Semi-automatic espresso machines are popular because they’re portable, affordable, and include you in the brewing process. Unlike a fully automatic espresso machine, a semi-automatic machine lets you get involved in the grinding process and the tamping prep as you manually snap the portafilter into place.
The consumer market recently exploded with some of the best semi-automatic espresso machines, and choosing the perfect fit can be daunting if not downright confusing. Luckily, we have some top-notch options for you!
Our Top Pick: Rancilio Silvia – Superb Demitasse Espresso
- Ergonomic porta filter handle same as the proven design of Rancilio commercial machines
- Commercial grade group head for superb heat stability and extraction quality
- Articulating steam wand offers complete range of motion and professional steaming knob precisely controls steaming pressure
- Classic linear design fits most decors
- Optional pod and capsule adaptor kit available
Choosing an espresso machine is an investment. The Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine falls into the mid-higher price range category. It’s handcrafted in Italy.
The Rancilio Silvia fulfills our quality requirements by producing a quality stainless steel, iron frame unit with commercial grade heat stability and superb extraction process, producing a full-bodied layered espresso with each pull.
It’s easy to clean, perfect for small spaces, comes without confusing features that most at-home baristas seldom use, and blends well into any decor.
Each unit includes a 7-gram coffee scoop, a tamper, and two filter baskets for single and double shots. What sets this model apart is the exceptional steam power and remarkably short recovery time, a key feature recognized by more seasoned baristas when serving more than one guest.
What really sold us is that Rancilio produces a demitasse of exceptionally bold and uniform crema espresso. This vintage look machine allows novice baristas to explore lattes, cappuccinos, and specialty coffees like a pro every time.
Optional pod adapter kit available.
- 58 mm portafilter with a single and double shot basket
- Small counter footprint
- Commercial-grade components
- Optimum pressure solenoid valve
- Additional adaptor kit
- 15 bar pressure pump
- More costly than similar brand
- PID (temperature gauge) fluctuates for inexperienced baristas
Other Contenders on the Semi-Automatic Espresso Landscape
Like each unique batch of coffee beans that speaks to your inner espresso connoisseur, the best semi-automatic espresso machines also set themselves apart with the features they offer.
1. De’Longhi E680M Espresso Machine – Best Space Saver
- Note: 1)Too coarse a grind, too little coffee, or insufficiently tamping the grounds before brewing can all lead to inadequate pressure for a proper brew. 2)It is important to note that the amount of espresso extracted will vary depending on the grind size and amount and reprogramming may be needed when the size and amount are adjusted
- EVERY CUP TO YOUR LIKING: 15-bar professional pressure assures quality results every time, and adjustable controls allow you to make modifications for your personal taste preferences. NOTE: Kindly descale the unit so that it is clean and can function properly.
- EASY TO CLEAN: Removable water tank and drip tray make for easy cleanup, and the parts are dishwasher safe.
- BREW LIKE A PRO: Whatever your preference – single or double espresso, cappuccino or latte – the machine brews authentic barista-quality beverages just like you enjoy at your favorite coffeehouse.
- YOUR FOAM, YOUR WAY: A manual frother mixes steam and milk to create a rich, creamy froth for evenly textured drinks – just the way you like them.
- EASY TO USE: The machine does most of the work for you. The Automatic Flow Stop feature dispenses just the right amount of espresso while maintaining the ideal brewing temperature.
- ONE ESPRESSO SHOT OR TWO. The three-in-one filter holder, included with the unit, has a holder for one espresso shot, a holder for two shots, and one for an easy-serve espresso pod – whatever your preference.
- NO WAITING BETWEEN CUPS: The Advanced Cappuccino System maintains the optimal temperature so you can brew cup after cup instantly.
- ACCOMMODATES TALLER CUPS: If you’d prefer a larger size beverage, no problem. The bottom tray of the unit is easy to adjust or remove to fit taller cups..SLEEK SPACE-SAVING DESIGN: With a sleek profile, compact design and narrow footprint, each model fits beautifully on a kitchen countertop – without taking up too much space.
