foto: nathan dumlao on unsplash
Recently in our editorial office. We are discussing the blog posts for the upcoming month – which requires a lot of inspiration, energy, and many cups of coffee. Different ones. Espresso and cappuccino are quite similar. But then: Americano, drip coffee, and a latte. Here you go. We are glad to have the automatic coffee machine, which prepares everyone’s favorite coffee in no time (if the milk does not happen to be empty. Or the brew group needs a clean-up, which – by the way – is something the machines does by itself.) A portafilter would take up much more of our time. Which leads us to the advantages of the fully automatic coffee machine.
It is really easy to handle. It prepares all kinds of coffee specialties within seconds. The quality is consistent, the grinding, tampering, and brewing is done automatically by the machine. You just have to push the button. A no brainer.
Besides all of the comfort, the consistent quality is another nice advantage. For each cup, the beans are freshly ground, the brewing temperature is preset (but can still be adjusted), and the brewing process is the same as the one of a portafilter machine: The freshly ground coffee is compacted, the water runs through it with a certain pressure and extracts the aromas. Done.
What you cannot do with it is a larger amount of drip coffee – Even though some manufactures claim it is possible (which makes sense, if you look at the functionality).
Well, an automatic coffee machine is a bit like package tourism. You go on vacation, it is nice and comfortable, but…individuality? Negative. Compared to the portafilter machine the fully automatic coffee maker does not offer any kind of ritual, no steam, no hissing sounds, no smell, and usually no tiger-stripe crema. But most importantly: With a portafilter machine it is much easier to determine the quality, the personal touch, and to finely balance the coffee beans, grinding level, and water temperature (not to mention the latte art).
But of course, you don’t have to do all that. Not everyone is as crazy about their coffee as we are.
Let’s start with the grinder: It is basically just the same as with a good coffee grinder. It is usually made of ceramic or stainless steel. Which material you should use is a perpetual debate – you can read more about it in our article on coffee grinders: “The indulgence of grinding coffee yourself”. In any case, you should make sure that it is a flat or conical burr grinder and NOT a blade grinder. The latter slices the beans (as the name suggests) instead of grinding them.
Let’s look at the brew group. It should be removable so you can clean it regularly. This is not just a matter of hygiene, the coffee simply tastes better, and the machine lasts longer.
Now the milk system. Most fully automatic coffee machines have a milk hose system, which means nothing more than: The hose is inserted into the opened milk carton. This usually lowers the initial price of the machine, but it also means that you should or must clean the hose quite often. The other option is to have an external milk container that is attached to the machine. Advantage: You can just put the container in the refrigerator at night. Thus, it does not need to be cleaned so often. Disadvantage: Fully automatic coffee machines with an external milk container are usually more expensive. For purists, there are of course also fully automatic machines without a milk system – we are just mentioning this to provide you with the full information.
And then there’s the cocoa function. Long story short: No. No, fully automatic coffee makers do not have a cocoa function. Which makes sense because coffee is brewed quite differently than cocoa. But (yes there is a but) you can, of course, make cocoa with the milk frother: Simply stir the cocoa powder into the hot milk. And one more advice: Never put cocoa powder into the bean compartment of an automatic coffee machine – it will clog it and ruin the entire machine.
Both. For our editorial team, the fully automatic machine is perfect. Everyone gets their favorite coffee without much effort, in a decent quality. At home, however, the portafilter is a must for me personally. That’s where I get creative, make mistakes, learn, train my palate, improve. Drink better coffee.
And you? Write us about your experience with fully automatic coffee machines. Or portafilter machines.
If you’d like to know more about these shiny chrome machines, there’s a blog post solely dedicated to portafilter machines. Check out “Portafilter – (not) a male preserve?”