Super-automatic coffee terrific happy hour
February 21, 2012 6:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a super-automatic coffee/espresso machine (no pods) that is around $1,000 (or cheaper), and meets a few specific needs. I'm eyeing a Jura or DeLonghi, but are there others I should be considering?

My girlfriend and I are interested in a new coffee-making device, and I've brought up the idea of so-called "super-automatics" to her, as I've experienced one myself in person, and think it would (more than) meet the needs of what we're after. What I'd like is help in determining what the best bang for the amount of buck we're willing to spend is!

Here are the features we're wanting:

* Brews one cup at a time
* Grinds beans on demand for each cup
* Accepts pre-ground coffee, if desired
* Brews both coffee, and espresso*
* Water reservoir (no need for it to hook into water line)
* Absolutely no pods

A few more details: the one-cup-at-a-time and griding beans on demand are key, to me, as is the ability to put in pre-ground coffee too. A Burr grinder would be a plus in the unit, but I also am not sure if that's a pipe dream period, or just a pipe dream for my price range. *While I feel like I'm fairly well versed in the lingo of coffee, I do recognize that me saying the machine should "brew both coffee, and espresso" may have some subtleties about what that really means.

Basically, I'm after a machine that will brew a traditional, fresh ground cup of coffee, and also brew an espresso with little to no fuss. I like the idea of foam/crema happening automagically too.

I own (and love) an AeroPress, along with other coffee implements, but for now I'm just after the ease of a one-button brew.

The machine I've used and seen in person (and where the above features come from) is a Jura Impressa Z5, which, new, appears to be somewhere in the $3,000 range; however, in some corners of the internet, I've seen refurbished ("pre-brewed", as they apparently call it) ones for $1,000, though I can't quite tell if that model has been discontinued, or if it's just hard to find. I feel like the two of us could swallow $1,000 (maybe $1,500 tops) for a machine that theoretically would/should last us for quite some time and that we'd get a lot of use and enjoyment out of; $3,000 is a bit much though.

After falling down a bit of a rabbit hole with these two previous questions, and their relevant links, it appears like DeLonghi may make at least one (maybe more?) sub-$1,000 unit that meet my above wants, such as the Magnifica ESAM3300. I saw this question too, though it appears a lot of the suggestions were more semi-automatics than super-automatics (this sentence could easily be mistaken for gun talk or something!)

Which is where you come in to play, dear Hive Mind. I realize you are not my barista, and that I could spend a lot of time on Coffee Geek, but, I'd like some direction: are there other units at the $1,000 or less price point that may satiate my needs, or given those needs, have I already narrowed it down to two machines (Jura vs. DeLonghi)? Is there a unit I've overlooked that may just be a few hundred dollars more that would be worth considering?

I'm open to any other super-automatic stories you may have, joyous or otherwise!
posted by mrhaydel to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked into Gaggia? My landlord has one and it seems to have lasted him for years and years - while I don't know about the specifics of your question, it does have a reservoir and he uses it on a per-cup basis.
posted by mippy at 6:38 AM on February 21, 2012

At that price you should buy used or refurbished, IMO. Also know that you're never going to get as good an espresso from a super-automatic as you will from a quality tamp-it-yourself automatic double-boiler machine. (And you can get a badass one at that price point.) Sounds like that's worth it to you, which I totally get behind. It was just a little disappointing to me after our lab bought a $3500 dual-grinder Jura and the product it put out was... eh. Including cleaning time, I don't know if it saves that much time unless you're making a dozen cappuccinos. Automatic foam is nice, though.
posted by supercres at 6:48 AM on February 21, 2012

I have a Saeco Giro. It rocks. No complaints and I've had it for a year.
posted by grak88 at 6:52 AM on February 21, 2012

Basically, I'm after a machine that will brew a traditional, fresh ground cup of coffee, and also brew an espresso with little to no fuss. I like the idea of foam/crema happening automagically too.

I've used several different automatic machines and not one comes close to the manual, old-school, Rancilio Silva that now sits on my counter. Get yourself a decent burr grinder and you're set for life.

It is less maintenance and less hassle and more robust than any automatic machine. Plus the espresso is actually at the right temperature - something which every fully automatic machine has always failed to do for me.
posted by three blind mice at 6:58 AM on February 21, 2012

Just bought a Magnifica ESAM3300.

Happy with the machine so far, 3 months, except for one little, niggling thing that drives me bonkers.

