines even have two grinders, but they’re the exception, and are quite expensive.
We at Coffeeness have closely looked at several machines with two chambers and a single grinder, and they were really great.
The mid-range Melitta Caffeo CI has a bean holder with an airtight lid (bravo!). The holder has a panel that divides the beans into two chambers, and the grinder is centered under the bean holder.
You use a switch on the front of the holder to choose which coffee you want the machine to use. That also closes the chamber for the beans you don’t want to use. The only problem is that a bit of the most recently used coffee always remains in the grinder. That’s almost unavoidable.
That can quickly become a bigger problem if you have a food intolerance for caffeine. That’s why you should always make at least one espresso after you switch beans. That way, it’ll clear out the system, and you can be sure that the next espresso you make after that will only use the beans that you want.
The Melitta Caffeo Barista has already come up with a better solution to this problem – it grinds just the right amount of beans you need for a serving. Since it only uses exactly that amount, you don’t need to make an extra espresso to clear out the grinder.
Many drink possibilities and choices
This Melitta machine also has Automatic Bean Select. You can designate each chamber for a different kind of bean, like a light roast and a dark roast, for example. The lid of the chambers are then marked with the kind of bean in each. Of course, you can also trick out the machine so that each chamber uses espresso roasts – that’s what I did!
If you want one of the chambers to be for decaf, simply manually choose which chamber the machine should use. You can still choose the beans manually even if you’ve already set up Automatic Select. Thanks, Melitta.
This is the machine I’d like in my own kitchen
It’s perfect for coffee fans who have an intolerance to caffeine because it doesn’t mix the ground coffee at all, and you can also set a different grind coarseness level for each chamber.
It’s especially cool how you can program it to make your favorite drink and use your preferred bean chamber, and then save it all to your user profile. The display guides you seamlessly through the settings. And if you have a visitor and none of your saved coffee drinks sound quite right, you can still manually choose the grind coarseness and the bean chamber.
I should also mention the Saeco Molio, even though it’s generally only available second-hand, because it represents a third approach: You can completely remove and switch out the whole bean container on this machine.
That’s handy not only when it comes to cleaning, but also because it makes it easier to store the beans. Imagine, for example, that you’re going on vacation and want to properly store the beans in the meantime.
All you need to do is to remove the bean container and pour it out. It also makes it possible to switch to a different kind of bean, although it would actually be even easier to just buy a second bean holder from Saeco.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines with App-Based Controls
Coffeemakers are continually moving towards digitalization in an attempt to become an important part of your smart kitchen. The PR guy from Saeco at the 2017 IFA emphasized that app-based controls are probably just the beginning of espresso machine digitalization.
That’s also presumably why the Saeco Xelsis has done without an app and instead given it a large touchscreen. Not dumb at all. After all, even if you have an app for your machine, you’ll still need to actually walk over to the thing and put a cup under the spout. And as long as you’re there, you might as well take care of the rest of the controls. At least that’s how Saeco sees it.
Other manufacturers, on the other hand, are turning to apps that can control all the same settings you’d get from the display, but just moving them to a tablet or cellphone. That way, you can order up a latte from the comfort of your couch.
Even the manufacturers realize that these apps are basically a neat gimmick that can help draw in tech nuts. There’s a reason that most models with apps also are available without the app. If you do want a connection to your smartphone, you’ll usually have to pay at least $200 more.
Generally speaking, I don’t really have anything against these apps because practically every manufacturer that includes an app does it well and makes them intuitive. Here’s the Xelsis with the app option on Amazon, for example.
Plus, an app really lets you understand what exactly your machine can do, and you can chill on the couch the whole time. I especially like apps that have the following features:
- Simplified drink selection
- Ability to turn on the machine (from the comfort of your warm bed)
- Direct access to the owner’s manual
- Simplified regular care and water hardness selection
- Easily contact customer service
On the other hand, you should keep the following factors in mind:
- Manufacturers can potentially use apps to collect data. Coffee drinkers are a very lucrative target audience for marketers.
- You can’t use apps to adjust some super-important options like grind coarseness.
- These apps make it seem like you need to buy all your kitchen appliances from a single manufacturer. And you can, of course. But who cares if your espresso machine can’t chat with your stove?
