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What is a Semi-Automatic Coffee Machine

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Updated August 29, 2022

If you’re shopping for an incredible coffee maker, you may wonder what is a semi-automatic coffee machine. While most of us don’t have a high barista skill level, we do enjoy quality coffee. Compared to a manual machine, semi-automatic espresso makers simplify the brewing process so that even beginners can enjoy latte art. So, if you want to make a cup of espresso, read on to learn about using these machines.


  • Semi-automatic coffee makers are a traditional type of espresso machine.
  • These machines use freshly ground beans and water pressure to brew espresso.
  • There are multiple types of semi-automatic machines for beginners and professional baristas alike.

What You Need to Know About Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

A semi-automatic coffee maker is a traditional way to make a coffee-shop-quality espresso shot. Unfortunately, these machines do not have an integrated grinder, so you’ll want to invest in one. Once you have your coffee grounds at the appropriate grind size, you tamp them in the portafilter and start the brew cycle. The machine forces hot water through the coffee grounds, producing the perfect espresso shot.

Compared to a manual espresso maker (not an automatic espresso maker), a semi-automatic model simplifies the espresso-making process. In addition, many models let you improve your espresso brewing skills until you’re ready for a more advanced type of espresso machine. If you want to know all the options for a classic pro espresso machine, see our guide to what a pump coffee maker is.

For more info on coffee makers, check out our guides on learning about auto-drip coffee makers and how to warm-up coffee in a coffee maker.

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine Types

There are multiple options for a semi-automatic machine, and each one produces a great coffee experience. That said, if you’re interested in an alternate brew method, see our guide to what a vacuum coffee maker is.

Insider Tip

As you upgrade your semi-automatic machine, owning a high-quality coffee bean grinder will become even more essential.

Single Boiler Machine

A single-boiler machine simplifies the process, especially the grind and tamp. Most models contain a pressurized portafilter that won’t release your shots of espresso until the device reaches the ideal pressure. This is an affordable espresso machine that is ideal for beginners.

Single Boiler with a 3-Way Solenoid Valve

In this model, the three-way solenoid valve system makes brewing espresso more reliable, resulting in a better cup of coffee. In addition, the electric pump of this type of espresso machine helps stop leaking. Lastly, these models include optional pressure control to turn you into an experienced barista.

Dual Boiler

Unlike single-boiler brewers, a dual-boiler espresso machine won’t make you wait between the brewing process and using the steam nozzle. These machines are slightly more advanced than single boilers. However, they are still a reliable entry point for people without a ton of brewing experience.

Heat Exchange Boiler

A heat-exchange model is an excellent option for an experienced barista. While there’s only one boiler, the heat transfers from the brewer’s water tube to the steam water tank. These machines are more expensive, but they can steam milk and brew coffee simultaneously, so you get the advantages of a double boiler with only a single water tank.


Never reach inside your electronic coffee bean grinder while it is powered on or plugged into an outlet. The blades are super sharp and can do severe damage.


Are super-automatic espresso machines worth It?

Super-automatic machines can grind coffee beans and make a cup of coffee in the same brew cycle. They take much of the work out of making espresso, but you won’t really learn much about the process as a result.

How is the temperature on the machine controlled?

Most modern machines allow you to set the brewing temperature on a digital display.

Does the machine come with a built-in grinder?

Some do, but most experts recommend a separate coffee grinder for the best brewing experience. Grinding your own beans gives you complete control over the brew.

STAT: A recent study from the Journal of Nutrition showed that 59% of Americans between 20-30 drink a single 8oz cup of coffee per day. (source)

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