Coffee Machines: Which One is Best for your Kitchen?

A cup of tea has always been regarded as the traditional British hot tipple but these days we’re turning into a nation of coffee connoisseurs. With a proliferation of High Street coffee chains and independent cafes offering a range of speciality hot drinks we’re learning more every day about what we want from our cup of coffee.

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Inevitably, we’re keen to continue this café culture in our own homes so demand for domestic coffee machines has risen in recent years and the manufacturers have responded. Shelves in department stores and speciality shops, and virtual shelves on specialist websites, are groaning under the weight of the huge range of coffee machines now available for purchase.

In most cases, coffee machines make an espresso coffee which you can then either drink as it is or add milk to turn it into a latte or cappuccino. Many coffee machines come with a milk spout for steaming and heating milk which can be added to the espresso brew in your cup.

It’s great for the consumer to have so much choice but sometimes too many options can result in confusion. There are several different types of coffee machines and many different brand names so it can be difficult to know which coffee machine is the best for your taste and lifestyle.

Some coffee machines use ground coffee only, others will grind coffee beans for you before making the coffee and yet more brew your coffee from sealed coffee pods. There is a vast difference in price between the various types and brands of coffee machines and some need more cleaning and maintenance than others. The type of machine you choose will depend on your budget, how fussy you are about your coffee and how willing you are to spend time keeping your machine in tip top condition.

Traditional espresso machines

Traditional espresso machines can use only ground beans to make coffee. The ground coffee is pressed into a filter basket which is placed in a porta filter with a handle. The porta filter is locked into place and the espresso machine pushes high pressure hot water through the ground beans to send coffee through the spout into your waiting cup.

These traditional machines have the advantage of being affordable – good quality models can start from as little as £40 – and any sort of ground coffee beans can be used, opening up a world of different flavours and strengths. It is easy to adjust the strength of the coffee to your taste by how much ground coffee you put into the basket and how tightly you pack it. However, they do need regular cleaning to avoid blockages.

Bean-to-cup coffee machines

Many coffee purists like to make their coffee fresh from beans, maximising the flavour of the resulting brew. Bean-to-cup machines will do the job for you – you simply put your beans into the machine and when you want a cup of coffee, the machine grinds the appropriate amount of beans and packs the resulting ground mixture before passing the hot water through it. The result is a fresh and flavoursome cup of coffee on demand.

Most bean-to-cup machines will use ground coffee as well, offering flexibility as well as ease of use and the freshest coffee. However, bean-to-cup coffee machines are expensive and heavy – expect to pay a few hundred pounds for a good quality machine. They need to be cleaned regularly to prevent blockages and clogging. If you are desperate to make coffee from beans but don’t want to pay the high price of a bean-to-cup machine you could buy a separate coffee grinder for just £20-£40 and use it with a traditional espresso machine.

Capsule machines

These are the easiest to use machines – pre-packaged and sealed capsules filled with ground coffee can be popped into the machine and freshly brewed coffee is poured into your cup seconds later. There is minimal mess and minimal cleaning required.

These machines are often neat and compact and need the least cleaning of all the different coffee machine types. They are ideal for people who don’t drink coffee very often at home as the sealed capsules keep the coffee inside fresh until it’s needed and they are not too expensive to buy – expect to pay around £150. However, buying a box of capsules costs more than buying a packet of ground coffee or beans and your choice is much more limited as your machine will only take capsules of its own brand. Also, as the capsules are pre-packaged, you have no control over the strength of your coffee.

What coffee machine brands are available?

Many manufacturers are fighting it out in the crowded coffee machine market but the best known brands are arguably Nespresso, De Longhi, Tassimo, Gaggia and Krups. However, they are by no means the only brands available nor are they always the best so it’s worth researching and looking at reviews before deciding which brand to choose.

Where can I buy a coffee machine?

Most large department stores, electrical appliance retailers and supermarkets will have a selection of coffee machines available in their kitchen and electrical department. However, if you want a wider range of coffee machines to choose from you should seek out a speciality kitchen or coffee store. They may allow you to taste coffee from a range of different machines to help you make your choice.

Alternatively, you could look online to buy your coffee machine. The aforementioned retailers will feature coffee machines on their websites as well as online retailers such as Amazon. You could go directly to the brand website for the widest choice of models.

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