- Apps only offer their own brand’s cleaner and other products. One click and it’s ordered. Third-party vendors are cheaper, however!
In the end, apps have absolutely nothing to do with your machine’s performance or quality. Still, I want to give you a quick overview of the current models with the most usable app controls:
Saeco GranBaristo Avanti with App Control
The Saeco GranBaristo Avanti was the first widely-available automatic espresso machine that you can control with an app. It’s basically the luxury version of the more “prudent” Gaggia Anima Prestige.
Even though it’s been a long time since it was launched, the GranBaristo still costs a good $1,500 or so. But that’s not just because of the app, of course – you’ll also get an all-around high-quality model that’s also exceptionally compact.
Small and well designed. An automatic espresso machine with something for the whole family.
The app, called “Saeco Avanti,” is very well made and will help you do things like adjusting the espresso and milk amounts very precisely. You can also quickly access the owner’s manual and the help menu.
Siemens EQ 9 Connect Cappuccino Maker
Completely aside from the fact that the Siemens EQ 9 will give you excellent results even without an app, their “Home Connect” app option is a really neat invention. At least in terms of design, it’s so far the best application out there.
They were pretty clever by making it so that you can only use the app to order up certain drinks from the “coffee world.” Obviously, that’s meant to tempt you into using the app controls.
You can also use the “EQ.9 Connect Coffee Playlist” to program in a series of drinks. That can quickly go wrong if you happen to forget to change the cup, though.
Krups Latte Smart EA 860E
Although I was only able to try out the Krups Latte Smart EA 860E with Bluetooth capability at the 2016 IFA, I still thought the “Latte Smart” app was a pretty clever idea. The app lets you drag and drop elements to adjust the display layout on the machine to fit your needs. Otherwise, it doesn’t do much else differently from the apps of more expensive machines, at least in terms of functionality.
Jura Z6 with App Control
The Jura Z6 lets you attach a “Smart Connect” Bluetooth sender so that the automatic espresso machine can communicate with your cellphone or tablet. The control options are essentially the same as with other apps.
I can’t say much else about this machine that costs nearly $3,000 (!) because Jura isn’t a big fan of independent testing. And I wasn’t really itching to test this machine again anyhow.
DeLonghi Coffee Link App
DeLonghi also makes automatic espresso machines with app-based controls, such as the DeLonghi Elite ECAM 656.75.MS, a rather expensive machine. The app makes a good impression and works without any issues. We tried out the whole thing at the 2016 IFA consumer goods fair. You’ll have basically limitless options to personalize everything if you use the app.
Built-In Automatic Espresso Machines
Here at Coffeeness, I intentionally don’t talk about this special category because it probably doesn’t interest many of you. Built-in espresso machines – which are permanently installed your kitchen – are in a class of their own. They’re only for people who value design consistency and uniformity above all else.
In the interest of being thorough, though, they do belong in this article. After all, this is supposed to be the ultimate guide to automatic espresso machines.
It’s easy to see the advantages of built-in automatic espresso machines:
- They save space.
- They look good (high quality, with lots of stainless steel).
- They match the rest of your kitchen.
- They have a permanent water connection.
That means you don’t ever need to refill the water tank, so you can make espresso until the cows come home. However, the disadvantages are also easy to see:
- They’re expensive.
- They cost even more if something breaks. Replacement parts for them are usually hard to come by.
- They’re stuck in one place.
The big brands like WMF, Miele, Siemens, Bosch, Neff and AEG all offer built-in models. There are also very customized versions for catering use. But you’ll definitely not get one for under $1,200 or so. Plus, I’ve heard many reports of people who bought these machines and who weren’t satisfied with them.
What’s more, it’s hard to get rid of one if you don’t like it. Because they’re built-in. I’d therefore recommend to anyone who’s on the fence to go with a significantly cheaper “mobile” machine – they can also be quite chic and space-saving.
What Does Stiftung Warentest Say About Automatic Espresso Machines?
I have a very conflicted relationship with Stiftung Warentest, the German organization that rates consumer goods (similar to Consumer Reports in the US). Every time I learn more about a specific subject, I notice how their tests have really superficial ratings and not nearly enough expert knowledge.
Nevertheless, I still occasionally buy their test results online because, in contrast to many other internet sites, I expect unbiased, independent reports. But I’m also usually disappointed for several reasons.
