Not sure which coffee machine to choose between a manual and an automatic one?
Choosing a coffee machine is no easy task, especially if you are a connoisseur or lover of this dark coloured drink. Because, while it is true that the bar is the best place to have a nice cup of coffee, nowadays you can have incredibly high-level machines in your home that allow you to make espresso and cappuccinos to perfection.
There are various options on the market, ranging from lever coffee machines to completely automatic espresso machines, so you should thoroughly study the features of each model before purchasing the best espresso coffee machine for you.
When buying a product, a variety of aspects must be considered, ranging from aesthetics to finances, with taste always being the most important consideration. In fact, an espresso lover can only prioritize the organoleptic features of the extracted beverage, but without ignoring the rituality of preparation and tasting.
Do you want a high-quality coffee?
Do you prefer a drink with a standard flavour, or do you want to manage the extraction of the coffee according to your parameters?
Do you want a durable machine, or do you prefer an economical coffee machine?
To do a first skimming, start with your demands.
A professional coffee machine for home allows you to make an aromatic espresso while controlling every step of the process.
Automatic machines, on the other hand, do not require any effort and operate with a single push button. However, the result is a drink that is far more anonymous.
However, there are many other variables to consider.
In this article we’ve analyzed the options available on the market to help you understand the differences between manual and automatic coffee machines.
Let’s see them!
But how to choose from the enormous range of alternatives available on the market?
First and foremost, espresso coffee machines can be split into two categories: manual and automatic. They differ greatly, and the automatic ones are further divided into sub-categories, so first and mainly, it is vital to comprehend the technical characteristics of espresso machines, as well as the various advantages and disadvantages.
Manual machines, or the purity of espresso perfection
Nowadays, being a coffee lover can provide a great deal of satisfaction. you can choose from a very excellent assortment of ground coffee and prepare drinks of the highest quality at home. Manual machines are preferred by those who truly enjoy coffee because they allow them to make the most of their selection of coffee.
The manufacturing of this aromatic drink, on the other hand, involves multiple procedures, including monitoring the quality of the water as it enters the machine, controlling its heating, selecting ground coffee, and finally extraction. Being able to control each of these factors ensures that you will have a truly excellent drink.
This is the reason why coffee lovers prefer lever machines, because they say that once the extraction technique has been perfected, there is no alternative to having the best espresso, over which you can have complete control, from the delicate pressure and extraction to the brewing of the coffee.
There are other important aspects to consider while evaluating manual machines: their stage presence and significance in kitchen design.
In reality, the aesthetic aspect is unrivalled: these machines are far more attractive and functional in a kitchen. The best machines are made of stainless steel, which is designed to last long without rusting, resulting in a one-of-a-kind and identifiable piece of furniture that is always completely functioning.
How to choose the manual coffee machine
If you want to drink coffee that tastes as wonderful as it does at a bar, the manual coffee machine can help you achieve your goal. It’s a device that lets you extract a drink with exceptional organoleptic qualities while adjusting the parameters to your preferences.
Professional coffee machines come in a variety of configurations, and many factors must be considered before making a purchase:
- Materials used for construction: The manual machine should be made of sturdy and high-quality raw materials such as steel or brass. To avoid failures, both the interiors and exteriors must pay equal attention to materials. The price usually reflects the equipment’s quality. A machine made of inferior materials will cost less, but it will almost definitely last less.
- Technical support: The greatest brands have their professionals ready to fix any form of problem or breakdown. Furthermore, spare parts must be considered, which in some cases are unavailable, forcing the owner to purchase a brand new coffee machine in case of breakdowns.
- Pump pressure: it is important to ensure the right density of the espresso; 15 bar is the best because it allows you to extract all of the mixture’s aromatic characteristics and, although 15 bar is ideal, it is critical that it is not less than 12 bar.
- Boiler: a device that heats water to the desired temperature. Those made of steel are more resistant to heat and limescale but they need few more minutes to reach the ideal temperature. They generally require very little maintenance. Aluminum boilers, on the other hand, heat water more quickly but are less durable than steel boilers.
