Choosing the best Coffee Machine that suits all of your needs can be a challenging task and, with so many options available, in most instances it can be quite confusing. However fear not because our comprehensive coffee machine buying guide for 2017 will take you through the different types of Coffee Machines available on the market. Our independent guides assess the merits of each different model, looking at everything from style to functionality, so sit back, pour yourself a cup of the good stuff and digest our latest installment below:
Filter Coffee Machines
If you have a need for a large quantity of coffee to be brewed or don’t buy in to the more complex, specific coffee varieties you need look no further than a Filter Coffee machine. Easily the simplest to use of all the variants – ground coffee is loaded into a container lined with a paper or permanent filter and water is run through the filter to produce coffee.
The coffee runs into a jug which sits on a heated base to keep it warm should it not all be consumed at once. It’s important to remember that coffee which has been sat for some time being warmed will deteriorate in taste after a while so only brew as much as you feel you will need.
The two main variants of Filter Coffee machines are permanent or paper filtered. Paper filters are disposable and are generally thrown away after a single use – they vary in size and how permeable they are (how much water is allowed through). Permanent filters require cleaning after a few uses, depending on the product, but they can save you a lot of money in the long run as paper filters are roughly £7 for 250 – it doesn’t sound like much but it’s still additional expense.
The positives are clear with Filter Coffee machines: they’re very straight-forward, cheaper than automated machines and they come in different sizes depending on your needs. The drawbacks are very apparent too: they only produce black coffee, you may need a bean grinder if you can’t purchase ground beans in your area and they can be problematic to clean.
Pod/Capsule Coffee Machines
Capsule machines are very straightforward to use: single use pods are inserted into these machines to produce a variety of coffee products. Sounds brilliant doesn’t it? Insert pod, press button, receive coffee – why would you choose anything else?
Pods and Capsules can be expensive and some have a tendency to taste slightly artificial, especially those that have been created in partnership with brand names such as Oreo and Cadbury’s. There’s also the matter of waste – Nescafe may use aluminium which is infinitely recyclable but the others tend to use plastic which isn’t as environmentally friendly so make sure you check out our brands section for the full lowdown on each make.
Many of the Capsule machines produce fantastic coffee and some even have the facility to make lattes and cappuccinos using steamed milk. They’re also generally very inexpensive so if you’re looking for extreme ease of use at low initial cost, Capsule machines are the ones for you.
Espresso Coffee Machines
Perfect for anyone looking for a small piece of Costa Coffee in their own home – the barista style Coffee Machine. The ground coffee is inserted into the receptacle and forced into place by the user and water is forced through the holder to produce coffee. It all sounds very simple but that’s not quite the case sadly.
Applying the wrong pressure to the coffee arm when inserting it to the machine can cause a bad seal which will see water splash out or it will produce a bad brew – practice makes perfect with these machines. The difficulty moves up yet another level should the machine be fitted with a steam arm for heating and frothing milk – this is a skill that takes a great deal of development or even training!
The difficult process is very rewarding once mastered but you can expect to waste a lot of coffee with these machines unless you have work with one before. You may also need to invest in a coffee bean grinder as freshly ground beans produce far superior coffee. If you are patient or have worked as a barista before, this is definitely the way to go for the best coffee but if you’re looking for ease of use look elsewhere.
Bean to Cup Coffee Machines
These are the jack of all trades as far as coffee machines are concerned. There is an in-built bean grinder that freshly grinds beans and produces filter coffee directly into your cup at the touch of a button – some even have in built milk dispensers or steaming arms.
There really are no drawbacks as far as the performance of the machine is concerned but cleaning can be very frustrating. The used ground coffee will either remain in the filter until manually removed or it will drop into a bin somewhere on the machine – be warned, once ground coffee has been used it begins to mould after as little as 24 hours and can be quite a nasty surprise if you forget.
Ease of use when compared to cleaning troubles makes for an interesting decision on your part but aiming for a basic Bean to Cup machine will remove a lot of the cleaning issue – no steam arm and a manual system for removing used coffee will save a lot of hassle.
Important Things to Consider
There are some very important factors you must consider before deciding on which Coffee Machine is best for you. Yes, you need to settle on the best style of machine for your needs but like any other decision you face there’s far more to it than that:
Size and Weight
This may not sound like much of a problem as you will be unlikely to move your machine very much once it is placed in your kitchen or installed. Consider whether you will store the machine when it is not in use – will you be able to lift it into its storage location? Not so much of an issue if your machine will be on constant display but bigger isn’t always better.
Ease of Use
Consider how much time and effort you’re willing to put in for a cup of coffee. If you’re used to boiling a kettle and spooning instant coffee into a cup, the step up to a full sized, barista style espresso machine is probably a bad idea. Choose a machine based on your level of ability or how much you are willing to learn.
The greater the wattage of your machine, the faster the water will come to temperature. If you need to make a lot of coffee, or brew in a hurry, choose a higher wattage.
9 and 15 bars is the right level of pressure to produce a perfect espresso. Anything higher or lower than this is redundant.
The most efficient heating element is a Thermoblock – they operate at roughly 90 degrees which is the optimum for espresso coffee. Overheating coffee will lead to a bitter, unpleasant taste.
Automated Shut Down
The energy conscious among us will need to look for a machine that shuts itself down after a certain period of time without use. It does save on electricity but be mindful of the time frame as you wouldn’t want to machine to switch off just as you wanted another cup.
For those who prefer Lattes and Cappuccinos, a steam arm will be essential. They can be difficult to use but they really are the only way to get the best from your Latte.
Water Tank & Capacity
For cleaning purposes, a removable water tank is essential. A fixed tank can cause access issues for cleaning and is a feature of some less expensive machines. You will also want a clear or translucent tank to monitor the water level – there’s nothing as frustrating as wanting to brew a fresh coffee to find the tank is empty without your knowledge.
Every coffee machine will come with some form of instruction manual and it goes without saying you should read it before using the machine to avoid irritation. The guide should also contain maintenance advice which must be adhered to otherwise any form of warranty could be compromised.