Our Top Picks (Updated Sept 12th 2023)
Don't have time to read? Skip right to our top picks for semi-automatic espresso machines below. We rigorously test each machine and rely on real customer feedback to ensure we recommend only the best.
When you’re looking for the most control over each shot of espresso, a semiautomatic espresso machine can’t be beat. Regardless of if you’re making a top-notch latte from home or in a coffee shop, these types of machines will put the reins in your hands.
So which one should you get? In this guide, we’ll show you a few of the best semiautomatic espresso machines.
We’ll dive into:
- Various key espresso machine features and what they mean
- Factors you should consider before purchasing a machine
- Our picks for the top semiautomatic models
Let’s get started.
See Also: Commercial Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines for Sale
Key Espresso Machine Features
If you’ve decided to look into semiautomatic espresso machines, you’ve just determined only one aspect of your machine. There are still a few other qualities that can make even semiautomatic models differ vastly from one another.
It’s also worth describing the differences between a semiautomatic and automatic machine to deepen your understanding. With that in mind, these are the cornerstone qualities of your average espresso machine:
- Basic machine type (semiautomatic or automatic)
- Plumbing system
- Boiler design
Semiautomatic vs Automatic
At the core of every espresso machine is its basic machine type. The majority of models you’ll find on the market today are one of two options: semiautomatic or automatic.
Whichever one it is will have a massive influence on its daily operation. Put briefly, this affects how easy it is to use it for pulling shots.
An automatic espresso machine is the easier of the two. The barista simply grinds the espresso, tamps it, places the portafilter in the machine, and starts brewing.
They won’t need to stand by the machine carefully timing the shot, because it will time the duration for them. Using pre-programmed settings, an automatic espresso machine will cease brewing at the optimal time.
Semiautomatic machines rely on the barista a bit more. Once the portafilter is placed, the barista will need to start brewing and end brewing at the times they deem necessary.
That’s why so many aficionados prefer semiautomatic configurations. You get to enjoy maximized control over the development of each shot – although, as a word of caution, that means the quality of the shots depends almost entirely on the person making them.
Direct-Connect vs Pour-Over
Without water, you don’t have the means to make espresso. And if you’re going through a lot of shots, a method of steadily supplying water to your machine is vital.
The two main ways espresso machines keep themselves supplied with water are through direct-connect and pour-over systems. The names of either system are pretty self-explanatory.
In a direct-connect system, the machine is connected to your water line. Because of this, it is able to refill itself with no assistance from employees.
The immediate advantage to this is user-friendliness, and it saves time. However, the biggest drawback is that it can’t be moved around because of its connection.
Pour-over machines are the alternative. They require users to pour in water by hand when the reservoir is getting low.
This does mean your employees will need to pay close attention to the water tank, and will need to be trained on refilling it. It is balanced out by a big advantage for some, though: mobility.
Since it’s not connected to a water line, a pour-over machine can be used for pretty much any location. This makes them a great match for mobile businesses like coffee carts.
Heat Exchange vs Double Boiler
Last but definitely not least, your machine’s boiler is worthy of your attention. How it’s designed will affect how quickly you can make drinks, and how long you can steam milk for.
As you can imagine, double or dual boiler designs have two boilers. One is for steaming-temperature water and the other is for brewing-temperature water.
These designs are typically strong and capable of brewing and steaming back-to-back drinks effortlessly. But because they must heat two boilers, they can sometimes take longer to warm up initially and they can be more expensive.
Heat exchange (also known as HX) boilers are systems with only one boiler. A tube running through the boiler delivers brewing water to the group head while steaming water is kept separate.
This design tends to be a little more affordable, and its heat-up time is usually shorter. Depending on the size of the boilers in question, though, a heat exchange boiler may be slower in a side-by-side steaming comparison with a dual boiler machine.
How to Choose the Right Semi Automatic Espresso Machine
Now that you know a little more about semiautomatic espresso machines, you’re at a point where you can start thinking about what you need in one.
By choosing a semiautomatic model, you’re looking at increased control over brewing and a potentially cheaper price tag. But just because baristas have more control, doesn’t mean the brewing needs to be difficult.
If you’re concerned about having a machine that’s easier to learn, look at a direct-connect model. This will keep your employees from having to worry about water refills.
But at the same time, if your business model requires you to move, think about a pour-over configuration. You’ll be able to take it along with you to various venues.
The number of groups is also worth examining. With more groups, you can brew more shots at one time.
Busier establishments, then, should look for espresso machines with more than one group. Smaller ones may be just fine with a single-group machine.
