Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine in 2023: Ready to Get Yours?
Updated on: July 28, 2023
I’ve been reviewing super automatic espresso machines for years now and put more than 50 models through their paces. This guide gives you an overview of brands, models and types out there, so you can decide which one is the best for your home and office.
If you’re searching for the best super automatic espresso machine, you’ve come to the right place. As it happens, I’m ready and willing to share everything I’ve learned from years of reviews! With that said, machines come and go, so I’ve decided to give this guide a much needed update.
What hasn’t changed is how much I love bean to cup coffee makers. In fact, these things are still getting better all the time. Seriously, I’m continually impressed by how easy to operate these machines are. Not only that, manufacturers have taken things to new levels in terms of espresso and milk foam quality.
However, before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re all up to date on our super automatic espresso machine 101.
If you’re looking for the right automatic espresso machine with the highest quality and best features, you’ll want to purchase either the Jura Z10 or Miele CM 7750. However, if what you’re really asking is which one is best for you, that’s dependent on your personal needs and budget. Read on to find out!
Super automatic espresso machines make terrific espresso, depending on three things: The model you go with, how well you tweak your settings and if you use quality beans or not.
Super automatic espresso machines are coffee machines with a built-in grinder and an automatic or manual milk frothing system. You can get your espresso, cappuccino, latte and more literally at the push of a button.
I’ll give you the lowdown on my top picks in a range of categories and price ranges, before discussing how these machines are engineered and how theywork. Plus, we’ll get into the nitty gritty of cleaning procedures and I’ll even throw in a few insider tips you won’t find in any user manuals. Ready? Let’s get to it!
Our Top 10 Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine Quick Picks
Let’s face it, even the most budget-friendly super automatic espresso machine requires a substantial financial outlay. The long and the short of it is that these things ain’t cheap!
With that in mind, you’re probably hesitant to commit to any one machine for fear of making the wrong decision. Well, don’t worry — everything you need to know before making a purchase can be found later in this guide. To get the ball rolling, I’ve assembled a top 10 list of my favorite machines to get you started on the right track:
How to Choose the Right Super Automatic Espresso Machine For You
Now that you’ve got a feel for the automatic coffee machines I rate most highly, it’s time for a little introspection. Ask yourself a few questions about what your priorities are and where you’re prepared to compromise.
That wasn’t so bad, was it! Now that your head is a little clearer, it’s time for a crash course in what factors to consider when buying a fully automatic coffee machine.
Before we go any further, let me first squash the idea once and for all that there’s one super automatic espresso machine to rule them all. I mean, this isn’t Lord of the Rings. “Best” is relative — to your budget, taste in design, preference in milk frothing system and so much more.
If you’re fortunate enough to consider money as no object when looking for the best super automatic espresso machine, feel free to skip to the next section! For the rest of us mere mortals, budget is probably the first thing to take into account.
As I already mentioned, any super automatic machine requires a substantial financial commitment. If you’re anything like me, there’s always a warm feeling coming from your wallet as your credit card slowly burns a hole in your pocket. Still, I probably don’t need to remind you to try and live within your means!
On the flip side, owning a super automatic can make solid financial sense. This is especially true if you’re spending money at the local coffee shop every day. Just think about it, cutting out that $5 daily latte means you’re saving $35 a week, which comes out to around $140 a month! You can see where I’m going with this, right? Ultimately, a mid-range automatic coffee maker could potentially pay for itself in about a year.
Of course, that’s a best case scenario and you will spend money on coffee beans and milk. However, as far as I can see, a super automatic espresso machine can be a great investment that’ll hopefully save you money in the long run.
In my opinion, the best super automatic espresso machine is a perfect combination of convenience, functionality and attractive design.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder — some folks will love the statement-making vibe of a Jura machine, while others will prefer the understated elegance of a Miele coffee maker. Then again, plenty of people won’t care much either way, and will be satisfied with the more utilitarian look of a DeLonghi super automatic.
Personally, I always prefer stainless steel housing. However, if you’re on a limited budget you’ll likely have to settle for an abundance of plastic. With that said, there are exceptions, including the remarkably affordable Gaggia Brera.
A more important factor to consider is counter space. After all, nothing would dampen your spirits more than unpacking your new machine to find that it doesn’t fit under your overhead cabinets. While you’re taking measurements, consider the placement of the water tank and bean hopper. Trust me, constantly having to move your machine around just to remove the reservoir will take a toll on your nerves!
Espresso & Coffee Quality
Let’s take a second to pause and remember what’s really important. Sure, a super automatic’s convenience factor can’t be understated. However, if the thing can’t brew espresso well, then what’s the point?
There are tons of factors involved in a good espresso extraction, including grind size and consistency, coffee volume and water temperature. However, these machines tend to clog up if the grind is too fine. Some manufacturers have found a way around the resulting lack of resistance in the brew group by developing special brewing technology. Jura’s Pulse Extraction Process (P.E.P.) is a successful example.
Whichever price segment you’re shopping in, look for a machine with a pre-infusion function. This initial dampening of the ground coffee is essential to aroma development. Also look for a machine that allows you to adjust settings like coffee strength, water temperature during extraction and the volume of espresso produced.
Essentially, the more control you have over the brewing process, the greater the odds you’ll get flavorful espresso!
Milk Frothing System
One of the factors that makes super automatic machines so appealing is the ability to create coffee shop specialties at the touch of a button. If that’s the case for you, look for a machine with an automatic milk system.
An automatic frother may involve pipework that sits in an external milk container, while some feature a fully integrated milk carafe. Either way, the convenience factor involved can’t be denied. With that said, an automatic milk frother needs to be thoroughly cleaned after each use, which can get rather tedious.
The alternative is a manual steam wand, which not only gives you more control over milk texture but is also way easier to keep clean. Of course, a machine with a manual steam wand means you’ll have to put in more work. It’ll also take some time to get used to steaming milk by hand. Still, in my experience, frothing milk yourself can be fun and rewarding!
When you’re looking for the best automatic espresso machine, you might think you want all the features under the sun. I totally get it — it’s easy to get wowed by fancy touchscreens, apps and marketing gobbledygook. However, in reality, you might not need dozens of drink specialties and ten programmable user profiles.
