Our round-up of the best coffee machines offers something for everyone. We’ve reviewed dozens of pod machines, espresso machines, bean-to-cup and filter coffee machines to come up with the perfect list.
The main decision you have to make is the type of coffee machine that suits you. If you already know, scroll down to our list of the best coffee machines, but otherwise here’s a guide to the ins and outs of coffee makers.
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Filter vs espresso
Coffee machines are split into two main types: filter and espresso. A filter machine drips hot water through ground coffee beans, giving a strong and flavoursome traditional coffee. Using either a thermos or heated plate, filter machines are an easy way to brew a large amount of coffee quickly and keep it warm. This makes them ideal for keeping a pot on the go, or for dinner parties.
When most people think of a coffee machine, an espresso machine is the one they have in mind. This is the type of device to wake your inner barista, letting you dispense your own shot of espresso. All of these machines push high-pressure hot water through compressed (tamped) coffee grounds, creating that distinctive shot of espresso: a rich, small drink (around 30-35ml is average) with the foamy crema on top.
Espresso, a drink in its own right, is the basis for all types of drinks that you get in your local coffee shop, including Americano (hot water added to espresso), cappuccino (double espresso and equal amounts of steamed milk and foamed milk), latté (double espresso, steamed milk with a small amount of froth), and macchiato (double espresso with a dab of foamed milk). There are hundreds of additional recipes and methods of producing each type of drink, making an espresso machine the perfect option for anyone that likes to experiment.
Which espresso machine is for you?
Espresso machines fall into three main types, traditional, bean-to-cup and pod. Manual and bean-to-cup machines both use coffee beans, giving you a staggering range of different options to choose from.
A traditional espresso machine gives you the most authentic experience, as they’re operated in the same way as machines in coffee shops. With one of these, you do everything yourself, using ground coffee that you tamp manually. It can take a while to learn the necessary skills, but you can get better and more consistent results with a traditional machine. Steaming milk is all performed manually, too, via a steamer wand that you insert into a jug.
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For convenience, a bean-to-cup machine is an excellent choice. These grind, tamp and dispense espresso at the touch of a button. In other words, you don’t need to learn any new skills to get going, but you still get the authentic coffee-shop experience, as fresh beans are used. The poshest of bean-to-cup machines can automatically froth and dispense milk, too; cheaper models have a manual steam wand so you can froth your own milk.
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Finally, pod machines are the ultimate in convenience. You just drop a pod into the machine, tap a button, and your coffee comes out with no hassle and little mess. Top machines can dispense or froth milk automatically, too; budget machines use pods of powdered milk, which doesn’t deliver the same results at all.