Last Updated on October 9, 2021 by John Moretti
If you’ve decided to buy a fully automatic or super-automatic espresso machine, it’s because you want the complete barista experience, with café quality coffee to match. You know you’re making an investment, so it’s vital to choose the best device. Which are the best super automatic espresso machines?
- Best Overall: Saeco Xelsis
- Best for Purists: Jura A1
- Best for Home Baristas: Breville Oracle Touch
- Best Value: Delonghi Magnifica
- Best Entry Level: Gaggia Brera
- Best For Big Families: Gaggia Accademia
- Best Alternative: Delonghi Dinamica
Having a fully automatic espresso machine in your kitchen is like having a personal barista: the machine will do it all for you, from bean to cup. Fully automatic devices grind and tamp the beans, heat the water, brew the coffee, and steam the milk – all exactly to your specifications. All the big coffee appliance brands have at least one of these machines on the market – how do you choose between them?
What You Should Look For In A Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
If you’re entering the world of these high-end machines, it’s handy to have some criteria you can use to compare devices. These are the questions to ask when thinking about espresso machines.
What Is Your Budget?
You won’t get away with a machine under $500, so know that you are in for a pricey experience. However, if you add up the daily cost of the beverages you buy at coffee shops, your machine can pay for itself quite quickly once you make your daily joe at home.
Fully automatic espresso machines start around $500, but you can spend over $2000 on a device.
How Good Is the Coffee?
The quality of the coffee should be a top priority because you’re spending a whole lot to get a machine that makes espresso, after all.
If possible, try the coffee that the different machines make, or at least the various brands. And be honest. If you like milky coffees more than pure espresso, pick a device that does perfect microfoam.
Some machines can offer up to 15 different coffee beverages, so go for one of these if you like variety.
How Programmable Is the Machine?
Choosing a fully or super-automatic espresso machine means sacrificing programmability as these machines are designed to take decisions around grind size, water temperature, pre-infusion, shot strength, and extraction time.
Fully automatic espresso machines come with a range of pre-programmed settings for you to choose at the press of a button (or your mobile phone). In contrast, others allow you to adjust details for personal preference.
At the one extreme, there are machines with a variety of pre-programmed drinks (beyond the obvious espresso), where you can “order” a latte or cappuccino at the press of a button. Other machines offer more flexibility to allow you to customize each aspect of a single beverage.
How much programmability the machine offers will differ from device to device. Hence, one of the things to decide is whether you want to control more aspects of your coffee-making experience or not.
Does The Machine Have A Built-In Grinder?
Some semi-automatic espresso machines don’t have a built-in grinder, but if you’ve to deal with super-automatic devices, the grinder is there for you, with a bean hopper that feeds the coffee beans into the grinder. The grinder is essential as it determines the quality of the espresso brewed.
When looking at the grinder, you’ll need to consider:
- the quality of the burrs: this will influence how efficient the grinder is.
- the number of available grind settings: this will affect the degree of coarseness or fineness of your grind (45 to 55 is a good figure).
- whether the grinder is metal or ceramic: ceramic grinders are of better quality as they prevent overheating and burning of the beans.
What Is The Capacity Of the Water Tank, Milk Tank And Bean Hopper?
The water tank, milk tank, and bean hopper capacity will determine how many cups of coffee the machine can produce before needing to be refilled with water, milk, or coffee beans, so you need to decide how many coffees you need at once.
The capacities of different automatic espresso machines differ vastly, ranging from devices that can produce a single cup at a time, two or three, to machines that can serve a family or even a fully-staffed office.
What Type Of Boiler Does The Machine Have?
The type of boiler on an espresso machine will influence how quickly you get your morning coffee, so it’s an important criterion to consider.
The thermoblock system is now standard on most fully automatic espresso machines. This system quickly heats only the amount of water needed for a single shot of coffee, rather than the whole tank, as a kettle would, making espresso production much quicker.
Machines come with one or two systems, allowing you to steam milk and extract coffee simultaneously or to produce two cups of coffee at a time.
Does The Machine Have A Built-In, Automatic Milk Steamer?
Whether or not you want a milk steamer will depend on the kinds of coffee you drink – a milk steamer is an unnecessary expense if you only ever drink your coffee black.
However, if you do sometimes want a cappuccino or latte, you need to consider whether you want your machine to steam, froth, and pour the milk for you and whether you want to customize the temperature and texture of the milk.
Again, this is a matter of control and programmability – do you want to leave the machine to it, or do you want to operate the milk wand yourself? Do you want to be able to create latte art?
Is The Brew Group Built-In Or Detachable?
The brew group is the vital section of the machine which compresses and brews coffee via pressurized water.
A machine should have a detachable brew group to rinse and clean it thoroughly and allow access for maintenance and repairs.
Machines with built-in brew groups tend to have self-cleaning programs, but repairing and maintaining these machines is a little trickier.
How Easy Is the Espresso Machine To Clean And Maintain?
The automatic self-clean function is a great help on these machines, but all espresso machines need to have the drip tray emptied, the steam wand purged, and the boiler decalcified. Consider how much cleaning and maintenance you want to do.
