best semi automatic espresso machines

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

Nuova Simonelli Appia II Compact (Semiautomatic Configuration)

nuova simonelli appia espresso machine semi automatic

If what you’re looking for is a machine that stuffs a lot of power into a small package, then Nuova Simonelli’s Appia II Compact could be for you.

It has a generously sized 7.5-liter heat exchange boiler. With this kind of capacity, it can easily help keep small to medium-sized businesses supplied with a steady stream of espresso orders.

Another nifty feature is its automated cleanings. At the end of the day, a barista can just choose the group to be cleaned, then let the Appia II Compact take care of it.

  • Majesty Coffee Price: $5,445
  • Number of Groups: 2
  • Boiler: Heat exchange
  • Plumbing: Direct-connect
  • Best Application: Small to medium coffee shops, offices, and restaurants
  • Automated Cleaning: Saves your employees time by cleaning its own group heads for them.
  • Cool Touch Wands: Working on an espresso machine doesn’t have to mean burns. Steam wands like these stay cool to increase your baristas’ safety at work.
  • Raised Group Heads: Because the group heads are lifted, you can brew directly into your taller cups for bigger drink sizes.
  • Reverse Mirror: With a reflective back plate, baristas can easily monitor each shot from all sides and spot any defects quickly.

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Rocket R58 Cinquantotto


Flexibility is key with the Rocket R58 Cinquantotto. Various design elements mean it would work well in a home user’s kitchen or a variety of small businesses.

That’s mainly due to its plumb-in convertibility. Owners have the option of using it either as a portable pour-over machine or a convenient direct-connect one.

It’s entirely up to you based on your needs. If you’re looking to meet the needs of a small business, you can connect it to your waterline.

But if you’re looking for a reliable machine that can hit the road with you, you can also use it as a pour-over model.

  • Majesty Coffee Price: $3,200
  • Number of Groups: 1
  • Boiler: Double boiler
  • Plumbing: Direct-connect or pour-over
  • Best Application: Home, or small office or restaurant
  • Plumb-In Convertibility: The ability to convert this pour-over machine into a direct-connect at any time gives you adaptability.
  • Stainless Steel Case: Made from lustrous stainless steel, this Rocket looks sleek and is extra-tough.
  • Rotary Pump: Designed to operate quietly, the rotary pump makes it possible to use the espresso machine without disrupting customers or a sleepy household.
  • PID Controller: The attached PID controller looks modern and allows you to make precise adjustments to the boiler temperature on the fly.
  • E-61 Commercial Brew Group: A two-in-one package: offers you increased thermal stability, and settles your coffee grounds for you with a light stream of water before extraction. In short, it means a much fuller flavor in each cup.

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Nuova Simonelli Oscar II


Nuova Simonelli Oscar II semi automatic


It’s hard not to recommend the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II when it comes to semiautomatic espresso machines.

To start with, it’s remarkably affordable. This isn’t one you’ll need to spend an arm and a leg to have on your counter top.

For another thing, its petite size makes it a great candidate for packed counters. You won’t have to rearrange your space to find room for this one.

And you get those bonuses on top of it being a powerful machine. Its heat exchange boiler gives it the energy it needs to push through back-to-back drinks without needing a break.

  • Majesty Coffee Price: $1,295
  • Number of Groups: 1
  • Boiler: Heat exchange
  • Plumbing: Pour-over
  • Best Application: Homes; small cafes, restaurants, and offices
  • Compact Size: At 16 inches tall, 16 inches wide, and 12 inches deep, the Oscar II can fit into even the most cramped spaces.
  • Cup Warmer: Just put your cups on the shelf at the top of the machine to keep them heated. This will ensure that each espresso stays warm for as long as possible.
  • Push-Pull Steam: Instead of using valves that can hurt your wrists, users just push or pull a trigger to steam. No more sore wrists after each shift.
  • Programmable Timed Dosing Buttons: It may be a semiautomatic machine, but it’s still easy to learn. You can program the time for single and double espressos, so beginners just need to push a button to brew.

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 Nuova Simonelli Aurelia Wave (Semiautomatic)

Nuova Simonelli Aurelia Wave

Are you looking for an espresso machine that can keep up with even the most intense demands? The Nuova Simonelli Aurelia Wave is a great pick.

With two or three group heads, it’s a blazingly fast machine. You’re able to make two or three times as many shots as on a single-group model.

We also can't help but mention the sleek look of this machine. Its curling wave-like silhouette is something your customers will be sure to admire. 

  • Majesty Coffee Price: $8,190 (two-group) or $9,540 (three-group)
  • Number of Groups: 2 or 3
  • Boiler: Heat exchange
  • Plumbing: Direct-connect
  • Best Application: Medium to large cafes, restaurants, and coffee shops
  • Raised Group Heads: Instead of having to transfer large drinks to tall cups manually, you can brew right into them.
  • Cool Touch Wand: Baristas are protected from burns whenever they handle the steam wand.
  • Surface LEDs: Gives the machine a high-tech look and makes it possible for employees to work safely in low-light settings.
  • Automated Cleanings: After choosing which group head needs it, baristas can attend to your customers or other tasks while the Aurelia II tidies itself.
  • Power-Saving Options: Increases the energy efficiency of this Nuova Simonelli.

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Rocket Appartamento

 Rocket Appartamento

The Rocket Appartamento is a classic example of a small and yet strong espresso machine. When many people recommend semiautomatic options for homes, it’s always near the top of everyone’s list.

There are a few reasons for its popularity. One example is its inexpensive cost that makes it accessible for all kinds of budgets.

The no-burn hot water and steam wands are another. Long hours of use at the machine won’t result in a collection of painful burns.

  • Majesty Coffee Price: $1,690
  • Number of Groups: 1
  • Boiler: Heat exchange
  • Plumbing: Pour-over
  • Best Application: Homes; small offices and restaurants
  • Large Water Tank: The large 2.25-liter water tank won’t have your employees running for refills constantly.
  • No-Burn Hot Water and Steam Arms: Even long hours of work won’t make this machine overheat. You’ll always be safe to clean or handle it.
  • Attractive Design: A stainless steel case and circular cutouts on the side panels make this one pretty machine.
  • Two-Hole Steam Tip: The holes on the steam wand are designed to ensure even heat distribution during frothing.

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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.