This post contains affiliate links.
Are you one of those people that like to start the day with an espresso but don’t have the skills or want to put in the effort just after waking up? You want to have the easiest espresso possible. What kind of machine should you be looking for? Here’s what you need to know.
So called ‘Super-automatic’ espresso machines are the easiest to use. This type of espresso machine just requires you to put in water and beans. The machine does everything else after pushing a button. These machines are very easy to use but can be relatively costly and require more maintenance.
Read more about why these machines are the easiest to use and which machine is a good option, keep reading below.
Types of Easy To Use Espresso Machines
Espresso can be notoriously difficult to get right. It even takes an experienced barista a few shots to dial in a machine and to figure out exactly how to get good espresso out of a machine.
Of course baristas use manual espresso machines where you have to control many different things. That means a lot of options to get great espresso but also a lot of ways to get it wrong. People looking for easy to use espresso machines should probably stay away from manual espresso makers.
The easiest to use espresso machines are known as ‘fully-automatic’, ‘super automatic’ or ‘bean to cup’ machines. These machines automate every part of making espresso and as a nice bonus they can usually make plenty of other coffee drinks.
Super automatics just need you to put in beans, water and push the button. Ok, if you actually want to drink the coffee you have to put a cup in the right spot to catch it. That means pretty much all the stress of getting espresso right is gone since it’s all automated. Grinding the beans, filling the filter basket and pushing the water through the grounds all happens while you just have to push a single button.
Usually there are still settings you can change if you’d wish to like strength and size but if you really don’t want to bother with anything, you can just use the standard settings.
These machines do require a bit more maintenance and cleaning than regular espresso machines and since there is more that can go wrong, it’s more likely that something does.
Recommended super-automatic espresso machine
Jura makes very good bean to cup machines. They are both high quality/reliable and make good coffee. I know one machine that has been used daily for almost 20 years and is still working and making coffee.
For a cheaper option, the Philips 2200 (Amazon link) series is great for the money. It makes decent espresso but also milk drinks while not costing the world.
As you might guess from the name of this type of espresso machine, there is a bit more work involved in brewing espresso with these machines.
Semi-automatic do require you to fill the filter basket yourself and lock it into the machine. Then you have to push the button and it’ll automatically push through enough water. These machines look a lot more like the espresso machines you can see in a coffeeshop but more things are automated.
This means you will have to do some work to get your coffee. The coffee has to be ground (using pre-ground is an easy option but grinding fresh will get you better coffee). Then the filter basket has to be filled, the grounds have to be distributed and tamped and then the basket should be locked into the machine.
This means you have to learn something about how to grind coffee and fill the filter baskets properly. This does require some effort but it’s not as difficult as a fully manual machine.
Is Easy Espresso Good?
Does easy espresso mean the quality isn’t great as well? That does depend on a few factors.
In general, a super-automatic machine will not make as good an espresso as a good barista with a manual machine. However, most people that make coffee at home don’t have the same knowledge and experience as a good barista. So for most people, the super-automatic will probably make better espresso than those same people could make with a manual machine.
Also keep in mind that baristas will use high quality separate coffee grinders that are set up exactly to what they want. Super-automatic machines have built in grinders that are decent quality but likely not as good as the separate ones.
Super-automatics are programmed to work well in most situations. That means the grinders and grind settings are set up to work well with most coffees as are the brew temperatures, pressures, etc. However, there are tons of different coffees (and tastes) out there. A human barista can tailor the grinder and espresso machine settings to fit their taste and the coffee beans they’re using exactly. Machines can’t taste so they have to be programmed to work well with everything which means you’re usually getting a decent but not perfect result.
If you have the barista skills, is the ease of use worth the sacrifice in taste? That’s up to you. If you don’t have any barista skills, a super-automatic will produce better results for you.
How good the final results are really depends on the specific machine. In general more expensive does yield better results but it’s not a perfect correlation. Sometimes you’re just paying more for the brand and/or features.
Is There a Cheaper Way To Get Easy Espresso?
Pretty much all espresso machines are pricey and the good super-automatic ones are especially expensive. Is there a way to get an easy espresso that’s still good?
Everything that isn’t a super-automatic espresso machine will require a bit more effort. Some methods more than others but more effort nonetheless. Espresso machines are expensive because there are a lot of parts inside that are under pressure. If you want something cheap, you’ll have to do things by hand. If that extra effort is worth the cheaper equipment is up to you. Here are your best options;
1. Moka pot
The best alternative is a Moka pot, also known as a stovetop espresso maker. It’s an old Italian invention that has stood the test of time and is still very popular. It’s a cheap piece of equipment that is quite easy to use although you might have to give it a few tries to get good results.
You’ll have to fill the filter basket with coffee and the boiler with water and then put it on the stove. While it’s on the stove you’ll have to keep an eye on it to stop it at the right time. This is a lot more involved than just pushing a button but it’s not difficult either.
You can read up on how to use a moka pot here. A moka pot doesn’t really make espresso like you would get from a machine since they just don’t produce the same amount of pressure but it comes pretty close. Especially for milk drinks, it’s close enough.
2. Aeropress with Fellow Prismo
The Aeropress is a great tool that makes it quite easy to get good coffee. There isn’t that much you can do wrong, especially compared to something like a manual espresso machine or a pour over method. Put the grounds in, pour water on top, wait 2 minutes and push down. That’s it. You can find out more about Aeropresses here.
An Aeropress doesn’t make something like espresso out of the box though. You’ll need another part for that. Fellow makes the Prismo which replaces the filter screen you screw on the bottom of the Aeropress. It’s a little pressure valve that only opens after reaching a certain amount of pressure. This means it’s possible to get higher pressures in the Aeropress which leads to stronger, more espresso like coffee.
You’ll also need to grind a bit finer and let the coffee steep for longer to get the proper strength.
Both of these options are just brewing approximations of espresso and not the real deal. They are both capable of brewing very nice coffee but if you’re looking for good espresso, this might not be what you want and just spending the money for a good machine is better.
Recommended Espresso Equipment
Besides an espresso machine, there are a few other tools that can make your espresso better. Here are my favorites:
- Espresso Machine: The Breville Barista Express (Amazon) is the sweet spot in price and quality for most casual home baristas. It comes with a built in grinder and most tools you need to brew espresso.
- Tamper: A nice tamper helps you tamp your grounds in the filter for the best result. Any correctly sized tamper can do the job but a nice heavy one just feels so much better in your hand than a plastic model. This Luxhaus one (Amazon) has a nice trick up it’s sleeve to make tamping very consistent.
- Beans: Good espresso starts with good beans. Using fresh beans is a big improvement over pre-ground coffee.
- Scales: Getting consistently good espresso means you have to know how much grounds is going into the machine and how much is coming out and how long this takes. A coffee scale is going to make your espresso much more consistent and also makes adjustments a lot easier. The Apexstone coffee scale (Amazon) is cheap and doesn’t look too sleek but is just as accurate as more expensive scales. The TimeMore scales (Amazon) look and feel a lot nicer but cost a bit more.
- Grinder: To make the best of your fresh beans, a good grinder is necessary. Espresso requires a good grinder to get the best results. The Baratza Sette 30 (Amazon) is a good espresso grinder that can also be used for other brewing methods and while not cheap, is good value for money. If you prefer hand grinders, the 1ZPresso JX-PRO is one of the best options (Amazon)
- Distribution tool: After grinding you can get some clumps in the coffee grounds. Those clumps should be broken up so the water can extract all the coffee grounds equally. Distribution tools are very simple things but this one (Amazon) is beautifully made and will look good in your kitchen.