One of my most recent disappointments came from their article called “Stiftung Warentest Reviews Coffeemakers and Automatic Espresso Machines – Fail?!” A slightly older yet no less relevant article is “Stiftung Warentest-Trained Coffee Testers Aren’t Coffee Gourmets.”
I only want to mention Stiftung Warentest here because I want to show you why you should enjoy their reviews with a bit of caution (as is the case with any reviews, even from official organizations).
Stiftung Warentest’s most recent reviews of cappuccino makers appeared in November of 2017, when they increased their testing pool to a total of 56 machines. But be careful: This test combined super automatic espresso machines and traditional espresso machines with a portafilter into the single category of “espresso machines.”
If you’ve made it to this point in this article, you should probably understand why that’s nonsense. An automatic espresso machine doesn’t actually make espresso, it just makes something that they call “espresso.” It’s completely different, though. This imprecise grouping even annoyed me way back in 2013, when the authors said:
“If you’re not afraid of a bit of manual labor, you can get an espresso for much cheaper by getting a stove-top espresso maker from Bialetti, for example.” (Stiftung Warentest 12/2013, p. 60).
“The name ‘espresso pot’ (which is only widespread in Germany) is misleading because it doesn’t actually make espresso. These stovetop pots exert a maximum pressure of around 1.5 bars, while a true espresso made from an espresso machine requires around 9.0 bars of pressure.” (Wikipedia: Espressokanne entry in German).
Anyone who has read my article about Bialetti espresso makers will obviously be better informed. Later on in the text of their review, Stiftung Warentest does clarify that it’s not actually true espresso, though even then it still claims that it’s “pretty close” to being a real espresso (see Stiftung Warentest 12/2013: p. 63). But that’s just not true.
These “espresso makers” don’t actually make espresso – they just make a version of black coffee!
Let’s go back to their test, which the Jura E8 and the Jura E6 won (both received grades of “1,9” on their scale – approximately equivalent to between 85% and 90%). I don’t have much to say about that, at least not for the first machine, except that a non-removable brewing unit always means points off for me.
They also gave the entry-level DeLonghi ECAM 22.110.B (our price-performance winner in the low-priced class) a total grade of 2,5, or somewhere in the mid-70s. In between those two ratings you can find plenty of other machines that we at Coffeeness know all about.
Finally, they put a Krups machine, the DeLonghi PrimaDonna and the Jura Impressa C5 all at the bottom of the heap.
Stiftung Warentest generally uses 7 categories:
- Sensory Rating – 35%
- Technical Rating – 25%
- Ease of Use – 20%
- Dependability (???)
- Safety (5%)
Then, the previously-used category of “Electricity Use” was replaced with Environmental Aspects (10%) and Hazardous Materials (5%), with electricity use playing a role in the Environmental Aspects category.
There isn’t really an explanation for the Dependability category (or at least I couldn’t find one in the test reports I purchased), but it definitely comes from their older reviews. I’d still like to know why they got rid of that category and what it entailed.
Their basic test design hasn’t changed, though. They do their tests with an espresso from Illy, so in other words, a somewhat higher-priced “supermarket espresso.” You can read the damning results from my test of this dishwater espresso in my Illy espresso review.
For that reason alone, I don’t really trust their judgment. But it also affects most of their evaluation!
I also have an opinion about their Ease of Use category. For that one, they consulted “five experienced users (men and women of different ages).” But what about novices – isn’t that who the test should actually be made for?
How Does Coffeeness Test and Review Automatic Espresso Machines?
If you’re wondering what makes Coffeeness’ reviews so different from the ones of other testing organizations, you’ll find all the answers to your questions here. The essential point for us is that reviews need to be transparent and user-friendly. That’s why we pay attention to many things that other “official” reviews usually miss.
The Espresso Beans Are Important – As Is Having a Comparison
I exclusively use good, fresh espresso beans from small roasters for my tests. I generally mention which roaster I’m using because I don’t have any strong preference for any specific roaster. I also always make a fresh espresso with a La Pavoni manual lever espresso machine and use it for comparison.
This manual machine is basically the polar opposite of an automatic espresso machine because it makes you do everything by hand. And if a very complicated manual machine can make a great espresso, then an automatic espresso machine should be able to do it a thousand times easier.
