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Fully vs Semi Automatic Coffee Machines: Which Is Better?

7 October 2020
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Exploring the options of a coffee machine for your home can be daunting. 

If you’re looking to be less hands-on to get your morning coffee, automatic coffee machines are excellent in maintaining a consistent quality without the complicated steps. Generally, there are two main types of automatic coffee machines – Semi Automatic (SACM) and Fully Automatic (FACM). Both offer a different set of benefits but can pose a challenge when deciding which is better for you.

In this article, we break down the differences between these coffee machines so that you can choose which is perfect for your budget, lifestyle, and preferences.

What is a Semi Automatic Coffee Machine?

A person fitting a coffee portafilter into a coffee machine
Semi Automatic Coffee Machines require the brewer to grind coffee beans and tamper the grounds manually before fitting the portafilter into the coffee machine. Featuring the De’Longhi Dedica Metal. Photo from De’Longhi.

If you have visited a cafe and seen a barista using a machine to make a cup of coffee, it is most likely a SACM.

It takes care of essential brewing factors such as water temperature and pressure, but still requires the brewer to manually grind coffee beans, tamper the grounds, and froth milk. The automatic part of a SACM is where it instantly pumps pressurised hot water through the packed coffee grounds upon activating its brewing function.

What is a Fully Automatic Coffee Machine?

A person pressing a button on a coffee machine's display screen
With a Fully Automatic Coffee Machine, you enjoy a freshly brewed cup of coffee with just one touch. Featuring the De’Longhi PrimaDonna S Evo. Photo from De’Longhi.

Just as its name suggests, a FACM takes all the guess-work out of brewing espresso. Consider it as the FACM having a brain of its own, making the best choices to produce the perfect cup of coffee for you.

From grinding the coffee beans to tampering the grounds, pulling the espresso shot and frothing milk, the push of one button will trigger the entire coffee-making process.

Let’s take a deeper look into the various functions and factors that differentiate a FACM and SACM.

Already decided whether you need a SACM or FACM? Shop here now.

Technical Functions

A person frothing milk using a steam wand attached to a coffee machine
Semi Automatic Coffee Machines come with a steam wand to manually froth milk for a perfect latte and cappuccino. Featuring the De’Longhi Dedica Metal. Photo from De’Longhi.

A basic SACM has an electric pump that connects the boiler to the water tank. Each time the machine is activated, water is drawn from the tank and forced through the boiler into your coffee grounds. Most SACMs also come with a steam wand for frothing milk and to dispense hot water.

FACMs have the same features as SACMs, but with additional programmable functions and integrated grinders. This means you don’t have to study how to make a perfect cup of coffee besides pressing a button.

A person pressing a button on a coffee machine's display screen
Personalise your coffee beverages with De’Longhi’s line of Fully Automatic Coffee Machines. Featuring the De’Longhi Maestosa. Photo from De’Longhi.

Its programmable functions allow you to personalise your coffee based on your preferences. This includes choosing your preferred brew strength, the water quantity, and beverage choice. Despite having a range of customisation options, De’Longhi’s FACMs come with an intuitive display screen that is simple and straightforward to use.

Moreover, you don’t have to worry about cleaning the machine after each use as De’Longhi’s FACMs come with an easy clean system that automatically rinses itself when you turn the machine off.

Did you know that all coffee machines need to be descaled once every 3 months? Here’s why and how.

Taste

a coffee machine placed on a kitchen table
Customise and save your coffee recipes with any of De’Longhi’s Fully Automatic Coffee Machines. Featuring the De’Longhi Dinamica Plus. Photo from De’Longhi.

The bottom line: if you brew your coffee right, you will get a great-tasting cup of coffee.

With SACMs, you are the boss of your coffee as you have almost full control over the espresso shot. Depending on your preference, you can adjust the grind size, decide when the shot should be pulled, and choose how much or little coffee to use. The best part of it? You can froth as much milk as you want and refine your barista skills!

Learn how to froth milk at home here.

However, this level of control over SACMs can be challenging for novice brewers. A simple mistake such as using the wrong grind size or using too much grounds can result in a bitter or sour-tasting brew.

This is where the FACM comes in.

FACMs are more than a modern invention. FACMs control essential brewing elements that can make or break a coffee. From temperature control and grind size, to the perfect amount of coffee grounds used and dispensing milk with the ideal density, a FACM ensures a faultless coffee taste. 

With De’Longhi’s line of FACMs, you can also enjoy the flexibility of personalising your beverages. Whether it’s a cappuccino, latte, or espresso, you can control the factors that affect the taste of your brew.

Price

Generally, due to its extensive capabilities, a FACM will cost more than a SACM. Prices start from SGD249 for a SACM, whereas a FACM starts from SGD799. Basically, the better the technology, the higher the price. If you are willing to pay a premium for convenience and a technology-driven coffee machine, a FACM is the way to go.

Although it may seem like a high investment for a home coffee machine, chances are it will pay for itself within a year if you are a cafe regular. Moreover, investing in a FACM and SACM will save the cost of buying separate coffee accessories such as a grinder or milk frother.

How does a SGD1,599 FACM cost cheaper than a SGD288 Capsule Machine in the long run? Find out here.

Your Lifestyle

A person pouring latte art into a cup of coffee
If you enjoy making your own coffee or creating latte art, a Semi Automatic Coffee Machine will be a perfect addition to your home. Featuring the De’Longhi La Specialista. Photo from De’Longhi.

If you have a busy lifestyle, tamping and grinding your own beans might not be the most time-efficient for you. In that case, a FACM will be the best choice, especially since you don’t have to wash and clean the coffee machine after each use.

On the other hand, if you enjoy making your own cup of coffee and want to incorporate it as a “moment” in your day, a SACM will provide you with an intimate connection to your brewing experience. 

Which is better for me?

A comparison table between a semi automatic coffee machine and a fully automatic coffee machine

All in all, it boils down to how involved you want to be in the coffee-making process, your budget, and coffee making knowledge. If you are one that enjoys having a hands-on experience with coffee making and have a smaller budget, a SACM such as the De’Longhi Active Line will be the perfect machine for you.

On the contrary, if you run on a busy schedule but cannot get your day going without a perfect cup of coffee, a FACM will be a gift that keeps on giving. If you are new to FACMs, the De’Longhi Dinamica is a good start. Looking to upgrade your current FACM? The PrimaDonna Elite Experience will delight you.

Regardless which machine you choose, you will definitely enjoy the convenience of brewing your favourite coffee beverages in your own kitchen.

With De’Longhi’s variety of FACM and SACM suiting different budgets, tastes, and personal preferences, there is certainly a coffee machine that matches your needs.

Shop here now.