For many people, finding the right coffee machine is like discovering a gold mine. Although there are dozens of different coffee machines available on the market today, finding the particular machine that will fit your specific needs and preferences can sometimes be a daunting task.
The purpose of this coffee machine guide is to give you the information you need to be able to make an informed decision about which coffee machine will be the right one for you. Read on to discover the different features of each type of coffee machine, as well as an overview of how they work.
Table of Contents
- 1 Filter coffee machines
- 2 Pod & capsule coffee machines
- 3 Espresso coffee machines
- 4 Bean-to-cup coffee machines
- 5 Percolators
- 6 Things to consider
- 7 Coffee machine maintenance checklist
- 8 What types of espresso machines are on the market?
Filter coffee machines
Filter coffee machines are considered to be the perennial “classic” coffee making machine, and they are perhaps the easiest type to operate.
They are the ideal machine for brewing large quantities of fresh coffee at one time; in fact, the average filter coffee machine comes equipped with a pot or carafe that can accommodate anywhere between 8 to 12 cups of coffee.
The machine works by way of allowing water to slowly drip through a filter that the user fills with ground coffee. Disposable paper filters are the most common type of filter used for this machine, although there are some machines that feature a permanent reusable filter.
As the water drips through the filter, it becomes infused with the aroma and flavour of the coffee grinds. Once the coffee has been made, it can be served immediately, but the machine also features a hot plate that the pot or carafe rests upon in order to keep the coffee warm; this makes it easy to fetch refills later if need be.
It should be noted that there are several different cup volumes available for filter coffee machines, so you can determine the optimal amount of coffee you would like to make in one sitting.
In addition, should you choose a filter coffee machine with a permanent reusable filter, keep in mind that more maintenance and cleanup will be required versus the machines that work with paper filters, which can be thrown away.
Best filter coffee machine
|Melitta 1011-16 Look IV Thermal Timer||
4.8 / 5 stars
|Russell Hobbs 19170 Heritage||
4.7 / 5 stars
4.6 / 5 stars
Pod & capsule coffee machines
Pod & capsule coffee machines utilise small containers of coffee known as “pods” or “capsules”, which are basically small sealed cups that contain blended, roasted and ground coffee.
The machine is quite simple to operate; just insert the coffee capsule into the machine, and everything else is taken care of automatically. The machine forces hot water through the coffee in the pod, and then your cup is made with minimal mess or cleanup.
There are several different brands that manufacture pod and capsule machines, each of which has their own proprietary coffee flavours. Some machines even offer users the ability to make their own cappuccinos and lattes using fresh milk.
Best capsule coffee machine
|Sage Nespresso Creatista Plus||
4.8 / 5 stars
4.7 / 5 stars
|Krups Nespresso Expert||
4.6 / 5 stars
Espresso coffee machines
For the lover of high-octane coffee, espresso coffee machines are a dream come true. These machines allow you to create barista-style cups of espresso by way of a simple filter holder device and pre-ground coffee.
Many espresso coffee machines feature a pump that heats the water to temperature levels that are optimal for creating espresso crema drinks. Espresso coffee machines utilise precise bar pressure in order to push the water through the filter to create a smooth, rich and balanced espresso.
These machines also commonly feature a steam arm that is used to froth milk for various cappuccino or latte drinks, and some models are even built to accommodate coffee pods and capsules for added convenience.
Best espresso machines
|Delonghi Scultura ECZ351||
4.7 / 5 stars
|Sage Duo Temperature Pro||
4.7 / 5 stars
|Delonghi Dedica EC680||
4.6 / 5 stars
Bean-to-cup coffee machines
As the name implies, a bean-to-cup machine actually grinds the coffee beans for you, and then transforms the flavor from those freshly ground beans into hot cups of coffee.
All you have to do is press a button, and the machine will grind the coffee beans, tightly pack the ground coffee together and then push water through the filter at the optimal temperature and pressure to produce a fresh cup of espresso.
Once the machine fills your cup, the used grounds are then ejected into a removable tray for disposal.
Like the espresso machines, bean-to-cup coffee machines also feature a steam arm that can heat milk in order for you to transform your regular espresso drinks into cappuccinos or lattes. Bean-to-cup machines are a clear leader in terms of convenience, as all it really takes to operate this machine is the push of a button.