- Filters and filter holders: used to control how much coffee is dispensed. They can be both pressurized and classic. The pressurized ones can provide the coffee the proper consistency on their own. However, with traditional filter holders, a little precision is required to dose the amount of coffee, press the coffee, and pay attention to grain selection.
- Tank capacity: you can figure out how big the tank should be based on how much coffee you plan to prepare. You won’t have to top up the water that often if you have a large tank, but you shouldn’t let it stand too long.
- Cappuccino maker: it is the fundamental tool for preparing a delicious cappuccino.
Some accessories cannot be missing in your kitchen coffee corner and the best brands usually deliver the coffee machine together with extra filters, pod filters, a cup warmer tray, a tamper, a measuring cup, and a funnel with the coffee machine.
According to the space available, consider a compact machine, with a design that fits your home coffee bar.
The price of manual coffee machines varies based on materials, functions, accessories, and brand.
Manual machine, pros and cons of this choice:
- you have total control of the extraction phase;
- Aesthetics that are both fine and classic;
- You get a sense of accomplishment from manually extracting the coffee;
- Allows you to use many customizable gadgets;
- Make each and every step count, and your morning coffee will become a ritual.
- You have to practice learning how to use it well;
- Once you have achieved manual skills it will be difficult to drink other coffees.
Pontevecchio’s manual coffee machines
Pontevecchio has been manufacturing manual coffee machines, for almost two decades. Our artisans specialize in the construction and assembly of lever machines and have extensive knowledge with all components.
We have three different espresso machine models to fulfil different needs: Export, Lusso I, and Lusso II.
The structure and number of brewing groups differ amongst our models.
The Export manual coffee machine is excellent for use at home or in the office. It only takes up a small amount of room and can serve up to two coffees at a time.
The Lusso model is available with both a single and two brewing groups, allowing you to serve up to four persons at once. These machines are designed for small hospitality businesses such as hotels, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and farmhouses that want to provide their clients with outstanding espresso.
Let’s take a closer look at the models.
Export manual coffee machine
The Export is a small and compact manual coffee machine that manages to increase the flavour of espresso while taking up little space.
It has a simple cup warmer on the upper section that allows you to serve coffee at the perfect temperature every time.
It’s a fully mechanical model with only one electrical component to control the water heating.
It comes with one brewing group and is therefore ideal for use at home or in professional settings where customers are treated with the utmost respect.
It is a linear product with a simple design that complements any type of furniture. It may be properly fitted to any context, from the most traditional to the most ultra-modern, thanks to the range of hues. It comes in a variety of colours, including white, gold, stainless steel, black, red, and tobacco.
Each Pontevecchio lever coffee machine comes with a variety of accessories, including: filters for one or two cups of coffee, a filter for pods, a measuring cup for dosing coffee, a tamper, and a funnel for filling the water tank.
The steam arm included with the Export model allows you to froth milk and make great cappuccinos in addition to coffee.
One of the benefits of lever machines is that the water in the boiler is constantly clean because the liquid does not return to the tank.
Lusso I manual coffee machine
A manual coffee machine with a valuable and robust design, the Lusso model with one group is totally made of brass and steel. It has a classic and beautiful style that enhances the coffee corner and makes it a wonderful eye-catcher.
It is appropriate for both home and enterprises that prepare a significant number of coffees, such as modest lodging facilities or workplaces. In fact, the machine may run continuously throughout the day, ready to extract coffee with no issues. Actually, when the water temperature is just right for extracting the coffee, the machine settles down on its own, preventing overheating and excessive energy loss.
In addition, the Lusso model has warning lights for controlling the pressure and the minimum water level.
Although it is designed for the extraction of exceptionally high-quality coffee, it may also be used to make tea, herbal teas, and outstanding cappuccinos. It’s a machine with a steam arm as well as a water distributing nozzle.
So, not only is the coffee as delicious as it is at the bar, but you can also enjoy in a variety of other beverages. Essential espresso extraction accessories are included with this model, including: a filter for two cups, a filter for one cup, a filter for pods, a coffee measuring cup, a tamper, and a funnel.
Lusso coffee machines are available in a variety of colours, including white, stainless steel, black, tobacco, and red, depending on the context in which they would be used.