The Milk Is Important
I’m actually known for being a purist – I usually drink my coffee and espresso without milk. But I also love a good cappuccino, caffe latte or flat white. And you all have always been quick to complain when I forget to mention milk drinks in my reviews and when I obsess about pure espressos. And you’re right! In any case, I only use full milk for my tests since it has a good amount of fat.
The Most Important Test Questions
The two main considerations of every test are what comes out of the machine, and what you have to do to make it come out. Therefore, the central question is always:
- What drinks can this automatic espresso machine make?
And the list of drinks just keeps getting longer. Cappuccino is out, flat white and ristretto are now in. I do what I can to thoroughly test whether each drink is worthy of its name. The claims can vary widely, but the results are rarely perfect.
- How good is the espresso?
For me, the most important criteria for an automatic espresso machine is the quality of the espresso it makes. Without good espresso, you can’t make a good cappuccino or a good caffe latte – espresso makes or breaks any drink from an automatic espresso machine. Unless you just want hot water.
As part of my process, I check every espresso that comes from the machine for:
- The quality of the crema
- The temperature
- The taste
Of course, it’s also important to take the different settings into account. How and how much can you adjust the grind coarseness? Can I adjust the temperature? Can I directly or indirectly affect the flow time of the water through the espresso puck?
- How good is the milk foam?
After espresso quality, the next deciding factor is the quality of the milk foam. It should be fine and uniform. The milk can’t get too hot, otherwise it’ll become denatured and taste bad. For most cappuccino makers, the quality of the milk foam is either its greatest weakness or its most noticeable strength. That’s why I’m always excited to see how the milk and the milk foam turn out.
- What do I think of the design and the size of the automatic espresso machine?
Careful – this part gets a bit superficial. Obviously, when I look at the build quality and materials of a machine and rate its appearance, it’s based on my own tastes.
I generally think plastic looks less classy than stainless steel. But I also think that an espresso machine shouldn’t be too huge. The whole thing just has to look right.
- What about cleaning and filtration?
Later in this article I’ll give more detailed tips for cleaning automatic espresso machines. But does your machine’s manufacturer make it easy for you?
One important point for me is whether the brewing unit is removable for easy cleaning.
Also: How does the cleaning program work, and how easy is it in general to clean and disinfect the machine?
Even though other factors might seem more interesting, remember:
Hygiene is one the most important test criteria for cappuccino makers!
- How easy is it to use?
Usability is an important factor for automatic espresso machines. Anyone should be able to prepare a drink without having to look at the manual.
Several factors influence whether that’s possible: How intuitive is the user interface (buttons or display)? How easy is it to choose a drink? How easy is it to refill water or coffee beans, and how do you empty the catch tray for the used coffee grounds?
- What kind of technology has it got under the hood?
In addition to the practical considerations above, my tests also take cold, hard, technical facts into account:
- What kind of grinder does it have? How does it work? How can you adjust it?
- How does it filter water?
- What kind of brewing unit does it have, and is it removable?
- What kind of pump does it have, and how much pressure does it use?
- How large is the display, and is it a touchscreen?
- How large is the water tank?
Out of the Ordinary: Shipping and Packaging of Automatic Espresso Machines
In practically all of my tests you can take it as a given that the shipping and packaging were fine. As long as the machine gets to me in one piece, I don’t care much about any complicated or especially robust packaging. However, I do always get annoyed by excessive waste.
Packaging and shipping also aren’t that important in my rating because logistics have gotten so good these days that everything generally arrives quickly and on time.
However, many people are concerned about buying an espresso machine or an automatic machine in winter because of the freezing temperatures. Sometimes deliveries can arrive completely frozen, so it’s actually reasonable to wonder if your machine might get damaged in shipping.
I don’t think there’s much danger if you’re getting a new, unused machine. As long as there’s no water inside the machine, it can’t freeze and expand, thereby damaging the inner workings of the machine. So nothing should keep you from ordering a new automatic espresso machine for Christmas.
But things are a bit different with used machines. You’ll want to avoid ordering a used machine when there are freezing temperatures. It’s also a good idea to plan your order so that there are no holidays or Sundays between ordering and delivery. Those are the days when it’s more likely for packages to be stored in unheated areas. However, none of these shipping issues are deciding factors in my tests.
