For ages, coffee has been the number one beverage in America, perfect for the mornings, afternoons and evenings. Very few drinks can replicate the same stimulation and rejuvenation we get from coffee. As the popularity of coffee continues to grow all over the world, so do innovations to make coffee drinks even better. Coffee lovers have therefore upgraded from simple manual brewing devices like Moka pots, the Aeropress, and the French press to fully automatic coffee machines. This transition has improved the quality of coffee brew and has given rise to various coffee-based drinks, such as cappuccino, latte, mocha, ristretto, Americanos, flat whites, and doppios.
Types of Automatic Coffee Machines
When it comes to automatic coffee machines, coffee lovers are spoilt for choices. Despite all the hundreds or even thousands of brands you may come across, all automatic coffee machines are actually classified into three groups: Auto-Drip Coffee Machines, Pump Espresso Machines, and Coffee Capsule Machines.
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Auto-Drip Coffee Machines
Automatic drip coffee machines are prevalent in America. Majority of kitchens in America have an auto-drip coffee maker. For more than 30 years, these coffee machines have maintained the following components: heating element, water reservoir, shower head, and carafe. The brewing process is simple: the water reservoir is filled with water, which then trickles down to the tubes in the heating element. When the switch is turned on, the heating element will heat up the water in the tubes.
The boiling water will rise up through a tube that leads to the showerhead. The water will then be dispersed evenly on the coffee grounds to extract them. After extracting all the flavors, nutrients and oils, the liquid will flow to the carafe as a beverage. These appliances are very simple to use, which explains why they are so popular all over the world. They can also brew a large amount of coffee in one instance. A typical drip coffeemaker will produce up to 12 cups in a single brewing session.
High-end models include programmable features, such as a timer and different strength settings. However, the simplified brewing process is still the same in all drip machines. The only drawback with these coffeemakers is that they only produce one type of beverage. However, the coffee made by these appliances is still great and is the reason why drip coffeemakers are the number one coffee machines in the world.
Pump Espresso Machines
Earlier versions of espresso machines used steam and pistons/levers to force hot water through coffee grounds. However, steam and piston-driven machines are not as effective as pump-driven machines. As a result, all modern automated espresso machines utilize the pump-driven method of espresso brewing. Pump-driven appliances have an electric pump that produces 9 to 15 bars of pressure for the right espresso extraction. They also have boilers to heat water to the ideal temperature of between 195 and 200?F. In addition, they produce steam, which is used to steam and froth milk for dairy-based espressos like cappuccino and latte. These machines are grouped into four categories:
Semiautomatic Espresso Machines
These espresso machines have a lever that is used to start and stop the extraction process. They perform two basic functions, heating and pumping water through the grounds, while all the other functions are manually performed. To brew coffee with a semiautomatic espresso coffeemaker, you will have to fill the portafilter with the grounds and tamp them in. Then, lock the group handle into the group head. Install a mug under the portafilter and then push the lever to start the extraction process. To stop the brewing, just push the lever to its initial position.
These type of coffee makers are generally cheap, although there are high-end models that are a bit expensive. Also, most of them are programmable, which means that you can set the brewing process to last for a specified duration. Once the time elapses, the coffeemaker will cut off the flow automatically.
Fully Automatic Espresso Machines
Fully automatic espresso machines are upgraded versions of the semiautomatic espresso machines. Although they require manual input in terms of grinding and loading the portafilter with the coffee grounds, they do not have a lever. Instead, they have a microprocessor that controls all the functions, including starting and stopping the brewing process. The highlight of these machines is that they can brew various type of coffee. They are also customizable, which means that you can pre-program them to perform a function each time you press a button.
For instance, you may set the first button to brew the Americano, the second for the ristretto, the third for the espresso and so on. Each time you feel like drinking an Americano, for example, you will just press the first button. Some models come with a steam wand for heating and frothing milk, while others use coffee pods that are already dosed and packed instead of coffee grounds. Fully automatic espresso machines are quite expensive. However, they have so many great functions and are therefore worth every dollar you spend on them.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines
These are basically full automatic espresso machines with a built-in coffee grinder. They have a hopper where roasted beans are fed into, and a press of a button is all it takes to brew the drink of your choice. Super automatic espresso machines produce a wider variety of beverages than full automatic espresso machines, and this includes plain coffee.
