We believe that the formula for espresso should be available to everyone who likes espresso, regardless of their budget or their knowledge about this coffee drink. That said, we’d like to talk to you about our best semi-automatic espresso machine choices.
Best low-cost semi-automatic espresso machine
#1 De’Longhi Dedica Deluxe espresso machine
Sleek and compact, the Dedica Deluxe by De’Longhi is ready to make espresso and all sorts of milk-based drinks, bringing charm to even the most crowded corner of your kitchen counter. With buttons for one or two shots of espresso and a 15-bar pressure pump, this affordable machine works quickly and extracts the coffee properly.
The most notable features on the Dedica Deluxe are the steam levels on the frother and the automatic flow stop. It is these features that make this semi-automatic a very advanced entry-level espresso machine.
The drip tray on this espresso machine is removable, so taller glasses are not an issue.
- 15-Bar pump
- Frother with adjustable steam levels
- Removable double drip tray
- Automatic flow stop
On the low end, but with some surprising features
Small and compact
Made predominantly of stainless steel
Nothing for this product
#2 Espresso Work All-In-One Barista Series espresso and cappuccino maker
Multiple different products in one bundle – that’s what the All-In-One Barista Series, one of the best espresso machines under $300, brings you. The nice coffee machine will arrive at your home with good looks, but with even better accessories, the most notable one being the grinder. This amazing grinder and the espresso and cappuccino maker will help you make both milk-based and coffee-only drinks. In the mean time, the built-in automatic frother will make the perfect foam for your espresso if so commanded!
- 1.4-liter water tank
- 19-Bar pump
- Heats up in 45 seconds
- Built-in automatic frother
- Electric coffee grinder, portafilter, cappuccino art stencil templates, scoop/tamper, espresso cups, and cappuccino glasses included
The bundle includes everything you need for a great entry-level espresso experience
The frother is automatic and you don’t have to move your cup to get the milk inside it
Options for milk foam, cappuccino, and latte with the adjustable frother
Cup warmer and cappuccino art stencil templates level up the coffee experience by 100%
The grinder is good, but it’s not a professional one
#3 Mr. Coffee Café Barista espresso and cappuccino maker
Popular and well-packed with features, the popular Mr. Coffee Café Barista will use its 15-Bar pump and the automatic frother to make you lattes or cappuccinos if you properly adjust it! You can remove the milk reservoir if you want to put the milk in the fridge and use it the next time you want cappuccino or latte.
The one-touch control panel on this espresso and cappuccino maker is intuitive and simple, and there’s even a symbol that tells you how to correctly lock the portafilter.
A recipe book is also included in the box to show you how to prepare the tastiest of coffee drinks.
- 15-Bar pump
- Automatic, adjustable, and removable milk frother
- One-touch control panel
- Removable water tank
- Recipe book included
The frother is automatic and easily adjustable, which is great for newbies and people who don’t like frothing
Very affordable considering the features that it has
Simple to use
Recipe book will help you learn more about coffee drinks
Some people report occasional leaks from the water filter
Fitting two coffee cups under the group head might be a bit challenging
Best entry-level and mid-level semi-automatic espresso machine
#1 Rancilio Silvia
The Rancilio Silvia is the classic upper entry-level espresso machine. Even though it is not too expensive, the machine has a commercial-grade group head. A group head that is commercial can keep its own temperature stable, which is very important for the good extraction of your coffee. A commercial group head is, in fact so important, the high-end espresso machines must it to be able to properly deliver.
The control panel on the Silvia is simple to understand and use, and the knob for the steam wand helps the wand turn your favorite milk into the silkiest of milk froth. The machine is even generous for fans of easy-serve espresso pods and will become compatible with them as soon as you connect it to a pod and capsule adaptor.
- Stainless steel housing
- Commercial-grade group head
- Ergonomic portafilter
- 0.3-liter chrome-plated brass boiler
- Steam wand for steaming and steam wand knob for steam pressure control
The leader in the class of upper entry-level semi-automatic espresso machines
Allows you to work with commercial-grade features
The stainless steel housing is durable
Easy to use
A bit expensive
#2 Gaggia Classic Pro
Cheaper than the Silvia, but with similar features, the Gaggia Classic Pro is often compared to this espresso machine. The Pro has rocker control buttons that are intuitive and a steam knob that is intuitive as well. Both its group head, portafilter, and steam wand are commercial-grade, and they are widely acknowledged for their good quality. The machine also comes with a 3-way solenoid valve that guarantees quick and creamy espressos and dry coffee pucks after brewing.
The Classic Pro is incredibly small and compact, but it has enough room for a few cups on its cup warmer. That said, the Classic Pro is always ready for solo espresso times or for deeply-flavored lattes with your friends.