While a touchscreen interface might look high-tech and pretty, it really isn’t necessary. There are tons of awesome bean to cup machines out there with simple text displays and buttons. As for the whole app thing, think about whether you’ll actually ever use it. If you relish the idea of impressing your friends with what your machine can do, then great! Otherwise, an app might quickly seem redundant.
I will say that programmable user profiles are fantastic to have, especially if you’re part of a coffee loving family. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than when someone fiddles with your carefully programmed latte macchiato or cappuccino settings. Okay, there are lots of things worse, but you get what I’m saying!
Our Top 10 Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine Picks in Detail
Okay, it’s time to dive a little deeper and take a closer look at what each machine has to offer. You should have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for by now, so feel free to skip ahead to what interests you.
Awarding the Gaggia Brera the title of “Best Entry-Level” automatic coffee maker was a no-brainer. Seriously, for just $539.00, you get a lot of cool features. Then again, I’m not really surprised; if there’s one thing I know, it’s that Gaggia produces high-quality, well-conceived machines at every price point.
This elegant, compact machine with a straightforward user interface has everything you need to get started on your super automatic journey. Heck, there’s even stainless steel used in the machine’s construction, which wins major points! There’s no automatic milk system here, but the manual panarello steam wand is simple, powerful and effective.
Don’t assume that this is a bare bones machine — there are plenty of advanced features to keep things interesting. For starters, the Brera is equipped with a ceramic flat burr grinder that’s quiet and consistent. As far as drink quality goes, this thing can produce really great espresso. There’s an awesome pre infusion setting, as well as Gaggia’s Optiaroma function, which allows you to customize your brew strength.
In my opinion, the Gaggia Brera proves you don’t have to spend your life savings to get a solid machine that’ll serve you well.
There are plenty of budget super automatic espresso machines to choose from. However, in my opinion, the Philips 3200 LatteGo stands head and shoulders above the crowd. Seeing as I’ve named this machine “Best Budget Buy,” let’s take a look at what $700.48 gets you.
To begin with, the 3200 comes equipped with a ceramic flat burr grinder with 12 adjustment levels. By itself, that is enough to get pretty excited about. The fun doesn’t stop there, though. The LatteGo automatic milk frother is simple, well-designed and easy to use. Plus, it’s easy to clean the thing, which is always good news. Sure, I’ve had better milk foam from a super automatic, but at this price I can’t complain.
Finally, the Philips 3200’s user interface is straightforward and easy to navigate. Everything you need is right there, and adjusting espresso parameters via three-step scale icons couldn’t be more simple. In short, if you’re on a budget, the Philips 3200 LatteGo represents the ideal package.
Upon its release in 2021, the Jura Z10 instantly redefined what a fully automatic espresso machine could be. As you’d expect from a Jura coffee maker, the Z10 is gorgeous to look at and would seriously elevate the aesthetics of any kitchen.
However, this machine is far from just a pretty face. In my Jura Z10 review I was blown away by the Product Recognizing Grinder (P.R.G.). Not only is this grinder super quiet, it can be set to adapt electronically according to the beverage being prepared.
The Z10 is equipped with a host of other features, including Pulse Extraction Process (P.E.P.) and 3D Brewing Technology. The latter feature supposedly allows water to flow evenly on multiple levels for a more even extraction.
Aside from making sublime espresso and exquisitely textured milk foam, the Z10 also produces pretty darn amazing cold brew. Thanks to Jura’s Cold Extraction Process, espresso can be brewed at lower temperatures, resulting in a creamy and delicious cold brew crossover.
DeLonghi really outdid itself with the Dinamica Plus, and it’s since become my gold standard mid-range super automatic espresso machine. As far as I’m concerned, if another machine at this price point can’t measure up, there’s no point buying it.
The Dinamica Plus shares most of the same features as its predecessor, including a 13-level stainless steel burr grinder and the fantastic LatteCrema milk system. However, the beautiful 3.5 inch (9 centimeter) touchscreen display takes things to another level. There are also individual user profiles and 16 specialty coffees to choose from.
As if all that wasn’t enough to make Jura nervous, DeLonghi made the Dinamica Plus compatible with its Coffee Link app. Most importantly, though, the Dinamica Plus consistently produces fantastic espresso and milk foam. Oh, and you can even make iced coffee, thanks to the innovative TrueBrew Over Ice feature. You can see why I awarded this machine “Best Overall” status, right?!
In case you were wondering, yes you can believe your eyes — the Jura ENA 4 really does cost $979.00. If that seems too good to be true for a Jura coffee maker, there is one catch: this particular Jura machine doesn’t have a milk frothing system on board.
Suffice to say, the ENA 4 isn’t for everyone. I’m thinking those of you that enjoy the odd cappuccino or latte macchiato might be disappointed. However, if you’re committed to the purist lifestyle, this super automatic espresso machine could be everything you’ve dreamed of.
Featuring a sleek, understated design enhanced by a flashy external water tank, the Jura ENA 4 is a strikingly beautiful machine. As you’d expect, the Swiss manufacturer has included its Pulse Extraction Process (P.E.P.) brewing technology and the awesome Aroma G3 grinder. Essentially, this machine will produce some of the best espresso you’ll ever taste. That’s quite the achievement for a super automatic machine.
The recently released Miele CM 7750 kind of took me off guard. After all, for a manufacturer that usually keeps a low profile, this machine seems to represent a change in approach. It’s almost as if the design team woke up one day and decided the time was finally right to try and outdo the competition.
Whatever the reason for the CM 7750, I’m just happy it exists. Aesthetically speaking, the CM 7750 is instantly recognizable as a Miele machine. All the sleek, minimalist design features are present. However, this is a big, bulky beast of a coffee maker that’s crying out to be noticed.
Once you’ve got past the $6,399.00 price tag, the CM 7750’s most notable feature is its trio of bean hoppers. This gives you tons of flexibility when it comes to experimenting with different coffee beans. There’s no second (or third) grinder on board, but a cool impeller removes excess grounds from the stainless steel conical burrs. That’s important, as it reduces cross-contamination when switching between hoppers.