Lusso II manual coffee machine
The Lusso model with two groups is the best in the Pontevecchio range. It comes with two brewing groups and can serve up to four people at once. It’s an ideal model for small and medium-sized hospitality enterprises that value customer service above everything else, including excellent espresso.
Its unique feature is the chromed plate, which distributes water evenly between two dispensing groups. This plate, designed by Ercolino Bernini, the founder of Pontevecchio, conceals a thick network of dispensing channels that can prepare four cups at once.
It works with both ground coffee and pods, and the extract preserves its distinctive organoleptic qualities.
The design is elegant and sophisticated, made for those who enjoy being surrounded by handcrafted elements that appear to be genuine works of art. Steel and brass are used to construct the machine, which are durable and long-lasting materials. We also have other colour choices in this case: white, stainless steel, black, red, and tobacco.
The machine has a pressure gauge, which allows you to monitor the water pressure and ensure that the coffee is always ideal.
The two-group Lusso model contains an automated system that stops heating if the boiler is empty to protect the equipment from possible malfunctions.
A useful cup warmer is located on top of the espresso machine to ensure that the coffee is always served hot. The cup warmer and drip tray are both simply removable and can be cleaned with a light detergent.
In this case, the supplied accessories are designed for both brewing groups, including: two filters for one cup, two filters for two cups, two pod filters, a measuring cup for coffee, the coffee tamper, and the funnel.
The alternatives to the manual machine: the automatic ones
Automatic machines, in all their different 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 faster and more practical to put into production.
In addition, many models are simpler to use and therefore can be useful for those bars that have more inexperienced baristas as staff who would risk serving a coffee that is not well prepared. But if you believe that automatic machines represent a minor investment in economic terms, you may be surprised. Due to the high degree of technology required to produce these models, their costs often lead to higher prices.
The category of automatic coffee machines includes several sub-categories.
Automatic machines: all it takes is to press a button
Automatic machines have a simplified user interface and therefore tend to show a very intuitive front part and are often designed for coffee pods (which are practical but have the defect of not being very varied in choice, while with lever machines you can just choose the type of coffee). This is the kind of machine where you press a button and watch it make your coffee. They are not very satisfying from the point of view of preparation, but in fact, they are practical and fast, especially if you have to make two coffees at the same time.
How to choose an automatic coffee machine
The automatic coffee machine does not allow you to change the preparation of the drinks. So, if you want a coffee that meets your tastes, you have to evaluate some important characteristics during the purchase phase:
- the coffee grinder incorporated in the machine: this is a very useful plus that allows you to obtain a blend always fresh and fragrant. Some have metal blades while others have ceramic blades. The former may overheat, so it is better to opt for those of the second type.
- The material plays a fundamental role: the steel interiors are to be preferred over other materials as they are more resistant and durable. There are also automatic machines made of plastic elements, but they are less resistant than metal.
- The budget: depending on whether you need a high-performance appliance to be used for intense use or not, you can evaluate the amount to spend.
- The type of use: for intensive use, you will need to opt for a piece of durable equipment suitable for high performance. While for home use, you can choose a more suitable machine.
- Fast heating: this is a feature much appreciated by those who are always in a hurry because it allows coffee to be dispensed in a few moments after switching on the machine.
- The design: automatic coffee machines are generally larger than those for pods or capsules. However, you can also find some more compact models on the market.
- The buttons: some models are touchscreen while others have old-fashioned buttons.
- The drip tray: some models have a very small drip tray so they need to be emptied more often.
- Removable tank: it is easier to wash and keep clean.
- Pressure: the type of pressure affects the aroma of the coffee.
Some automatic coffee machines are sold with different accessories, such as the cup warmer and automatic descaling.
Automatic machines, pros and cons of this choice:
- simple and intuitive design.
- inability to customize the machines or any extraction step;
- high price for the performance.
Super automatic machines: even less effort
Super automatic machines: pros and cons
The super-automatic machines are the next step of the fully automatic ones: in some of these you don’t even have to refill the coffee beans, and they have many programmable functions.
Therefore, once the initial programming complexity has been overcome, they are trusted machines that mechanically perform the same coffee extraction system every time. Usually, these models are the ones that, losing in all respects the gestures and practice of the original espresso, that is, made with lever machines, compensate by trying to offer as many varieties of preparation as possible.
