This video shows the stark difference between the desire to make an espresso and the desire to have an espresso.

The end result of both is a quality beverage. The journey to that end could hardly be more different.

manual vs full automatic espresso

Disclaimer: The video is not intended as a demonstration of perfect technique.

Details: The same beans were used in both. The beans were pre-ground for the manual machine and auto-ground by the automatic machine. The manual machine is the la Pavoni Europpicola. The automatic machine is the Saeco Xelisis EVO. The la Pavoni was a gift and the Xelsis was demo model.>/I> Both systems are using approximately 17 grams of coffee for a single cycle. The Xelsis has been programmed to creat a long shot and thus a greater volume of espresso. The la Pavoni produces a fixed sized shot of espresso.

Tasting notes: Both machines produce a good espresso. However, the finished espresso tastes different between the machines. The bean, water, and grind are the same. The tamping pressure is similar between the two. The biggest difference is the volume of water and the temperature of the water. The la Pavoni uses a pressure vessel and thus the initial water temperature is higher. However, some of the temperature is immediately lost to the brew head.

The video shows a few things.

First, with the la Pavoni, a portion of the video was edited since two portafilter baskets were prepared but only a single was used. The removed portion is approximately the same amount of time of the extra basket.

The grinding of the beans for the la Pavoni was done ahead of time. The Xelsis uses whole beans and grinds them just prior to brewing each shot.

Both machines performed a pre-infusion. There is an audible pause on the Xelsis process. The first shot through the la Pavoni benefits from a hot water wash cycle so the head does not cool the finished espresso.

A single shot (approx 1oz) was pulled on the la Pavoni while a long shot (approx 2oz) was created on the Xelsis along with creating the second beverage – a Cafelatte.

The question to ask yourself is “when I want an espresso, how much time and attention do I want to dedicate?” At 5AM my answer is “just give me the damn espresso” but after a fine dinner, as a late morning break, or when entertaining guests, I may choose to “practice the art of espresso making”.

Here’s the video.