Elsewhere, Miele has seriously upped its game with the CM 7750. There’s a beautiful touchscreen display, an app for remote operation and 10 individual user profiles for storing drink settings. I’d say Miele is definitely trying to appeal to the office sector with this machine, so Jura had better watch out!
In my opinion, the Miele CM 6360 MilkPerfection perfectly encapsulates the German manufacturer’s low-key vibe. While other manufacturers duke it out with high-profile slogans and bling, Miele simply keeps quietly releasing consistent, durable and high quality coffee makers like this one.
Featuring Miele’s customary boxy shape, the CM 6360 also showcases the usual old-fashioned user interface. There’s a text screen surrounded by buttons, which might be a disappointment to touchscreen lovers. However, I found the user interface to be refreshingly simple and easy to operate. There’s a lesson in there somewhere!
The Miele CM 6360 offers plenty of customizable settings for espresso, and produces some of the richest and most chocoaltey coffee I’ve ever tasted. During my review I was particularly impressed by the fine texture of the frothed milk, which was nice and hot thanks to the double frothing system. What’s more, the double milk pipework makes it really convenient to rinse the circuit between coffee drinks.
You’ve just gotta love the outrageous Jura GIGA 6. This magnificent beast is one of the most impressive super automatics I’ve ever reviewed. One thing’s for sure, if you want to make a grand statement, putting one of these in your kitchen is the way to go. However, you’ll need to save your pennies — at $3,999.00, the GIGA 6 is no small investment.
Apart from its impressive and imposing design, The Jura GIGA 6 is incredibly functional and easy to operate. I love the machine’s enormous full color TFT touchscreen display, which makes navigating the drink menus a breeze.
Essentially, The Jura GIGA 6 does everything bigger and better. There are two electronically adjustable ceramic flat burr grinders, two huge bean hoppers, two pumps and two thermoblocks. Still, don’t think for a second that all this is just for show.
As it happens, the GIGA 6 makes fabulous coffee drinks and can produce spectacular milk foam. You’re able to tweak just about every setting imaginable, including the ratio of hot milk to foam, and the results are beyond impressive. What’s more, you can prepare two milk-based specialties at the same time, which is a rare feat for any super automatic.
Some coffee purists like to dismiss super automatics by claiming they can’t produce “true” espresso. Whether or not that’s technically the case, all the machines on my top 10 list are capable of making pretty darn tasty automatic espresso. A case in point is the Gaggia Babila, which costs an entirely reasonable $1,750.56.
Honestly, this mid-range champion has it all, including two boilers, an efficient ceramic burr grinder, a manual steam wand and an awesome integrated milk carafe. In fact, my only complaint has to do with the machine’s determinedly old fashioned user interface. Still, that has no effect on what’s really important here, namely fantastic espresso and frothed milk.
As far as espresso preparation goes, it isn’t unusual to find adjustable settings for the grinder, water temperature and volume on a super automatic. However, the Gaggia Babila takes things to the next level. For example, you’re able to choose between three pre-infusion settings. Even better, there’s a dial on the dispensing spout that allows you to adjust the flow rate in real time. In short, control freaks can rejoice — Gaggia has you covered!
Currently available for $1,499.00, you’d be hard pressed to find another machine that packs as much into an affordable package as the Saeco Xelsis. In fact, I couldn’t help but award the Xelsis the title of “Best Value Super Automatic Espresso Machine.”
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the perfect coffee maker. During my Saeco Xelsis review I was constantly annoyed by the milk system’s insistence on purging water into my cup. However, there’s just so much to love about this machine that I’m willing to overlook the odd fault.
For starters, a slim design and stainless steel accents lend the Xelsis the air of a high-quality, well-conceived device. Furthermore, the machine’s huge, glossy user interface is a thing of beauty. What’s especially cool is the Coffee Equalizer, which allows you to dial in your drink settings via a row of sliders.
In terms of performance, I can’t find fault with the ceramic burr grinder. Replete with 12 adjustment settings, Saeco’s grinder is quiet and consistent. Add in the fact that you’ve got six user profiles and an automatic milk system, and it’s clear the Xelsis can easily hold its own next to DeLonghi and Jura machines.
Brand Overview: All Super Automatic Espresso Machines Sorted by Brand
So many espresso machines. So much confusion.
At Coffeeness, we know all too well that navigating this huge market is no easy task. Understanding the better- and lesser-known manufacturers is just the beginning.
Then you have to pick through model series and machine subcategories. My head hurts just thinking about it, so I’m going to keep it nice and simple for you.
You’d think that price would correlate with quality, but think again. It never ceases to surprise me how shoddy the build quality can be on astonishingly expensive machines. By the same token, there are very affordable appliances that are incredibly well-designed and built. Go figure.
I’m all about completeness. Plus, I want to give you another perspective on the machines I’ve reviewed most highly. With that in mind, I’m going to run through all the key manufacturers and special features below. Wherever possible, I’ll also shine a light on the more cryptic model names and offer tips on what to look for with each brand:
I recently updated my guide to the best DeLonghi espresso machines, which gave me a chance to revisit some old favorites. While doing that, I was reminded just how much of a powerhouse the Italian manufacturer is. Seriously, DeLonghi offers machines that kick butt in just about every price category.
Not only that, other manufacturers have a hard time coming close to what DeLonghi can deliver in terms of what you get for the money.
Take the DeLonghi Dinamica Plus, for example. We’re talking about a mid-range machine with all the bells and whistles you could ever ask for. There’s a reason I always use the Dinamica Plus as my go-to comparison device when I’m reviewing another machine at a similar price point.
For more information about DeLonghi super automatics, take a gander at the guide I mentioned above. In the meantime, here are a few machines to consider:
In the States, Gaggia is a brand with a growing reputation. With Gaggia espresso machines you get a lot for your money. Moreover, you often get it encased in gorgeous stainless steel! That’s not even something that the likes of Jura can claim.