Once the coffee beans are fed into the hopper, these machines will grind the beans to the exact granularity of each beverage selected. They will then load and tamp the portafilters on their own. Finally, using the right water temperature and volume, they will start the extraction process. In case you forgot, all these functions are done at the convenience of just one button.
Some brands include a chute in addition to a coffee grinder that allows them to use pre-ground coffee. This feature is a great addition for those who prefer decaffeinated or pre-flavored coffee drinks. The only drawback of super-automatic espresso machines is that they won’t steam and froth milk. A frothing wand is therefore needed for a latte or a cappuccino brew.
Ultra Automatic Espresso Machines
These are the cream of the crop of all espresso machines. Apart from performing all the functions of the super automatic espresso machines, they also steam and froth milk automatically. Although this function is relatively new among home-based and office-based units, large commercial machines have been steaming and frothing milk automatically for a while now. To prepare any coffee beverage with an ultra automatic espresso machine, you will have to feed the hopper with roasted beans and pour milk into the milk reservoir. With just a click of a button, the machine will automatically prepare any type of coffee drink you prefer. They are the most expensive machines with large commercial units costing up to tens of thousands of dollars.
Coffee Capsule Machines
They are the easiest to use and also the cheapest of all coffee making machines. Brewing coffee is just as simple as putting the pod into the machine and pressing a button. However, the complexity of the process is not in the machine, but in the pods. The pods are designed with state of the art technology that ensures the highest grade of coffee grounds are preserved under controlled conditions. As a result, the machines are very cheap, while the pods are quite expensive.
Once a pod is introduced into the machine, it is pierced with three needles. Hot water at 199 F and 19 bar pressure are pumped into the pod, which ruptures the aluminum foil. Water then flows through the coffee grounds in a controlled state, extracting and brewing the beverage in the same manner as other espresso machines. Although the coffee comes pre-ground, it is usually fresh owing to the regulated conditions of the pod. The coffee grounds are also flavored, which improves the taste and quality of these beverages. It should be noted however that different machines use different pods.
Best Automatic Coffee Machine for Homes
While drip coffee machines are the most used and arguably the most popular, they are certainly not the best automatic coffee machines for homes. In all the categories listed above, there are smaller models specifically designed for home kitchens. It goes without saying therefore that ultra automatic espresso machines are the best coffeemakers. As already mentioned above, ultra automatic espresso coffeemakers offer the full package when it comes to brewing the best coffee. All the drawbacks of other models have been done away with to produce these superefficient and multifunctional devices. So, what are the factors you need to consider when selecting the best automatic coffee machine for your home kitchen?
Ease of Use
Coffee machines come with different levels of complexity when it comes to operating them. Therefore, the model you select should be both easy and convenient to use. If you want to channel your inner barista, then a semi-automatic espresso machine is not a bad choice. The buck of the brewing process will start and end with you. However, if you do not fancy getting your hands dirty, then there are many automatic models that you can choose from. Automatic devices will perform all the functions you want them to, by just the click of a button.
Your pockets will play a significant role in determining which type of coffee machine you buy. Generally, auto-drip coffeemakers are the cheapest, but this cheapness comes at a cost: they can only brew plain coffee. Higher end models like super automatic and ultra automatic espresso machines will break your bank account. However, the purchase will be worth it. They have great features and functions, and you will be able to enjoy a wide range of high-quality beverages. Therefore, if you want to enjoy a barista style of coffee at the comfort of your home, then you need to invest in one of the higher end units.
Your Beverage Preferences
Your beverage preferences should also dictate the type of machine you go for. If you are a strict coffee fanatic, then go for a simple coffeemaker, such as an auto-drip machine. However, it is safer to have a hybrid machine that can brew all types of coffee for special occasions. You do not want to disappoint your guests when they request for a latte or an espresso shot. Also, a hybrid machine will take away the need to purchase a separate espresso machine that will cost you extra dollars and consume more kitchen space.