- SLEEK SPACE-SAVING DESIGN: With a sleek profile, compact design and narrow footprint, each model fits beautifully on a kitchen countertop – without taking up too much space.
This machine is an inexpensive starter model that produces quality expresso shots and specialty coffees tailored to your desires.
De’ Longhi has a long-term reputation as a quality brand in the coffee brewing industry, and this sleek model allows you to brew a satisfying cup at home without the fuss.
This unit brews crema espresso shots to your liking with a few simple brew steps as an excellent entry-level espresso machine.
The Advanced Cappuccino System maintains even temperatures for quick multiple brews without annoying wait times. It provides 15 bars of pressure, delivers consistent shots, and makes smooth and frothy lattes and cappuccinos with the manual wand.
The EC680 components are dishwasher safe for easy cleanup and removable drip tray, and descaling is crucial.
- 15 bar pressure and adjustable controls
- Perfect espresso extraction
- Small counter footprint
- Easy to set controls
- Manual frother
- Can accommodate larger cups (remove drip tray)
- Small tank and drip tray
- Clogged steam wand
- Frequent descaling required
2. The Breville EBS87OXL Barista Express – Best All in One
- The Breville Barista Express delivers third wave specialty coffee at home using the 4 keys formula and is part of the Barista Series that offers all in one espresso machines with integrated grinder to go from beans to espresso in under one minute
- Dose Control Grinding: Integrated precision conical burr grinder grinds on demand to deliver the right amount of freshly ground coffee directly into the portafilter for your preferred taste with any roast of bean
- Optimal Water Pressure: Low pressure pre-infusion gradually increases pressure at the start and helps ensure all the flavors are drawn out evenly during the extraction for a balanced tasting cup. Grind Settings: 16 precision grind settings
- Precise Espresso Extraction: Digital temperature control (PID) delivers water at precisely the right temperature, ensuring optimal espresso extraction
- Manual Microfoam Milk Texturing: The powerful steam wand performance allows you to hand texture microfoam milk that enhances flavor and enables creation of latte art
- Espresso Machine with Grind Size Dial: Simple and intuitive, giving you control over the grind size no matter what type of bean you're grinding
- Espresso Maker with built-in Coffee Grinder: Innovative grinding cradle allows any at home barista to grind directly into the espresso portafilter for the perfect espresso
- Accessories: Razor Dose Trimming Tool, 54mm Stainless Steel Portafilter, 1 & 2 cup Single & Dual Wall Filter Baskets, Coffee Scoop, Integrated Tamper, Stainless Steel Milk Jug, Cleaning disc, tablets, brush tool & Allen Key, Water Filter & Filter Holder
- Warranty: 1 Year Limited Product Warranty; Power: 1600 Watts; Voltage: 120 Volts
Breville Barista Express is a well-designed, high-quality machine with an integrated conical burr grinder that adjusts to your preferred coffee beans. The components in this model produce consistent temperature and water pressure to infuse every ounce of aroma back into the brew.
A key feature allows for a preferred option set up, and the Barista will continually produce cups of coffee as you like and allows you to explore latte art with its manual milk texturing wand.
Breville includes several accessories with each purchase: 54 mm portafilter, attached tamper, 1-2 cup filter baskets for pressurized or non-pressurized shuts, a cleaning disc, and a water filter.
This model is an attractive kitchen appliance and a great introductory machine in the upper mid-price range. Never models like the Barista Pro or Barista Touch upgrade for the more seasoned at-home barista.
