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What to Look For when Choosing a Coffee Maker

Do you want a machine that makes strong black coffee, rich espressos, creamy lattes or frothy cappuccinos?  Or perhaps one that makes all four?

Do you want a basic, easy to use machine or a feature loaded beauty?

What with an abundance of choice on the market these days, deciding which coffee maker to opt for has never been harder.

From cafetières and percolators to espressos and cappuccinos, you need to consider what type of coffee you like, as many machines are now designed specifically for certain types.

Not only that, but you also need to consider how much dosh you’re willing to cough up, how much you want to make at once, and how much effort you want to put in.

But buying a coffee maker does not have to be a hard and daunting task. Here is a quick guide to choosing your machine.

How much coffee will I brew at one time?

The amount you brew at one time is a major deciding factor when considering what coffee maker to get.

Ask yourself how often you will use it and how many you are likely to make it for. Are you the sole coffee drinker in your family, or part of a family of coffee lovers? Do you all drink coffee together or at completely opposite times of day?

For individual coffee drinkers a one-cup machine is ideal; by only ever making coffee for one you can avoid wasting good fresh coffee that would otherwise be left in the machine.

But for a family that sits around together with a cuppa in the evening, a four or eight-cup coffee maker would be the more efficient option.

What types of coffee makers are available?

There’s a huge variety of coffee makers to choose from, the price increasing with the complexity of the machine.

If it’s simple black coffee you want, opt for a Cafetière, Filter coffee maker, or Percolator.

A Cafetière is ultimately a glass container with a wire filter attached to a plunger. Relatively cheap and modern in style, they’re ideal for sole coffee drinkers as the filter enables you to make the exact amount of coffee you want.

Filter Coffee Makers are great for first-time buyers, as they are extremely easy to use, and come in numerous cup volumes. Water slowly drips through a basket of ground coffee to infuse in a pot for simple black coffee.

Also, as Filter Coffee Machines usually have integrated thermopots and hot plates, there is no need to boil water.

For families with different preferences when it comes to the strength of their filter coffee, Percolators are perfect. Contrary to the Filter Coffee Maker, ground coffee is placed above water in a holder, and, once boiled, the water rises and seeps through the filter. The glass dome allows you to see how dark the coffee is turning so you can choose when it is suited to your taste.

Which is better, permanent filters or paper holders?

Filter coffee makers have either permanent filters or paper holders. While the permanent filters save you money, they can stain and are quite messy to use.

Paper holders, on the other hand, are considered more hygienic as you can throw them away after use.

Espresso Makers

If you’re an Espresso junkie , coffee connoisseur or cappuccino lover, you should opt for an Espresso Maker.

Espresso Makers use finely-ground coffee to produce more concentrated, richer coffee than Coffee Filter Makers, and are the base for any cappuccino or latte.

There are two types of machines that Espresso Makers fall into: Pressure and Pump.

What’s the difference between a Pressure and Pump Machine?

A Pressure Machine basically boils water in a chamber until the steam and pressure builds up enough to force the water through to the coffee. The steam is then used for frothing.

However, the water can get too hot and there may not be enough bar pressure to make a top-notch espresso.

A Pump Machine is more expensive, but more accurate. Because they have a separate tank and a Thermoblock system, the water is heated to the optimum temperature for making coffee (85-92°C), and sent through at the correct bar pressure.

Did somebody say Nespresso?

A Nespresso Maker is a great alternative to an Espesso Maker, and involves less effort and mess. Using a pod-system, the coffee is blended, roasted, grounded and then sealed in pod capsules that remain fresh for up to nine months.

Key points to consider when purchasing an Espresso Maker.

There are five key points to consider when buying your Espresso Maker: the valve, Thermoblock, filter holder, wattage and bar pressure.

Though most machines have a valve to control water flow, the best quality ones have solenoid valves. These increase water pressure at the point of delivery, and shut off once extraction is complete.

For authentic tasting coffee, it’s a good idea to have a coffee maker with a Thermoblock system. If you’re a latte drinker, consider getting a coffee maker with a Thermoblock system for frothing milk (120°C).

Filter holders should be kept as warm as possible, so think about the volume of coffee you are making. Basic models have aluminium holders but to retain heat for as long as possible, invest in a slightly dearer coffee maker with a brass filter holder.

High wattage machines are great if you are making large volumes, as the higher the wattage the faster the water is boiled.

Good bar pressure allows the steam to meet the coffee granules at the correct speed. The optimum bar pressure is 15-19; if it’s too slow the taste will be affected.

Classic hues or vibrant shades?

Whatever your style, there is a rainbow of colours, styles and sizes to choose from when picking out the perfect coffee maker.

If you’re looking for something to fit in your classically styled kitchen, opt for a black, silver or cream coffee maker.

But if it’s a bold slash of colour you want on your counter, major brands have a huge range to choose from. Just make sure it doesn’t clash too heavily with the rest of your kitchen appliances!

Timers

A timer is a fantastic feature if you’re someone who wants to wake up with a bang to the smell of fresh coffee. It allows you to set the brewing time as you please, so by setting the machine to brew automatically for when you wake, it gives you the luxury of having fresh coffee to pour first thing.

Is there anything else I should know?

Yes. Some Filter Coffee Makers use a pod system, which is basically another way of producing filter coffee, minus the mess of unsealed granules.

If you do buy a Filter coffee maker with a pod system, it’s a good idea to check the pod compactability; if you have a large machine and only make one cup, you’re at risk of wasting good coffee.

If you want the option to make a cappuccino, look for a machine with an integrated milk frother, or buy a milk frother gadget separately to attach.

Often with Nespresso makers, you can only stick to the brand, so bear that in mind when deciding which one to go for, as you will be stuck with that supplier!

It’s always good to look for a coffee maker with a self-cycle system, as it makes it easier and quicker to keep it clean.

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