Coffee brewers come in a variety of brew sizes to cater for different family sizes. There are units that brew one single cup of coffee at a time and are convenient for single-member households. Then, there are those that produce larger quantities, which are ideal for larger families. Some models can only brew a certain amount of coffee at once because they are restricted to the capacity of their water reservoirs. A good example of these types of coffee makers are the auto-drip machines. Other brewers, especially the programmable types can produce any amount of coffee cups you program them to. For instance, plumbed in coffeemakers can brew coffee continuously as long as there is a sufficient amount of grounds in the coffee basket and a constant supply of water from the tap.
You also need to consider your countertop space to decide which appliance size is the perfect fit. Purchasing a large unit means that you will have to sacrifice a lot of space that could be used for other things. If you have limited kitchen space, then you should purchase a small or medium-sized coffeemaker to avoid any inconveniences. If your coffee needs can only be offset by a large station, but you lack the necessary space for it, then consider purchasing several smaller units.
The first feature you should look out for is a built-in grinder. We all know that freshly ground coffee produces the best beverages. You will need a unit with a built-in grinder to transfer all the flavors, nutrients and oils into the cup. You may purchase a separate coffee grinder, but that will only take up more space and cost you extra dollars. Secondly, consider a machine with a water filter. The quality and taste of coffee beverages are greatly affected by impurities in water. For the perfect beverage, you will need a coffeemaker with a built-in water filter to remove all the impurities in water.
You may also need the unit to have a cup warming feature. This will ensure that the espresso shot does not lose heat quickly in a cold cup. Many super automatic espresso machines have a heating tray on top, which pre-warms the cups and also functions as a storage area for the cups. Another great feature to look out for is a keep warm function. This feature will allow you to drink the beverage several hours after brewing, without the need to reheat it again. It should also come with some safety features, such as auto-shutoff, light signals that show when the machine is on or when the brewing process is done, and sound alerts that will signal you when the coffee is ready. Some will even notify you when they need to be cleaned.
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Best automatic coffee machine for the office
An office brings together people from different backgrounds. Therefore, picking the right coffee machine that meets all the tastes and preferences of workers can be very tricky. You will need to factor in the general culture of the workplace before deciding which coffeemaker will be ideal. What is the reaction of workers towards coffee beverages? Do they embrace them wholeheartedly or do they avoid them like the plague? Assuming that the workers are not into coffee, then it would be wise to invest in a simple unit for those rare occasions when a guest requests for a cup. However, if your workplace runs on coffee-based beverages, then you will have to invest in a reliable machine that will adequately meet the demand of all workers.
Coffee Pod Machines
Office coffee pod machines are larger than their household counterparts. This means therefore that they have a higher output, which is suitable for an office environment. They are the easiest coffee makers to operate since they only involve inserting pods into the machine and pressing a button for the brewing process to start. Furthermore, coffee pod machines produce very little mess, which makes them very convenient in a busy office setting where spillages are very common. Due to the wide variety of pods available, these machines can be used to brew a wide selection of beverages, such as strong, mild, flavored, decaf, etc.
The main downside of these machines is that they are expensive to manage. While the machines are generally not expensive, the capsules are the ones that break the bank. Generally, each pod costs at least $0.70. Now, if you were to multiply the cost of a single pod by the number of office workers, then you will understand why coffee pod machines are uneconomical in the long-run. Also, the pods are constructed from aluminum and plastic, which are non-biodegradable. Since they cannot be recycled, most of them end up in landfills leading to environmental pollution. Therefore, if your company has a high rate of coffee intake, then a coffee pod machine is not the right choice.
Bean to Cup Coffee Machines
With the exception of coffee pod machines, all the other automatic coffee machines are bean to cup appliances. They are the best bet when it comes to an office setting. They produce fresh, delicious plain coffee plus a wide variety of barista-quality espresso beverages. A drip coffee machine is a cost friendly choice. However, it is limited in terms of variety and output. It can only produce plain coffee and people who prefer other espresso drinks may feel left out. It can also produce a maximum of 12 cups, which may not be sufficient for a large office. In addition, you will need a person who will be grinding coffee beans and refilling them to the machine.
