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Whether you’re looking for a good Italian coffee or you just want the occasional hit of caffeine, coffee machines have increasingly become an important feature of the modern kitchen. With increasingly busy consumers spending less time on the high street, grabbing a coffee at home is an increasingly popular option – and our expectations are high!
There is a wide choice of coffee machines to select for your kitchen with a variety of added extras to make your coffee in just the way you want. The Ciao Shopping Guide to Coffee Machines gives the coffee enthusiast an overview of some of the most important features to bear in mind – whether you’re perfect for an espresso machine or more suited to a classic filter coffee maker.
Don’t forget that different machines will suit different people. The first decision to make is whether you are a frequent or occasional coffee drinker, as this will affect the investment that you’re prepared to make.
If you only want a few cups of coffee once in a while, perhaps the cafetiere option is best for you. A cafetiere is a plastic or glass container with a wire plunger on the inside to filter the coffee after you’ve left it brewing for whatever you consider the right amount of time. Cafetieres are cost efficient and very easy to use – you can’t really go wrong, although you’ll miss out on many of the more personalised and advanced features of today’s more high-tech machines.
The phrase ‘coffee machine’ usually refers to a filter machine. Water drips slowly through the ground coffee into the cup placed underneath the machine. These machines will usually heat the water for you, saving the time of having to boil the kettle.
For those who really need a quick caffeine hit, an espresso machine is ideal. Dedicated to providing the best intense caffeine shot, these machines use beans that are ground more finely than the filter equivalent. The more finely a coffee is ground, the slower the espresso will come out of the machine. A good espresso cup may take as long as 25 seconds to fill up!
As you’ll see from the Ciao community, the espresso machine is one of the most popular ones with our users. If this is the one that particularly takes your fancy you can find reviews of all shapes and sizes of machines here.
Some brands will offer you the ability to make multiple kinds of coffee. These are often proprietary brands which offer ‘pod’ coffee – small capsules of coffee which keep in a cool environment for several months. These machines do away with the messy filter system or the necessity for a large amount of loose coffee grounds and may seem ideal for the more hands-off coffee maker, especially as the system often allows you to make hot chocolate or even soup in your machine.
However, you do tend to only be able to make one cup at a time and each machine tends to be compatible with only one brand of coffee – so make sure you like it before you buy!
Guide price differs massively from machine to machine, with prices varying from L50 to as much as L1,500. A standard, good quality coffee machine is likely to cost around L100 - L150, although there are a few bargains out there for less. At the top end of the market a semi professional machine could cost over L1,000, but this is generally superfluous to what is required by most. The secret to selecting the correct machine is to think ahead and decide how much you’re prepared to spend and how often you drink coffee. These factors will help you determine which of the mod-cons you require most from your apparatus.
If you’re looking for a cheap option the cafetiere will be your best bet. Filter coffee machines can cost anything from tens to hundreds of pounds, depending on what other features you want. If you’re after something that will create any kind of coffee your heart could desire, you’re likely to be looking at the top end of the price bracket!
A major factor you will need to consider is how much coffee you require from a single brew. Many of the products, especially the drip machines, will offer between 6-12 cups. However, if you are the only person looking for a cup of coffee, it is worth looking at a ‘1-4 machine option’ which ensures your coffee is maintained at a better temperature.
Filter machines will give you a great range of capacities and are a good bet if you’re looking to make a large pot at once. Cafetieres are also flexible – you can get an individual version or anything up to a family sized pot. Pods can be trickier; bear in mind that you may need to insert a separate pod for every cup of coffee, which can be a bit laborious.
When purchasing your coffee machine you can choose from a glass or thermal pot, both of which have advantages and disadvantages. The most notable is that while the glass pot is more easily topped up with water, a thermal pot will keep your coffee warmer for longer. However, other extra features are available with certain machines to ensure your coffee doesn’t go cold. The majority of decent products offer a cup warmer while certain others also provide a hot water top-up feature.
