The great debate – manual espresso machine versus fully automatic espresso machine – isn’t really much of a debate anymore. The manual model (favoured by traditionalists and called the piston machine) is the original way to brew espresso. As its name implies, it’s piston-driven and requires the user to pump a lever to build up the pressure necessary to pull a shot. Operation of these machines requires strength, precision, and focus – and although some baristas swear by them and find it incredibly rewarding to pull shots the old-fashioned way, these espresso machines just aren’t as common anymore – even in coffee shops.
When new technology emerged in the 1940s, the espresso brewing process became significantly more energy-efficient and much easier. There are still some, however, who hold onto the tradition of pulling shots with a manual espresso machine. These die-hards insist that the best-tasting espresso will always be brewed with a manual machine, where every part of the process – grinding the beans, tamping, and operating the lever – gives the user undeniable, complete control. Other fans of the manual model like to point out that these machines have a unique, classic design that makes them stand out from the crowd and even elevates them to “conversation piece” status. Opponents, however, complain that the results just don’t justify the cumbersome, admittedly physical process involved in pulling that perfect shot, and are strong proponents of the manual espresso machine’s uptown cousins…the semi-automatic, automatic, and super-automatic espresso machines.
Overall, the primary difference between these machines and the manual espresso machine is the lack of pumping action by the barista. Beyond that, there are many levels of features and add-ons that dictate how a machine is categorized. For example, the standard semi-automatic machine manages to deliver the best balance between manual and super-automatic by providing the user with both control AND convenience. The user will have to grind and tamp, but much of the process is “press a button” except for deciding when to stop pulling the shot: voila: control and convenience. And while there is a bit of a learning curve to fully master their use, many baristas – professional and otherwise – find the process rewarding and satisfying due to the perfect blend of flexibility and convenience.
The fully automatic and super-automatic machines, on the other hand, take coffee brewing to the next level with their user-friendly design and consistent results. The primary difference between the two is that a fully automatic machine tends to be less customizable, and the super-automatic machines come with a load of flexibility, bells and whistles.
All around, technology has affected the espresso machine world in a big way. Today, there is literally “something for everyone” who loves coffee and wants to make a stake in the brewing process – and there are a lot of them!! As a trusted west coast distributor of the world’s finest coffee systems, Quality Coffee Systems can be your strongest ally through this process, whether your needs are residential or commercial. We have been leading the coffee charge since 1998, and represent a portfolio that includes everything from traditional, classic espresso machines to the most feature-rich super-automatic espresso machines on the market.
Additionally, our after-sales support sets us apart, and we would welcome the opportunity to share our coffee knowledge and insights with you.
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