Cleaning an Automatic Espresso Machine
I know, I know. Lots of you just don’t want to do it. But I love to repeat my mantra:
Good, thorough cleaning is an absolute requirement for a properly-functioning coffeemaker to be able to make good coffee!
You should pay attention to care and cleaning from the get-go. Unfortunately, many users only start cleaning when something doesn’t work right anymore or when something starts to taste bad. But by then it’s too late!
I’m not trying to give you a sermon here – plus, your manual will tell you how to properly clean your machine anyhow. Instead, I want to summarize the most important tips and clarify common questions about cleaning and maintenance.
Cleaning Automatic Espresso Machines – Why So Fussy?
Manufacturers recommend very different cleaning schedules. If you use your machine daily, you should thoroughly clean it at least once a week. And by “thoroughly,” I mean to wash it all out with cleaner and also do all the other things that I do every day.
Yes, I’m fussy about cleaning.
I do that for one simple reason:
Would I drink my cappuccino out of a cup that I hadn’t washed in a week? Nope!
Coffee residue and milk, combined with a machine that uses steam, all combine to make ideal breeding grounds for mold. Not to mention all kinds of substances that can change the taste of your drinks.
If you really want to be grossed out, have a look at this video: “The Truth About Special Automatic Espresso Machines!”
Sure, the video is sensational and tries to put the manufacturers of automatic espresso machines through the ringer. But I think it’s a great cautionary tale to help you understand what happens if you don’t properly clean your machine.
I also think that if you clean your machine regularly and properly, it won’t have a chance to grow mold. Espresso machines are vulnerable to mold but you can avoid it through maintenance and cleaning.
Even though you should regularly use your machine’s cleaning program, it’s not enough!
Cleaning the Brewing Unit
Every day, I remove my machine’s brewing unit and rinse it out well under hot running water; that way I don’t have to use cleaner on it, and I also avoid scratches. Very important: Non-removable brewing units are only (partially) acceptable if everything else on the machine is otherwise very high quality.
So if you want a machine with a built-in brewing unit (for whatever reason), you’ll have to pay more. You need to pay especially close attention to quality here. The Krups EA8108 is a good example of a bad example. Same with the Krups EA8808.
That doesn’t mean that everything’s always sunshine and rainbows if you have a removable brewing unit. Many units in cheaper machines – like in the DeLonghi ECAM series, for example – can almost seem disposable: lots of plastic, not much quality.
That means that you need to be especially careful when cleaning, removing and putting back the brewing unit, so that it doesn’t get busted. But that’s not a reason to clean it less! Actually, you should clean it more because these things have to deal with all the friction and forces inherent in an automatic espresso machine.
This video should interest the discerning consumers among you: “Comparing Brewing Units of Automatic Espresso Machines | Cleaning.”
Cleaning the Bean Containers
The bean containers often get left out of the cleaning routine. But remember: Coffee and espresso beans can be quite oily, depending on their roast and origin. That oil can accumulate in the container and become rancid after a while.
That’s why I always recommend that you don’t fill up the bean containers all the way, unless you know you’ll use it all quickly. This also has other advantages:
- It makes it easier to clean the container regularly.
- The beans won’t be heated as often.
- It makes it easier to switch between different roasts.
Once the container is empty, cleaning it is simple. I’d just wipe it out with a dry cloth. Coffee absorbs all scents and tastes so I’d recommend not using any kind of chemical cleaning products.
I’ve often seen people (even people who work in food services) spray tons of glass cleaner (or worse) into the containers – that’s a catastrophe for me and for every other coffee gourmand!
Cleaning the Coffee Grounds Tray and the Drip Tray
This is less of a problem. Most of these coffeemakers let you know when these trays are full. Depending on the model, that can happen sooner or later.
I’d clean both of these parts daily, even if the machine doesn’t tell me to. You can use cleaning products if you want – it doesn’t matter here.
I’ve put together a short audiovisual troubleshooting lesson for you about this topic: “Too Much Water in the Drip Tray = Broken Machine?”
Cleaning the Water Tank
You won’t have any problems with coffee residue here, but instead you’ll have to deal with algae and other nasty junk. Every time before you refill the tank, I’d recommend you rinse it out with hot water and let it dry. Then fill it up with fresh, cold tap water and let it rip!