- Standard 15 bars of pressure,
- Integrated conical burr grinder with adjustable settings
- Included extras
- Manual steam frother for latte art
- Efficient increasing water temperature
- Accurate PID, thermo coil heater (not double boiler)
- Large counter space footprint
- Noisy grinder
- Lacks key features of more advanced Breville models
3. Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista – Best Budget
- Semi automatic 3 in 1 espresso maker, cappuccino maker, and latte maker
- 15 Bar Pump System Brews Rich Tasting Espresso Coffee
- Trouble Free Automatic Milk Frother Removes the Guesswork. Do not wash the water reservoir in the dishwasher
- One touch control panel for drink selections
- Easy fill, removable water and milk reservoirs
- Cord length: 26 Inches; 1040 Watts
- Important: It is important to note, instruction manual must be followed to prime unit before using café barista for first time (Pg; 8, Steps 1 and 2); The total amount of beverage can vary depending on type of milk used and froth control knob setting; It is advised that frothing tube be cleaned after each use because that can cause a variance in the frothing as well
Made of a stainless steel body, this 3-in-1 espresso, latte, and cappuccino maker is easily navigated on its touch dashboard. This model is also ideal for taking to the office or as your go-to coffee machine. With the handy hot water wand, you can produce Americano-style coffee quickly.
While optimizing your coffee bean flavors, this 15 bar pump produces results reminiscent of a vending machine. That’s not intended as a slight; it’s just that easy to use.
The trouble-free milk frother makes it easy to explore the included recipe options and comes with an auto-off feature.
Removable water and milk reservoirs are best hand-washed, and initial setup steps are a must for machine efficiency.
- 15 bars of pressure
- 3 in 1 easy to use dashboard
- Removable reservoirs
- Implementation of initial setup is a must
- Grinder not included
4. De’Longhi La Specialista – All the Bells and Whistles
- Sensor grinding technology: Exclusive segsing technology delivers precise, consistent grinding and the optimal dose for espresso, every time. Plus, the bean sensor ensures you’ll never run out of beans while grindin
- The smart tamping station: Simply pull the lever to tamp the ground coffee with the right pressure for perfect results. There’s no need to remove the portafilter, so you get to enjoy a mess-free experience, for Espresso Made Right(TM)
- Active temperature control with dual heating system: The best temperature stability for optimal coffee extraction and milk texturing. One thermoblock for extracting coffee and an independent heating system for steaming milk or frothing
- Advanced latte system: Micro-foam frothing for Latte Art or rich froth for cappuccino. Just place your cup under the spout and select flat or foam. Now, you can enjoy your flat hot milk, or the perfect foam to express your latte art creativity
- 1 second quick start: Power the machine on, grind and tamp your dose, then immediately brew authentic espresso – no additional heat up time necessary
- Separate hot water spout: For added convenience, use La Specialist's separate hot water spout to brew an authentic Americano. And the spout also delivers hot water for tea without the residual coffee taste transferring from the brewing unit.Maximum cup height : 120 (mm)
- In the box: Milk pitcher, descaling solution, cleaning brush. Input power (W) : 1450
The De’Longhi La Specialista is a perfect espresso machine for those who want to enjoy a demitasse of consistent coffee yet avoid the hassles of learning all the technical jargon and complicated setup.
De’ Longhi understands their clients. This model is a beautiful addition to the kitchen counter and pulls a perfectly blended cup each time. Designed with unique features like a sensor grinder and simple navigation settings make De’ Longhi a good choice.
Equipped with a tamper station that allows you to grind and tamp in one smooth motion, La Speicalista makes brewing a perfect shot of espresso, a designer froth latte, or even a classic Americano or cup of tea easy.
Engineered to look state-of-the-art, this versatile espresso maker has a dual heating feature and an advanced latte system without guesswork.
- 19 bars of pressure
- Advanced bean per cup sensor
- Easy to use and less mess
- Convenient portafilter and tamp station
- Additional water spout for hot water
- Double boiler feature
- Takes up more counter space
- Fewer control features for self-programming
- Water sensor control fluctuates
5. Mr. Coffee One-Touch Coffeehouse Espresso – Best Value
- Easy 1 button interface takes the guesswork out of controlling the espresso maker
- Select single or double shots of espresso with a simple 1 button press
- Thermocouple heating system evenly heats the water for piping hot drinks
- Automatic milk frother whips any milk into a light, creamy froth
- Removable milk reservoir is easy to fill, clean and store leftover milk in the fridge
- Cup tray adjusts to conveniently fit tall and short mugs
- Customer Service & Support – Please prime the unit before the first use as outlined in the instruction manual. If coffee does not drip, the filter is blocked. Turn off the appliance and allow it to cool down. The blockage may be caused by the coffee being too finely ground. Lastly, it is important to clean the reservoir and frothing tube regularly to avoid clogging and residue build-up.
