Fully automatic coffee machines are extremely practical: they brew fresh coffee of great quality at the touch of a button, clean themselves and conjure up not only espresso and long coffee but also coffee drinks with perfect milk foam. Nevertheless, not all fully automatic coffee machines are the same. Read below to find out what you should look out for when buying and where the differences in quality lie.
The first fully automatic coffee maker
From 1964 onwards, there were already coffee machines with integrated grinders. However, these brewed filter coffee. The Swiss Arthur Schmed spent several years working on an automatic coffee machine that combined the brewing pressure system of espresso machines with simple, automatic operation. In 1985, he brought the first fully automatic coffee machine onto the market with the Solis company in collaboration with Saeco.
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What makes a fully automatic coffee machine?
A fully automatic coffee maker is, as the name suggests, fully automatic. This means that it prepares the desired beverage at the touch of a button, without you having to insert a filter as you do with a filter coffee machine or fill and attach a portafilter with espresso powder as you do with an espresso machine.
In contrast to a filter coffee machine, it prepares espresso-based coffee specialities. The difference here lies primarily in the extraction of the coffee or espresso powder, which is largely related to the pressure: Whereas in a filter coffee machine the water drips leisurely from above onto the coffee powder and is then in contact with it for about three minutes, in an espresso machine or fully automatic coffee machine the water is chased through the compressed espresso powder at a pressure of 9 to 10 bar and thus remains in contact with the powder for only about 30 seconds. For the same reason, the grind for espresso machines and fully automatic coffee machines must be much finer than for filter coffee machines. The surface area of the espresso powder must be as large as possible so that the water can absorb enough aromatic substances in the short contact time. You can find out more about the perfect grind for your coffee machine here: The optimum grind for an automatic coffee maker.
To ensure convenient automatic operation, fully automatic coffee makers have an integrated grinder. However, you can often also use coffee powder if you prefer. Furthermore, most fully automatic coffee makers are equipped with a milk frothing system, so that coffee drinks with milk froth can also be made automatically.
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The most important purchase criterion is often the price. However, especially when buying a fully automatic coffee maker – even in the lower price range – you should pay attention to other things so that you don’t end up paying more because you have to return your machine for repair shortly after the warranty expires. You should also pay attention to certain features so that you have many options and great fun with your new fully automatic coffee machine. Important details for the equipment are e.g.
- Is the milk container removable? This is important for thorough cleaning and easy filling.
- Is the water hardness adjustable? This allows you to optimally adjust your machine to the water hardness so that it indicates when descaling is necessary.
- Does the coffee machine have a 2-cup function? After all, you don’t always want to brew just one cup of coffee.
- Is the coffee spout height adjustable? Will your favourite latte macchiato cup fit underneath? You’d better measure it!
- Is the coffee maker equipped with an energy-saving function? An automatic coffee maker can consume a lot of electricity.
- Is the brew group removable? This is an important point that saves on maintenance costs. Although automatic coffee makers clean themselves after each use, coffee powder that flies around gets stuck around the brew group and can only be cleaned manually. If this is not possible, you will inevitably have to take your coffee machine in for maintenance sooner or later.
- Choice of beverages: Do you prefer espresso, latte macchiato or a cappuccino? Or would you prefer a cocoa – this is also possible with some machines. Check whether the coffee machine can make your favourite drinks!
- What material is the casing of the fully automatic coffee machine made of? Stainless steel and solid hard plastic are fine, cheap plastic or easily scratched, cheap metal are less advisable.
- Technical extras: If you like a bit of luxury, you’ll like the special features that some automatic coffee machines come with. Some coffee machines can remember the preferences of your coffee drinkers, others can be connected to the internet and controlled remotely via the internet or apps, and others even have voice recognition.
Our purchase recommendation
Even though the test winners in the fully automatic coffee machine category differ slightly from test to test, it is almost always fully automatic coffee machines from DeLonghi that take first place: the test winner in terms of price-performance was the DeLonghi ESAM 4200.S in the “Fully automatic coffee machine in test.