If you’re looking for a solid machine that will serve you for many years without breaking the bank, you’ll want to check out the following options:
I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing Gaggia automatic espresso machines lately. I have to say I’ve been more than impressed by what’s on offer. Each machine has its own strengths and weaknesses, but a common thread of quality runs through the lot.
Besides the sturdy and stylish design, I really appreciate Gaggia’s simplistic user interfaces and milk frothing systems. Gaggia is much like Miele in that they are less worried about a fancy touch screen, yet produce terrific espresso.
Jura and I got off to a rocky start after I reviewed the decidedly underwhelming Impressa C60 and ended up going back and forth with the marketing department.
Long story short, after a mini coffee cold war, you guys encouraged me to re-establish diplomatic relations (and reviews). As it happens, I’ve since found a lot to like about the Swiss brand.
Although it didn’t start out making fully automatic espresso machines, that’s now Jura’s main focus — one it pursues with an uncompromising approach to high quality and high prices.
So don’t bother looking for a Jura espresso machine for under $800. Not unless you want to do without a milk system, that is. The brand doesn’t stoop to cheap and cheerful for fear of tarnishing its “not your average joe” image.
As one of the manufacturers most focused on innovating to perfect super automatic espresso and milk froth, you have to admit that there’s some truth to its snooty swagger.
In keeping with that pre-eminently premium philosophy, Jura likes to emphasize that its machines are not only quieter than competing products but also don’t need removable brew groups. That latter point had me all riled up for a long time, but I’ve since come around. More on that later.
For now, I’ll just say this: you can’t go wrong with Jura.
In a crowded market full of manufacturers vying for your attention, Miele has carried on for years as if flashy innovations are best left to everyone else.
Featuring a distinctive boxy shape and somewhat outdated user interfaces, Miele automatic coffee machines are instantly recognizable. What’s more, the manufacturer is dedicated to releasing high quality super automatics that really deliver the goods.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of what the German manufacturer produces. And I kind of love how Miele just flies under the radar, quietly doing its thing. That’s why I was somewhat taken aback by the Miele CM 7750, which simply can’t be ignored. I mean, this outrageous machine is the first (that I’m aware of) to feature three bean compartments!
Aside from the aforementioned mega-machine, Miele coffee makers tend to occupy the mid-range price segment:
Before I go any further, I need to nip any confusion in the bud: Philips and Saeco (see the next section) are the same company. After acquiring the espresso machine manufacturer in 2009, the Dutch giant retained the Saeco brand name for its high-end and flagship machines.
That’s why the entry-level and mid-range models (which retail as Philips) now punch above their weight. It’s all thanks to superior Saeco components.
Case in point: the 12-level, ceramic, flat-burr grinder built into the Philips 3200 series. No other machine in its price segment can match that.
Get a load of these excellent, affordable machines:
As I just mentioned, Philips has benefited greatly from purchasing Saeco. As it happens, the Dutch manufacturer appears to be phasing the Saeco brand out. There’s some uncertainty involved here, so don’t take my word for it. However, what does seem apparent is that Saeco machines are going down in price:
Aside from the prospect of a great bargain, I have to say I think that by ditching Saeco, Philips may be killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. After all, the ad-hoc brand allows the manufacturer to play in the same league as the big names in espresso machines, including Jura.
What’s more, here at Coffeeness, we give big ups to Saeco. That’s because the brand not only has benchmark products in its range but is also a source of innovations that prove hits with shoppers and retailers.
The bottom line: if you see one of these great all-rounders at a good price, get it while you can.
How to Calibrate Each Component of Your Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Now that I’ve whet your appetite, let’s dive into how to get the most out of your super automatic espresso machine.
Even though it almost goes without saying, I’ll say it anyway: with highly automated appliances like these, the quality of your components not only will determine your machine’s life span and value, but also the quality of what you get in your cup.
The other half of the equation is settings. Otherwise, you’re just chucking in beans, water and milk and hoping for the best.
For that reason, I’m going to walk you through dialing in your machine. I’ll weave in important insights about the components in question at the same time.
Before getting into that, I’ve put together a list of must-haves based on my reviewing experiences. After all, fully automatic espresso machines are all about convenience with a capital C. These things go a long way to achieving that, so try and make sure your chosen model ticks as many of the boxes as possible:
Go large on your drip tray to avoid the annoyance of frequent emptying and the machine going on strike when it’s full.
The same story applies to the used grounds collection container.
Look for an adjustable coffee spout that’ll max out at around 5.5 inches (14 centimeters). That way you’ll have enough room for latte macchiato glasses and travel mugs to fit underneath.
Look for a water tank and bean hopper that are neither too big nor too small and covered with opaque lids. That’ll discourage algae growth in the water reservoir and protect your precious beans from UV radiation.
Opt for a grinder that can easily be adjusted without using a tool — more on this below.
Look for an actively heated cup tray because warm cups equal warm coffee.
Using the Right Water
A coffee break without water just leaves you, well, gnawing at bitter beans. And since that’s not quite what we’re looking for, no one’s going to argue that water is key to coffee preparation.
Seeing as it’s a pretty big deal, it’s worth driving home a few points relating to how water can impact coffee flavor and determine the life of your machine.
It’s obvious when you say it out loud, but freshness matters. You don’t use old, stale beans, so why use old, stale water? Not to mention, leaving water to stagnate in your tank is a big no-no.
As fresh water leaves the faucet or filter, it mixes with oxygen, and the resulting bubbles are essential to good coffee.
Just to be clear: a filter — whether built into your machine or of the Brita jug variety — won’t transform your water into a magic liquid that’s better suited to brewing. The primary function of a water filter is to extend the intervals between descaling your machine. I’ll get into this in more detail when covering cleaning.
A much better freshness hack is the tank size.
So to that end, unless you have an office full of blurry-eyed people to caffeinate, bigger is not better. Extra-large water tanks just tempt you to fill them and forget. With a small one, you can’t help but refill it frequently — so freshness is guaranteed.
Talking about water volumes, it almost goes without saying that quantity affects the strength of your brew. In fact, this is one of my pet peeves. A proper espresso shot should clock in at around 1 ounce (30 milliliters). However, most super automatic espresso machines deliver about 1.3 ounces (38 milliliters) into your espresso cups. Why? Beats me.