These machines tend to give you different possibilities, for example to froth milk, which lever machines can also do. In addition, they try to provide you with a more futuristic design and digital rather than analogic temperature measurement systems.
They have a rather robust instruction manual because, in face of total automatism, they are complex machines that must be well programmed, otherwise they end up fatally ruined.
How to choose a super automatic coffee machine
Super-automatic coffee machines allow you to prepare different types of coffee drinks without any effort. After the initial setting, just press a button to obtain your espresso.
With some models, it is also possible to store customized settings to suit your tastes. Unfortunately, this is to the loss of all the rituals linked to the preparation of coffee with the traditional machine.
Let’s see what are the features you need to evaluate to buy a super-automatic coffee machine:
- types of customization: generally these appliances allow you to adjust some parameters such as temperature, harmony, blend, coffee length, and have a standard coffee.
- variety of drinks: depending on the model, you can offer your guests a cappuccino, espresso, black coffee, strong coffee, macchiato, or latte.
- drip tray: capacity is important, be sure you don’t have to empty it every time.
- material: it is a very important parameter that affects durability and cost. The best equipment is made of stainless steel which guarantees its durability and resistance to high temperatures.
- coffee grinder with ceramic blades: they do not overheat the coffee beans, preserving the original taste of the blend.
- boiler: the best machines have a stainless steel boiler, extremely resistant to high temperatures.
- tank: the capacity must be evaluated based on daily consumption.
- a timer for automatic shutdown.
These devices take care of everything, but they are often prohibitively expensive. Every additional feature contributes to increasing the price.
Aesthetics are also an element that varies depending on the type of brand.
Some brands offer a series of options, such as the cup warmer, automatic descaling, and cleaning products.
In addition to being expensive, super-automatic machines consume a lot of electricity.
- guarantees every time a more or less perfect espresso without physical effort once it has been programmed.
- it is in no way customizable;
- the cost is very high, bordering on prohibitive;
- the cheaper models are not that good.
Semi-automatic machines, something in between
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 can manually follow certain steps, such as stopping the dispensing of the drink. 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.
How to choose a semi-automatic coffee machine
Semi-automatic machines are a combination between automatic and manual. For the purchase you need to evaluate:
- The material: in this case too, you should choose steel. Some brands also use aluminum to make the water heating faster, but it does not ensure the same resistance over time.
- The brand: a semi-automatic machine must be of good quality otherwise you risk throwing it away very soon. Some brands have more experience in making coffee machines and it is good to opt for those.
- Pressure: the pressure must be between 15 and 12 bar. You should buy a machine that automatically regulates the pressure.
- The quality of coffee: depending on the operations you will have to carry out manually, the drink will have a different taste.
- Maintenance: semi-automatic machines require maintenance, in particular for the cleaning phase.
- The cappuccinatore: the presence of the cappuccinatore, also called milk frother, is used to create the froth of the cappuccino or creamy and thick milk.
- The size and design: semi-automatic machines generally have a heavier weight than others. So consider where you intend to place it and if you need to move it frequently.
- The functionalities: some semi-automatic coffee machines have built-in functions for the preparation of multiple drinks. They usually stop automatically at the end of the brewing.
- The complexity of use: depending on the machine, you will need to be able to manage some stages of coffee preparation, including the setting of various parameters.
The cost is very variable, depending on the model, brand and accessories supplied.
Semi-automatic machines, pros and cons of this choice:
- it is often a cheaper choice than the other alternatives.
- you will need to learn how to use it. So, if you are looking for a coffee machine easy to use, you should choose a fully automatic machine;
- it is not completely manual to give the right satisfaction in the extraction phase, so if you are interested in the gestures and rituals of traditional espresso, it may not be the right choice for you.
Evaluating pros and cons to be able to choose your coffee machine
Preparing an espresso that satisfies you in all its aspects is not something that depends only on you. It depends on the type of blend, on it is stored, on the water, and it depends a lot on the type of machine you will use.