Best bean-to-cup coffee machines
|De’Longhi Magnifica S ECAM 22.320.SB||
4.6 / 5 stars
|De’Longhi Magnifica ESAM4200||
4.5 / 5 stars
4.5 / 5 stars
As you can see, we have reviewed some of the best bean to cup coffee machines on the UK market, so that you can choose one that suits your preferences.
A coffee percolator is basically a pot that features a small chamber near the bottom. This chamber is placed closest to the heat source (such as a range or stove), and a vertical tube extends from the chamber back to the top of the percolator.
Using nothing more than the laws of physics, the percolator brews coffee by cycling boiling water through coffee grounds until a perfect blend is achieved.
Most coffee enthusiasts comment that percolator-based coffee produces a more “robust” flavour, but the brewing process must be carefully monitored in order to avoid the potential pitfalls of using this method.
Best percolator and stovetop coffee maker
4.7 / 5 stars
|Elgento Coffee Percolator||
4.7 / 5 stars
|Lagostina Stove Top Espresso Maker||
4.5 / 5 stars
Things to consider
- Ease of use – Some people like to be involved in every part of the coffee-making process, while others just want to push a button and let the machine do the rest. If you’re short on time, or if you just don’t want to be bothered with the details of making coffee, try the easy pod & capsule machines for optimal convenience.
- Size and weight – You have to consider your available counter space, or whether you plan to store away your coffee machine when you’re not using it. If your machine won’t be a “permanent fixture” on your counter or worktop, it would be easier for you to choose a lighter and more portable model.
- Bar pressure – If you want to create the ideal crema on top of your espresso, you’re going to need a coffee machine that can produce at least 9 to 15 bars of pressure. This pressure is also an important factor in terms of the machine’s ability to extract the maximum amount of flavour from your coffee grounds.
- Wattage – The more wattage your coffee machine offers, the quicker it can bring the water to a boil. High wattage machines are ideal for people who are on-the-go and may not have a lot of time to wait for their daily dose of espresso.
- Heating element – Most espresso machines utilise what’s known as the Thermoblock heating system, which heats the water to 90 degrees Celsius, the optimal temperature needed to produce a rich espresso. The best thing about Thermoblock machines is that they can heat the coffee efficiently without overheating it, which can give it a bitter flavour.
- Steam arm – If you’re a fan of lattes, cappuccinos or macchiatos, you’re going to need a coffee machine that features a steam arm or some type of milk-frothing functionality so that you can create the milk-based coffee drinks that you love.
- Water tank and capacity – If you’re looking to make several cups of coffee in one sitting, be sure to select a coffee machine that offers a higher water capacity. For ease of use, many machines feature removable water tanks, and there are also transparent water tanks that make it easy for you to see how much water you’re working with in order to make your coffee.
- Automatic shut-off – Most coffee machines feature an automatic shut-off function that conserves energy and keeps the machine from unnecessary wear and tear.
Coffee machine maintenance checklist
1. Make sure that your machine has cooled all the way down and is unplugged before you attempt to clean it.
2. You will need to regularly clean your steam arm by blasting it with steam after you’ve used it; this will get rid of any unused milk. Wipe the steam arm to clean it, but avoid using abrasive sponges or pads.
3. Your coffee machine pot or carafe, along with the internal elements of the machine, will need to be cleaned on a periodic basis using fresh water. Consult the instruction manual for your particular model of coffee machine for specific cleaning details.
4. To ensure the longevity and proper working order of your coffee machine, be sure to turn it off whenever you’re not using it.
5. If you own a pod & capsule coffee machine, you will need to get it descaled at least two or three times per year. For more information on how to descale your particular model, consult the manufacturer’s user manual.
6. Avoid leaving water in the tank for long periods of time, and always make sure to use fresh water for any boiling that you do.
What types of espresso machines are on the market?
The demand for espresso machines has risen drastically as more and more consumers are looking for coffee machines that fit their preferences and define their personality and tastes. As opposed to the times past, the brands and espresso machine models present today are as many as the flavors of coffee. They range from simple to complex and exotic. Depending on your needs, your options and your budget, you can pick the machine that is best for you.