At least the pricier models allow you to adjust this — and to be honest, it’s one of the first things I check when pulling a shot on a new machine.
Inevitably, though, I end up reducing the volume. Don’t let the fact that it’s somewhat confusingly referred to as “cup size” throw you, either.
The other water parameter that you have to play with is temperature, which takes us to the next set of super automatic espresso machine components and settings.
The Right Grinder Settings and Coffee Strength
There was already quite a lot of talk about grinders in the product sections, and for good reason. This component and its correct calibration more or less define the quality of your extraction and the resulting flavor profile in your cup.
As a rule of thumb, the finer you grind, the more authentic your espresso will be. That said, differences between various grinders’ increments and how easy it is to adjust them are huge. Worst-case scenario, you get a grinder you can’t adjust at all.
Best-case scenario, you get a stepless (infinitely adjustable) grinder. And since those are usually the preserve of seriously pricey machines — like the Jura Z8 — look for one with as many grind settings as you can afford. An easy-to-use adjustment knob or dial is also vital. Honestly, Saeco, no one wants to fiddle with a hex key. Ugh.
Keep these points in mind when researching a machine:
You want a nice uniform grind to ensure even extraction.
The built in grinder is largely responsible for how noisy a machine is.
As the part that sees the most wear and tear, the grinder is usually the first thing to break. So, get the best quality you can.
Grinders in super automatic espresso machines are specced and classified according to two features: material and mechanism type.
When it comes to materials, we’re talking either ceramic or stainless steel, while the mechanisms divide into conical or flat burrs. In both cases, there’s no clear-cut best bet — each option has its advantages and disadvantages.
Ceramic is supposedly less noisy, but don’t count on it. My top picks for the quiet life are the Jura E8 and higher models, which have stainless steel, conical burr grinders.
I’m also not convinced about claims that ceramic lasts longer. My sense is that stainless steel is tougher, though the one clear advantage of ceramic is you never have to worry about rust. Hey, no argument there.
The bottom line: don’t get too hung up on the material. The grinder and build quality are arguably more important.
Next, let’s take the mechanisms apart. I’ve added blade grinders into the table for the sake of comparison, but don’t go there. Seriously, don’t. These cheapos just chop your coffee beans into oblivion.
You’ll notice that small super automatics, like the Espressione Concierge, tend to have conical burr grinders because the mechanism is more compact.
On the other hand, flat-burr mechanisms are larger because the stacked rings take up more space than the nested conical design. What’s more, supersizing the burrs has the advantage not only of reducing grinding time but also improving flavor. Why? Heat can’t build up and compromise your beans’ delicate aroma.
Rather than obsessing over which material or mechanism type your super automatic espresso machine has, redirect your energy into looking after your grinder. Regular care prevents glitches and faults, so remember to:
Adjust your grinder correctly — while it’s running.
Regularly disassemble your grinder to give it a thorough clean. It’s not that hard. Pinky swear.
Keep an eye out for little stones or other debris that can wreck the grinder.
The first point is a real moment of truth for a machine as a whole. Will it literally choke on the finest grounds the grinder can produce, or will the pump pressure and brew unit come to the party?
Remember, the finer the grounds, the more pressure is necessary to force the water through the puck. Plus, the higher the risk of fine particles clogging parts before extraction even starts.
Of course, grind size isn’t the only factor that affects extraction. Higher pressure is necessary to drive water through more coffee grounds, resulting in more intense flavor.
Coffee Grounds Dosing
So to keep things simple, manufacturers tend to use a simple bean scale. More bean icons mean more ground coffee in the puck.
Combining these two settings — the grind size and dosage — is important, especially as it’s where many people slip up. Here’s a quick summary for you:
Watery coffee is the result of water passing too quickly through the puck. The grind may be too coarse and the dose too small.
Muddy sludge ends up in your cup. The grind may be too fine and the dose too high.
You’ll have to play around until you hit the sweet spot, but a good display with intuitive, easily navigable menus will make your life a whole lot easier.
Word to the wise: once you’ve made all the tweaks to harmonize the water volume, grind texture and dosage to create a perfect hallelujah of an espresso, stop fiddling.
After all, a great espresso is not only a glorious thing in its own right, but it’s also the basis for all the other specialty coffee drinks that your machine makes. So once you’ve nailed it, don’t mess with it. That said, if you decide to experiment with different beans, you’ll likely have to start from scratch with the settings.
Feeling the Pressure: The Brew Group and Pump
Brewing pressure is one thing, but don’t let manufacturers convince you that more bars are better.
Ideal espresso extraction requires around 9 bars — that’s it. Basically, you need those extra 3, 6 or 10 bars manufacturers love to trumpet like a fish needs a bicycle. Yes, Jura, I’m looking at you!
What’s more, unless your coffee is ground finely enough and tamped firmly enough, it won’t provide sufficient resistance to all that pressure anyway. And since that’s not possible on most fully automatic espresso machines, there’s little point in getting sucked into the numbers hype.
In fact, the pump and brew group form the black box on a super automatic espresso machine. That’s because you generally have zero control over what goes on in there.
Here’s a quick peek:
Freshly ground beans are deposited into the brewing chamber, where the grounds are compacted to form a puck.
Hot water under pressure is forced through the puck. The resulting extraction flows through a system of pumps and pipes before trickling into your cup.
The spent puck is then ejected into the dregs drawer.
Add that to the fact that brewing involves a lot of mechanical processes, and you don’t need an engineering degree to figure out that quality materials and construction are vital here. Otherwise, your machine just won’t last.
While (durable) plastic is usually the predominant material, the more stainless steel there is in the mix, the better. As you’re probably already aware, stainless steel is preferable when it comes to hinges and other moving parts.
Milk It for All It’s Worth: Cappuccinatores, Milk Systems and Settings
Despite being more of a mouthful than the drink it’s named after, this milk frothing system is really quite simple. Milk is sucked up a hose and then frothed with steam.
In fact, any integrated milk frothing system is basically a jazzed-up version of this system.
