Automatic vs Manual Coffee Machine

Australia is a nation of coffee-lovers. Even with cafes all around the country, it’s no surprise we want to bring the coffee experience home too. But buying a coffee machine can be a daunting task – there are multiple types, and the price can vary significantly; from two to four figures!

In this article, we’ll examine the different types of coffee machines, focussing on automatic vs manual. It’s important to note that the real value of these machines is in the eye of the coffee drinker, depending on what they value most – ease of use, speed, simplicity or versatility. Neither coffee machine has all of these things, but as you’ll come to see, that’s a good thing!

Ease of Use & Speed

This isn’t really a contest – automatic coffee machines are simply the easiest way to make a cup of coffee at home, or in the office. Speaking of the office, automatic machines are generally the preferred type in that environment, for this exact reason. One or two button presses and a full cup of coffee can be dispensed.

breville coffee machine

For a manual coffee machine, you’ll need ground coffee, or beans and a grinder. The grounds are scooped into the head and tamped down, which is placed into the espresso boiler, and from which the espresso is extracted. Now, that sounds like a lot of work when written down! In practice, it’s actually a lot easier, though it does require some finesse. Just remember – your local barista does this hundreds of times a day!

Beans vs Capsules

Capsule coffee machines are favoured by many for their quality and consistency. Non-capsule automatic coffee machines generally have a grinder built in, and so will grind just the right amount of beans on demand for each coffee.


Grinding takes a little more time than using a capsule, but it does free up the use of whichever coffee beans you like. Local cafes often sell bags of the blends they serve, which allows you to get that wonderful taste at home.

Getting the Milk Right

The milk is an essential part of great coffee. To the uninitiated, it might just seem like hot milk. But to coffee connoisseurs, it’s all about the texture, and the foam. Manual coffee machines generally feature a steamer arm, which allows you to steam the milk manually, and make it on the frothier or creamier side. As with the rest of the manual process, this takes time and skill, but it’s satisfying and the result is generally wonderful.

Some automatic machines also use a steamer arm. Those that don’t generally include milk steaming and dispensing into the coffee-making process. This means they’re truly ‘one-touch’ fully automatic machines, with a single button controlling both ingredients for a latte.  (As a side note, the milk container on a machine like this should be kept in the fridge when not in use; most machines don’t have refrigeration capability)

Lastly, there are particular milk-frothing canisters that are available, or are sometimes include with pod machines. These automatic systems foam and heat milk, without the need for steam.