Super Automatic or Manual for a 250 shot bar

Sparky

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Aug 22, 2008
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Hi everyone,

As a design agency we are currently designing a new Espresso Bar with a projected vistor count of 250 a day.

There has been quite a lot of discussion between us, the developer and the future management director about the choice of machines.

We have been convinced that 2 manual machines will provide the quality of product and atmosphere we are aiming for.

The management director is convinced that a superautomatic will produce the same quality of coffee, but will save a lot of time on training and service per cup.

So therefor I would like to ask the following:
- Is a superautomatic capable of producing the same quality of a manual?
- Does it really safe substantial production time?
- Will the maintenance of a manual machine be a heavier burden?
- From an investment perspective from cradle to grave which machine will be most cost effective?

Hope you all will be able to shed some light on this vital subject.

Thanks already,
Kind Regards.

Steef
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,553
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Des Moines, Iowa
Sparky said:
So therefor I would like to ask the following:
- Is a superautomatic capable of producing the same quality of a manual?
- Does it really safe substantial production time?
- Will the maintenance of a manual machine be a heavier burden?
- From an investment perspective from cradle to grave which machine will be most cost effective?

I'll answer them as you have asked them.

Yes they can make the same quality drink as a traditional espresso machine. You will mostly run in to resistance with this idea as people will tell you that you loose the art form of making the drinks that you would normally have with a traditional machine. A good rebuttal is to ask them if they would like to go back to using a horse to ride 500 miles or do you prefer your automobile? With technology comes skeptics. Its a vicious circle.

You bet it does. A super auto doesn't have to grind the espresso in a separate grinder then transfer it to the group head. Being all automated it does it internally. Wash, rinse, and repeat except for you super auto it can do that day in and day out without getting tired.

You will find most super will take a little more maintenance then a traditional machine. Anytime you automate a process your going to make it more complicated. Moving parts are prone to failure but thats just a way of life. I have found that most failures are generally pretty mild and with regular checkups they can be caught before they cause any real amount of down time. Traditional machines have the added benefit of causing bodily harm over the coarse of many years. I know quite a few barista/owners who have shoulder issues as well as carpal tunnel in their wrists because of all the tamping and twisting.

A traditional machine should be less costly to run from a maintenance aspect. If you look at waste from grinding espresso in a manual grinder and transfering to a traditional machine then a super auto will generate a lot less wasted espresso and save you more money. But look at it this way. With a super auto you don't have to worry if you main barista doesn't show up to work. A super is a push button machine. If you buy the right kind of machine it can be hooked up to milk and you can literally push a button have have a drink made in front of you. So you won't spend hundreds if not thousands dollars of man hours training and retraining new staff members to replace old ones that quit or were fired.
 
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Sparky

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Aug 22, 2008
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CCafe said:
Yes they can make the same quality drink as a traditional espresso machine. You will mostly run in to resistance with this idea as people will tell you that you loose the art form of making the drinks that you would normally have with a traditional machine. A good rebuttal is to ask them if they would like to go back to using a horse to ride 500 miles or do you prefer your automobile? With technology comes skeptics. Its a vicious circle.

Hey CCafe,

thank you for the fast response.

The reply kind of amazes me. I've already had contact with one of the well known barista's here in holland who competes every year. And he clearly stated that because there is a bigger control over various issues and a manual machine has a lot more power it will provide a better cup of espresso. And having tasted his espresso and cappuccino I had no problem believing him, especially since i've never had a sublime cup from a super automatic.

Another aspect. With a cappucino it seems to me that to achieve the best you carefully need to blend the microfoam through the espresso to get the lukewarm blended cappuccino the italians drink in one sip.

Is he and therefor I completely wrong?
 
Hey Steef,

I believe you are going to get quite a range of answers to this question... maybe ultimatley we are going to bog your decision making down, rather than help you. Nevermind at least the debate which is likely to rage will give you some food for thought:

So therefor I would like to ask the following:
- Is a superautomatic capable of producing the same quality of a manual?
- Does it really safe substantial production time?
- Will the maintenance of a manual machine be a heavier burden?
- From an investment perspective from cradle to grave which machine will be most cost effective

1/. NO! I have yet to get a shot from a Superauto that is as good from a well trained barista using an automatic or a semiautomatic commercial espresso machine. I would say in my country Superauto's are preferred over semis or autos because they take the manpower variable out of the equation. Most 5 star hotels here use Superautos (mainly LaCimbalis). The quality of shots is variablely poor at best. I can understand why some opperators such as Hotels chose Superauto's- from a consistency point of view. However, these places generally do not pride themselves on producing quality EBD's. In your case a projected customer(drink?) count of 250 a day can easily be covered by a 2group semi/auto- no sweat!!!! I like CCafes analogy of travelling 500km by horse or car. However I would perhaps put it differently. You can travel from Rome to Paris by plane in 1.5 hours, or spend a day and a half driving and seeing Tuscany, Provence and the rest of the Italian and Frence countryside. Sure by plane you get there faster, if speed is your aim OK go for it, but the quality of what you see, what you experience and what you learn is enjoyed taking the slower option... its the same with a Super vs a Semi. Faster- yes no doubt. (My oponion : Semi/Auto hands down)