If there’s a special built-in container for the milk, expect that to reflect in the price tag. On the other hand, systems that draw milk directly out of a carton or jug will often be more affordable.
Still, before you go pushing the credit card limits, you should know that simple cappuccinatores consistently outperform more elaborate systems in our reviews. Here’s why:
They’re much easier to clean and are far more hygienic.
Switching between different kinds of milk is easy.
Simple systems often reduce the machine footprint and are more flexible.
The Jura E8 and Jura Z8 are a real testimony to this, as you can read in the reviews. Sounds too good to be true? Well, there’s a bit of a catch: very few machines produce barista-quality froth for milk based drinks.
Surprise, surprise! You only get barista results with a barista tool — a steam wand. The only problem is that a manual milk frother not only requires some skill, but runs counter to the whole concept of a super automatic espresso machine.
So what can you do to milk the white stuff for all it’s worth?
Most super automatics let you fine-tune temperature and volume settings. However, Jura leads the way when it comes to doing more. The Jura GIGA 6 allows you to tweak the proportion of milk to froth, while The Jura E8 has an adjustment lever on its professional fine foam frother. Anyway, your choice of milk is one thing you can control, irrespective of your machine.
Traditional moo juice is a sure thing when it comes to creating milk foam. While whole milk will deliver bolder, creamier results, products with a reduced fat content still do the job.
As for all those so-called “barista” or other versions whose fat content has supposedly been optimized for latte art, just walk on by. It’s not worth it.
Since milk alternatives struggle to replicate the ratio of fat to protein found in dairy, things aren’t quite so straightforward. You’ll find that’s especially true of rice milk, which hardly froths at all.
When it comes to plant milk, soy is the froth phenomenon but still might not be your first choice. It can lack sophistication, plus there are potential hormonal side effects. By themselves, coconut and almond milk in cartons fall short of the mark. But if you mix them, you’ll start seeing results.
It might come as a surprise that homemade nut milks froth up rather well. Just make sure your batch is super fresh and hasn’t separated while sitting in the container.
Basically, you need to accept that you’re in trial-and-error territory and do a bit of experimenting. Bear in mind, though, that some super automatic espresso machines with a cappuccinatore may need adjusting when changing milk varieties.
User Interface: Controls, Display and App
Now that we’ve done a pretty thorough tour of your fully automatic espresso machine’s inner workings, let’s wrap up with the outer connection to all that functionality: the user interface. After all, even an espresso machine with millions of options is useless if you can’t easily locate and use all those features.
It also almost goes without saying that big-ticket coffee machines will have swankier, more digital controls. For some manufacturers, that means looking to integrate the coffee machine into your smart kitchen through app control.
A Saeco sales representative I chatted with at a trade show a few years back pointed out that app control is just the first step on the path to kitchen appliance digitalization. Perhaps that’s why the brand has instead opted for a very generous touch screen on its flagship Saeco Xelsis.
I honestly can’t fault the manufacturer’s logic. Even with the slickest app, you still have to walk over and put a cup under the spout. While you’re there, you might as well program the machine.
Before we head down the app rabbit hole, though, let’s figure out what makes for a good interface because once the novelty of a new machine wears off, you just want to instantly put your fingers on a few basic functions.
So no hemming and hawing over what a button or icon might do. Scrolling endlessly through menus — whether in an app or on a touch screen — gets old quickly.
While it’s not the only way to design intuitive controls, basic, no-frills buttons definitely keep things simple. It’s also why I never recommend a model with a display over the same machine with buttons. There’s just no need for a display if the controls are self-explanatory.
I also have absolutely no problem with buttons that light up like a Christmas tree — as long as all the blinking has a purpose. In fact, many of the inexpensive machines do a great job of guiding you and communicating clearly in this Morse code.
My very simple test of whether a super automatic espresso machine gets my yay or nay for ease of operation goes like this: if I can set all the parameters to make well-balanced espresso and coffee drinks without having to go back to the user manual, it’s thumbs-up.
There’s no question that apps need to pass the same test. And with virtually every machine setting at your fingertips on a smartphone or tablet, they often do.
Honestly, I’ve got no beef with apps, but let’s not kid around — the manufacturers certainly aren’t. Apps cost you about $200 more and are ultimately a gimmick to lure serious tech heads. So for that reason, most models with apps are also available with standard controls.
The real appeal, of course, is ordering coffee drinks from the comfort of your couch or bed. Plus, if you really want to test out your machine’s capabilities, doing it with your feet up is pretty sweet. To enjoy that to the fullest, here’s a list of features that I think really elevate the app experience:
Select drinks with ease.
Switch on the machine (from your bed).
Access the user manual.
Initiate water hardness tests and maintenance programs easily.
Contact customer service.
Since there are seldom upsides without downsides, watch out for these potential headaches:
Apps are a great way for manufacturers to collect data, and coffee drinkers are a lucrative target market. Consider yourself warned.
You can’t adjust certain key parameters, like grind size, via apps.
Manufacturers like to make you think all of your kitchen appliances must be the same brand and form part of the same app ecosystem. Sure, no one’s stopping you, but what’s the point in having your espresso machine communicate with your stove?
You can buy branded detergents, accessories and other products with one tap. I recommend taking a couple of seconds to check out third-party suppliers because you’ll get a much better deal.
For all that apps make you feel like the age of robot butlers is just around the corner, ultimately, there’s no difference with your machine’s performance or quality.
The manufacturers that currently offer apps with higher-end machines include Jura with the JOE app and DeLonghi with the DeLonghi Coffee Link app. In case you were wondering, the functionality is good on both.
Double Features: It Takes Two. Or Does It?
When investigating super automatic espresso machines, you can quickly find yourself not just dreaming big but double. Along the lines of:
What about making two drinks at once?
Can I use pre-ground coffee?
I get a lot of questions about how flexible and well-housebroken these machines are, and those two come up most often. I mean, anybody who enjoys coffee time with family or friends can appreciate the value of being able to make two drinks at once.
While this feature is typically available in the mid-range models — like the DeLonghi Dinamica — you’re often limited to coffee drinks without milk.
