Size is an important factor to consider when choosing your coffee-machine, if you plan on storing it away some of the time. Unless it’s going to be on the kitchen worktop – in which case it can be as large as you want (within reason) – make sure you opt for a coffee-machine that is small and light enough to fit in one of your kitchen cupboards.
Some people like their coffee ready quickly, with minimal effort. Others like to put time and effort into crafting the perfect cup. If convenience is your priority, consider opting for a pod machine that does a lot of the hard work for you while still offering a lot of variety.
As a general rule: the higher the wattage, the faster your coffee will heat up. If you’re going to be making batches in large quantities, then a high wattage machine – perhaps a filter-coffee machine with a large jug – is going to be the right option for you. If it’s just you and a friend, you can afford to go lower with a machine that will just make the occasional espresso or latte.
Unless you only drink black coffee– espressos or americanos – then you may want to consider looking for a model that either has a steam arm or an integrated milk frothing function. This will give you the ability to make all kinds of drinks that use milk, such as cappuccinos and lattes.
Bar pressure is what’s responsible for the flavour of your drink. If the bar pressure isn’t powerful enough, you won’t get as strong a flavour. To achieve a great-tasting coffee with a smooth cream on the surface, aim to buy a model with a bar pressure of between 9-15 bars.
The top models tend to use thermoblock heating systems. The reason is that they heat water only to 90° – the optimal temperature for great coffee – rather than boiling point as you would for a cup of tea. This helps to avoid the horrible burnt taste that results if you heat the water too much. When buying your coffee machine, look for one with a thermoblock heating system.
Unless you’re buying a filter model, auto shutoff is a good function to look out for. It shuts down your coffee machine automatically after use if you haven’t touched it for a certain amount of time, which both saves energy and prevents coffee burning. Auto shutoff can be found on most models but not all, so try and find one with this function if you can.