Manual Vs Automatic Espresso Machines: Which One to Go For?

It’s sometimes hard to make sense of the plethora of espresso makers in the market. You might get confused about different types of coffee machines when you go for a purchase. 

It’s also worth considering what type of Espresso maker would suit you: Manual or automatic espresso machine? What pros and cons are you expecting if you go for any of these types?

So, in this article, I will explore manual vs automatic espresso machines. Let’s dive deeper!

How do Manual vs Automatic Espresso Machines Work?

Before going deep about manual vs automatic espresso machines, let’s learn What is an Espresso?

Espresso is an Italian way of making coffee. It’s a concentrated and intense coffee with a thick layer of foam called crema.

It’s served as a single shot (1 ounce) and double shot  (2 ounces). It’s sipped in small cups and also used as a base for different espresso drinks like cappuccino. Latte and americano etc.

It’s made by pushing hot water at high pressure, mostly at 9 bars. This high pressure creates a crema layer that Moka pot or Aeropress can’t create. And of course, Espresso Beans are used for an espresso shot.

So, to pull an espresso shot, you need high pressure. And this high pressure can be achieved through manual and automatic espresso machines. The only difference between both machines is how they generate pressure.

Let’s talk about manual vs automatic espresso machines: The main difference between both is that, in a manual machine you generate high pressure by pulling and pushing the lever by hand. In contrast, an automatic espresso machine does this work automatically by using an internal pump.

In addition, an automatic espresso machine is easy to use and comes with a built-in grinder and milk-frothing. No barista skills are required to pull a good coffee shot. Furthermore, an automatic espresso machine is more expensive than a manual one.

By contrast – a manual espresso machine is less expensive but requires more skill to pull a perfect espresso shot. But again, you’ve much control over a manual machine to brew the espresso as you like.

In short, both types of machines come with their specific features and loopholes. To choose the right one, read the manual vs automatic espresso machine thoroughly.

Manual Espresso Machine

A manual machine makes a superb espresso shot by forcing hot water at high pressure, usually up to 9 bars. It works through a lever pumped by the barista to produce 9 bars. Therefore a manual machine is also known as a lever or piston machine.

Further, to operate a manual machine, you need good barista skills as you have to do lots of manual work. These skills include the right grinding size sense, producing required pressure, and measuring the proper amount of time. 

For making your coffee, first, you grind your beans, measure the right amount of ground coffee for each cup, pack and tamp the portafilter basket and then pump the lever to apply proper pressure for the right duration to pull the good espresso shot.

Ok, I Know what you’re thinking – Lots of work to do? Yes, you’ve got it.

But hang on– your hard work will never go unrewarded when you have a rich mouthfeel of your espresso shot.

Moreover, manual espresso machine comes with affordable price tags. Though a manual espresso machine is a bit complicated, it gives you full control over coffee making.

The Manual Vs Automatic Espresso Machines image is showing a manual machine
Manual Espresso Machine

What to look for while choosing a Manual Espresso Machine

In order to make the best espresso shot with a manual espresso machine, you should take into account the following points.

The material used in manufacturing – High-quality build and materials such as aluminum, brass, or steel should be used in making a manual espresso machine. If inferior material or lots of plastic is used in the construction of machines, then the chances of durability would be less. Good-quality machines are usually more expensive than cheaper and lower-quality machines.

Pump Lever- You need good Pump pressure to pull a perfect shot. 15 bar is the pump’s maximum pressure for brewing espresso shots, but recommended pressure is up to 8,9 bar. So make sure your machine shouldn’t come at the recommended pressure.

Filter and Filter basket- used to filter ground coffee under high pressure. All impurities collect in these filter baskets, which can be easily washed away. These filters are designed with metal to provide the espresso shot with the right consistency.

Boiler- is used to heat the water to the required temperature. Boilers are made up of steel or aluminum. From the point of functionality, steel boilers are resistant to limescale and heat and require less maintenance. But they need more amount of time to reach the required temperature.

On the other hand, aluminum boilers heat water quicker than steel boilers but couldn’t be more durable.

Water tank capacity- Water capacity determines the number of cups you can brew daily. If you’re a regular drinker, go for a machine with a large water tank, so you’ve to fill it once a day. 

Cappuccino frother- If you love to have a delicious cappuccino, a cappuccino maker is a fundamental tool to make it for you.

Technical support- All good brands offer technical support if you face any problem with your manual machine. Availability of spare parts should also be considered while purchasing to avoid inconvenience later.

The best brands include a temper, a cup warmer tray, a measuring mug, extra filters, pod filters, and a funnel in the box of the machine. Further, the price may vary based on brands, functions, and accessories.

Your kitchen counter space should be in your mind while purchasing. If you have a small kitchen, go for any compact manual machine.

Prose and Cons of a Manual Machine:

  • Less expensive than an automatic espresso machine
  • Fully controllable
  • Makes you your own barista at home
  • Aesthetic design
  • Highly versatile
  • Control over all aspects of brewing
  • Often complicated to use
  • Required manual efforts
  •  Do not have built-in features, i.e., grinder
  •  Less durable as compared to automatic machine

Automatic Espresso Machine

Buckle your seat belt because it’s the world of wonderful automatic espresso machines. Automatic espresso machines are replacing manual machines internationally, as many coffee geeks are serious about switching to these machines.