Yep, it’s nice to have, but is it a deal breaker? Not in my book. At the end of the day, the fact that each drink comes out perfectly counts for more.
Of course, the bigger the household, the more important this is. No one wants to be third in line, waiting impatiently, as the person at the machine fusses over their espresso macchiato.
Another place I’ve noticed this “two is better than one” thinking in higher-end machines is with bean hoppers. If one person in the household drinks regular coffee and the other sticks to decaf, it’s easy to see how two hoppers could nip a lot of hassles in the bud.
Some of you will point to the powder chute that you can use for pre-ground coffee. While that might seem like an elegant solution, I’ve found that these bypass dosers tend to clog up too easily.
Despite the obvious appeal of having two compartments, there aren’t a lot of machines on the U.S. market that do. Maybe that’s because there’s a catch.
You’ve got two sets of beans but only one grinder. Since a few grounds always remain in the grinder, the decaf drinker is inevitably getting a teeny bit of caffeine. For someone who’s hypersensitive to caffeine, that’s not ideal.
As a workaround, you should pull at least one espresso after switching beans to clear out the system before making your coffee. The first prize, of course, is two hoppers and two grinders. For that, though, you’re looking at the eye-wateringly expensive Jura GIGA 6.
The last of the double packs are twin thermoblocks in machines like the Jura Z8 and GIGA 6. Now in theory, these give you better control over the different temperatures required for brewing and frothing.
But truth be told, a cappuccino from the single thermoblock Jura Z6 tasted just as good to me as one from the Jura Z8 dual boiler machine.
The Best Coffee Beans for Automatic Espresso Machines
It’s time to spill the beans … on the ones you like most.
Okay, so that was a total cop-out because flavor is very subjective. However, that doesn’t mean any old beans will do. Not by a long shot.
Listen, it’s not my place to tell you how to live your life. Still, because I care, I’d like to give you some advice on selecting coffee beans:
Consider brewing with high-quality, fresh coffee beans.
Whenever possible, buy whole bean coffee from small, independent roasters.
Don’t be seduced by cheap, mass-market coffee.
Dare to experiment!
As a rule, slightly darker roasts are the best choice for automatic espresso machines. If you want more floral notes, though, pour-over drippers do a better job of teasing out that beautiful bouquet.
Be warned that espresso beans that are a knockout in your semi-automatic espresso machine won’t necessarily lend themselves to a fully automatic espresso machine, which tends to under-extract. The results can be unpleasantly acidic.
At this point I should mention that I’ve developed what I consider to be the best coffee beans for automatic espresso machines. This has been a passion project of mine for quite some time and I’m really excited about the results. Sustainably sourced and of the highest possible quality, my Coffee for Fully Automatic Machines by Coffeeness will be available in North America really soon!
Cleaning Your Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Hygiene should be part and parcel of owning a super automatic espresso machine from day one. Unfortunately, many users only get around to cleaning when things stop working or the coffee starts tasting bad. By then, it is too late.
Fact: coffee residue and milk with steam create a really nice petri dish party for mold and other microbes. This can change the taste of your drink, to say the least.
Think about it. You wouldn’t drink a cappuccino out of a cup that hadn’t been washed for a week — at least I hope not.
I know a lot of you are eyeing the automatic cleaning programs and thinking that’s the easy solution. While you should definitely run those regularly, they don’t let you entirely off the hook.
The first line of defense against mold and other nasties is cleaning your fully automatic espresso machine at the end of every single day that it’s in use.
Here’s a rundown of my daily routine:
Rinse out and dry the dregs drawer, drip tray and water tank.
Clean the milk system.
Remove the brew unit and rinse it under running water. Leave it to dry overnight.
Honestly, it’s very simple and only takes a few minutes but can add years to your machine’s life.
On top of that, anyone who uses their machine every day should give it a thorough clean at least once a week. Just to be clear: that means running a cycle with detergent as well as the daily wiping, flushing and rinsing.
Manufacturers recommend wildly different cleaning intervals. But with the daily routine, plus a weekly deep clean, you’re covered.
OK enough with the sermon. In the next sections, I’ll explain the clean-etiquette for each of your machine’s parts.
Cleaning the Removable Brew Group
For a long time I was insistent that a removable brew group was the only way to go. That’s why I had such a problem with Jura, which insists on bolting its brew groups firmly in place.
Jura’s argument is that its automatic cleaning programs are so effective that there’s no need for coffee lovers to worry their pretty little heads over anything.
Well I wasn’t about to just take the manufacturer’s word for it. Instead, I performed a year-long experiment on a Jura A1, always performing the necessary cleaning tasks. Guess what? Jura was right all along. Once I’d removed the brew group for inspection it was apparent that the manufacturer’s cleaning program really does work!
I will say, though, that you’re always better off with a removable brew group if you don’t own a Jura. That way you’ll be safe in the knowledge that the thing is getting cleaned properly.
That said, you should always be careful when pulling the brew group out and reinserting it. Not that this is especially tricky, but you just need to keep this point in mind. In doing so, you — and your machine — will be fine.
To avoid jams, only ever remove or replace the brew group when it’s in the neutral position and the machine is off.
I remove my machine’s brew unit every day and rinse it thoroughly under hot, running water. That way, I don’t have to resort to detergent and I avoid scratching it.
Don’t get me wrong, though, that’s no excuse to skimp on cleaning. In fact, you should go ahead and redouble your efforts because these parts generate a lot of static electricity and can be very susceptible to glitches.
Cleaning the Bean Hopper
Bean hoppers are super automatic espresso machines’ neglected children — seldomly getting the wash and polish deserved.
The problem is that depending on your beans’ roast and origin, they can be quite oily. Furthermore, those oils then collect in the hopper and eventually go rancid.
That’s why I make a point of recommending you don’t completely fill the hopper. That is, unless you know those beans will disappear fast. There are also other advantages to doing things this way:
Cleaning the container regularly comes naturally.
The beans won’t be subject to as much heat.
Switching between different roasts is easier.