Don’t snub the Mr. Coffee One Touch Coffeehouse Espresso maker because of its heritage and price point. This bargain espresso and cappuccino machine is a perfect addition to any home at a very affordable price.
This easy-to-use one-button design still can pull a single or double shot of consistent espresso or frothy cappuccino to suit a more conventional coffee connoisseur.
This machine delivers if you follow the initial setup instructions. Once the setup is complete, Mr. Coffee produces an excellent quality coffee beverage.
- 19 bars of adjustable pressure
- Auto milk frother
- Removable milk reservoir (to keep in fridge)
- Easy to use
- Adjustable to cup height
- Grinder not included
- Limited replacement parts
6. Calphalon Espresso Temp IQ – Best for Design Appeal
- 15-Bar Italian pump delivers the right amount of pressure for maximum flavor extraction and produces a beautiful layer of crema for your Espresso
- Freshly grind your beans to your preference With the integrated conical burr mill Grinder with 30 adjustable grind settings
- Pre-programmed settings for single and double shots, and dial interface for selecting steam, or hot water
- Includes single- and double-shot single wall filter Baskets
- Thermoblock heating technology and PID temperature control delivers even heat for consistently great-tasting Espresso, and gentle pre-infusion blooms The espresso grounds for optimally extracted Espresso
- 58millimeter café-sized porta filter holds more grounds and ensures even water dispersion and extraction for robust flavor
- Removable 2.8 liter water reservoir with hinged lid for easy filling
- Cup warming tray for espresso-ready cups and steam wand froths milk for creating cappuccinos, lattes, and other drinks, just like in coffee shops
- Includes Stainless steel milk jug, tamper, cleaning disc, cleaning brush, and cleaning pin
With just a glance, the Calphalon Espresso Temp IQ is one attractive and luxurious machine. This model comes with a conical burr grinder and accessories like an adorable milk pitcher, 1 and 2 cup single and dual wall filters, a steam wand, and cleaning accessories with a mid to upper price point.
The Temp IQ utilizes thermoblock heating technology and PID temperature control features which produce a consistent heat level for optimum extraction and pre-infusion blooming methods for that perfect cup of espresso.
This advanced unit is ideal for the at-home barista and beginners with a healthier budget and a penchant for quality. The burr grinder offers 30 unique grind settings to cater to your taste buds, coffee bean quality, and grinding techniques.
- Quality burr grinder
- 15 bar pressure pump
- Programmed single or double option
- Dashboard for steam or hot water
- 58mm portafilter complete with pressure pitcher and basket
- Lacks features the competition offers
- Customer service is questionable
7. Capresso 116.04 Pump Espresso Machine – Unbeatable Price
- THERMOBLOCK HEATING SYSTEM: Stainless-steel lined heating system with 15 bars of pressure for high-pressure brewed espresso
- TWO FILTERS: For one or two espressos or pre-packaged espresso pods
- HEAVY-DUTY: Stainless steel construction with large, integrated cup warming tray
- SWIVEL FROTHER: Unlimited steam output for perfectly frothing or steaming milk for cappuccinos and lattes
- EASY TO FILL: Removable 46-oz water container for easy filling and cleaning
- HOUSING: ABS plastic and stainless steel accents
Capresso is less expensive but still a formidable unit for producing excellent crema espressos on demand.
Perhaps its most unique feature is that you can use it as a 1-2 shot espresso machine or work with pre-packaged coffee pods.
Equipped with a quality thermoblock heating core and housed inside a stainless steel body, the Capresso makes a perfect addition to your home or office.
The Capresso includes a thumb guard and self-locking filter holder interchangeable with 1 or 2 shot sieves with its introductory price as standard features.
A removable water reservoir makes filling and cleaning easy, and the swivel frother produces an unlimited steam output for creative specialty coffees.