The Best Fully Automatic Espresso Machine Overall: Saeco Xelsis
Is money no object? Passionate about Italian-style coffee? Then treat yourself to the gorgeous Saeco Xelsis, which can produce a staggering 15 different coffee beverages, two at a time.
Made by the company that also owns Gaggia, the Saeco Xelsis a top-of-the-range espresso machine with all the espresso bells and cappuccino whistles your heart could desire. This Dutch creation features a user-friendly touch screen that allows you to adjust coffee strength (by dosage), heat, and the ratio of milk to coffee using the Coffee Equalizer, rather like adjustments to a music system.
You can also adjust your preference for one of the 12 grind settings on the ceramic burr grinder. Despite all the customizations, the machine works intuitively and quietly.
The patented LatteDuo technology allows you to brew two cups of coffee at a time.
Other fantastic features are the easy maintenance and cleaning elements. The machine comes with the AquaClean water filter, which removes harmful minerals from the water you use, improving the flavor of your coffee and reducing the need for descaling.
In addition, the Xelsis features a removable brew group and the HygieSteam automatic self-cleaning system to make your life more convenient.
Who Should Buy This Machine?
If you can afford it, go ahead. The Xelsis is the best you can get in terms of coffee and design – this is an award-winning machine.
The Best Fully Automatic Espresso Machine for Purists: Jura A1
Those of us who are espresso purists know that the perfect espresso is a one-ounce wonder: a single shot of dark, bittersweet coffee with a thick, golden crema. That is all—no milk, no foam, no drama, and most of all, no noise.
If this is what you’re looking for in your daily coffee, then the best fully automatic espresso machine for you is the Jura A1.
The Swiss-made Jura A1 has a price advantage over many of the other fully automatic machines – partly because it has no milk-steaming system and produces a single shot at a time. However, it’s as sleek, glossy, and modern-looking as all the others.
The Jura A1 features an intuitive touchscreen panel with three programmable drink sizes. The controls allow for adjustable coffee strength via the variable brewing unit, which holds between 6 and 10 g of coffee. It’s easy to operate, and you can be as involved or uninvolved as you like.
In terms of water, the machine has a handy water tank refill reminder, as well as a Clearly Blue Filter, which reduces water-hardness by up to 75% and removes harmful minerals, improving the flavor of your coffee and reducing the need for descaling.
Another feature of this compact size machine, ideal for smaller kitchen spaces, is the Jura-patented Pulse Extraction Process (PEP), which uses short pulses of water to ensure optimal extraction. This process creates the most decadent, most robust espresso to please the fussiest coffee drinker.
In addition, the AromaG3 conical burr grinder, twice as quick as in earlier models, means your beans get exposed to heat and air for a minimal time, intensifying their aroma and freshness. If you’re in a hurry, a bypass doser allows you to use preground coffee.
A convenient feature of the Jura A1 is the transparent bean hopper so that you can see when your beans are running low. And if you’re forgetful, the device has an automatic shut-off.
Who Should Buy This Machine?
Single lovers of black espresso will be delighted with this intelligent, elegant machine that produces a rich, strong coffee in half a minute. The design is exceptional, and the performance brilliant.
The Best Fully Automatic Espresso Machine for Home Baristas: Breville Oracle Touch
Breville’s coffee machines need no introduction, and their Oracle Touch is a thing of beauty and quality. If you’re looking for a variety of coffees and superb quality of both milk and coffee, then this fully automatic machine is the answer.
The machine automates three steps:
- grinds, doses, and tamps coffee into the portafilter
- brews the coffee once you have moved the portafilter to the grind outlet and selected the brew function
- milk, which you can prepare at the same time as the coffee.
This machine will appeal to the home barista because, although it has pre-programmed and pre-programmable drink options, you can control and adjust the coffee strength, and milk texture, and temperature.
The Oracle Touch is a semi-automatic/automatic hybrid system, which means that while many of the functions are automated, you can also personalize your settings, saving up to eight different custom brews (grind, brew, and milk options). The machine features five programmable drinks, which you can access via the appealing full-color touchscreen panel
Like all Breville machines, the Oracle Touch has a built-in, conical burr grinder that you can adjust for preferred grind size and grind amount. The device comes with 15-bar extraction so that you can produce the perfect espresso every time; according to this commercial standard,
The device comes with PID temperature control, which refers to the Proportional-Integrated-Derivative technology Breville has perfected: the 1600-watt thermocoil heating system means that the coffee remains at the optimum temperature.
The Oracle Touch is a machine for socializing, as the removable water reservoir has a mighty 84-ounce (two and a half liters) capacity and dual boilers so that the device can extract your coffee and steam your milk simultaneously, unlike other machines that use a single nozzle. You can also delight your coffee guests with the milk wand that automatically produces microfoam for lattes
And for those early mornings, the Oracle Touch has a timer to allow the machine to switch on when needed.
Who Should Buy This Machine?
This machine is perfect for coffee geeks who like customizing their brew but enjoy the automatized features of a specialized device. It can happily be used by coffee experts and novices alike.