- Commercial-grade group head
- Commercial-grade rotating steam wand
- Commercial-grade 58mm portafilter
- 3-way solenoid valve
- Rocker control buttons
Affordable, yet its important components are commercial-grade
Heats up fast
The 3-way solenoid valve improves the efficiency of the machine
Best for cups 3’’ tall since that’s what the clearance between the portafilter and the drip tray is
#3 Breville the Barista Express
Breville the Barista Express is the machine that truly opens up the door for fancier espressos and coffees within the entry-level machine class. Its 0.5-pound bean hopper and the integrated grinder make it seem, for a moment, like this machine is automatic.
However, as a semi-automatic, the Barista Express will grind your fresh coffee beans directly into its portafilter. Once that’s done, you can tamp the coffee with either the built-in tamper or separate tamper tool included in the box. A remarkable thing about this machine is that you can control the grind dose with a dial or with the manual over-ride feature.
With the stupendous Barista Express you’ll have the chance to microfoam your milk, monitor the brew pressure, and even pre-infuse the coffee. There’s also a PID controller that helps the temperature of the boiler stay constant, which is just another great feature on the Barista Express that makes espresso taste far better than the espresso on other mid-level espresso machines.
- 0.5-pound bean hopper
- Ground coffee dose control
- Conical burr grinder
- PID controller
- Steam wand
- One-touch buttons for one or two shots of espresso
The very handy grinder
Manual and set control over the dose of the ground coffee
Coffee is ground directly into the portafilter
Features like the 15-Bar pump, the pre-infusion, and the PID are there to improve the espresso extraction
There’s a learning curve, but many think it’s worth it
Best high-end semi-automatic espresso machine
#1 Bezzera BZ10
The classic and astonishing Bezzera BZ10 has a housing that is completely made of stainless steel for the classic look that prosumers love. This is, expectedly, a fantastic heat-exchange machine, with a boiler that can heat up both the brew and the steam water at the same time. This means that you can brew and steam at the same time, which, for coffee purists, makes a serious difference to the coffee taste.
With a machine from this caliber, the fun just doesn’t end with the heat exchange boiler, but goes on with the electronically-heated group head. This is one of the most accurate ways of controlling the very important temperature of the group head which happens to have a huge role in the coffee extraction.
The steam and hot water wands are movable with the help of ball joints, and this feature helps you better steam or froth your milk. The pressure of the steam is delicately controlled by a lever valve to allow you to effortlessly get the milk texture that you desire for your coffee drink.
Literally everything on this machine is made for the prosumer experience and safety of the user, making the craft of making espresso a fun and safe experience.
- 1.5-liter nickel-plated copper heat exchange boiler with a high limit switch
- Electronically-heated group head
- Ball joint steam and hot water wands
- Commercial-grade polished stainless steel body
- 3-liter water tank
Classic, stainless steel design and high-end components – the two most important features of prosumer-level machines
The flexibility of every component shows the user the detailed espresso-making craft
Large capacities of the boiler and water tank for an effortless experienc
Safety mechanisms protect both the user and the machine
It will take you some time to figure the machine out, but we bet you won’t regret it
#2 Nuova Simonelli Oscar II
The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II, which was also reviewed in our best high-end espresso machine list, is a machine with a beautiful design and with features that make it especially great for steaming. Its long, 4-hole steaming wand, which rotates at 360°, is very powerful. Together with the pressure lever on top of the machine, steaming is a potential that can be turned into a mouth-watering froth by a skilled user.
This machine has other high-end features, like the heat exchange boiler that automatically refills itself when empty, for example. There’s also coffee pre-infusion for the best coffee extraction and, very importantly, this machine is auto-volumetric. That said, among the other features for a great shot of espresso, the Oscar II also calculates how much water should be dispensed to give different coffee drinks the right flavor through the perfectly right volume.
- 360˚-degree, 4-hole steam wand
- Steam pressure control
- Stainless steel housing
- Hard plastic cup warmer and drip tray
Auto-volumetric for great precision when it comes to coffee volume
A beautiful, simplistic, yet stylish design of the stainless steel housing
Great properties for steaming
Made after commercial espresso machines for the best café experience at home
Its design doesn’t include a hot water wand or spout
#3 Breville Oracle Touch espresso machine
The Oracle Touch by Breville is a semi-automatic machine that is completely impressive. It is a dual boiler machine with PID controllers that control the temperature inside each of the two boilers. Dual boiler espresso machines can steam and brew at the same time, and this is something that the Oracle Touch can do as well.
Steaming with this machine is incredibly easy (and absolutely efficient) because of the high-end technologies that help the wand monitor the temperature and do auto-aeration. These two things translate into full control over the steam temperature and the texture of the milk. Together with the other programmable options, these features guarantee the café coffee quality.
The Oracle Touch can dose the coffee by using timing or its volumetric technology. There’s a grinder that grinds the coffee directly into your portafilter, and, once ground, the machine tamps it.
On this machine, you can customize many coffee drinks and get them at the touch of a single button. All in all, the Breville Oracle Touch is an absolutely beautiful and outstanding machine.
