Making fresh espresso requires pushing heated water, under pressure through finely ground, compacted coffee. There are many ways of creating this pressure, hence the many different types of espresso machines available on the market. We have outlined the four major types of espresso machines you find in today’s coffee shops.
Lever Piston Espresso Machines
With lever machines, you are the pump! Temperature is normally controlled automatically and the user pulls the lever to pressurize the water. These machines offer the highest user input, including manual preinfusion, water volume, and pressure.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
Semi-Auto machines have a pump to automate pressurization. The user turns on/off the pump with a switch or button. This system still allows the user to control extraction and volume while allowing the pump to pressurize the shot.
Fully Automatic Espresso Machines
Auto machines have both automatic pumps and volume. Programmable buttons are used to preset the volume so the user can press a single button to pull an espresso shot. These machines are recommended for any installation looking for consistency among users.
Ultra or Super Automatic Espresso Machines
These machines are seen in quick-serve restaurants like bagel shops and produce a good quality drink at the push of a button. These are “bean-to-cup” machines, meaning they have at least one grinder built in and can handle the milk and frothing as well. They are more expensive and not as pretty, but can drastically cut down on the time it takes to serve a drink.
Depending on your particular shop or installation, the choice may not be obvious. If you’re looking for consistency in a coffee shop with many employees, go with the Fully Automatic. They are the most common types used by Baristas worldwide. If you’re just starting up, want to save a bit, or just want a very easy-to-use traditional machine, the Semi-Auto is for you. If you have a boutique roastery, try a lever machine - they’re real eye-catchers! They can be both showpieces and conversation starters. As with all equipment, there are subcategories and exceptions to these rules, so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. We understand an espresso machine is a big commitment, and we’re happy to talk with you about which is best!