The Best Value Fully Automatic Espresso Machine: Delonghi Magnifica
Fully automatic espresso machines are pricey, so if you’re looking for a great device at an attractive price, you can’t go wrong with the Delonghi Magnifica.
The Magnifica has been awarded an Amazon’s Choice title, and it’s not hard to see why. Delonghi has managed to combine high-end performance with affordability without sacrificing many of the features that you want in a super-automatic machine.
The Delonghi Magnifica doesn’t come with the touchscreen that many other fully automatic machines do. Instead of a screen, you will find simple single and double shot buttons and rotary dials to adjust coffee strength, allowing you to vary the amount of coffee and the volume of the shot. You might want to keep the Magnifica’s manual handy to guide you.
However, there has been no compromise on the stainless steel burr grinder, with 13 settings, nor on the double thermo boiler machine, allowing you to simultaneously prepare one or two drinks.
Another great feature is the typical Delonghi Cappuccino steam wand, allowing you to froth your milk manually (but not while brewing coffee simultaneously). Note that there is not an automatic milk steamer.
The machine has a handy removable brew group to facilitate cleaning and maintenance.
Who Should Buy This Machine?
The Delonghi Magnifica is ideal for the price-conscious couple who want quality coffee and enjoy playing barista. It’s not the best of the fully automatic machines out there, but it’s excellent value for the price.
The Best Entry Level Fully Automatic Espresso Machine: Gaggia Brera
If you’re new to the aromatic world of super-automatic coffee machines and want to get your foot in the door with a machine, go for a tried and trusted brand that will deliver excellent features and a gorgeous Italian coffee bar aesthetic.
The Gaggia Brera is also suitable for coffee novices because it produces good quality milky coffees as well as the more purist espressos.
Because of the relatively low price, the Gaggia Brera offers more limited options than other machines. For instance, it only comes in two colors (silver and black) and is a relatively small machine.
However, the Gaggia Brera is fitted with the same innovative technology as the larger Gaggias and has the user-friendly digital display seen on the bigger machines, as well as three dosing options.
The Brera has a ceramic burr grinder with five different settings and a double boiler to produce more than a single espresso at a time.
The milk foam or froth quality produced is splendid, care of the Panarello steam wand, which you can operate automatically or manually.
Another great feature is the easy maintenance of this machine, with water and dreg drawers at the front of the device and a removable brew group. If that’s not enough, the device will produce cleaning alerts when it requires attention.
Who Should Buy This Machine?
The Gaggia Brera is a good choice for coffee novices who enjoy both espresso and milky coffees, like cappuccino and latte. It’s simple to use and makes delicious coffee.
The Best Fully Automatic Espresso Machine For Big Families: Gaggia Accademia
A family makes particular demands on an espresso machine, both in terms of the sheer volume of coffee produced as well as the differing abilities of the users. The Gaggia Academia will meet both of these needs.
With its classic coffee shop aesthetic, the Gaggia Academia also looks lovely in a big kitchen, being a large and imposing machine.
This top-of-the-range Italian machine has a beautiful full-color LCD screen and a high degree of programmability: dials adjust the coffee flow, water volume, size of the dose, and amount of foam. The ceramic burr grinder has eight programable grind settings.
The machine also produces six different drinks, including a travel-cup size and a double boiler so that you can make more than one beverage at a time
For lovers of milky coffees, the Academica boasts both a milk carafe and a commercial-style steam wand.
Who Should Buy This Machine?
Simple enough to be operated by a coffee novice but with enough customization for a coffee artisan, the Gaggia Academia is perfect for a varied group like a large family or a small office.
The Best Alternative Fully Automatic Espresso Machine: Delonghi Dinamica
Sometimes you want an espresso machine that is more than just an espresso machine. You want bean-to-cup technology, but with a bit of extra.
The Delonghi Dinamica fits the bill – it can produce rich, full-flavored iced coffee that’ll make Starbucks weep. But it also makes espresso that’ll get you going in the morning.
Another highlight of the Dinamica is that its milk steamer is adapted for milk substitutes, like oat or soy milk, producing a long-lasting foam. So the Dinamica is a brilliant option for vegans who love lattes and cappuccinos.
The Dinamica is also just an all-around excellent espresso machine, which grinds the exact amount of beans per shot, so there’s no nasty leftover taste. It’s programable, allowing you to choose between five settings, from extra mild to extra strong, and has an adjustable grinder.
What’s more, this device whips up a coffee in less than 40 seconds.
Lovers of the coffee shop aesthetic might balk at the amount of plastic on these machines, but they are things of beauty, despite the lack of stainless steel – they are sturdily made.
Who Should Buy This Machine?
The Delonghi Dinamica should be recommended to vegans for its ability to froth milk substitutes. But it’s also a great espresso machine at a reasonable price and deserves to be noticed.
The Final Word
A fully automatic espresso machine is a beautiful device – they’re convenient, user-friendly, consistent, low-maintenance, and produce fantastic coffee. There’s a device for everyone, whether all you want is the purest espresso, serving a family of different coffee drinkers. They may seem pricey, but you will just be buying a single machine instead of a separate grinder, coffee maker, and milk-frother.