automatic vs. semiautomatic

KittJ

New member
Nov 27, 2004
6
0
kdelisi said:
I'm a rookie. What's the difference?
Kdelisi, Having read about the differences, you probably are now wondering which one is for me?

Owners of one or the other type of machine tend to believe that EVERYBODY should want their particular machine type, if not brand. (This is called cognative dissonance in psych 101, remember?) The question has been thrashed out numerous times on various forums and occasionally leads to all out food fights. However, when the grounds settle, the conclusion that seems "obvious" (to me) is that the answer is a resounding "It depends!".

It kinda comes down to what do you want to do with your time and your money ... (including "how much of each do you have"?)

1. understand that not every cup of espresso will be "perfect". Even the pros have to tune the grinder and the machine and their technique to the specifis of the bag of beans they are working with. Beans age very quickly after roast, and blends differ among themselevs and over the course of the year as the crop ages. Then there is the whole issue of ambient humidity. So some tuning is always needed. It is usually quicker to adjust a human (within small ranges) that a piece of machinery.

2. an automatic will make the coffee fairly consistently. The better (usually more expensive) the automatic, the better the componenets and thus the more consistently the ingredients will be processed. The Machines can be tuned to produce a Very Good shot of espresso most of the time. The better machines will produce that drink more consistently than cheap ones. However, no one has ever claimed they make God-shots every time.

3. if you enjoy actually making espresso drinks, then a semi-automatic will be more fun for you because you get to play with the variables yourself on every drink. And there is a certain pride that comes with presenting a cappuccino to another and knowing that this will be good as a direct result of your "art" applied to preparing the drink.

3. as a dangerous generalization, I would offer that you can get better equipment at the low end of expense by going with the sem-automatic. The grinder is the most important machine element in the mix and this is where the automatics usually skimp because the average consumer doesn't know this. In the US, a good grinder will cost about $300, although I would recomend not tying up $300 in a merely good grinder when $400 gets you the best and it will last you a lifetime. For a a machine, I would argue that the little Gaggia Espresso for $200 will make as good an espresso as anything costing less than $700+. All the other things you get with the more expensive machines (with perhaps the exception of a solenoid valve) are pretty much features that are not critical to the individual drink. (I have owned many of these machines and trained with the #2 and #4 baristi in this year's US Professional Barista Championships. The above is MY opinion, YMMV.)

SO, if you are going to make milk based drinks, do not mind having the more complicated automatic break occasionally, can comfortably spend $1200 on your system and do not want to spend much time making each drink, then you probably want an automatic. If you want to play with your machine or want to spend a lot less, then you will lean toward a semi-auto. If you want the best espresso you can make and money is no object (entry price $2000, innsurance of outcome $10,000+) then you want a Semi-automatic. It depends on what you want and what your trade offs are.
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,557
0
Des Moines, Iowa
KittJ said:
SO, if you are going to make milk based drinks, do not mind having the more complicated automatic break occasionally, can comfortably spend $1200 on your system and do not want to spend much time making each drink, then you probably want an automatic. If you want to play with your machine or want to spend a lot less, then you will lean toward a semi-auto. If you want the best espresso you can make and money is no object (entry price $2000, innsurance of outcome $10,000+) then you want a Semi-automatic. It depends on what you want and what your trade offs are.

I agree with some of what you said except Number 3 and this part above. You can get good grinders for less then $300. Most grinders out there were built for the sole purpose with a coffeehouse in mind. If the home user is only making a few shots a day then a Solis would be perfect for them. Yes you might be able to pick a Mazzer Mini for close to $400 and they have built one heck of a reputation but I would consider them one of the best.

Ever heard of the Azkoyen Capriccio, after playing with one of those I don't care if your a home user or not, if you can afford it you would buy it! This espresso grinder was made with the barista who is constantly making drinks. But anyway I am getting away from the point I wanted to make.