Cleaning the Grinder
It’s usually easier than you might imagine to take apart the grinder. Many have click-and-turn mechanisms that let you separate them into large parts, which makes them easier to clean.
Cleaning tablets are a mechanical solution, but they don’t replace manual cleaning. However, this isn’t something that you need to do every day. Once or twice a month is enough for intensive use (in an average household).
If you feel like tinkering around any deeper, you run the risk of voiding your warranty. Still, it can often be very rewarding – as long as you know what you’re doing!
What Cleaner Should I Use for an Automatic Espresso Machine?
Don’t make your life difficult: Use the products that the manufacturer recommends, or the cheap alternatives that have the exact same composition as the name brand products. The manufacturers know what’s up, and you should too.
I’d generally recommend against using household cleaning products if you don’t know exactly what’s in them. Something like lemon juice can work wonders for an electric water kettle, but it’s much too aggressive for some models.
You can find more information in my guide to cleaning tablets for automatic espresso machines.
I’ve also dealt with a basic question in this video: “Cleaning and Decalcifying Tablets: Do They Have to Be from the Manufacturer? | Automatic Espresso Machines”
I’ve already explained above that you should set the hardness of your water in the machine’s settings.
That’s because every time the machine heats up, calcium is released from the water. The harder the water, the higher the calcium content – and the quicker the calcium accumulates, which can block the inner mechanics of the machine.
There are actually (cheap) cappuccino makers that don’t have a decalcifying program. In that case, you’d have to decide for yourself how often to decalcify, based on your water hardness. I’d recommend that you do it at least once a month.
When it comes to choosing decalcifying products, I’d give the same advice as when choosing a cleaner: follow the manufacturer’s recommendation (especially regarding the type of product), but feel free to go with a cheaper brand if it’s otherwise identical.
Does Using a Water Filter Mean I Can Decalcify Less Often?
Many automatic espresso machines include an installed filter, or at least the option to install one. These filters essentially work like a classic Brita filter, but it’s not completely integrated into the machine. The filter reduces the water hardness to level 1, based on the scale mentioned previously.
How does that affect filtration and decalcification?
- If you already have soft water, a filter is superfluous.
- Filters reduce the calcium content of medium and hard water.
- A water filter won’t eliminate the need to decalcify, but will reduce the frequency it’s needed.
- No matter what the manufacturer says, you should still decalcify at least four times per year.
Using a water filter will also require you to make a few precise adjustments. You need to let the machine know that you’re using a filter, and then set the water hardness as precisely as possible.
In terms of costs, water filters need to be changed regularly, which makes them far more expensive than decalcifying frequently.
Finally, because so many automatic espresso machines have died because of this problem, repeat after me:
Greasing and Lubricating an Automatic Espresso Machine
It’s important to regularly grease the brewing unit so that the pressing and brewing mechanisms can move smoothly. Oil is important not only for the rails, but also for the hinges.
If you clean your brewing unit daily, you should grease it once a month.
The manual will usually tell you how to do that. The important thing is to use a silicon grease without any scent or taste. In other words, put away the oil can you use for your bike!
Personally, I like the OKS 1110-100G multi-silicon oil NSF H1. It’s also nontoxic.
Automatic Espresso Machine FAQ – You Asked, Coffeeness Answers
Though I can’t answer every one of your comments right away, I still follow your lively discussions and questions, whether they’re on the Coffeeness website, our Facebook page, our Facebook group or anywhere else.
That’s why I wanted to include an FAQ section in this guide. I’ll try to update it regularly.
I’ve waded through all the comments and posts and chosen a few interesting questions that come up very frequently, or which are so unique that I want to answer them so everyone can see.
Are there any decent espresso machines under $200?
Short answer: no. If you really want to be happy with your espresso, you need to spend more than $200. Delonghi’s machines are relatively cheap but still well built, and the espresso is great after some initial calibration.
Is it true that Siemens machines often have temperature (especially milk temperature) problems?
That depends a bit on your perspective. I prefer slightly cooler drink temperatures when drinking something like a latte, so I actually think the temperature on drinks from a Siemens machine is pretty optimal. But I also completly understand that people who like very hot milk often have problems with Siemens.
It is worth it to lease an automatic espresso machine?