Personalising your coffee
Jazzing up your coffee these days is so much more than “one lump or two”! For the more adventurous coffee enthusiast, certain products now include innovative ways to personalise your coffee. One of these is a frothing wand, which will be of particular appeal to those in favour of a cappuccino or latte. The best machines will also offer a special pot where you can keep milk to make your coffee absolutely perfect.
Often the timing of your cup of coffee can be a crucial factor. This is especially true for those in a rush to get to work in the morning. If this is something that matters to you, perhaps you should consider an automatic timer option that means a freshly brewed cup is ready at a time of your choice.
For those who are also looking to temper or even maximise the levels of caffeine, a strength controller is advised to ensure you neither fall asleep on the job nor find yourself bouncing off the walls!
If you would like to easily review the options you have selected, certain machines integrate a digital screen, which will allow you to check your timer, strength and temperature preferences at a glance.
Again, if these features are what really excites you, you probably don’t want a humble cafetiere. The higher end espresso, pod and filter machines will give you a full range of personalisation choices.
The source of the coffee itself is also a big factor when deciding which coffee machine will be best for you. The simplest option is to buy ready-ground coffee that is easily poured into the machine.
Aside from this, the most common coffee source, there are a handful of other systems. By selecting a machine with an integrated grinder, you will find yourself paying extra with prices starting at around L150. This ensures you can use fresh coffee to make your drink as authentic as possible, but be prepared for the cleaning that comes as a result. If you’re keen to purchase the very best grinder, look out for a burr grinder as opposed to a steel blade. This is less likely to leave a burnt taste in the coffee as the beans will be ground opposed to sliced.
If this sounds too much like hard work you may want to consider the pod or capsule option, which lessen the decision-making process to a significant degree!
All coffee machines need to be cleaned and it’s worth taking a look at your chosen model’s requirements before you commit yourself to a potentially arduous regime – especially if you’re going to be using the machine on a daily basis. Does it require a specific kind of cleaning product, water filter, updates or other additional tool that you need to add to your shopping list? For example, a filter coffee machine will require either disposable paper filters which must be removed after every use, or a permanent one which will require more intense (and potentially messy) cleaning to keep it in peak condition.
The more committed coffee drinker will want to keep their state-of-the-art machine in tip-top form, while a more laid-back or occasional drinker may be happy with something that can be swished out with water once in a while.
The perfect blend for you
As you’ll be able to see by now, the choice of coffee machine is as varied as the way you take your coffee in the morning. Starting with the essentials – in other words, what really matters to you in a cup of coffee – will help you decide which machine really suits your needs and which add-ons and applications are just an optional extra.
Advantages: Good coffee, versatile, milk frothing function Disadvantages: angle of steam nozzle isn't great, wants grounds emptying too often
Why did I get this machine? My parents bought this machine as a Christmas present to each other 2 1/2 years ago. We had had a bean to cup machine several years before that but had not replaced it when it broke down. However we have been very impres ...
I have had this model for 3 years and rate this as one of my best ever purchases. It is very easy to use - simply fill with water, pour beans in the top, set the dials to the strength and size required and press the cup button. The machine runs water th ...
Advantages: Easy to use Disadvantages: May not suit everyone
~A quick and easy way to make yourself a fresh expresso~ If looking for a quick, simple and reliable way to make yourself a fresh and steamy cup of expresso for those moments when nothing else will do, then read on as in my experience you could do fa ...
Advantages: Cheap, very easy to use, portable (ideal for camping) Disadvantages: 1 cup version too small, a chore to clean, takes ages to boil
Renato Bialetti, son of founder Alfonso Bialetti, is credited with being the man behind the Moka Express back in 1933. Story has it the Moka Expresso “revolutionised” the way of making coffee at home thanks to a successful advertisi ...
Advantages: Quick and makes great coffee Disadvantages: none
I like my coffee, but it is the fresh ground coffee taste that I prefer. The smell alone is so inviting. The aroma of fresh coffee and the promise of a decent cuppa is very appealing. I do have a coffee maker, which also makes espresso and ...