Best Semi Automatic Espresso Machines
The Nuova Simonelli Aurelia Wave Semiautomatic espresso machine is the latest generation of Nuova Simonelli Aurelia machines, designed for medium to large cafes, specialty coffee shops, barista competition locations, and medium restaurants. It offers user-friendliness, versatility, and precision to bring the highest quality of espresso and milk-based drinks to your establishment.
The Aurelia Wave is well-known for its soft infusion system that ensures consistent and rich espresso, even when tamping is not perfect. With manual dosing controls, baristas have full control over each shot, allowing for customization to meet the customers' expectations. The machine also comes with an ergonomic design, energy efficiency upgrades, and a user-friendly interface, making it comfortable and efficient for baristas to use.
Some of the key features of the Aurelia Wave Semiautomatic include:
LCD Display: A high-resolution LCD screen that allows users to access machine functions and settings easily.
Soft Infusion System: It ensures consistent and rich espresso, counteracting poor tamping practices.
Manual Dosing Controls: Provides full control over each shot for customizing espresso extraction to meet customer requests.
Raised Group Heads: Accommodates a variety of cup sizes, enabling baristas to brew directly into taller cups.
Reverse Mirror: This backplate doubles as a mirror which helps baristas monitor hard-to-see angles of the espresso during brewing.
Cool Touch Wands: These steam wands stay cool, preventing burns and residue buildup, making them safe and easy to clean.
Push Pull Steam: User-friendly levers that reduce strain on the wrists, providing added comfort for the barista.
Surface LEDs: Efficient workspace lighting that illuminates all the details of baristas' work, helping them deliver better quality drinks.
Bar Pump Gauge: Displays the pressure built by the pump during extraction, providing vital information for baristas to improve their process.
Automated Cleanings: The machine offers automated cleanings for group heads, saving time for baristas during closing routines.
Power Saving Options: The Aurelia Wave is environmentally friendly with a smaller footprint compared to other espresso machine models.
Water Level Indicator: Easy to check the boiler water levels anytime, ensuring that everything is working as it should.
This espresso machine comes in 2-group and 3-group configurations, with the option to order in custom colors, giving you the flexibility to choose the perfect Aurelia Wave Semiautomatic to suit your business requirements. Invest in a Nuova Simonelli Aurelia Wave Semiautomatic espresso machine and elevate your establishment's coffee experience.
The Nuova Simonelli Appia Life Semiautomatic Espresso Machine is a premium choice for medium to high-volume cafes, restaurants, offices, and home users. Designed to provide an exceptional espresso experience, this model boasts numerous features that make it efficient, user-friendly, and capable of producing high-quality beverages.
The Appia Life Semiautomatic is built on the success of the Appia Semiautomatic series and pushes the limits of what an espresso machine can do. Its manual dosing buttons allow baristas to have full control of extraction, ensuring tailored espresso shots that meet exact specifications and customer requests.
Raised group heads provide the ability to fit tall cups directly under the brewing area, speeding up production and preserving the delicate crema on the espresso for a beautiful presentation of larger drinks. Additionally, the machine features cool-touch wands equipped with push-pull steam levers that promote user-friendly operation and minimize safety hazards and cleaning time.
This espresso machine utilizes Nuova Simonelli's Soft Infusion System, which counteracts improper tamping techniques and promotes balanced extraction. The Appia Life Semiautomatic also offers automated cleanings, allowing baristas to wrap up faster at the end of the day.
The copper heat exchange boiler ensures energy efficiency and allows simultaneous brewing and steaming for nonstop drink orders. Meanwhile, the reverse mirror backplate lets baristas control quality without slowing down the drink line, and the bar pump gauge helps monitor pressure during extraction to improve overall espresso quality.
The Appia Life Semiautomatic comes in two configurations: 1 Group 110V and 2 Group 220V. The 1 Group model features a 5-liter heat exchange boiler and is suitable for home baristas and medium-volume businesses. The 2 Group model includes an 11-liter heat exchange boiler and two brew groups, which cater to high-volume locations that require continuous brewing and steaming power.
Customers can choose from standard color options or even request a custom color for this machine. The model supports a standard pod kit adapter, ensuring compatibility with various espresso pods, offering convenience and versatility.
In conclusion, the Nuova Simonelli Appia Life Semiautomatic Espresso Machine delivers exceptional performance, user-friendly controls, and the ability to create handcrafted, high-quality espresso beverages. It is an excellent choice for a variety of settings, from busy cafes to residential kitchens.