2/. Does it save production time? Yes. Will it make you famouse for the coffee you sell? No. Will that 250 estimate of guests/shots go up based on the quality of coffee you are producing from a super? IMHO no. (My opinion: Yes saves time but with some draw backs)

3/. The machine company will be able to provide you with technical support. My principle- CMA/Astoria produces both Superautos (Jada) and a big range of semi's/auto's under the Wega/Astoria/San Marino/Rapallo brand names. The things that can go wrong with a semi/auto on a daily basis could be counted on 1 hand. The things that could go wrong with the Super...could be counted on perhaps 1 and a half hands. As long as there is good technical backup...I think eithe way no problem (my opinion -TIE)

4/. Super Autos can be about 40-70% more expensive than a Semi. However obviously you need to buy a grinder also for a Semi. I have worked on semis that are 25 years old, been well maintained, and are still producing good quality shots. I doubt, although I am willing to beproven wrong, that any Super would still be runiing after 25 years!

OK- so thats my view on things- I am sure this whole debate will bring out quite a range of opnions! :grin:
 

IndianaTim

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Feb 3, 2008
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I break it down this way. A person can be easily trained to produce the espresso that is produced by a super-automatic machine. It's a very mechanical process of so much espresso, ground to a preset fineness, tamped to a set amount of pressure, extracted for so long. It can all be metered out, then practiced until measurement is no longer needed.

However, a super-automatic machine can never be calibrated to produce anything better than a trained, robotic, unskilled or perhaps ,moderately skilled barista.

It is easy to train a barista to accomplish at least the quality of a super-automatic machine. To go beyond that requires the passion of an artist. Machines don't intentionally make art.

Tim
 

John P

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Jan 5, 2007
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Salt Lake City
You can easily look at a deeper level. The choice of a superauto says volumes that will resonate through the business.
If we are talking your average, Starbuck-ian rip-off, of course their espresso will be bad, regardless of machine, but judging from your connection with competition caliber barista, your goal is something greater.

Quality of coffee, quality of espresso, freshness of roast, quality of training, understanding the dynamics of coffee and espresso-- the difference in how you think about the core of your business matters.
 

CCafe

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Aug 11, 2004
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Des Moines, Iowa
I'm not going to argue with what everyone else has said. Because I was a service technician before falling in to the barista to do all the trianing that I have to provide.

I am absolutely anal about the espresso I drink. So I don't take setting a traditional or super auto lightly. I've had the experience to work on several different lines of supers and the one I prefer is a Cimbali M2. But even it has its drawbacks and doesn't have dynamic grinding that the M3 has. But in the end the espresso is all that matters to me.

I've done a blind tasting of of espresso made with both a traditional and super sitting side by side. Nobody in the group could tell which espresso came from which machine. That's how espresso is supposed to be made.

So if you want a super get one. Then you have your champion barista work side by side with person setting your super and you can make a very good product that will be consistent every time.
 
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Sparky

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Aug 22, 2008
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Thanks everyone for your views.

I was hoping for a simple "no, a super can't provide the same quality", but i already presumed the answer wouldn't be that black or white.

The main problem for us as a design firm is that we can only project. And we believe that manual machines stand for a certain degree of craftsmanship and individual appreciation and service, and therefor relevant for the general "vibe" of quality of the place. Furthermore we believe that best service is given by people who take care in their work, which is particulary relevant, since service is a real issue here in Amsterdam.

So apart from the taste and quality of the espresso, a beautifull marzocco on the bartop with an enthousiastic barista is deemed vitally by us for the right service level and atmosphere. But if the quality of espresso from a superautomatic would be sufficient just as well, then it's hard to win the costeffecient discussion from people that will have to manage the bar on a everyday basis. Especially when they want to be able to dump any kind of uninterested and underpaid John Q. Public behind the bar.
 

Davec

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Oct 18, 2006
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Old England (UK)
so therefor I would like to ask the following:
1. - Is a superautomatic capable of producing the same quality of a manual?
2. - Does it really safe substantial production time?
3. - Will the maintenance of a manual machine be a heavier burden?
4. - From an investment perspective from cradle to grave which machine will be most cost effective?

1. NO

2. A little, but of course there are substantial compromises, especially in the cleanliness of the equipment tainting the shot. The built in grinders are usually not of good quality, oily coffees cause problems. The machines can't grind out any stale coffee if they have been idle for a while, to prevent a crap shot. Not to mention the fact that the shot itslef will be of much poorer quality than the manual, but it will be consistently poor I suppose.

3. Superautos have weak point's namely the brew group mechanism, which is simply not as robust as a manual machine....With your volumes a manual machine will probably prove more reliable and be cheaper to maintain. The grinder being integrated is also quite unhelpful if the grinder develops a problem!