- Dual boiler
- Electronically-heated group head
- Optionally volumetric
- A steam wand that does temperature monitoring and auto-aeration
- Triple heat system
- Programmable foam, milk and water temperature, shot time
- Over-pressure valve
- True, low-pressure pre-infusion
- Conical burr grinder
- Auto on/off
Many high-end features for espressos, lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites customizable in every way, shape, or form
The coffee is carefully treated, from when the machine grinds it to when it extracts it
Designed to give you the easiest coffee-making experience and give you top quality drinks
Beautiful stainless steel housing
The filter, that you’ll have to replace every two months or so, is a bit costly
What is the difference between semi-automatic and automatic espresso machines?
There are three main differences between automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines:
– Built-in grinder – automatic machines will come with a built-in grinder, while semi-automatic ones will not.
– How espresso is made – automatic machines have a brew group that makes the espresso by automatically compressing ground coffee, while semi-automatic ones use a portafilter to do this.
– Steaming – on an automatic machine, you won’t have to cool down the boiler after steaming because the machine will do it on its own, but this is something you’ll have to do manually on a semi-automatic machine (by opening the steam wand and close it a little bit after the steam turns into water).
Things to consider when buying a semi-automatic espresso machine
Define what kind of a semi-automatic you need
Do you need a semi-automatic espresso machine to use at home? Or do you need one for commercial purposes? This is the first question that you need to answer before you start looking for the best machine for you.
Semi-automatic espresso machines for commercial use are bigger, high-volume, and have professional features like volumetric and gravimetric technology, T3 technology, multiple group heads, or technologies that can give you full control over the espresso-making process.
These features are usually not seen on home-use espresso machines because at-home and at-café necessities are different. Obviously, when picking a home-use espresso machine, you want it to be low-volume. When it comes to the features, you can choose between basic or more advanced settings depending of your preferences.
Choose the features
When you’re done defining what kind of a semi-automatic you need, you’ll need to thoroughly define the features you want and need your espresso machine to have.
We already said something about the features present on some semi-automatic espresso machines for commercial use. Some of those features like gravimetric technology and other technologies that help you have extreme control over the espresso are often seen on high-end commercial espresso machines. A good example of this is the Pulse-Jet technology of the Aurelia Wave by Nuova Simonelli.
Other commercial espresso machines might not have features as advanced as those, but they will still have features like Cool-Touch wands, powerful steam wands, steam pressure control, dual or heat exchange boilers, E61 group heads, etc. These features will help the espresso machine meet the coffee standards of a café or other venues quickly and easily.
When it comes to the features of semi-automatics for home use, we can see a gradation from basic to features that are as advanced as those on some commercial espresso machines.
The most basic semi-automatic will have a single boiler, possibly a steam wand, it will be mostly made of plastic, and you’ll be able to get at an affordable price. A more sophisticated semi-automatic than a basic one would be one that has the features found on a basic semi-automatic espresso machine, but that also has a 3-way solenoid valve.
If you go even higher, you’ll get to machines with dual and heat exchange boilers. Some of these machines will even have E61 group heads, PIDs, and even rotary pumps. These machines are often called prosumer espresso machines.
The ease of use of the semi-automatic espresso machine
If you’re a beginner who is just entering the world of espresso machines, you can pick a basic espresso machine to not have a hard time with it. The more advanced you’ll be getting, the easier you’ll find using an espresso machine that has some more advanced features.
If you are already intermediate, you might want to pick a machine that closely resonates with your espresso and coffee preferences. That said, if you like milk in your coffee, you might want to look into machines that have a good steaming performance. On the other hand, if you, for example, like making Americanos, you might want to take a look at semi-automatic espresso machines with a hot water spout.
For very advanced users and prosumers, we recommend checking out semi-automatic espresso machines that give more control over the espresso-making process. This usually implies that the machines in question have at least some of the features that we mentioned when giving a short explanation about prosumer espresso machines.
Also, and this applies to all users, think about how easy to use the control panel of your favorite machine is. Small design flaws, like a dim screen, a complicated menu, buttons that are not intuitive, or an inaccessible tank can really make your experience with the machine troublesome.
Design and build quality
The design and build quality of your machine will often reflect its price. That said, it is important to keep in mind what kind of semi-automatic you can buy at a certain price point.
Plastic will be the most commonly used material for lower-end machine models. Then, as you go up the espresso machine lever, you’ll see that metals like stainless steel, aluminum, brass, and chrome substitute plastic.
Even though metal is the alternative preferred by many, plastic can also be sturdy, and the greater challenge here is picking a sturdy machine.
If you are someone who cares about the internals of the machine, you should know that they too should be made durable and securely placed inside the machine. Electronics should be isolated from heat, moisture, and water, and the wiring and plumbing should be clean and properly routed. Again, this will depend on a machine’s price.
As far as the design of the machine is concerned, we can only recommend you to pick a machine that has an intuitive design and accessible components. The style part, that, we’ll leave to you.
Espresso machines can cost from under $100 to over $1000, over $2000, and more. We recommend you choose a machine model that you can afford and that will best meet your needs. In most cases, you might have to make a compromise between price and value, which is okay.