Some Facebook users mentioned this idea, giving me and example of how you could get a Jura machine for 25 euros – about $30 – per month. At first glance, that seems really cheap. But just as if you were going to buy a car, you really have to run the numbers: How long does the contract last? How many drinks will you make every day with the machine? How much is the machine worth? You can see already that there are too many ifs, ands, or buts to make it worthwhile for most private individuals.
Can I buy a used cappuccino maker?
In this article I’ve already talked extensively about how much cleaning and care automatic espresso machines require. Unfortunately, not everyone who owns one of these machine will read this article. Often, they clean and disinfect the machines poorly or not at all.
Therefore: Please never buy a used machine. You never know what kind of mold, bacteria or other problems will come with it!
Why does soy milk or other non-dairy alternatives become clumpy when I use it with my machine?
Those are actually flakes, not clumps. They form when the temperature of the milk substitute and the temperature of the coffee don’t match. It’s related to the special composition of plant-based milks.
Interestingly, these “clumps” form most with drink mixes that contain sugar and other additives. Sugar-free alternatives rarely form clumps.
Why does the milk system make a buzzing sound when I use non-dairy milk substitutes?
There’s a relatively high chance that the some milk substitutes – especially homemade ones – can clog the complicated and delicate parts of your machine. That’s because these liquids often contain suspended solids. The whole machine can then seize up, or just make really gross foam.
That all means that a machine with a steaming wand or a simple cappuccinatore system have a leg up because the milk has fewer curves and turns to move through. But if you prefer to use a milk substitute when using the automatic mode, you absolutely have to be rigorous about cleaning. However, the Saeco Xelsis is an example of a machine that makes that cleaning pretty easy.
If you’re having trouble with your current machine, a good and cheap solution is to simply buy a stand-alone milk frother.
Is there a maximum height for the spout?
As part of my tests, I always use an IKEA glass because I know that many of you wonder if your latte glasses will fit under the spout on an automatic espresso machine.
There’s no universal maximum spout height. You can use 5.5-inch (14-cm) glasses with the Siemens EQ 6, for example. But some cheaper machines have a significantly lower spout!
What’s the lifespan of an automatic espresso machine?
Many of you have reported that your espresso machines have been working in your home kitchen for up to 17 years. I also believe that newer machines should be able to reach a proud, advanced age, even in today’s disposable consumer society.
Of course, if you want yours to hold up, you’ll have to always care for it, and you’ll have to hope you don’t happen to get a lemon. In any case, it should last at least (!) ten years with proper care.
Can I fix my automatic espresso machine? Can I do it myself?
Depending on the manufacturer, there can be an amazing supply of replacement parts for your machine on sites like Amazon. That’s also how I gauge whether it’s something that can be repaired: If you can get a replacement part, then do it, instead of buying a new machine! That even goes for things like the brewing unit.
If the problem goes deeper, then I’m of two minds. If you have an especially expensive machine, it might be worth it to get it fixed by the pros. But for cheap machines with lots of plastic and wear and tear, it might not be worth it.
My tip: Don’t simply compare the price of a repair against the price of a new machine. Instead, take into consideration how long you’ve already used it, how intensively you’ve used it and how well you’ve cleaned it.
Why doesn’t Coffeeness review any machines made by WMF?
I’ve mentioned that I consider WMF to be a true food services institution. Many bakeries and convenience stores in Germany have machines made by WMF, and in my opinion, that’s where those machines belong.
They’re simply not competitive for at-home use in the current market. Their price-performance ratio is too poor, in my opinion. That’s why I’ve never reviewed any of their machines. For an older example, the WMF 1000pro S looks like a large microwave and doesn’t have any good reviews. And for that same price, you’ll simply get a lot more from Miele or Siemens machine.
However, I also know that some of you – DIY types, for example – are big fans of WMF machines because they have two high-quality boilers and a grinder that are practically unbeatable. But those kinds of commercial-focused machines aren’t really the kinds of things we focus on at Coffeeness.
Why doesn’t Coffeeness review any machines made by Nivona?
Nivona also has an image that’s associated with food services, perhaps even more closely than WMF. However, I have tested Nivona machines for years because I think that in this case, their translation from the professional-grade market to the consumer market has gone quite well. Still, many parts in Nivona machines are identical to ones in Miele machines, and Miele is significantly more well known – and of course they also show up on Coffeeness.