If you are a new or an infrequent espresso machine buyer, chances are you are wondering which machine will best serve your needs. The answer to such a question cannot be in black and white because consumers have their own lifestyles, personalities and budgets which have to be factored in when choosing espresso machines. There are automatic, semi-automatic and manual espresso machines and each of them comes with its own strengths and demerits.
The first step in your journey towards getting the best espresso machine is to decide on the type that suits you as well as the brand you feel strongly connected with probably because of quality or other sentimental reasons. There are lots of manufacturers of espresso machines and some of the top brands include Gaggia, Jura (see also our latest post about Jura coffee machines), Rancilio, Breville, Krups, and DeLonghi. These brands differ in complexity, functionality, and degrees of automation.
Many espresso enthusiasts settle for manual or semi manual machines whereas those who are after the final brew without much of customisations, the automatic models work for them. If you have a clear picture of what you need, choosing the best espresso machine will not be a herculean task.
Semi-automatic espresso machines
These machines have lots of operations such as grinding (see also our latest post about the Best Burr Coffee Grinders Under £200), tamping, spooning and timing the shot pulling. The reason they are called semi-automatic is because some of the processes are automated while others are not. Basically, these machines are designed for the espresso connoisseur.
If you want to get the best quality, flavour and taste out of your machine and ready to spend a little more time and effort in the coffee making process then the semi-automatic espresso is for you. Despite the little bit more work that it will give you, you will have more control over every nuance that goes into your perfect shot of espresso.
Among the features that make semi-automatic espresso machines include automated water temperature and pressure, manually adjustable water flow and steam, as well as a user-operated pump that is manually turned off and on for the ultimate control.
Super automatic espresso machines
Unlike the semi-automatic programmable espresso machines which allow you to program the extraction and stop after a specified amount of time, the super automatic machine does everything for you. In this way, it eliminates the possibilities of making mistakes during the coffee brewing session. That being said, not all coffee beans are the same and that is why these machines give you space to make adjustments to your grind. However, all adjustments are fully controllable through the espresso machine settings.
Tweaking your coffee is necessary for you to get the right humidity and density of your beans. At the beginning as you adjust and readjust your settings to get the perfect combination of the water temperature, extraction time, and grind size, it may seem a bit of work but once you get the correct settings and note down the numbers, you won’t have to repeat the process to get the perfect shot.
Some of the outstanding features of espresso machines include the ability to connect the machines to a waterline to enable it fill automatically, one-touch button technology to quickly make the shot you desire as well as the ability to dispense and froth milk automatically giving you more options for lattés and caffe.
Home espresso machines
We are living at a time when the cost of commodities and services is on the rise each day while the disposable income is dwindling or rising at a less than equivalent rate. To curtail this financially draining trend, many homeowners are choosing to buy their espresso machines so that they can make their own coffee at home.
While the idea is good, the execution may be a bit challenging if you don’t get the facts right. The best and most affordable espresso machines for homes are the automatic ones. They are capable of producing quality coffee at a fraction of the cost and time. This gives you double savings and a reason why you should go for one.
When buying home espresso machines, you need to look at a number of factors amongst them the number of cups the machine can make per day, the real intended use whether personal or for a small home office, the number of cappuccino or espresso drinkers in your family, the features you need and your budget (see also our latest post about the Best Coffee Machines For Under £100).
Manual espresso machines
These machines were common in the 1990s and they give you total control over most of the operations. This means for you to comfortably use it, you must be experienced in doing the settings hence they are reserved for qualified baristas.
Manual machines are lever operated and the pressure required for the steam to go through the coffee is generated by pulling the lever. The beauty with these machines is they are silent and have no pump noise because they come without the electric pump. When put in the kitchen, espresso machines bring in an air of elegance round them.
By varying the temperature during brewing, you can enhance the quality of your shot. At the beginning of the extraction process, your pressure should be low to ensure the grinds are moist enough and then as the process advances, you can increase the pressure to perfectly extract the shot.
These machines are very simple and accurate in the brewing process. They give you consistent shots and the chances of pulling a wrong shot are minimal unless you tamper with the capsule. In addition to their user friendliness, these machines have a great design and brew espresso based drinks easily and fast.
Now that the groundwork is laid, you can proceed and shop for your espresso machine that will give you a balance of both worlds; control and perfection.