It is clear that, in choosing the best coffee machine, you will take into account the level of involvement that you will want to have in the preparation. It is up to you to decide how much you want to feel the espresso you prepare “yours” since the first big choice you will make will be between manual coffee machines or automatic ones.
With automatic models, you will certainly have much less work to do, because with some models you will simply have to press a button. But inevitably there will also be less participation in the whole process of extraction and pouring of the drink. Another aspect that you will have to consider is that this type of technology could become obsolete, a problem that manual machines do not have. The mechanics of manual machines have been fundamentally the same for many years and are the result of a process of constant improvement that was first and foremost artisanal for all of its first steps. Which means years of micro-interventions, chiselling, and finishing. Interventions that do not upset the concept and operation of the machine, but that improve the details from time to time.
The technology on which the automatic models are based, on the other hand, is relatively young and therefore it could be said that it has also been tested for less time. It also involves the use of many technological components that are not produced directly by the company that produces the coffee machines. The production chain becomes complicated, and if years later the machine starts to malfunction and you want to repair it, maybe you may have the problem of not finding that part you need.
On the other hand, with manual machines, you will have to face a short period of initial practice, after which, however, you will be able to manually prepare your espresso coffee according to the 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 the beans to the extraction method. In addition, this category has models that have greater resistance to damage, also because their maintenance is more practical.
A common mistake is to think that to have a perfect espresso, you must go to a bar. Many models of lever machine, which represent the traditional method of extraction of espresso coffee, are now also within the reach of a domestic 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 public of connoisseurs.
The different models mean that you can choose the one that best suits your production needs: the professional lever machines of Pontevecchio can keep a high pace of production and you will never run the risk of a malfunction that will compromise the quality of the coffee, its aromas, or its organoleptic properties.
The fact that they come in a wide range of colours, together with their traditional and elegant design, makes them a perfect item for your kitchen, where they can find a place not only as a functional element but also as a piece of furniture.
You can find out very easily on the website and explore the selection of machines to find the right one for you among the Pontevecchio lever models, to make the best espresso coffee at home as per tradition, enjoying all the aromas and rituals of your favourite drink.
What is the main difference between manual, automatic, semi-automatic and super-automatic coffee machines?
The main difference between manual, automatic, semi-automatic and super-automatic coffee machines is in the operation.
The first ones give the opportunity to manage the different stages of extraction while the latter is based on a system that allows you to automate the process as much as possible.
In general, automatic machines are equipped with a bean grinding system that is not present in manual coffee machines.
These differences are also evident when it comes to the design.
Manual coffee machines have a more refined structure and are made of resistant and durable materials.
Automatic machines have more compact lines and many plastic components.
Are Pontevecchio coffee machines manual or do they also have automated functions?
Pontevecchio lever coffee machines are completely manual.
The only automatic features have been incorporated to prevent the machinery from overheating and wasting electricity.
When the boiler reaches the right pressure for preparing coffee, the power supply is automatically switched off.
The machines also have a warning light that illuminates when there is a lack of water in the tank, in order to quickly refill the boiler.
The transmission of energy to the heating element is automatically terminated if the water level falls below the required level.
Which manual coffee machine do you recommend?
It is impossible to provide a clear solution to this question. To choosing a manual coffee machine, you have to consider the space available and the quantity of coffees you produce daily.
Our models include a variety of features that allow them to adapt to any situation.
If you just have a limited area to dedicate to a coffee machine, the Export lever coffee machine is a good choice. It’s a little solution that doesn’t require a specific space and can even be stored in a piece of furniture when not in use.
Characterized by a simple design, the Export model is suitable for home use and guarantees the extraction of a perfectly prepared espresso.
For larger spaces, you can also opt for the one-group and two-group Lusso models. The difference between the two solutions is the amount of coffee they can brew at the same time.
Lusso 1 is the ideal machine for those looking for a durable and long-lasting machine. It can make up to two cups of coffee at once and may be left running without fear of overheating.
If the need is to serve up to four cups at the same time, Lusso 2 is the most suitable model.
Our models, which have a vintage design, may be used in both modern and traditional settings. We offer different colours to match the rest of the furniture in the space where you wish to put it (a kitchen, an accommodation facility’s breakfast room, or a company’s break area).