For a machine, I would argue that the little Gaggia Espresso for $200 will make as good an espresso as anything costing less than $700+. All the other things you get with the more expensive machines (with perhaps the exception of a solenoid valve) are pretty much features that are not critical to the individual drink.

That's simply not true. I just told an individual who brought in their Rancilio Silvia to go buy a new one rather then to fix the old one. The Silvia has a one piece boiler with an integrated element. The boiler failed to fill and the element exploded. This in turn also melted some wiring and caused some other damage. The total repair bill would have cost more then half the price of a new one. I know the Pasquini is more then a $1000 but if the same thing would have happened I would have been able to replace the element for less then $100. You do get what you pay for!

Just because you can spend over $10,000 buying an espresso machine doesn’t mean you will get insurance of the outcome. I have seen a few machines that people have spent well over $20,000 and hated the product they were getting. The machine was purchased under the assumption that the more money you spend you would get better product and faster production. WRONG!

Like you have said above there are quite a few factors in making good espresso. Having a good machine is one but it doesn’t have to cost $10K. I have had some of the best espresso on a $2000 La Pavoni manual lever machine.
 

KittJ

New member
Nov 27, 2004
6
0
I shall investigate the Azkoyen Capriccio further, I haven't used it. My understanding of their USP is that the Capriccio is an easy way to automate traditional espresso preparation because the Capriccio grinds and doses espresso automatically. I agree that the Mazzer is the standard against which to measure grinders and that there are others that have different quirks but are arguably as good. (I have 3 Mazzers for home use, so I may be biased).

I am uncertain which point in the quote you are disagreeing with ... If you are saying that the $500 Silvia is significantly better than the little Gaggia, well that view is not widely shared by people who test them side by side... and even you will admit that the Silvia is picky as hell about grind and timing the pull with the heater cycle. I didn't claim that the Gaggia was better, merely as good ... e.g. produces good shots as frequently (and because of boiler temperature overshoot, all of these machines are going to produce bad shots a predictable percentage of the time.) I also take into account that most people are going to want to prepare milk drinks and more than one at a time, even in home environment. So the boiler cycle time on the Sylvia becomes an issue. The Gaggias' smaller boilers shift gears much faster.

I woouldagree that spending money does not guarantee that the machine will be better. I didn't mean to imply that. I was merely thinking that you can get a 2 group Linea for $8200 wholesale and probably have more frequent good drinks (given good technique) than you will with expensive machines (at $2700 - $3500) with smaller boilers and other quirks. (And for ease of home use, I would have thought the dual boiler Expobar Brewtus is the best bargain on the market at $1500... but even that has a 7 degree swing during the boiler cycle, which introduces the probability that some shots are going be too hot.) That was my thinking about it.

Thanks for your thoughts, I will look into the Cappriccio KittJ
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,557
0
Des Moines, Iowa
What I was trying to imply by using the Silvia as an example, was that machines under $1000 tend to lean toward simplicity and cheap design. The Silvia's 10oz boiler has the heating element welded in to it. So by destroying the heating element it was going to cost more to fix then a more expensive model with a bolt on heating element.

Now so I don’t get flamed, I am only implying this line of thinking towards home espresso machines that are traditional type machines only. Home super autos are a whole other topic all together and by trying to say that $1000 machines are better then $500 can not be justified because supers are built on different types of technology and can be hard to compare.
 

KittJ

New member
Nov 27, 2004
6
0
CCafe said:
What I was trying to imply by using the Silvia as an example, was that machines under $1000 tend to lean toward simplicity and cheap design. The Silvia's 10oz boiler has the heating element welded in to it. So by destroying the heating element it was going to cost more to fix then a more expensive model with a bolt on heating element.

Now so I don’t get flamed, I am only implying this line of thinking towards home espresso machines that are traditional type machines only. Home super autos are a whole other topic all together and by trying to say that $1000 machines are better then $500 can not be justified because supers are built on different types of technology and can be hard to compare.

Please add me to the list of people who agree with all of the above ... including the "don't flame me " sentiment. <G>
KittJ
 

Latest posts

Top