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Semi Automatic Espresso Machines

Semi Automatic Espresso Machines
Category: Buying Guides
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This is the most popular type of espresso machine for the espresso connoisseurs and those who enjoy the process of making espresso as much as they enjoy drinking the final product.

Pump-driven machines use an electro-magnetic pump to force the water through the grounds, are more expensive, and are far superior to steam-driven machines.  Here is where the choices can become overwhelming as there are so many different options and types available. 

This is the most popular type of espresso machine for the espresso connoisseurs and those who enjoy the process of making espresso as much as they enjoy drinking the final product.  The price starts lower than super-automatic machines but can also go just as high, depending on the components.

These machines are capable of making incredible shots of espresso, but they require some time and effort from you to get there.  The process and variables of what makes a good espresso are important to know here so we will digress from the machine itself for a moment.

The variables are typically broken down into four categories:

·    The Machine

·    The Coffee Blend

·    The Grind and Dose

·    The Operator

Every coffee blend has different taste and performance characteristics.  You will need to experiment to discover what you like best.  An important thing to remember is to buy your coffee fresh roasted as much as possible.  Many blends are imported from other countries and so have lost much of their freshness by the time they get to your cup.  There are a lot of roasters in North America that you can get fresh coffee from, either at a local store or by ordering online. (You can even get into roasting beans yourself at home, but that is a whole different story that is probably best considered after you've mastered brewing.)

The grind and dose will vary according to the coffee and to your taste and you will have to learn through experimentation what works best for you. 

The operator puts all the other variables together to create the espresso.  With the machine clean and working properly and at the right temperature, the operator must grind, dose and tamp the fresh roasted coffee in order to create a 'puck' of coffee that the machine will force water through.  The operator will manually start the flow of water and watch the espresso as it pours out, then shutting off the flow once the desired amount has been reached.  It is in the proper combination of grind, dose, and tamp that the best espresso will be brewed.  If one variable if off, you will notice the difference.

If you are the sort of person that doesn't mind spending the time and effort to learn to make your espresso (these machines take longer to heat up, longer to brew each cup, and longer to clean up afterward), this is the style for you.  If you would prefer to push a button and have the machine do all the thinking for you, check out the super-automatics.

With these machines, you will probably want to look at grinders too.  The grind is so important with semi-automatics that many people say to get the best grinder you can afford and then pair it with almost any espresso machine.  In truth, an entry-level espresso machine can make an excellent espresso with a high-end grinder, but even the best espresso machine will have trouble with an inadequate grinder.  You can also buy your espresso pre-ground, of course, but you will be losing freshness.  Ideally, you will want to grind your coffee within seconds before brewing.

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