Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine and Grinder

by Kate Blaine Updated: October 19, 2021 2 min read
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Updated for 2021. 

Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine & Grinder for your Dollar

There is a good chance that you’re here to pick out a machine that is right for you. You may be a little overwhelmed all the options available and the cost of some of these machines. I’m hoping my next two blogs can help you weigh your options. In this blog, I’ll be picking machine and grinder combos I think offer the best “Bang for Your Buck.”

First, let’s lay down the parameters a machine has to meet to be a “Bang for Your Buck” winner. Price is the top criteria, as we’re looking for a good ROI (Return on Investment). I’ll be focusing on machines and grinders priced under $1000. Additional factors include: ease of use, beverage and build quality, machine durability, and access to after-warranty service or parts.

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine

For the best semi-auto machine and grinder combo, I have chosen the Gaggia Classic and Gaggia MDF. If you prefer a doserless grinder, the Baratza Virtuoso Preciso and Gaggia Classic is a solid choice. The Gaggia Classic is a well-proven machine that has been around for over 20 years. It’s all stainless steel, with rocker switches, a commercial portafilter and the most recent version ships with both the pressurized and non-pressurized baskets. The Classic is built well, and when taken care of has been known to last over 10 years. We know the machine inside and out, here at Whole Latte Love, and are available for after-warranty support of parts, diagrams and pointers.

The Gaggia Classic clocks in well for ease of use, with a small learning curve with the pressurized baskets. When you’re ready to take a greater amount of control, you can switch to the non-pressurized and the machine effectually grows with you. It brews a great shot and is from the first company to offer a home-based espresso machine. The Gaggia Classic is also the winner of the coveted Consumers Digest’s Best Premium Espresso Machine.


The Gaggia MDF and Baratza Virtuoso are both solid performers that can deliver consistent and fine grind for your espresso needs. The MDF has 34 grind settings with a flat burr set and a dosing chamber to dispense 7 grams per dose. The Virtuoso has 40 grind settings, and uses a conical burr set but has a metal retaining collar on the top burr, unlike most grinders of the same class. The retaining collar holds the burrs in place and provides a really consistent grind. With no dosing chamber, the Virtuoso can pull duty for multiple types of grind and, once you get your timing down, cut down on waste as well.