Cappuccino Latte Espresso Machiatto Cafe Crema. Super-automatic espresso machines can make all these drinks and more Often with the touch of one button. It’s like having a high-end coffee shop on your counter-top Ya, like your own personal barista with no line to stand in, no tip jar and no attitude! So we’ve got a range of machines here, from the very simple up to hi-end super-automatics. Marc, let’s define a few terms used commonly in the super-automatic world. Sure. First is bean to cup. Now this is what every super-automatic machine does. Put fresh coffee beans in the machine, press a button and out comes espresso or crema-coffee.
The machine grinds the beans fresh for every brewing cycle, compresses the ground beans – also known as tamping and then forces hot water through the ground beans under pressure. The same process done by hand in semi-automatic espresso brewing only automated – and a lot less messy. Marc, you mentioned crema-coffee. For those that don’t know, crema-coffee or cafe-crema is similar to drip coffee, but benefits from espresso’s pressure brewing process.
For coffee lovers, one sip of cafe-crema and they’ll be convinced to drop the drip forever! Another term you’ll hear a lot is brew group. It’s the heart of a super-automatic machine. It’s where fresh ground coffee is compressed and where pressure brewing takes place. After brewing is complete, the brew group deposits the puck of used coffee into a dredge drawer. On most machines the brew group is removable and should be rinsed once a week or so in the sink with tap water. There are a few machines, notably a number made by Jura in which the brew group is not removable. On these, the machine keeps the brew group clean, generally with the aid of a cleaning tablet being run through the machine after a certain number of brewing cycles. Another term is one-touch. If a machine is classified as one-touch it means it can make milk based drinks like a cappuccino, latte or machiatto at the the touch of a single button and without moving your cup.
Milk is steamed or frothed automatically and delivered to your cup along with espresso. There are other machines which also steam and froth milk automatically but use a separate spout for milk delivery requiring the user to move a cup between spouts for milk and coffee delivery. Auto-frothing machines always have an external milk source. These range from a simple tube you can place in a carton of milk to attachable carafes which can be stored in the fridge and even refrigerated countertop units. auto-frothing machines are generally able to produced steamed milk for a latte and frothed milk for a cappuccino. But, some machines produce just one kind of froth while others allow a user to control the amount of air injected into milk and vary the density of the froth. Machines that don’t have auto-frothing will have a steam wand for working with milk. And many machines with auto-frothing still include a steam wand. Steam wands can steam milk for a latte or froth for a cappuccino. They also deliver hot water for drinks like tea. Frothing milk with a steam wand is a skill which requires practice.
Luckily, most machines have Pannarello style steam wands. Ya, pannarello wands make it relatively easy for beginners to create froth with nice micro-foam by automatically injecting the right amount of air into the milk during steaming. Marc let’s talk about how these machines create hot water and steam. They generally use thermoblock systems which heat small amounts of water very quickly. Ya, from turn on to ready to brew in around a minute. Now some machines have one thermoblock and some will have 2. One for heating water for brewing and another dedicated to producing steam. The advantage to 2 is less waiting between steaming and brewing. On single thermoblock systems the average wait time between brewing and steaming is about 40 seconds. In a bean to cup system, you’re always brewing from just ground beans from the machine’s grinder. There are a few different styles. Ya, you’ve got metallic burr grinders on up to grinders using ceramics. Ceramics are generally considered the best as they generate less heat when grinding leaving more flavor in the coffee. You’ll also have control of grind fineness going finer for espresso and courser for long coffees.
Aside from the type of grinder machines differ on the degree of control a user has in setting fineness. Most all machines will have a bypass doser. They allow you to use pre-ground coffee. Handy if you have guests over and someone would prefer a decaf. All machines will have a water reservoir. They may be accessible from the side, front or top of the machine. On some you can tell at a glance how much water is in them. others have to be removed to see water level. Most all machines can accept some type of water filter and we highly recommend using one. Ya, cleaner water means better tasting coffee. But just as important is using a filter to help keep your machine operating properly. Overtime calcium deposits build up on heating elements requiring descaling. Using a filter reduces these deposits and extends the time between descaling cycles. In fact, Jura makes a filter for some of their machines which if used as directed eliminates the need to descale. When choosing a machine you’ll want to pay attention to capacities. You’ve got the water reservoir, dredge drawer, and drip tray.
It all comes down to how much you’ll be using your machine and how often you have to service these areas. Super-automatics for the most part are similar in how they brew. But there’s wide variations in how they are programmed and what items can be programmed. On the simplest systems you’ll have buttons or dials controlling things like dosage, grind and volume in the cup. On the high-end you’ll find machines with full color displays multi-user programmability and extremely fine control over every aspect of the brewing process. Many machines have cup warmers. There are 2 varieties: Passive and active. An active cup warmer uses a dedicated heating element to warm cups. Passive systems use residual internal heat and take longer to work. So if you like your drinks really hot you may want to consider a machine with an active So that’s a basic overview of the capabilities and features of super-automatic espresso machines.