The Nuova Simonelli Appia LIFE Compact Espresso Machine is a reliable and highly productive coffee machine, appreciated by thousands of baristas worldwide. Its innovative design combines high performance with modern style, making it a perfect choice for large companies, coffee shop chains, or any establishment that requires a large volume of great coffee.
Appia LIFE boasts high productivity and consistency, capable of preparing up to 250 cappuccinos per day with the 2-group version. Its efficiency is backed by two technologies: the SIS system, which ensures consistent results, and Easycream, which enables quick and automatic creation of dense and velvety milk cream.
The espresso machine is not only a high-performer but also energy-saving and cost-effective. It features DRYTEX THERMICAL technology insulation that reduces energy consumption by 13% compared to the Appia II. Additionally, due to its new thermal system, use of sustainable materials, and optimization of mechanical components, Appia LIFE has a 20% lower environmental impact.
Ergonomics and comfort are also prioritized, as it improves service speed and makes the barista's daily tasks more efficient. The Appia LIFE has been designed with easy maintenance in mind, contributing further to hassle-free coffee production.
The new XT version is a recent addition to the Appia LIFE family. While the performance remains on par with the standard version, the XT model offers innovative features that enhance the final result, making this espresso machine a top choice for those who want the best. The key specifications of the machine include a volumetric design, a total boiler capacity of 7.5 liters, and the option for raised groups and Cool Touch steam wands.
To learn more about the Nuova Simonelli Appia LIFE Compact Espresso Machine, click here.
The Lelit Bianca V3 PL162T is a luxury dual boiler espresso machine crafted in Italy. It was developed with insights from over two years of collaboration with a well-known Italian espresso academy and feedback from numerous baristas and professionals. The key innovation of this espresso machine is the brew pressure paddle, which allows for precise flow control of the water during extraction.
With its impressive collection of advanced features, including an adjustable water tank, PID temperature control, and a built-in shot timer, the Bianca has been making waves, being selected as one of the top 12 most innovative products at the 2019 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show. The machine is versatile, catering to beginners and experienced baristas alike.
The beautifully designed machine is constructed with a stainless steel body, accented by wooden handles, feet, and a lever. It sports a clean interior layout for optimal performance and easy repair. The dual boilers are made of stainless steel for long-lasting quality, with 0.8L brew boiler and 1.5L steam boiler sizes.
The Lelit Bianca uniquely offers manual brew pressure profiling, giving users an unparalleled level of control when extracting espresso. This allows baristas to experiment with different brew pressures, tailoring the taste to their preferences. The wooden paddle atop the E61 group head further enhances temperature control and ease-of-use, diffusing intense heat when needed.
The external water reservoir of the Bianca is user-friendly, flexible, and can be positioned on either side of the machine to accommodate various countertop layouts. Its unique design ensures that the water does not heat up, even during prolonged operation. Additionally, for those interested in direct plumbing, the machine is easily adaptable and can be set up to draw water directly from a water line.
Included with the Lelit Bianca are a bottomless walnut portafilter, double spouted walnut portafilter, stainless steel and aluminum tamper, in-tank water softener, various sized baskets, steam tips, microfiber towel, and more. The machine is covered by a 3-year warranty on labor and parts.
If you're interested in learning more or purchasing the Lelit Bianca V3 Dual Boiler PID Espresso Machine PL162T, you can find it here. It offers a combination of excellent craftsmanship, advanced technological features, and stunning aesthetics, making it a top choice for any espresso enthusiast.
The Quick Mill Vetrano 2B Evo Espresso Machine 0995P-A-EVOLED is a semi-automatic espresso machine that offers a sleek stainless steel body and frame along with modern features for today's coffee enthusiasts. This machine is designed for those who seek traditional coffee-making experience combined with the convenience of a contemporary home machine.
One of the main features of the Quick Mill Vetrano 2B Evo is the PID display with a shot timer, allowing for precise control of the brewing process. The PID controller also offers control over the steam boiler temperature and pressure. This ensures the perfect temperature for both brewing and steaming, allowing users to create high-quality espresso shots and milk-based beverages.
Another advantage of the Vetrano 2B is its dual stainless steel boilers. The machine has a 1.4-liter steam boiler and a 0.75-liter group boiler, which provide excellent temperature stability and quick recovery time. The dual boiler system allows users to steam milk while brewing espresso simultaneously, increasing efficiency and eliminating the need for cooling flushes.
This espresso machine can be operated in 15 or 20-amp mode and can be hooked up to a water reservoir or directly plumbed and drained. The rotary pump is placed vertically to prevent any motor issues, while the panels on the bottom base offer easy access to the heaters and boiler drains.