To me, the point of a super-auto is that it is ready to go, one button push, anytime you want it. Well, this stupid machine shuts its stupid self off every stupid three hours, meaning the machine is never ready when you want it and that the cup warmer is completely useless. I called customer support and was assured that this was by design, to save power, and could not be defeated.
posted by Cosine at 7:37 AM on February 21, 2012

We have 2 of the Jura machines at work. My impressions:

1. They are as automated as you ask for.
2. They make reasonable, but not great, espresso.
3. There's an insulated milk container that sits next to the machine for latte/cappuccino that isn't shown in the photo on the Jura site -- you need a little extra counter space for this and it's a little extra hassle remembering to fill/empty/clean it.
4. They're automatic when they're ready, but the machines frequently demand FILL BEANS, FILL WATER TANK, EMPTY GROUNDS, TRAY FULL when damnit all I want is a coffee.
5. They need frequent cleaning cycles -- rinse, descale -- which are automated but time-consuming.
6. They haven't been particularly reliable for us, although we probably put a lot more load on them than you would -- ours have been out for repair/replacement several times.

And on preview Cosine's right, ours shut themselves off when they're not used for a while, and then when you do want a coffee it takes the machine several minutes to warm up and run through its flushing cycle.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:05 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also own a Magnifica ESAM3300. Had it for 2 months and very happy indeed. The auto-shutoff doesn't bother me at all, because I only use it twice a day, and it takes less than a minute to warm up. I agree the cup warmer is useless though. Anyway, as someone above said, a manual machine will get you better espresso, but if you don't want a manual, a super automatic does a pretty good job. My coffee is infinitely better than the crap that comes out of a pod machine. Use recently roasted beans though, makes a world of difference. Anyway, the machine is great and I recommend it. There are plenty if other machines in that price range with equivalent features.
posted by Joh at 8:08 AM on February 21, 2012

Thanks for the tips so far folks, keep 'em coming.

The ESAM3300 is looking like a good candidate, though since I don't need this machine right this very moment, I can spend some time continuing doing some research. If I go Jura, seems like refurbished is a good path. And thanks for the Jura impressions, We had a deal, Kyle!

To clarify, I wholeheartedly understand that going with a manual espresso machine plus a decent grinder would certainly get me better espresso, but I should have stated initially that espresso is less important to me than coffee (though still important), so honestly, I'm okay with the slight decrease in quality from a super-automatic.

Plus, if I do find that the espresso the super-automatic puts out isn't quite up to snuff with what I want, I believe the significant other has a decent manual-ish espresso machine we can resurrect.
posted by mrhaydel at 8:19 AM on February 21, 2012

In that case, I'll actually be helpful.

My parents have this one. They've had it for several years now with no problems. They like it, but the steam wand is totally manual. (But again, you get better control that way.) It's either gone down in price or is less expensive than I remember.

We have this one at work. It is a beast. Also a total waste of money ($3k) if you don't need both decaf and regular beans at all times.

As previously mentioned, cleaning is a pain-- if you get one with an automatic foamer, you have to run a 5+ minute cleaning cycle every day, if not more often. Scale (from the water) is an issue. Basically, everything that WHADK mentioned, though I'll add that the cleaning supplies are not cheap.
posted by supercres at 8:29 AM on February 21, 2012

Oooh wait, I got the model number wrong (I looked at a ton of superautomatics before buying, so the model number seemed familiar!). I actually have the DeLonghi ECAM23210B, which is also from the Magnifica lineup.
posted by Joh at 8:51 AM on February 21, 2012

I don't own one, but I asked my coffee-fiend friend by IM and he says that the Gaggia Titanium Super Automatic is one of the gold standards for the $1k superautomatic class. "It should have all the features from your list, but have him/her check the features list.. been a long time since I shopped for one." (I think he's using a mostly-manual machine these days.)
posted by introp at 9:53 AM on February 21, 2012

Sent your question to my friend who runs a coffee business [LaCimbali distributor] in Mpls. His reply:

"Both very similar. Both can do all that's required. There are various models starting at $500 and going as high as $3000 so choosing the model that has the most features as desired is the homework part. The big difference: Delonghi = Italian, Jura = Swiss. I'd say the Delonghi would make better espresso. Jura better reg coffee.

Thats my two cents"

I've left his name and company out of it so as not to sound like a shill. I can point you to him if you're interested.
posted by chazlarson at 10:48 AM on February 21, 2012

If you want good brewed coffee get a Chemex, or a Hario for <$100. If you want good espresso, go with a Delonghi. My lab has a $3000 Jura, and my father has a $600 Delonghi, and the Delonghi unquestionably makes a better espresso, with less fuss, less cleaning, less decalcifying, and less costs in parts and repairs.
posted by roofus at 2:01 PM on February 21, 2012

My company kitchen has a DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 3300. I don't drink coffee, but I can tell you that it does appear to have all the features you desire. My dad always looks forward to dropping by my work, though, because he says it makes the best espresso he's ever had from a machine. He's a Navy guy who was drinking cafe au lait in Toulon and espresso in Naples long before the coffee craze hit the US.

I priced it at $800 (downtown department store price-- I bet you can do better) when I heard he loved it, but I can't get him to surrender the counterspace to buy something he can afford and knows he loves!

