As their name implies, super automatic espresso machines do it all: grind the beans, tamp, extract and discharge. The user just has to be sure the water reservoir and bean hopper are filled. Many models also include nice extras like a milk frother and dispenser. Super automatics are becoming increasingly popular with espresso lovers because they produce an extremely high-quality beverage without the time and effort required of other methods. More than one expert calls super automatic machines the wave of the future. However, if you like to do some tweaking of temperature and extraction, see our discussion of the best home espresso machines for our recommendations for semi-automatic machines. If you prefer to be fully in charge of the process, check out our section on manual espresso makers elsewhere in this report.
One of the biggest gripes that people have about fully automatic espresso machines is that they are space hogs, taking up a ton of real estate on a kitchen counter. Not so the DeLonghi ECAM22110SB (Est. $810). This small-ish (16 by 9.5 by 14 inches) espresso maker is a top performer, reviewers say, churning out hot, delicious espressos, cappuccinos and lattes as easily as turning a couple of knobs and pressing a button. It makes two drinks at a time, and owners like that the built-in filtration system allows them to use regular tap water.
The feature that reviewers rave the most about on the ECAM22110SB is the virtually silent integrated burr grinder. Unlike the grinders on most super automatic espresso makers, the grinder on the DeLonghi can barely be heard, so you don't have to worry about waking those who are still abed in the morning. It also gets kudos for its accurate adjustments and fast grinding performance.
Our former top pick, the Saeco Exprelia EVO (Est. $2,000) has dropped to runner up status because we've been seeing more complaints about durability recently. However, those are still in the minority and many owners say this machine is worth its hefty price tag for the best results with the least effort. Most agree that the resulting brews easily rival even those made by professional baristas at the top coffee shops. Its well-designed milk carafe creates a rich, creamy froth to make this machine very versatile for those who love their lattes and cappuccinos. It even has a bypass doser for flavored or decaf coffees to keep the grinder from accumulating flavors you don't want collecting in your normal ground.
Super automatic machines are not super popular with those who want to have the flexibility of becoming home baristas and customizing each cup. Still, the DeLonghi and the Saeco get some of the best reviews we saw from those who want coffee-shop quality espresso at the touch of a button.
While they are not, technically, espresso machines, pod-style espresso makers are very popular with many people who think they make absolutely delicious coffee drinks. Also, although many of them bill themselves as super automatic, they are not super automatic espresso machines either. Rather, they are more like pod-style coffee makers, which we cover in our separate report on single cup coffee makers.
Among pod-style espresso makers it's no contest: the Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker (Est. $195) is one of the most highly praised of any other in this category, but its reviews indicate that it's not just because this is a relatively inexpensive machine. Owners say it makes a wonderful cup of strong coffee from Nespresso pods (it only uses pods, not beans). There are plenty of pod varieties available, say users.
The Pixie is largely scorned by professional reviewers. Some say that it can make a decent cuppa when it's short-cycled (stopping the brewing before the water dispensing is complete to make a denser result), but they don't like the hands-off approach to making espresso or the cost of the pods, although the good news is that the pods are recyclable.
Owners disagree, though, saying that for the price it's the best deal on the market if you want espresso without the hassle of grinding, tamping, extracting, and dealing with all the other variables that go into espresso-making with manual and semi-automatic machines -- and don't want to pay the premium price for a super automatic espresso machine. Although the pods are expensive compared to ground coffee, they say, compared to buying a comparable beverage at a coffee shop, it's a bargain. They also like that this machine heats up more quickly than most espresso makers, from power on to ready in about 3 minutes or so.