I tried super-automatic coffee machines during a trip to Switzerland and was impressed. These machines make making coffee a breeze. With all those flashing buttons and touch screens, you feel like an espresso master. And not only that. It seems that at the touch of a button, you can make any coffee drink – espresso, latte, macchiato, lungo, cappuccino and more – with the perfect acidity and consistency.
Today, we’re going to try to figure out whether anyone can actually make the perfect cup of espresso with a super-automatic machine and what kind of machine you need to choose for this purpose.
Are Bean-to-Cup Machine Perfect in Espresso Making?
Coffee snobs claim that coffee machines, especially those in the lower and middle price segment, cannot make good espresso. How true is this?
The fact is that when making espresso in a superautomatic machine, a person seems to be removed from all the processes, they are controlled by the machine. Thus, the difference between super-automatic and semi-automatic coffee machines is that the superautomatic machine automates the entire process of making espresso: it grinds the beans in the built-in grinder, weighs out the right amount of beans for brewing coffee, tampers this mass, heats the water to the right temperature, feeds it to the ground beans, and simultaneously or after that – it depends on one or two boilers built into the system – measures and heats milk and adds it to the drink. It even disposes of the used grounds for you.
This is the essence of the “bean-to-cup” concept, which means that the machine takes whole coffee beans and turns them into a delicious cup of espresso, all in one machine. With a super-automatic espresso machine, all you have to do is put in the coffee beans and the machine will do the rest.
And what about how a person is involved in this process? In the case of super-auto, the man (or woman) get the most important part of the job – set the right settings. And this is where most unprepared users fail. Especially if they have never had experience with superautomatic machines and have only ever dealt with semi-automatic or manual breweries before. The settings vary tremendously from machine to machine, and there is no one-size-fits-all recipe.
Extraction: Why Is It Important in Super-Automatic Machine?
Extraction refers to the process of extracting flavor, aroma, and caffeine from ground coffee beans by transferring them to water during their contact. It’s a crucial element in the production of coffee, and it’s influenced by various factors such as the ratio of water to coffee, grind, area of contact, time, water temperature, and pressure. These factors ultimately determine the quality and taste of the coffee.
In a super automatic espresso machine, it takes 24 seconds to make espresso. Given the high pressure with which the machine passes water, this time is enough for the coffee to be saturated with caffeine to the fullest extent. This ensures that the extraction process is consistent and produces the same high-quality coffee every time. And, the machine can precisely control the extraction time and temperature, resulting in a well-balanced and delicious cup of coffee.
I personally, as well as most of my professional barista friends, are of the opinion that a super-automatic coffee machine can make the same full-bodied espresso as a professional one. As many coffee machines on the market today offer features and performance, it will allow you to create delicious espresso drinks at home. In fact, if you know how to set the right parameters, even inexpensive automatic coffee machines can produce high-quality results. Therefore, all you need to turn into a real barista is to understand the settings of your coffee machine for your favorite coffee drinks, whether it’s doppio or lungo, and hone your skills to make the perfect cup of espresso with a thick foam and aftertaste sooner or later.
Choose The Right Beans
The most important thing without which you will not achieve your perfect cup of espresso has nothing to do with the espresso machine. You definitely need to start with the choice of coffee beans – mediocre beans will never make great coffee. One of the main reasons why you don’t get the results you want is the quality of the coffee beans you use. The roasting of the beans is also important, as it affects the strength of the drink. Here are the main things to look for when choosing beans.
- Look for good beans at local roasters rather than buying pre-ground coffee from stores. Also, for home use, it’s a good idea to buy small rather than huge bags of coffee beans so that you always have fresh beans, as they lose their flavor over time.
- Although some superautomatic models have the option of using pre-ground coffee, we recommend using rested but freshly ground coffee rather than pre-ground coffee.
- Use a blend of Arabica and Robusta which is the best for espresso. Arabica is added for acidity, sweetness and flavor. Robusta – for density, strength, bitterness and creaminess. The ratio is as 75 percent to 25, or 85 percent to 15, Arabica takes several varieties, Robusta takes one. Besides, choose the roast you like.
- Make sure the beans are suitable for your espresso machine. For instance, oily coffee beans will affect the taste of your espresso and more importantly, greasy coffee beans will eventually degrade the performance of your machine. In addition, coffee in caramelized or flavored beans can also spoil the equipment. Therefore, another rule for choosing coffee for coffee machines is to buy pure, without any aromatic additives.
Keep In Mind Water Quality
The quality of the water used to brew coffee has a major impact on its taste and the longevity of your espresso machine. Two points are important with water: water hardness and mineral impurities. City tap water can contain minerals and impurities that affect the taste and performance of your espresso machine. Some super machines have built-in water filters.
The purpose of a water filter is two-fold: to improve the taste of coffee and to maintain the longevity of your coffee machine. As fresh water is mixed with oxygen, it creates bubbles that are essential for brewing good coffee. A filter helps to remove impurities and minerals that can negatively impact the flavor of coffee and cause buildup in the machine over time. By using a filter, the intervals between descaling your machine can be extended, ensuring its proper function and helping to preserve the quality of your coffee.
Thus, water filters can help fight clogging of water, but cannot affect its hardness in any way.
That’s why experts in the coffee machines’ maintence and repair advise using bottled water, it has been implemented as a gold standard at world barista competitions. Bottled water with fixed properties ensures that your coffee is brewed with clean, pure water and helps extend the life of your espresso machine.