Making a cup of coffee at home is no longer as simple (or boring) as using instant granules and hot water from the kettle.
A coffee machine can give you barista-style coffee in the comfort of your own kitchen. Most can also work much quicker than your kettle can boil, too, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘instant coffee’.
But if you have recently looked into purchasing a new one, you will know that there is a ridiculously huge choice available and so many types of coffee machine.
This guide will hopefully help you decide which is the best coffee machine for your home and needs:
How To Choose The Best Coffee Machine
Not only are there a lot of different machines, but they also promise to all do different things. Some are best for authentic coffee, others are best for espressos, and others are best for making cappuccinos and various hot drinks as well. There are also machines which can only make one cup at a time or some that can easily make enough for 15 cups.
Things to consider before you start looking include:
- How many cups will you want to make at any one time?
- Which types of coffee do you want to be able to make?
- Do you prefer using coffee beans, pre-ground granules, or pods?
- Do you regularly require milk and want a milk frother?
- What is your limit for the long-term costs?
BEAN TO CUP MACHINE
BEST FOR: The freshest coffee for the real enthusiast bothered about the best taste
These provide the user with fresh coffee whenever needed, as they grind the coffee beans on demand.
Most are very customisable depending on your preferences. You can often choose a range of settings from water temperature to coffee strength, and most also come with inbuilt milk frothers for making cappuccinos and lattes.
There is also often the option to use ground coffee rather than beans, in case you have run out or would like a particular blend.
A bean to cup coffee machine is usually really easy to use and set up, with clear buttons and LED screens to tell you exactly what has been selected. You can often save your favourite settings too, so the next time you go to make a coffee, all you have to do is pop in the water and beans, switch it on and press one button.
All of this can come at a price though. They are the most expensive option on the market, often starting at around £400 and going up to anywhere beyond £1000. The ones at the top of the range aren’t necessarily the best though, so don’t let this factor put you off. There are plenty under £500 which are still high-end.
Bear in mind that they are also the largest type of coffee machine, so you need to ensure you have the worktop space.
BRANDS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
- Completely authentic method and taste
- Customisable and easy to use
- Fresh coffee on demand
- The most expensive option in most cases
- Can be very large and bulky
ESPRESSO COFFEE MACHINE
BEST FOR: Creating customisable espressos for a seriously strong coffee
Espresso machines create your perfect blend of espresso, with the water amount and coffee strength often customisable.
This can then be drunk as is, or as a base and manually turned into a cappuccino, latte or simply a full-sized coffee with the addition of milk and extra hot water.
There are three broad types of espresso machine – manual, automatic and semi-automatic. The former requires you to manually grind and add the coffee, whereas automatic machines do all of the hard work for you, including the grinding.
Even though the majority are manual/lever operated, the automatic models often sit at the higher end of the price range and can also be used with coffee beans.
To avoid a bitter taste, you need to look at the bar pressure. This is the speed at which the steam meets the coffee granules, and the ideal pressure will also create a good ‘crema’ (froth on the top of the cup). Look for one between 15-19 bars.
BRANDS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
- Cheaper than a bean to cup machine
- Any ground coffee can be used
- Espressos are adaptable and can be customised
- Take more time and effort than pod machines
BEST FOR: Easy coffee preparation and to make a wide range of hot drinks
Pod coffee machines are incredibly easy to use. Simply pop the capsule in, press start, and let the device do all the hard work for you. The all you need to do is throw the pod away. Every one contains hermetically sealed roasted or ground coffee beans.
Depending on the particular brand you get, there may also be capsules available which contain the ingredients ready to make other drinks such as hot chocolate, matcha and green teas. There is also often a wide range of coffees available, from cappuccinos to mochas.
While they are easy to use, you can be restricted with your hot drinks choice depending on the brand you purchase. The machines are also at the lower end of the price scale on most occasions (starting at just £50), but pods can be expensive – certainly a lot pricier than buying ground coffee in bulk.
BRANDS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
- TASSIMO by Bosch
- Dolce Gusto by De’Longhi
- Dolce Gusto by Krups
- Nespresso by Krups/Magimix/De’Longhi/KitchenAid/Sage
- The most convenient option
- Machine can be really cheap
- Extensive choice of models available for your needs
- Large selection of drinks and coffee varieties
- Often quite small and easy to place into any kitchen
- Pods can be expensive especially when used regularly
- Coffee isn’t fresh
- Limited to the choice provided by your manufacturer
- Can only make one cup at a time
FILTER COFFEE MACHINE
BEST FOR: The classic brewing method, and if you want to make a carafe of coffee
A filter coffee machine is possibly the best-known type, and certainly one of the oldest. They work like a cafetière, passing water through the ground coffee and into a warmed jug. This can then often be kept warm so you can top up your mug after an hour, or have it waiting ready for guests to arrive for a coffee morning.
The amount of coffee made depends on the size of the jug and the amount of water you use. There are models which can make between one and 12+ cupfuls at any one time. A timer also operates some, so you can set it up to brew ready for when you go downstairs in the morning.
Most are relatively inexpensive, starting at under £40. Models which include extra features such as automatic cleaning programmes or a built-in grinder for beans may be over £100.
There is also the cost of the filters to take into consideration, however. Some need a new filter paper with every use, but some have washable filters which will last for several brews.
There are also two types of jug available. Glass carafes are the most common and sit on a hot plate to keep warm, but EU law regulates that hot plates can only keep them warm for a maximum of 40 minutes. Continually heating coffee also decreases its quality and can make it bitter. Thermal jugs use insulation to keep the contents warm, so the quality never drops.
BRANDS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
- Russell Hobbs
- Inexpensive models available
- More than one cup can be made at a time
- Can only make black coffee – milk etc. must be added manually
- Filters can get expensive if they need to be replaced after every use
VACUUM COFFEE MAKERS:
BEST FOR: Portability, or no-hassle/energy-free brews
While some may argue they can’t really be classed as a machine, vacuum coffee makers are rapidly increasing in popularity, even though they’ve been around since the 1830’s. They are one of the most prominent trending types of maker.
Design and composition vary between models, but generally, they work by brewing coffee using two chambers, where both vapour pressure and a vacuum produce coffee. Also known as a siphon/syphon coffee maker, heating and cooling the lower vessel changes the pressure of the water, first pushing it into the upper container, then allowing the water to fall back down into the lower vessel. This goes through a filter, leaving the grounds behind.
Prices range anywhere from £30 to over £100 for some more technical models. They can either be heated via a stovetop or standalone through an alcohol or butane burner, which makes them perfect for taking camping.
Smaller portable coffee makers, such as the Aeropress, are also classed as vacuum coffee machines due to using manual pressure in the production of the drink.
People rate them for their ease of use and cleaning. They may look more like something you’d find in your old secondary school science lab, but produce a good clean cup of coffee.
BRANDS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
- Aerobie Aeropress
- Use little energy
- Most are transportable
- Novelty way to make coffee
- Take a lot longer to heat than conventional machines
- Can easily encounter vacuum seal issues, meaning coffee isn’t correctly made
So Which is the Best Type of Coffee Machine?
While choosing the best coffee machine can be a huge decision and overwhelming, knowing which type does which tasks helps to narrow the choice.
Always remember that the decision doesn’t just end with the type of model. There are hundreds of machines available within each category, and some are better than others. Just because you may have decided on a bean to cup machine doesn’t mean every single bean to cup machine is for you and your needs.
Most brands also have a varying range of models available, depending on price and function. To make things a bit clearer, our buying guide can help you decide.