Super-Automatic Brewing Guide
Super-automatic machines changed the landscape of specialty coffee at home. With a super-automatic machine, you can brew espresso, coffee, or even cappuccino with on one touch of a button. Operation is simple: you put beans in the hopper, water in the reservoir, turn it on and then push a button. The machine will grind the coffee, tamp it, and then brew your coffee. The used coffee goes into a box that you can pull out and discard in the trash or put in your garden. If you enjoy pre-ground, or a guest has different tastes, you can use the bypass doser for pre-ground coffee so you don’t have to change out your whole beans.
Brewing espresso with super automatic machines can be quick and easy, but there are some factors to consider. There are five critical rudiments to pulling a quality shot: bean selection, grind setting, water quality, the state of the brew group, and your milk system for specialty drinks. Temperature and dose are crucial factors as well.
Selecting the right bean for the right beverage is the first step to pulling a great shot, and often overlooked. For simplicity, let’s break down the innumerable varieties of coffee into three categories: light, medium, and dark roasts. Light to medium roasts are the range you want to be in when using a super-automatic machine, with medium being closer to ideal. Light to medium roasts are a safe range to explore and offer a wealth of variety all their own. Especially dark roasts tend to be very oily, with a visible sheen on the surface. Dark, oily beans will stick together, clog your grinder, and even damage your super-automatic machine. These dark roasted coffees also tend to be roasted such so as to hide imperfections in the beans themselves. They’re best avoided.
Grind setting will determine what kind of drink pours into your cup, so it’s very important when deciding if you would like an espresso or a long coffee. A good rule of thumb to follow would be that lighter, long coffees want a coarser grind setting, and brighter, more powerful espressos want a finer grind setting.
Too fine a grind can result in very bitter shots and a clogged grinder, so pay close attention to your settings when making adjustments. With super-automatic machines, you’ll usually need to brew a few shots between each grind setting to complete adjust the machine to your final setting. Once you hit the right setting, you should arrive at a great tasting drink with thick, silky crema.
Our tests have shown that the machines we sell all brew within the proper temperature range of approximately 190 to 196 degrees. Most super-automatics let you play with temperature settings (we always recommend hottest), but that brewing range should result in a shot that is around 160-165 degrees in the cup. Your drink should be hot to the touch, but it shouldn’t scald you. Pulling a blank shot can help achieve the optimal temperature as well, which you can do by selecting the pre-ground option (if applicable) and brewing a shot without putting coffee in. This way you can run a few ounces of hot water through the group to get ready for the real shot. Remember to pre-heat your cups with steam or hot water before pulling your shot to maintain a hot cup of java.
Here, we’ll discuss water quality and maintaining the brew group and your milk system in your super-automatic machine. Water usually contains some minerals which can affect the taste of your coffee and even leave behind mineral deposits inside your machine. Water filters designed for your super-automatic machine are used to remove minerals that might negatively affect your machine. They also have a carbon filter for taste and odor control. Some filters are powerful enough to eliminate descaling cycles entirely, keeping your machine running smoothly for longer.
Regarding the brew group, your most immediate concern will be taking it out and rinsing it under cold or room temperature water once every week or so. This keeps old grounds out of the way, and let’s the moving parts move how they need to brew your drink. Once a year, you’ll likely need to lubricate your brew unit to keep the moving parts moving smoothly. Some machines do not feature a removable brew unit, and instead rely on cleaning tablets to do the work for you. In this case, simply follow the instructions in your machine manual to keep your machine clean.
For your milk system, most machines offer a rinsing cycle in the machine menu to automatically clean the milk circuit for machines with a carafe. For steam wands, it’s a good idea to always wipe down the wand after frothing milk. If a pannarello wand is attached, or any kind of auto frothing device, you should disassemble what you can and clean any residues to keep your milk froth fresh and excellent.