Ultra automatic espresso machines are the best machines for the office. They can practically brew any type of drink, at a much faster rate and of the highest quality. They can also steam and froth milk automatically, which enables them to make latte and cappuccino drinks by just a press of a button. Super automatic and fully automatic espresso machines are also very effective. However, going with either choice will require at least one member to know how to use the frothing wand to prepare milk-based beverages. Other factors that you should also look into include:
Number of office workers
A small office with less than five workers can function well with just a single cup brewing station. On the other hand, a medium sized office can operate efficiently with a 12 to 14 cup brewing station. For a larger office, however, you will need a commercial coffee machine with an offering of up to 32 cups per brew. Alternatively, you may opt for a station with a wide range of single cup brewing options. It will continue brewing provided it is plumbed into a water pipe, and there are enough coffee beans in the hopper.
You will have to factor in the budget that your office is willing to set aside for a brewing station. Large commercial units are very costly costing up to tens of thousands. Not very many businesses are willing to spend all that money for a coffee maker. It might be cheaper and convenient just to purchase multiple smaller units that produce different beverages.
Many companies lose a lot of time and money because of long coffee breaks. To prevent wastage of time and money, you will need a fast machine. A very efficient unit should take at most 15 seconds to produce a cup of any type of beverage. A unit that takes more than 30 seconds may not be very effective in a large office setting.
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Best Automatic Coffee Machine for Restaurant
Commercial espresso machines are designed to brew large quantities of coffee drinks and can work for a long period of time. They are therefore the perfect coffee makers for the restaurant. When choosing the right station for your restaurant, you will have to decide if you will go for a semi-automatic or an automatic unit. Automatic espresso machines require very little human intervention and are therefore very fast and convenient.
Semi-automatic brands require more human input. They are still very easy to use. The main reason we would recommend automatic brewers, as opposed to semi-automatic brewers is that they require the least level of barista training and can be easily operated by an amateur. Here are more factors you should consider when looking for the best coffee brewer for your restaurant.
Capacity and size
You will have to consider the size of the space you intend to store the station. If you have enough space, then you might want to consider a large brewer, as they are the most effective. You can opt for a smaller unit, but this will depend on the number of coffee lovers who stream through your restaurant each day. If you are fortunate enough to have hundreds of customers but lack the space for a large unit, then you will have to invest in multiple smaller units to adequately meet the daily quota. However, we would recommend a larger unit. In case your business expands in the future, you will not go through the pains of upgrading to a larger station.
When it comes to capacity, you should ensure the unit is able to produce a lot of drinks at once. How do you know the capacity of the brewer? First, look at the boiler. It should be large enough to heat a lot of water quickly. Secondly, consider the number of group-heads. The more the group-heads, the more the number of cups that can be brewed at once. If you have a considerable amount of traffic, then go for a station with three or more group-heads to avoid keeping your customers waiting for long.
Ease of cleaning and maintenance
Cleaning is a key issue when it comes to commercial coffee brewers. To maintain the quality and flavor of each cup, the machine has to undergo daily cleanup plus regular routine checkups. Luckily, most automatic espresso machines have a self-cleaning feature. Therefore, there will be less effort on your part when it comes to cleaning. The challenge avails itself when the unit has to undergo maintenance, and it has to be disassembled. This may be very tricky if it has a complex design, which may force you to hire the services of a professional to do the maintenance. Go for a model that is easy to assemble and disassemble to save you the inconveniences and costs of hiring a professional.
Most people still proclaim that a traditional espresso machine produces superior beverages, especially when they are operated by a barista. However, automatic coffee machines are more convenient, as they take away the need to run to a coffee shop to get a drink. With a click of a button, you can get a high-quality beverage and enjoy it at the comfort of your home. Furthermore, owning a coffee machine is far much cheaper than going to the coffee shop in the long-run.
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