4. The Superauto, if you are not going to use an operator for the machine and allow the customer to serve their own drinks.....if you are going to use an operator whatever machine you choose, then the manual will have the cheaper whole life cost.

I would never recommend the Superauto, unless you don't mind people drinking mediocre to poor coffee. A manual machine and a Barista with even a few hours training will produce substantially better coffee....as for foaming milk (hahahaha!), Superautos can only look on and weep. The Superauto will produce a crappy frothy load of rubbish when foaming milk (either because of an "auto frother", or poor steam pressure). A Barista with very basic training should be able to produce a nice textured Microfoamed milk.

So it's down to the Image and experience you want to create (microwaved pop tarts, or chef prepared hot pastries). :wink:

P.S. A superauto can't produce latte art either....with a Barista, at least you have the possibility.

P.P.S I also have tested a few "prosumer" or home use superautos costing $3000+ and none of those made an acceptable cup of coffee...in fact not even drinkable by my standards.
 

CCafe

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Aug 11, 2004
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Des Moines, Iowa
Davec said:
so therefor I would like to ask the following:
1. - Is a superautomatic capable of producing the same quality of a manual?
2. - Does it really safe substantial production time?
3. - Will the maintenance of a manual machine be a heavier burden?
4. - From an investment perspective from cradle to grave which machine will be most cost effective?

1. NO

2. A little, but of course there are substantial compromises, especially in the cleanliness of the equipment tainting the shot. The built in grinders are usually not of good quality, oily coffees cause problems. The machines can't grind out any stale coffee if they have been idle for a while, to prevent a crap shot. Not to mention the fact that the shot itslef will be of much poorer quality than the manual, but it will be consistently poor I suppose.

3. Superautos have weak point's namely the brew group mechanism, which is simply not as robust as a manual machine....With your volumes a manual machine will probably prove more reliable and be cheaper to maintain. The grinder being integrated is also quite unhelpful if the grinder develops a problem!

4. The Superauto, if you are not going to use an operator for the machine and allow the customer to serve their own drinks.....if you are going to use an operator whatever machine you choose, then the manual will have the cheaper whole life cost.

I would never recommend the Superauto, unless you don't mind people drinking mediocre to poor coffee. A manual machine and a Barista with even a few hours training will produce substantially better coffee....as for foaming milk (hahahaha!), Superautos can only look on and weep. The Superauto will produce a crappy frothy load of rubbish when foaming milk (either because of an "auto frother", or poor steam pressure). A Barista with very basic training should be able to produce a nice textured Microfoamed milk.

So it's down to the Image and experience you want to create (microwaved pop tarts, or chef prepared hot pastries). :wink:

P.S. A superauto can't produce latte art either....with a Barista, at least you have the possibility.

P.P.S I also have tested a few "prosumer" or home use superautos costing $3000+ and none of those made an acceptable cup of coffee...in fact not even drinkable by my standards.


When you talk about super auto the way you do what machines do you base your experience on?

Because I'm seeing a lot of super auto technology being integrated in to traditional equipment. I want to see if you can back up what you said when compared to the Super Auto your knocking! As in what machine are you basing your experiance from. Schaerer, Cimbali, Nuova Simonelli, Jura, Rancilio, Frankee, and the list goes on. Which company and what model and when was the last time you used it?
 

Davec

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Oct 18, 2006
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Old England (UK)
Hey Ccafe....you managed to quote my entire post :lol:

Tell you what, just to make you feel better...I take it all back, superautomatic machines are brilliant and Sparky should rush out and get one. OK you feel good now. 8)
 

ElPugDiablo

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Jul 16, 2004
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Hartford and New Haven, CT
I don't use superautomatic and probably will not consider it for reasons other than espresso quality. Some of the reasons are already stated by other super naysayers. However, the espresso quality of superautomatics can be very good. If we are to believe David Schomer, outside the hands of a well trained barista, espresso shots are best made by a superautomatic machine. The caveat being just like traditional machines, superautomatics need regular adjustment. If someone uses a supermatic and expects a set it once and forget it machine as I suspect most people who use supermatic are doing, he or she will not have the best espresso the machine is capable of producing. It really does not matter if the machine is lever, semi, auto or super auto, if you have dedicated people working the machine, you will have pretty darn good espresso, if you don't, then you will get undrinkable swill on your super duper La Marzocco/Synesso/Mirage Versalab M3 set up. I agree with CCafe, the technology is there for those with less skill who are nevertheless dedicated to offer the best shot possible. It's less romantic for the barista, but the truth is most customer don't care about barista's infatuation, they care about getting a good tasting beverage. One day, I would think the technology will produce machine that can surpass even me, but not today. Now I have to go hug and kiss my Linea, my pouting temperamental Italian temptress.
 

ElPugDiablo

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Jul 16, 2004
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Hartford and New Haven, CT
Sparky said:
As a design agency we are currently designing a new Espresso Bar with a projected vistor count of 250 a day....We have been convinced that 2 manual machines will provide the quality of product and atmosphere we are aiming for.
I would think a single 3 group machine can handle 250 drinks a day.
 
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