The Vetrano 2B Evo also comes equipped with no-burn stainless steel steam and hot water arms, providing a safe and comfortable user experience. Aesthetic features such as the LED indicator lights, the deep blue dual manometer, and the brushed aluminum faceplate on the PID make this machine not only functional but also visually appealing.
Included with the Quick Mill Vetrano 2B Evo are a variety of accessories to enhance the user experience. Among them are a 2-hole steam tip, a 4-hole steam tip, single and double spout portafilters, a matching wooden tamper, a drain kit, and a plumb kit. Additionally, customization options allow users to select their desired color for the steam and hot water knobs as well as the brew lever knob.
In summary, the Quick Mill Vetrano 2B Evo Espresso Machine 0995P-A-EVOLED offers a high-quality semi-automatic espresso experience. With its modern features, customizable options, and remarkable performance, this machine is a great investment for those looking to create exceptional espresso beverages at home or in small restaurants and offices.
The Faema E61 Legend Semi Automatic LEGEND-1EE is a commercial grade, semiautomatic espresso machine that has been delighting coffee enthusiasts since its original release in 1961. This iconic machine is known for its perfect blend of vintage style and modern technological features. Crafted with a stainless steel body, the E61 Legend is cherished by espresso lovers all around the globe.
One of the key features of the E61 Legend is its Adjustable Group Thermal Balancing System, a patented technology by Faema. This system enables users to have precise temperature control over each individual group. Consistent brewing temperature is essential for a top-quality espresso shot, making this feature an invaluable addition to the machine.
Available in both 1 group and 2 group options, the E61 Legend caters to different needs and preferences. The 1 group version is more compact, with dimensions of 22.2 inches in height, 21.9 inches in width, and 21.3 inches in depth, while the 2 group model is slightly larger with dimensions of 22.2 inches in height, 28 inches in width, and 21.3 inches in depth. The 1 group model weighs 112 lbs, while the 2 group model is understandably heavier at 132 lbs.
In terms of electrical specifications, the 1 group model utilizes 240 volts, 17 amps, and 3900 watts, while the 2 group version uses 240 volts, 20 amps, and 4800 watts. The boiler material in both versions ensures excellent performance, with the 1 group model featuring a 6-liter boiler capacity and the 2 group version boasting an 11-liter capacity. These machines also come with NSF, UL, CE, and cUL certifications, showcasing their quality and adherence to industry standards.
The E61 Legend is designed with a pre-infusion system, automatic boiler fill, and a hot water economizer, making it an ideal choice for professional baristas and avid home espresso enthusiasts alike. Its timeless aesthetics and cutting-edge features make the Faema E61 Legend Semi Automatic LEGEND-1EE an enduring classic in the world of espresso machines.
The Astoria Pratic Avant XTRA AEP2 is a semi-automatic single boiler espresso machine crafted in Italy. Established in 1969 in the province of Treveso, Astoria has grown to become a leading producer of high-quality professional espresso machines that are renowned for their artistry, advanced technology, and sustainability. The Pratic Avant Xtra AEP offers premium performance, high reliability, and timeless elegance.
Designed with slender and modern lines, this espresso machine is enhanced by chrome details, creating a sophisticated and refined look. With its manual control electromechanical keys, the Pratic Avant Xtra AEP provides a hands-on experience for baristas while ensuring consistent coffee doses and extraction.
One notable feature of this espresso machine is the raised group heads, which can accommodate cups and mugs of various sizes. The machine also comes equipped with barista downlights for an improved workflow experience. Moreover, the innovative pre-infusion technology guarantees a consistent extraction for a superior coffee flavor.
Key features of the Astoria Pratic Avant XTRA AEP2 include:
- Single boiler, heat exchange system
- Pre-infusion technology
- Raised groups (up to 20oz cup)
- Barista downlights
- Temperature stabilized groups (Thermosiphoned)
- Turn style steam knobs
- Boiler water level light indicator
- Double scale manometre for displaying boiler and pump pressure
- Automatic water refill
- 1 manual dosing button per group
- Hot water dispenser
- Two steam wands
- Built-in motor pump
- Body with panels in stainless steel and painted steel
With dimensions that measure 30.5 x 22 x 21.5 inches, a 9-liter boiler capacity, and a total wattage of 4800W, the Astoria Pratic Avant XTRA AEP2 is suitable for a wide range of applications, from small coffee shops to larger establishments. This espresso machine demonstrates Astoria's commitment to providing a perfect blend of tradition and technology for outstanding coffee results.
Are you searching for an espresso machine that you can be sure will meet the demands of a business? We've compiled a list of the best commercial espresso machines for your consideration.