Not sure which coffee machine to choose between a manual and an automatic one?
Choosing a coffee machine is no small matter, especially if you are a connoisseur or admirer of this black-coloured drink. It is true that the place par excellence where to have a good coffee is the bar, but nowadays it is possible to have at home really high-level machines, which allow you to make espressos and cappuccinos at home in a workmanlike manner.
But how can you choose from the vast range of choices on the market?
Espresso coffee machines can be divided into two main categories: manual and automatic. They have many differences, and the automatic ones are divided into other subcategories, so first of all it is necessary to understand what technical features espresso machines have, to understand the different pros and cons.
Manual machines, or the purity of espresso perfection
Nowadays, being a coffee lover can be very satisfying. You can choose from very fine selections of ground coffee to be able to prepare top-notch drinks at home. Those who really love coffee usually choose manual machines, because they are able to make the most of their choice of coffee. On the other hand, the production of this aromatic drink takes place through several steps that include checking the quality of the water as it enters the machine, its controlled heating, the choice of coffee powder, and finally the extraction. So being able to control each of these aspects ensures that you get the perfect drink.
This is why the lever machine is preferred by purists, because they say that once you have perfected the extraction technique there is no alternative to having the best espresso, of which you can control every part, including the delicate part of pressure and extraction right through to the brewing of the coffee.
There is also another important aspect you need to take into account when analysing manual machines: their scenic presence and their role in the decor of your kitchen.
In fact, the aesthetic aspect is incomparable: these machines are much more beautiful and present in a kitchen. The best machines are made of stainless steel and are made to last over time without being damaged, constituting a unique and unmistakable furnishing element that will always remain perfectly functional.
Manual machine, pros and cons of this choice:
- you have total control over the extraction phase;
- you have fine and classic aesthetics;
- you have the personal satisfaction of extracting coffee personally and manually;
- you can use many customisable gadgets;
- make every single step important and cared for, making your coffee a ritual.
- you have to practice to learn how to use it well;
- once you get the hang of it, it will be difficult to do without.
Alternatives to the manual machine: automatic categories
Automatic machines, in all their various sub-categories, are much more present on the market, this is because in some respects they are certainly less artisanal in their components, and therefore tend to be quicker and easier to put into production. In addition, many models are simpler to use and can therefore be useful for bars whose staff are more inexperienced baristas who would risk serving patrons a coffee that is not made properly. If, on the other hand, you think that automatic machines represent a lower investment in economic terms, you might be surprised, because due to the high degree of technology required to make these models, their costs often end up rising.
Within the category of automatic coffee machines there are several sub-categories.
Automatic machines: all you have to do is press a button
Automatic machines clearly have a deliberately simplified user interface, and therefore tend to have a very intuitive front, often designed for coffee pods (which are practical but have the disadvantage of not being very varied in their choice, whereas with lever machines you can actually choose the type of coffee). This is the kind of machine where you basically press a button and watch it make coffee for you. They are not very satisfying from a brewing point of view, but they are actually practical and fast, especially if you have to make two coffees at the same time.
Automatic machines, pros and cons of this choice:
- Simple and understandable design.
- impossibility to customise the machines or any extraction steps;
- high price for performance.
Super automatic machines: even less effort
Super automatic machines are the next step up from fully automatic machines: in some of them you don’t even have to refill the coffee beans, and they have many functions that are programmable. So once you get past the initial complexity of programming, then they are reliable machines that mechanically perform the same coffee extraction system every time. Usually these models are the ones that, losing in every way the gesture and practice of the original espresso, that is made with lever machines, compensate by trying to offer as many varieties of preparation as possible. They tend to offer different ways of frothing milk, for example, which the lever machines also do, but they try to give you a more futuristic design and digital rather than analogue temperature measurement systems.
Clearly they have a rather robust instruction manual, because while they are fully automatic, they are complex machines that need to be well programmed at the beginning otherwise they end up fatally damaged.
Super automatic machines: pros and cons
- guarantees a more or less perfect espresso every time without physical effort once it has been carefully programmed.
- it is not customizable;
- the cost is very high, bordering on the prohibitive;
- the cheaper models are not that good.
Semi-automatic machines, an interesting middle ground
The category of semi-automatic machines, on the other hand, includes those machines that have both automatic functions and some manual phases. They can be completely autonomous, for those times when you are too sleepy to do it yourself, and they still have the option of manually following certain steps, such as stopping the beverage dispensing. These machines tend to end up being the ones that show more maintenance problems because you will only be able to interact with the machine up to a certain point. So there will be operations that you can do alone and others for which you will necessarily need an expert technician.
Super automatic machines: pros and cons
- Is often a cheaper choice than other alternatives.
- it still maintains a necessary learning curve, so if you can choose based on convenience then you’re better off with a fully automatic machine;
- it is not fully manual to give the right satisfaction in the extraction phase, so where you are interested in the gestures and rituals of traditional espresso it may not be the right choice for you.
A balance sheet for choosing your coffee machine
Preparing an espresso coffee that satisfies you in all aspects is therefore not something that depends only on you, on the type of ground coffee you choose, on how you store it, on the type of water you use, but it depends very much on the type of machine you use.
It is clear that the first thing you will take into account when making this choice is the degree of involvement you want to have in the preparation. It is up to you to decide how much you will want to feel “your own” espresso coffee, as the first big choice you will make will be between a manual or automatic coffee machine.
With automatic models you will certainly have much less effort to put in, because with some models you will just have to press a button, but inevitably there will also be less participation in the whole process of extracting and pouring the drink. Another aspect that you will have to consider, going in this direction, is that this type of technology could face obsolescence phenomena that manual machines do not have. The mechanics of manual machines have basically been the same for many years, and are the result of a process of constant improvement that has been primarily craftsmanship. That means years of micro interventions, chiselling and finishing. Interventions that do not distort the concept and operation of the machine, but which improve the details from time to time.
The technology on which the automatic models are based is relatively younger, and therefore could be said to have been tested for less time. It also involves the use of many technological components that are not produced directly by the company that makes the coffee machines, which in fact would not deal with micro electronic components. In this sense, the production chain is complicated, and if years later you have a breakdown and take the machine in for repair, you may have the problem of not finding the part you need anymore.
On the other hand, with manual machines you will have to face a short period of initial practice, after which you will be able to manually prepare your espresso coffee to the highest standard according to tradition. This is the choice generally made by those who want to maintain a direct link with the drink, taking care of every aspect of its preparation, from the choice of beans to extraction. In addition, this category has models with greater resistance to wear and tear, partly because they are more practical to maintain.
A common mistake is to think that you have to go to a coffee bar to get a traditional espresso. Many models of lever machines, which represent the traditional method of extracting the famous so-called “espresso” coffee, are now within the reach of a home investment or a bed & breakfast. Pontevecchio lever coffee machines come in many varieties of colours and models, managing to satisfy the needs of a large part of the connoisseur public.
The different models make it possible for you to choose the one that best suits your production needs: Pontevecchio professional lever machines can keep up a high production rate of cups and you will never run the risk of a malfunction that will compromise the quality of the coffee, of its aromas or of its organoleptic properties.
The fact that they come in a wide range of colours, together with their traditional and elegant design, make them a perfect piece of furniture for your kitchen, where they can find a place not only as a functional but also as a decorative element.
You can find out more easily on the website and explore the selection of machines to find the one that is right for you among the Pontevecchio lever models, so that you can make the best espresso coffee at home in the traditional way, appreciating all the aromas and rituals of your favourite drink.