Once empty, cleaning the hopper is a breeze. Just wipe it out with a dry cloth. And since coffee absorbs scents and flavors, using any kind of chemical detergents is only asking for trouble, so don’t do it.
I’ve often watched in horror as people — even those in the restaurant industry — spray tons of glass cleaner (or worse!) into the containers. For me or any other coffee aficionado, that’s a disaster in the cup waiting to happen.
Cleaning the Drip Tray and Coffee Grounds Collection Container
This really isn’t that big of an issue because most fully automatic espresso machines alert you when the dregs drawer and/or drip tray are full. Depending on the machine model, the job shouldn’t take long at all.
Again, I clean these parts daily, even if the machine doesn’t ask me. Now here, using detergents isn’t a problem. So if you prefer that, go for it.
Cleaning the Water Tank
While you don’t have to worry about coffee residue in the water tank, there’s plenty of other nasty stuff — like algae — that loves water. Once it’s all gross, you’ll have no option but to buy a new one.
So no free pass on cleaning it. Before refilling the tank, I recommend always rinsing it out with hot water and letting it dry. Then, fill it with fresh, cold tap water and let it drip dry.
More and more models come with a tank that can go in the dishwasher. Hooray for that! Still, it’s good to give it a rinse by hand after it comes out of the machine to get rid of any residual detergent.
On this front, Miele — which is very serious about making its products dishwasher-safe — leads the way.
Cleaning the Grinder
Taking a grinder apart is usually easier than you think. That’s especially the case since many models have a click-and-twist mechanism that allows you separate them into the main components for cleaning.
Sure, cleaning tablets are a quick fix, but these don’t replace manual cleaning.
The good news is that this isn’t a daily chore. Once or twice a month is enough for intensive use by an average household.
Be warned, though, that if you’ve got a tinkerer’s itch to see each individual part laid out, you risk voiding your warranty. Disclaimer out of the way, it can be a very rewarding process — if you know what you’re doing.
Best Cleaning and Descaling Agents for Super Automatic Espresso Machines
Don’t make your life harder than it needs to be.
Use the products recommended by the manufacturer or the cheap alternative based on the same formula. On this point, the manufacturer really does know best.
As a rule, steer clear of home remedies, too, unless you know exactly what you’re cooking up. While something like lemon juice can work wonders on water kettles, it’s much too aggressive for some automatic espresso machines.
If you live in a city — and even if you don’t — listen up.
The water that comes out of your faucet can damage your super automatic espresso machine over time.
No, it’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s what’s known as hard water, meaning it has high mineral content.
In short, when you heat the water, the calcium and magnesium precipitate out to form deposits. These not only block pipes, but also limit a boiler’s effectiveness and can eventually lead to its failure. Not to mention, excess minerals also make your coffee taste funny.
Descaling is what gets rid of those deposits. Ergo, it’s pretty important. Doing it too often won’t hurt, but if you neglect the job, you could end up with a broken machine. So, err on the side of shorter descaling intervals and save yourself the trouble.
Using the test strips that come with most machines or calling your utility company will help you figure out how hard your water is so you can calibrate your machine. For additional guidance, I’ve put this table together.
U.S. Geological Survey classification
Grains per gallon (calcium carbonate)
Milligrams per liter, parts per million (calcium carbonate)
How often should I descale?
1 to 3.5
17.1 to 60
3.5 to 7
60 to 120
7 to 10.5
120 to 180
10.5 and above
180 and above
Since this is a very common problem, many fully automatic espresso machines come with a filter already installed or at least have the option to insert one.
Basically, these filters work just like the classic Brita system without being fully integrated into the machine. The filter reduces the water hardness to level 1.
So is a filter your get-out-of-jail-free card for descaling? Not by a long shot. Water filter or not, descaling is essential. Keep this in mind:
A water filter won’t eliminate the need to descale but will extend the intervals between running the program.
If you already have soft water, a filter is unnecessary.
No matter what the manufacturer says, you should still descale it at least four times a year.
One of the first things you do after unboxing a new machine — even on the more affordable ones — is to set your water hardness. This requires a bit of precise programming, so the machine knows you’re using a filter and can decide how often to remind you to descale.
Can’t find your machine’s descaling program? After all, there are a few (cheap) fully automatic machines that don’t have one. In that case, you need to figure out how often to do the job and find a way to remind yourself. Incidentally, I recommend descaling at least once a month.
Also bear in mind that you need to replace filter cartridges on a regular basis, which can quickly become far more expensive than routine descaling.
I’m going to say it again because it’s just that important: even with a filter, you still need to descale.
My advice on choosing descaling products is much the same as for cleaning detergents: stick to the manufacturer’s recommendation, above all on the type of product. However, feel free to go with a cheaper brand if it’s otherwise identical.
Greasing and Lubricating a Super Automatic Espresso Machine
You want your fully automatic espresso machine to be a well-oiled machine in every sense of the word, and that means including lubrication as part of your maintenance.
That grease keeps your espresso machine’s rails and hinges moving smoothly so that the tamping and brewing mechanisms function flawlessly.
If you clean your brew unit daily, you should grease it once a month. And, of course, check out the user manual for exactly what to do.
Verdict: Your Dream Super Automatic Espresso Machine Awaits!
If you’ve read straight through from the beginning, then congrats on a job well done! Unfortunately, I can’t give you a certificate or anything. Still, you can now consider yourself an expert on automatic espresso machines.
Pat yourself on the back then go ahead and bookmark this article. That way, you can jump back into any section if you need a refresher.
My aim was to help steer you in the right direction as you attempted to navigate the super automatic seas. So, if you now have a clearer idea of which machine you should choose, I’ll pat myself on the back too!
At the end of the day, I just want you to enjoy the best coffee and milk foam possible. Whatever your budget or preferences, I’m confident my guide will help you find the best super automatic espresso machine for your needs.
Remember, coffee is a social beverage. So that should be true not only of sharing a cup of joe with others but also exploring the world of java.
With that, we’d love to have you in our coffee-sipping, knowledge-sharing Coffeeness community, so please hit me with all of your questions and comments. What are your super automatic espresso machine experiences? Thanks for reading!
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