Playing Devil’s Advocate with Superautomatic Machines

If you’re the kind of person that, let’s be honest, is often a bit too bleary-eyed to grind, tamp and steam your own espresso shot first thing in the morning then chances are that a superautomatic (SA) machine will appeal to you. It saves time, effort and clearing up. At the push of a button, these beasts create consistent coffee and espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos without any interaction from the user. An SA machine would be anything that works in a similar sense to a Jura or a Saeco.

I have a mixed opinion towards these beasts which makes selling them at work a bit of a tricky task sometimes. It’s difficult to be genuinely enthusiastic about something you’re not all that excited about yourself. That being said, part of the fun of working in retail is the challenge of making a difficult sale. I’ve found that very little satisfaction comes from an easy sale. Sales you work at are sales that you remember.

So why am I not too keen on SA machines? To begin with, let’s start with the aesthetics of them. I’ve already used the word “beasts” and that’s kind of my stance on them. The majority of SA machines are big, clumsy, plastic lumps with no real style or design. Obviously this is entirely subjective and I’m sure some people will quite like the look of them but take a look at a Jura Z6 and tell me it looks better than a Rocket Espresso Machine, trust me you’ll struggle. One is a beautifully crafted stainless steel masterpiece, the other is £2000 plastic box.

Having said that; most of these machines are designed with function and simplicity in mind and in that respect they’re almost without rival. Whilst something like a simple Nespresso machine might be comparable in terms of usability, if you’re serious about your coffee and prefer bean to cup then SA is the way to go. They let you play about with different beans, blends whatever. They also allow you to make a wider variety of drinks as most of them have more functional milk frothers and inbuilt drinks menus whereas something like a Nespresso will most likely have a hot milk dispenser or an Aeroccino attachment. So in that respect they’re quite good.

On the topic of pods, whilst using whole beans may work out cheaper than pods, you can’t deny the fact that SA machines are bloody expensive to begin with. Even a basic DeLonghi Magnifica is best part of £600 and by comparison a similarly priced Sage, Ascaso or Rancilio will easily outperform the DeLonghi. Remember this is at the bottom end of the spectrum, the price of an SA can skyrocket quickly and that’s another bugbear of mine. SA machines are simply too expensive, more so when you consider that a lot of them require servicing, maintenance and the machines at the lower end of the scale can sometimes lack basic features.

Personally I’d chose a more manual machine any day of the week but like with anything coffee related, it’s the user’s preference as to what he/she wants, likes and has a preference to.

So who do I think would enjoy and benefit most from an SA machine? Firstly someone with hefty pockets. These beasts (that word again) are expensive. Secondly, unless you have more money than sense, there’s no point in buying one of these unless you’re serious about your coffee and you’re drinking it 2 or 3 times a day minimum. So loaded coffee addicts who don’t take a lot of interest in doing their own grind and tamp, or perhaps just don’t have time to do it, get your credit cards ready!

My advice would be to go Jura if you’re going to buy one. If I was to buy an SA machine then they’d be my preference. They have decent build quality, make a good range of drinks, they’re reliable machines and Jura has really good customer service if something does go wrong but, like I said previously, I’d always choose a semi-auto or manual machine but that’s just me.

So to go back to the title of this post; playing devil’s advocate is something I have to do a lot for my job. With these sorts of machines I have to do it a hell of a lot but that’s part of the fun of sales. I know this is a bit of a random post but I was just thinking about SA’s and thought I’d share what I’m thinking.

What do you think?

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