It is one loud melonfarmer when it is grinding the beans, and has a few other noises reminiscent of a dying transmission's gearbox, but my coworkers thrive on the ambrosia that's coming out of it.

I've never seen or heard anyone trying to use the steam wand, so I can't vouch for that. Also, I wasn't aware it had any cup-warmer-- everyone here uses paper cups.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:17 PM on February 21, 2012

Thanks everyone, the myriad anecdotal encounters with super-automatics really help.

@supercres - that Jura ENA4 you linked to seems like a nice model, and much more affordable than the Z5, and when I consider chazlarson's friend's statement that Italians likely do espresso better, and Swiss coffee, I do like the idea of a Jura.

However, it does seem like DeLonghis hold their own. Decisions decisions. Aaaggghh!

The Chemex is actually one device I don't yet own roofus, and it's been on my to-buy list for a while - I'm sure I'll pick one up soon enough, because I'm absolutely not wanting to give up manual coffee making with the purchase of a super-auto, just supplement it.

Okay, I think my decision is still mostly down to Jura versus DeLonghi (though there's probably now 2 models of each brand I'm considering), but the Gaggia is a possibility too. Thanks for the recommendation of the Saeco, grak88, but, call me superficial, it appears that has a plastic casing on it, and when I'm plopping down this much on a coffee maker, I want a hunk of metal!

Thanks again everyone - I'm never disappointed with what I come away with here with each question I ask. I'll definitely report back once we've taken the plunge, but if anyone else has any worthy advice, by all means!
posted by mrhaydel at 6:45 PM on February 21, 2012

Huh. I could have sworn the Jura at work was mostly plastic -- some of it vaguely chrome-colored, but definitely plastic. But the website claims "3mm thick aluminum front panel." I'll go tap on it tomorrow morning.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:48 PM on February 21, 2012

Ooo, sure, if you think of it We had a deal, Kyle, let me know if the Jura winds up being plasticky sounding - while I suppose beggars can't be choosers, I feel like metal isn't too much to ask.

FWIW, I'm taking Seattle Coffee Gear's word with their list of "cons" for the Saeco (bit further down the page) that it actually has a plastic casing - haven't seen one in person.
posted by mrhaydel at 5:11 AM on February 22, 2012

We also have a Gaggia (along with the DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 3300) in the office, it is older, about 5 years, and has made coffee daily for 6-10 people every weekday without issue.
posted by Cosine at 10:21 AM on February 22, 2012

OK: the Jura at work is mostly plastic -- certainly all the side and rear housings are black plastic. The front panel is, I think, aluminum; it's cool to the touch. But it's an odd matt finish that makes it look awfully like painted plastic.

And I forgot: we also have a DeLonghi Gran Dama which looks like this one, which is actually my preferred machine for morning espresso. It's aluminum-clad. The milk container and frother are more fiddly than the Jura and tend to get gunked up; and the handle on ours that locks it into place on the machine has broke,
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:15 PM on February 22, 2012

My SO has a Jura machine, and it seems to work pretty well, despite being mostly plastic-y.

The one issue it has is that it doesn't neatly dump the waste grinds into the waste container. Generally, the little plastic waste bin catches about 98% of the grounds, leaving that remaining 2% to clutter up the bottom of the machine. Worse still, if you don't empty the bin very frequently, it starts getting moldy.

None of those are particular dealbreakers IMO, since the machine does make very good coffee with very little effort. However, it always struck me as a surprisingly poor design for a piece of precision machinery that otherwise works great.
posted by schmod at 2:11 PM on July 11, 2012

Quick update here - our electric drip machine decided to start acting up this weekend, which prompted us to finally be like 'Okay, let's pull the trigger on this espresso/coffee super-automatic machine business.'

Revisiting this thread and a few other places, the short story is that we wound up ordering the Krups Espresseria, which, somehow just wasn't on the radar, I don't think, back when we were looking earlier this year.

One thing that the Krups does not do, but that we were willing to deal with, is accept pre-ground coffee, but, you know what? That'll just mean we get better about buying whole-bean, and actually using them. Plus, we've got plenty of other coffee implements that'll do pre-ground just fine.

We went the Krups route on account of the nice video on this page from the gals at Seattle Coffee Gear - it's a nice overview of the device; also, it had a good number of positive reviews on Amazon as well. Even if it is considered an entry-levelish device, I liked the readout display of the ounces and time elements, versus most other machines that just use pictorial icons (small coffee bean, bigger coffee bean, etc.) that aren't quite as immediately clear. Plus, this machine apparently can handle oily beans, which while not something that we need, it's still a plus.

Anyway, we ordered it from Amazon, it should get here Tuesday, and I'll report back a bit after that with some initial thoughts on it!
posted by mrhaydel at 6:00 AM on October 22, 2012

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