- 15 bars of pressure
- Unique pre-packaged pod option
- Affordable & supported by customer service
- Swivel frother with unlimited steam
- Stainless steel housing
- Not as advanced as other models
- Cup size adaptability is limited
If you still have questions, keep reading through the following common inquiries about espressos and espresso terminology.
Is 19 bar better than 15 bar?
If you want to start an argument, talk espresso bar power. While a standard 15 bar pressure rating has become the norm, most espresso makers seldom use above 11 bars. Too low, and you won’t get the flavor infusion. Too high may burn the grinds.
Although there is a concept that more bar power is better in the industry, it isn’t necessarily so.
Do I need special coffee beans for an espresso?
Coffee snobbery is real. The first misconception about espresso coffee beans is that there is no such thing as an espresso roast. To make a crema espresso, you need a unique process that pressurizes hot water and forces it through finely ground beans for a full-bodied experience.
You will often use a dark roast coffee bean, but it’s the process, not the type of bean. (Caveat: use a high-quality bean from a sustainable free-trade source.)
Skilled baristas know how to pull a superior shot of espresso that foams with crema.
Crema is that tan-colored milky layer that floats on top of your espresso. It’s the mingle effect when air bubbles meet the oils released in finely ground beans. It isn’t magic, although it tastes like it.
Can I use a regular grind for espresso?
No. Of course, you can try, but it won’t make you happy. An espresso grind is beans ground very finely. The texture is similar to sugar. Darker roasts have more surface oils and seem sticky.
What to Look for in Your Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
Choosing an espresso maker should be fun. Here are a few tips to consider while deciding which machine to purchase.
Budget is always a wise consideration. Are you going to use the espresso maker daily or just on weekends?
If you’re just testing the at-home espresso market to see if you’d actually brew your own for the sake of saving money, be truthful. If you commit to making your own, do the math. Perhaps you’d spend an average of $20 per week or $80-$100 per month, which would pay for a quality espresso machine in less than a year.
If you’re a connoisseur, odds are you won’t be happy with a Mr. Coffee. It makes lovely brews, but it may not satisfy your penchant. A Rancilio is almost guaranteed to meet your taste expectations, but it comes at a much higher price.
Single vs. Double Boiler
When shopping for an espresso machine, you’ll inevitably encounter the terms single or double boiler. With a single boiler, you’ll brew your preferred coffee and then steam your milk. A double boiler is more common in prosumer models and allows you to brew and steam simultaneously.
Of course, a double boiler is a time-saver, making it a more common choice. However, if you are in no rush to enjoy your express and want to take time to enjoy the art of coffee making, a single boiler may do the trick.
What About Grinding Coffee?
Another thing to consider when looking for the best semi-automatic espresso machine is if it comes with a grinder. If you already have a separate grinder, you may not need to spend the money on an espresso machine with a grinder.
However, if you’re starting fresh with no equipment, a grinder addition may be necessary. In that case, check out the Breville Barista, the De’ Longhi Specialista, and the Calphalon Temp IQ above. They all come equipped with state-of-the-art conical grinders to enhance your coffee bean experience and save you from storing and purchasing another appliance.
Ease of Use
None of the machines we reviewed are overly complicated, but it’s always best to consider how user-friendly an espresso machine is.
For example, our number-one pick completely embodies user-friendliness. The Rancilio is super easy to use, produces superb espressos, is easy to clean, and is perfect for the at-home barista who desires the best.
Other machines – like both Mr. Coffee semi-automatic espresso makers – are also easy to use. They come with removable reservoirs for easy cleaning and storing (milk). Plus, you can pour your favorite brew with the push of a button.
Extra unnecessary gadgets may make the machine harder to clean. While a frothing wand may be useful, keep in mind that it requires delicate cleaning. Also, look for a removable drip tray, since they need frequent emptying.
Are the Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines Worth It?
The answer is yes. With many people working remotely and or from home, the convenience of having your own miniature coffee shop is well worth the investment.
In this saturated market, many brand names compete. A quality brand machine will provide you with years’ worth of coffee indulgence. The Rancilio Silvia, though not nearly as famous as the competition, produces one of the best at-home espressos on the market.
In the end, it’s about the product it produces, not the product it is.