Automatic espresso machines are modern innovations to make life more luxurious and feasible. In the modern world, people are too busy to spend time doing manual work for having a cup of joe.

Moreover, it’s not easy to visit Starbucks or any cafe if you’re not willing to play with any manual machine. So, an automatic espresso machine is become handy in this situation. And now you can skip visiting any coffee shop and get your coffee at a touch of a button.

Just imagine that you only load water, coffee beans, and milk, and the machine gives you a wonderfully delicious cup of your desired drink within a few seconds. Think I’m exaggerating? Then try it!

Defining automatic espresso machines is tricky as they have different categories based on their functions. Still, the common feature that makes them automatic machines is using pumps to generate the pressure.

Types of automatic espresso machines:

An espresso machine comes in different categories based on its functions and ease of use.

Semi-automatic Espresso Machine- in between super-automatic espresso machine and automatic espresso machine. Like an automatic espresso machine, you grind, tamp, and weigh the coffee yourself for the semi-automatic espresso machine. The only difference is it gives control over timing which means a perfect shot of your choice.

Prose and Cons of a Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine:

  • Cheaper than super-auto and fully automatic espresso machine
  • Gives some control
  • A medium approach
  • Not easy to use like an automatic or super-automatic espresso machine
  • Not fully controllable like a manual machine

Automatic Espresso Machine- works the same as super-automatic espresso; the main difference is how much manual work is needed. An automatic espresso machine needs manual grinding, tamping, and dosing of the coffee beans, and the rest is up to the automatic espresso machine.

Prose and Cons of a Fully Automatic Espresso Machine:

  • Need less manual effort
  • Affordable than a fully automatic espresso machine
  • Often comes with an automatic grinder
  • Durable
  • Give less control over the coffee-making process
  • Required manual efforts

A Super-automatic Espresso Machine- is a bean-to-cup machine. It means you only press a button and get a delicious coffee. Super-automatic espresso machines grind the fresh whole beans, froth the milk, and even rinse themselves. Some brands, like Jura, offer mobile-friendly machines that can be programmed through your smartphone or even apple watch. Check out our list of top Jura coffee machines.

Showing the super-auto espresso machine
A Super-Automatic Espresso Machine

Prose and Cons of a Super-Automatic Espresso Machine:

  • Grinds, tamps, dose, and brew the coffee automatically
  • Froth and steam the milk automatically
  • Comes with a color display or with touchscreen
  • Offers a variety of specialty coffees
  • Easy to use
  • Expensive
  • Not fully controllable

Read a comprehensive article about automatic vs semi-automatic espresso machines for more information.

Manual vs Semi vs Automatic Espresso Machine: Main Difference

The main difference between all espresso machines is the way they work or function. A manual machine allows you to manage the different aspects of extraction. 

On the other hand, an automatic espresso machine automates the process and allows you to enjoy your coffee without effort. Moreover, an automatic espresso machine comes with a bean-grinding function.

Additionally, having different features, both types of machines come with different design and build philosophies. Automatic espresso machines are easier to place and hold as they have built-in components.

However, if you love to do experiments by customizing your drinks, then a manual machine can be a great joy for you as it gives full control over your coffee-making process. You only need to learn some barista skills and practice them with patience; then, you’ll enjoy your manual espresso machine.

On the other hand, the main difference between a manual and semi-automatic espresso machine is the way of pulling the espresso shot. A manual espresso machine uses a lever to pull the lever to generate pressure while semi-automatic espresso uses a pump for the same purpose.

YouTube video
Manual vs Automatic Espresso machines

Verdict: Manual vs Automatic Espresso Machines

The first thing in choosing a coffee machine is your inclination towards a standard drink or the drink prepared by “You”. In the former choice, go for an automatic espresso machine, and for a feel of a drink that you make is “yours”, choose a manual espresso machine.

Again, an automatic espresso machine is easy to use and gives different pre-selected specialty coffees. Advances in automatic espresso machines give you the liberty of customization of your drinks according to your preference.

So, if you don’t want to indulge in the complicated task of pulling a perfect espresso shot, an automatic machine can be the right choice for you.

In the end, both machines do wonders in making espresso shots; the difference is in the process. A manual machine is right for you if you want to participate manually in preparing espresso shots.

In the manual vs automatic espresso machines comparison, if you want to enjoy your coffee with the touch of a button or less manual work, go for an automatic espresso machine.


Automatic machines are becoming the priority of coffee drinkers in this super fast world. They provide a one-touch solution for those who want delicious coffee at home within no time. Further, a super-automatic machine is mobile-friendly, which means you can operate the machine through your smartphone.

Super-automatic espresso machines use advanced technology to make espresso shots, using high-quality features and parts. Moreover, for producing high pressure and temperature, they use premium components that are the way they are pricey as compared to manual machines.

Manual espresso machines, no doubt, prepare a perfect espresso shot. They require some barista skills, practice, and the right sense of measuring time. Once you acquire these skills, you’ll be able to enjoy a delicious hot coffee at home.

The main difference between both machines is how they pull a perfect espresso shot. High pressure is required for pulling an espresso shot is required. A manual espresso machine produces this pressure by pulling the lever, while an automatic espresso machine uses pumps to create high pressure.

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