Recently a couple of my friends were trained in espresso equipment repair and maintenance.  I was able to weasel my way into the training for a bit and learn a little more about espresso machines.  It was fun getting to see the inner workings of both a super-automatic and an automatic espresso machine.  You might not know or care that there are four different types of espresso machines, but I do (and so do about 13 of my friends).

I have been thinking awhile about the best way to explain the differences between the four types of espresso machines: Manual, Semi-automatic, Automatic, and Super Automatic.  A parallel finally dawned on me this week – cars!  So, today I will go over the four types of espresso machines and their parallels in automobile transmissions.

Manual Espresso Machine

The manual espresso machine is like the Lamborghini of espresso machines.  It is classy, beautiful, and requires a fair bit of knowledge and work.

The manual espresso machine is the original espresso machine design.  It uses a lever-action for preinfusion and extraction.  The volume of water and length of extraction is manually controlled by the pull of a handle.  So, in many ways the manual/lever espresso machine is like a sports car with a manual transmission.  It takes extra work, but someone that knows what he is doing can really have a lot of fun with it.

Semi-automatic Espresso Machine

If the lever espresso machine is the Lamborghini of espresso machines, then the semi-automatic espresso machine can be compared to the Honda Prelude (not that it is a huge price dropoff, or less quality, but that it is easier to use).

I drove a Honda Prelude once and it had a transmission with an automatic clutch.  With an automatic clutch, you can control the change of the gears without having to mess with an extra pedal.  The semi-automatic machine allows the barista to control the the length of the extraction with a push of the button.

Automatic Espresso Machine

Automatic espresso machines can be compared to the Chrysler Pacifica.  The Chrysler Pacifica has an automatic transmission, but if you are feeling particularly confident or sporty, you can switch to a manual transmission with automatic clutch (sometimes called a Slapshift).

The automatic espresso machine has multiple buttons representing numerous brewing settings.  The barista needs only to grind, tamp, and press a button once and an espresso is made.  If, however, the barista is feeling confident or sporty, she may use the semi-automatic push button to exhibit more control over the length of the extraction.

La Marzocco GB5 3 Group Espresso MachineSuper Automatic Espresso Machine

Super automatic espresso machines are like those crazy auto-pilot cars in the film Minority Report.

Super Automatic machines do all the work.  All the waiter/server needs to do is push a button and the machine will grind and dispense.  It is very much like a car that does all the driving, except with a super-automatic machine, if you don’t clean it every single day, it dies.

So, there you go.  Those are the varying espresso machine versions and their parallel car transmissions.  I hope this has been entertaining and informative for you.  If not, visit again tomorrow for something completely different.

Until later friends…

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