A decent cup of coffee in the morning can make or break your day. But to wake up to that perfectly brewed fresh and steaming coffee, you need to select the right machine.
There are so many options on the market to choose from that selecting a coffee maker can be confusing. So to help you out, here are some questions you should be asking yourself before buying one.
How much do I need to invest to get a decent coffee?
A coffee maker is often seen as a luxury item, but they don’t all have a luxury price.
At the top end, you could pay hundreds to recreate the perfect Italian brew in your kitchen or to have something that wows your friends when they come around and see it placed on the worktop.
So you need to decide is the machine to provide an everyday coffee just for you and the family every morning; for occasional use with friends and after dinner; or specifically for certain types of coffee such as Filter, Espresso or Lattes.
Brands such as Bugatti, Delonghi and Gaggia are at the top end of the price scale with very specialised machines for the ultimate in coffee drinking.
What will I get from a filter machine?
If you just like an everyday strong coffee made from powder, water and steam rather than an instant jar, a standard filter machine is your best option.
These are often the cheapest available makers and are very simple to use. You put the ground coffee in, you put the water in, and it boils the water and then uses gravity to extract the flavour of the coffee as the liquid is sucked through.
Typically these are the coffee makers with a jug, which can be used to pour it into a cup. Some can do as many as 12 cups, handy if you have guests round and want to serve them all at once.
Smaller models simply come with a large mug to create one cup quickly and you can find one or two that include a milk frother on the side.
What about espresso?
Espresso coffee machines use bar pressure to force water through the coffee rather than just gravity. This extracts more flavour from the coffee and creates a thicker liquid. It also forms a foam known as a crema on top to lock the flavour into your coffee and provide a stronger taste.
Espresso is the base of many coffee drinks, for example a latte or cappuccino. To create these you would need a milk warmer/frother arm either built-into the coffee maker or bought separately.
These espresso machines range widely in look, colour, price and power. They can also become more complicated in their features, allowing you to use ground beans you’ve bought or ones made in a separate grinder.
The more bars of pressure the machine is capable of, the stronger the flavour of your espresso but some models are capable of both a steam action similar to a filter device and a pump action based the bar pressure.
Knowing how much counter-top space you have is crucial when looking for an espresso machine as they vary hugely in size.
How do espresso machines differ from Bean to Cup?
Bean to Cup coffee machines are espresso machines in which you place whole coffee beans. They are then ground inside allowing you more choice over the type and quality of the bean your coffee is made from.
They will generally come with milk frothing capabilities and also some have a chamber to store the milk in and then pump it through into the cup for more elaborate looking and tasting drinks.
They again work on pump pressure and the more bars you have, the more powerful it is.
What are those Pod machines?
If you want good coffee with less hassle and less mess, then a Pod coffee machine might be worth a look.
You simply buy small individual pouches of different types of coffee; place them in the machine and out comes the hot, dark liquid with one pod enough for one cup.
Well-known brands in this space are Senseo by Phillips, Dolce Gusto and Tassimo. They may also allow you to use pods containing other hot drinks such as chocolate but generally don’t contain the ability to froth milk.
Nespresso is a premium version of the pod model, with versions using both steam or pumped bar pressure to create your drink. Many of these will have frothers attached.
Nespresso also has a massive range of coffee types and specialist stores online devoted to it. It has also just launched a recycling facility to deal with the waste of the pods.
One benefit of pods is you can store them for longer, keeping the coffee inside fresh thanks to a vacuum seal.
What else should I consider?
There are many other features to look for including warming trays to keep your cup hot. If you’re in a hard water area, you’re going to need an anti-scaling product too. This ensures the machine’s quality and won’t ruin the taste of your drinks over time.
- Steam Wand - The arm on an espresso machine that is used to heat and froth milk for cappuccinos, flat whites and lattes.
- Crema - A foam created by carbon dioxide contained in the oils which have been forced out of the coffee bean by the high pressure water. It is what makes espresso so special.
- Tamper - A cylindrical-shaped steel or aluminium tool used to compact the coffee. It’s the element on the front with the handle that your ground beans are place into.
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