Why does Coffeeness only review machines from a limited number of brands?
Miele, Melitta, Saeco, DeLonghi and Siemens play leading roles on Coffeeness. Jura is only starting to gain steam again, Krups has thus far completely failed to convince me, and Bosch has lost itself a bit in the market.
These brands dominate the market for one reason: their customers trust them most. That’s also why I mainly review these brands. If I should ever happen to stumble on an special yet “obscure” brand, or if lots of people request a review, then there’s certainly nothing standing in the way of it being in one of our reviews!
I don’t care about milk foam – which automatic espresso machine would Coffeeness recommend for me?
To be completely honest, if you don’t need milk foam and otherwise have no clear opinions about coffee, then you only really have two options. You could either check out the Melitta Caffeo Solo review, or seriously ask yourself if you really need an automatic espresso machine. See above, where I list the questions you should ask yourself before buying one. If you actually are concerned about quality, then an espresso maker will probably be the more satisfying choice for you.
Can an automatic espresso machine make normal drip coffee?
No. Drip coffee techniques and automatic espresso machines are completely different. If you want a middle-ground solution, then a coffeemaker with a grinder can be a good choice.
Are there any machines that let you adjust the grinder digitally?
No, that’s not (yet) possible. It would have to use a separate, digitally-controllable motor that could move the discs or cone closer or farther apart. All the measuring devices, the sensors and other technology necessary to do that would mean that the machine would have to be gigantic.
What’s more, it would shoot up the machine’s electricity usage, as well as its price. In the future, maybe there will be technological leaps in this area. But until then, the good old manual method is simply the more reasonable and more precise option. As well as the only one.
I can’t seem to remove the brewing unit – what did I do wrong?
As long as you don’t have a Krups or a Jura machine, you should normally be able to remove the brewing unit. If you can’t, it’s probably not in the standby position. That usually happens if you unplug the machine or turn it off using the main switch, before the machine has a chance to shut down.
In that case, the only option is to turn the machine on and off again using the normal button (the one for daily use), and then wait for a moment. If it’s still stuck, then perhaps customer service can help you.
Do I have to use the decalcifier from the same manufacturer as the machine?
You don’t really have to do anything. Still, I often use the manufacturer’s products. I don’t have to worry about what they’re made of, and if there’s a problem, I can hold the manufacturer accountable.
A Facebook user said it perfectly: I’m not buying an expensive machine so that I can pointlessly save money by using cheap cleaner. Amen!
Which cappuccino machine makes a great flat white?
None. At least not at the push of a button. You need milk “micro foam” for a flat white, and it’s just luck if you happen to get that from an automatic milk frother. Even the cheaper models with steam wands are a little too weak to get it perfect.
That’s why I think that if you’re a true flat white fanatic – but one who also would like other kinds of foamed milk – then you’d do better using a traditional espresso machine with a portafilter.
Who should get an automatic espresso machine with a steam wand?
Anyone who actually wants a traditional espresso machine with a portafilter, but who doesn’t want to spend all that money. “True” automatic espresso machine buyers are looking for something practical and easy. And in that sense, an automatic milk frothing system is practically unbeatable.
My automatic espresso machine doesn’t come with a water filter. Do I need to buy one separately?
I’ve talked a lot about water filters here on Coffeeness. Generally, a water filter in an automatic espresso machine will let you decalcify the machine less frequently because the filter reduces the hardness of your water.
If the calcium content of the water in your area is a problem, then it’s not a deal-breaker if you don’t use a filter. Even in areas with high calcium levels, such as large cities, it’s not absolutely necessary to use a water filter, as long as you’re serious about regularly (and more frequently) decalcifying the machine. It also depends a bit on how carefully you’ll maintain your machine.
I don’t see my question here. What can I do?
This FAQ section is a growing work in progress. Plus, I can’t always answer your comments right away. For anyone who has a question like (for example) “Is model X better than model Y?” or “Which machine is right for me?” then I can heartily recommend that you join our automatic espresso machine group on Facebook.
The group is a very engaged community of users who discuss their experiences with specific models. And, of course, please feel free to leave me comments! As soon as I can find an answer or give you new insights, I’ll let you know straight away, and I’ll include especially important questions here. Deal?
You can find the three test winners here on Amazon: