Best coffee machine 2018: Espresso, bean-to-cup, pod and filter machines reviewed

Far from being a single type of refreshment, the beauty of coffee is in its almost infinite varieties – both in terms of how it’s brewed and the choice of bean. Think of it more like a fine wine. The downside of such variety is that finding the best coffee machine to deliver your chosen drink is that much harder. As always, we’re here to help.

We’ve reviewed a huge selection of coffee machines, and we’re the only site that roasts its own coffee beans to ensure a level of consistency that rivals can’t meet. Simply put, we’re obsessed about coffee, and as such, are best placed to help you find your perfect machine. For more information on how we pick the best coffee machines, read how we test coffee machines.

To make things easy, we’ve listed our top machines below – each one is best in class for quality and value. If you’re looking for something slightly different, then refer to our advice and guides at the bottom of the page.

Our five top picks

1. Melitta Barista TS Smart

Our favourite bean-to-cup coffee machine

The Melitta Barista TS Smart is a top bean-to-cup coffee machine, capable of producing high-quality drinks – from spot-on espresso to enticing cappuccinos and lattes – all at the touch of a button. This machine has 10 user profiles, so everyone in your house can customise their favourite recipes. The “smart” part of the name refers to the Bluetooth app, which makes it easy to program your favourite drinks using your phone.

For more information, read our full Melitta TS Smart review

2. Smeg ECF01

Our favourite manual espresso machine

Smeg ECF01

If you’re a hardcore home barista with high expectations of your espresso machine, look no further than the speedy, feature-packed and 1950s design-inspired Smeg ECF01. Its Thermoblock tech helps it reach the optimal temperature in a staggering 40 seconds, and it has a clever knack for remembering exactly how much water you like in your coffee every time. There’s no denying this machine’s sheer all-round brilliance.

Other notable perks include a cup-warming surface on the machine’s top that’s large enough for two cups. There’s also a de-calc alarm to let you know when it needs a clean to keep the coffee flowing smoothly. This is manual coffee making at its fastest, most practical, and certainly its most attractive.

For more information, read our full Smeg ECF01 review

3. Sage Nespresso Creatista Uno

Our favourite pod espresso machine

Sage Nespresso Creatista Uno geri
Pod machines are built for ease, not necessarily artistic ability. The Sage Nespresso Creatista Uno changes that, with a machine that gives you the ease that you’d expect from a pod machine, but the ability to free-pour milk to make your own creations like a professional barista. Taking a standard milk jug, the Creatista Uno can steam milk automatically; the pouring is up to you.

High-quality espresso comes at the touch of the button, with this model supporting Nespresso’s ristretto, espresso and lungo settings. Best of all, the coffee machine is excellent value and won’t take up much room on your worktop.

For more information, read our full Sage Nespresso Creatista Uno review

4. Melitta AromaFresh Grind and Brew

Our favourite filter coffee machine


Filter coffee machines are best when used with freshly ground coffee, and the Melitta AromaFresh Grind and Brew makes that easy by including a grinder. While you can set the machine to deliver the right amount of coffee you need (two to 10 cups worth), you have to manually fill the right water level.

Melitta has used paper filters for the AromaFresh Grind and Brew, which is a great choice – you get a fresh one each time you make coffee. Washable filters may seem more convenient, but they can become tainted with use. Coffee quality is excellent, with the AromaFresh delivering rich and smooth coffee in large amounts.

There’s a handy timer, too, so you can set the machine to ensure your coffee is ready in the morning. For convenience and quality, the Melitta AromaFresh Grind and Brew is an excellent choice.

Find out more information, read our full Melitta AromaFresh Grind and Brew review

5. Nespresso Barista

A clever way to experiment with coffee

Nespresso Barista accessories

Not strictly a coffee machine in its own right, the Nespresso Barista is an add-on for all types of espresso machines, not just Nespresso ones. Use the touch-screen interface to select a recipe, add the ingredients, which mostly include a shot of espresso, and off you go.

The Barista then makes everything automatically for you, including delicous cold Iced Nitro espresso drinks, hot chocolate and even frothed milk. If you’re a little more adventurous, this is a great way to make some stunning drinks.

Read our full Nespresso Barista review

Top coffee machines – the full list

The coffee machines we’ve listed above are best in class and should suit most people. If you fancy something slightly different, then we have further recommendations. Some have specialist features, some are more expensive, all are machines that we can fully recommend. We’ve split the machines into categories to make the selection easier. Here’s some advice on picking the best coffee machine for you:

Manual espresso machines These coffee machines are the same type that you see in quality coffee shops. You need to tamp ground coffee manually to get the best results. They operate best when you have your own grinder (see how to use a coffee grinder for more information), and you’ll need a little practice to operate. The resulting coffee is better than you’ll get from any other type of machine, but you’ll have to deal with more mess and greater effort to get your perfect cup of coffee.

See the Top manual espresso coffee machines

Bean-to-cup machines These machines do everything – grind, tamp and pour – at the touch of a button. Some even pour milk. If you want a fresh coffee experience with real beans, without the hassle of an espresso machine, these are the type to go for. The downsides are that they can be big and expensive, plus they don’t always produce the same quality as a manual machine.

See the Best bean-to-cup coffee machines

Filter machines These make coffee by dripping hot water through coffee grounds. A smooth taste and large carafe makes these good for anyone that likes to drink a lot of coffee, or for entertaining a big group of people. Technically, these are one of the easiest machines to operate, but you don’t get the flexibility and range of drinks options that espresso-based machines offer.

See the Best filter coffee machines

Pod machines The ultimate convenience, you just drop in a pod or capsule, tap a button and you’re done. Pod machines aren’t compatible with each other, so once you’ve bought into a system, you’re locked in. Nespresso machines produce the best coffee and have the best range, with pods that are recyclable. Pod brands available in supermarkets aren’t as good and most use plastic, which can’t be recycled.

See the Best pod coffee machines

 Best manual espresso coffee machines

1. Sage by Heston Blumenthal The Oracle

A powerful espresso machine with a built-in grinder.

Sage by Heston
The Sage by Heston Blumenthal The Oracle gives you everything you need to keep your inner barista happy. It’s a traditional espresso machine, but the integrated grinder means you don’t need to worry about buying a separate unit.

Instead, you tap one button to grind the coffee directly into the group handle and filter basket, tamp, then hit another button to dispense your drink. It takes a little practice to get everything right, but when you do, The Oracle makes stunning espresso that’s every bit as good as you’d get from a top coffee shop. Thanks to the configurable and simple-to-use steamer function, frothing milk for all types of drinks is straightforward.

For more information, read our full Sage by Heston Blumenthal The Oracle review

2. Gaggia Classic Deluxe Coffee Station

A classic redefined – this bundle is an upgrade to Gaggia’s current machine and comes with a top coffee grinder, too

Gaggia Classic Deluxe Coffee Station
The Gaggia Classic Deluxe Coffee Station provides everything you need to make brilliant coffee at home – including the high-end Gaggia MDF grinder and a bundle of other clever accessories. With 34 grind settings, ranging from super-fine to coarse, getting the right balance can be a little tricky at first. Once you’re used to it, however, the grinder creates perfect coffee with which to make yourself some espresso.

This bundle also sees an updated Gaggia Classic espresso machine. When the Gaggia Classic 2015 was released, we were disappointed by its plastic build in parts and overall inferior quality compared to the original Classic. With this bundle, the Classic has an all-new metal drip tray and professional-quality group handle added. The result is a high-quality coffee machine capable of dispensing the best-quality espresso.

For more information, read our full Gaggia Classic Delux Coffee Station review

 Best bean-to-cup coffee machines

1. Miele CM7500

Excellent coffee, automatic descaling and programmable profiles, what more could you want from a coffee machine?Miele CM7500 hero

A big and bold bean-to-cup coffee machine, the Miele CM7500 is a high-end model that does pretty much everything automatically. This even includes descaling, thanks to the integrated descaling capsule, which slips into the rear of the machine so that the auto-descaling mode can keep the insides of the coffee machine clean.

More importantly, the CM7500 delivers high-quality coffee and milk drinks at the touch of a button. Using a motor, the spout moves to the ideal spot above your cup automatically, before delivering the good stuff. Spot-on espresso and high-quality milk frothing ensure this machine is at the top of its game.

Programmable user profiles let each member of the house get the style of drink they want. Only a slightly fiddly interface detracts from what is otherwise a rather brilliant, high-end machine for true coffee lovers who want quality quickly.

For more information, read our full Miele CM7500 review

2. Melitta Caffeo Barista TS

The new Smart version is slightly better, but this machine is cheaper and still makes excellent coffee

Melitta Caffeo Barista TS
With the ability to serve up practically any hot drink under the sun, thanks to its automatic milk-frothing function, the Melitta Caffeo Barista TS makes a cuppa with the same attention to detail as any good manual machine. Its dual hopper lets you have two types of bean on the go, and its huge range of configurable recipes provides plenty of scope to experiment.

Simple touch controls and a bright LCD screen make it super-easy to put your drink together, and if you don’t like the default options – which is unlikely, since they’re spot on – then you can manually override them in the menu system. My Coffee modes let you assign different concoctions to different members of a household, and a slick front and high-quality gloss finish complete the unbeatable package.

If you have the cash to splash, the Caffeo Barista TS is a no-brainer; but the newer Barista TS Smart is better.

For more information, read our full Melitta Caffeo Barista TS review

3. Gaggia Anima

A great-quality bean-to-cup machine that doesn’t cost the Earth

Gaggia Anima 13A bean-to-cup machine that does everything for you feels a little like cheating. With the Gaggia Anima, you get the best of both worlds: it automatically pours espresso, but the steam wand gives you control of milk-based drinks.

A sleek design and simple one-touch controls on the front take care of dispensing espresso. Thick and oily crema, with a full-flavoured shot underneath, prove the Anima’s quality. To froth milk, steam is dispensed at one speed with no tap to control flow. It takes a little while to get used to, but once you do, you can produce practically any recipe to your specification.

If you’re looking for a well-priced bean-to-cup machine, but still want manual control at the end, the Gaggia Anima is the machine to buy.

For more information, read our full Gaggia Anima review

 Best filter coffee machines

1. KitchenAid Personal Coffee Maker

It grinds, filters and pours into a travel cup making this the perfect way to start the day

The KitchenAid Personal Coffee Maker is different; it’s effectively a single-person filter coffee machine. It’s designed to be used with a supplied insulated mug, which you can take with you on the morning commute. There’s nothing stopping you from buying another mug, but it comes with only one.

The Personal Coffee Maker produces a a drink that’s ready to consume straight away, although still hot enough for you to add some milk if you need. It’s a great, convenient option for those wanting their coffee fix in the morning, and who prefers a long coffee to espresso. Its compact design looks fab, too.

If you’re spending megabucks on a daily Starbucks habit then consider this the perfect antidote.

For more information, read our full KitchenAid Personal Coffee Maker review

2. Oomph Coffee Maker

As seen on Dragon’s Den – an innovative way to make French-press-style coffee

Part travel cup, part french press, the Oomph is a new-style filter coffee maker, and it’s rather brilliant.

You drop coffee grounds into the inner container, fill with water and leave to steep for a few minutes. Once done, you push down the outer sleeve, which forces water at pressure through the coffee grounds, separating the two in the process. The separation has added benefit that your coffee remains at the same strength; with a french press, coffee continues to brew, becoming more bitter as it does so (see how to use a french press for more details).

Coffee from the Oomph is brilliant, with a rich and smooth taste that’s quite different to anything we’ve tasted from other filter machines. If you like, you can drink directly from the Oomph, which also acts as a travel mug. The only downside is that coffee doesn’t stay warm for long, so you’ll want to drink soon after the brewing process.

For more information, read our full Oomph Coffee Maker review

 Best pod coffee machines

1. Nespresso VertuoPlus

The Nespresso syste redefined and updated to deliver mug-sized drinks


If you’re a fan of longer coffee drinks, you’ll love the new Nespresso VertuoPlus. Using a completely new pod system (the Vertuo’s capsules aren’t compatible with older Nespresso machines, or vice versa), the VertuoPlus is designed to deliver a rich mug-full of coffee.

Key to the machine’s success is the smart centrifugal brewing system, which spins the capsule at high speed, thus delivering a rich and frothy crema.

The coffee from this machine is rich and full-bodied; it tastes amazing. There’s a wide choice of capsules available, in cup sizes of 40ml (espresso), 150ml, 230ml and huge 414ml. Each capsule has a barcode on it, which the VertuoPlus reads to set the brew parameters, delivering the perfect cup of coffee at the touch of a single button.

There’s no integrated milk option for this machine, although you can buy an excellent Nespresso Aeroccino4 if you want to add steamed milk.

For more information, read our full Nespresso Vertuo review

2. AEG Fantasia

A Modo Mio machine with a proper milk dispenser


A long-time favourite of ours, the AEG Fantasia is a 15-bar pod machine that supports Lavazza’s Modo Mio capsules. It has 36 settings, so you can enjoy a tailored cappuccino, lungo, espresso or latte, controlling both the amount of coffee and milk.

What separates this machine from many is its outstanding detachable milk jug. Both the jug and steam pipe can be removed and are dishwasher-safe, making cleaning the AEG Fantasia so much easier than most machines.

The jug means you don’t have to rely on powdered milk pods as you do with some other machines, and it’s perfect for making hot chocolate – and even to froth cold milk for milkshakes.

Given the huge number of features on offer, and the excellent coffee it makes, the AEG Fantasia is outstanding value.

For more information, read our full AEG Fantasia review

3. Tassimo Vivy by Bosch

A super-cheap pod coffee machine for those on a tight budget


The Tassimo Vivy is ridiculously cheap for such a versatile coffee machine, which is the reason we recommend it. Part of the Tassimo coffee system, it’s also incredibly small – perfect for compact kitchens and dens.

Like other Tassimo machines, it’s easy to use. It has just one button, and there’s virtually no heat-up time. The machine reads the barcode on each “T Disc” to work out the correct temperature, amount of water and brewing time. The range of drinks on offer is great, too, including coffee, tea, chai lattes, fruit and herbal teas.

If you want a step-up from instant coffee, and don’t have a lot to spend, this machine is a great choice. If you can pay more, a Nespresso machine will give you better coffee overall.

For more information, read our full Tassimo Vivy by Bosch review

Coffee machine buying guide

Your main choice of coffee machine comes down to the type of coffee that you want to produce. Effectively, there are two types of coffee machine: those that produce espresso, and filter machines.

Espresso machines are the most versatile, producing that distinctive shot of coffee with its burnished crema top. Espresso serves as the basis of most coffee drinks, from a long black (espresso added to hot water) to a cappuccino (1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 milk foam). With espresso machines, there are three main types to choose from: manual, bean-to-cup, and pod. We’ll take you through choosing each type, but first you need to make a decision.

Manual machines offer the ultimate flexibility, as you take care of everything yourself. The downside is that preparation time is high and you need some practice to get good results. Bean-to-cup machines are automatic versions of manual machines. On the upside, you get quality coffee quickly. The downside is that you pay more (particularly if you want milk frothing) and results aren’t as good as from the top manual machines. Pod espresso machines give you the ultimate convenience, but each cup will cost you more and you have to pick a system as capsules aren’t interchangeable.

Filter coffee machines are simple to use and give you a carafe of hot coffee, which makes them ideal for big groups or dinner parties. Plus, the smooth taste they deliver is different to everything else on the list, and perfect for people who don’t like the more intense taste of espresso.

Manual espresso machines

Manual espresso machines are the type that you find in coffee shops, letting you take full control over the brewing process. Coffee grounds are placed into a filter basket, which is held in the group handle, and tamped down. The espresso machine then passes hot water at pressure through the grounds, dispensing a shot of espresso.

Using a manual machine takes practice, and you have to be prepared to make a few bad coffees while you perfect the art. Yet, when you get the combination right, the quality of the espresso can’t be beaten, and you get the exact type of coffee that you want.

With a manual coffee machine, you’ll either need your own grinder or you’ll need to buy beans with an espresso grind (a normal grind isn’t fine enough and is designed for french presses or filter coffee machines).

Manual espresso machines will have a steamer wand, to manually froth milk. More expensive machines will have a steam tap, letting you adjust the flow as you go. Cheaper machines merely turn the steam on or off, which gives you less control, although you can still get good results.

Finally, there’s a choice between single- or dual-boiler machines. Single-boiler machines have to increase the boiler’s temperature to deliver steam, so can’t be used for pouring coffee as well as texturing milk at the same time. Dual-boiler machines are more expensive, but let you texture milk at the same time you pour espresso.

Bean-to-cup espresso machines

Bean-to-cup espresso machines take the hard work out of making coffee, grinding and pouring your drinks automatically. This is the ultimate in convenience, delivering the benefits of freshly ground coffee without the hassle of manually doing the job yourself.

There’s a higher degree of maintenance with bean-to-cup machines, which need regular cleaning, and used coffee grounds have to be emptied (they’re dropped into a bin). All bean-to-cup machines offer control over the grind and the coffee strength, but the degree of change is far more limited than with a manual machine.

Look out for a machine that can handle two drinks at the same time, which is particularly useful if you want to keep a busy household caffeinated.

The more expensive bean-to-cup machines automatically froth and pour milk for you, although the results aren’t always as good as the manual method. Cheaper bean-to-cup machines will give you a steamer wand so that you can make the milk yourself; this can be a good option, giving you that hands-on feel, without the hassle of producing your own espresso shot.

Look out for customisation options. All bean-to-cup machines let you adjust the volume of the drinks you produce, so you can tune them to your specific cups. Posher machines also let you add, edit and create your own recipes, even creating different profiles for everyone in your house.

Filter coffee machines

Filter coffee machines work by dripping hot water through ground coffee held in a filter, filling a carafe (jug) of hot coffee. This is a simpler, easier way of making coffee, and one that gives fewer options for drinks than espresso. That doesn’t make filter coffee inferior, though; in fact, it’s smooth style can often be preferable for some types of coffee bean, letting you taste the full subtleties of single origin beans (coffee from one location, as opposed to a blend).

The second advantage of filter coffee is that you get a jug of coffee, which is great for heavy drinkers or dinner parties.

All filter machines work in the same way, but there are differences to look out for. Machines with washable filters are arguably easier to use and less hassle, but the filter can become tainted with use, affecting the taste of your coffee. From a taste perspective, paper filters are a better option, giving you a fresh filter for each carafe.

All filter coffee machines are designed to keep your coffee hot. A glass carafe and metal heating plate are common. Hot plates are set to run for a maximum of 40 minutes, to reduce power usage. Running for longer isn’t recommended: constantly heating coffee makes it bitter. A better option is a filter machine with a thermal carafe, keeping your coffee warm via insulation rather than heating.

Filter coffee machines take coarsely ground coffee, which you can buy in-store or create via your own grinder. Some filter machines have an integrated grinder. These cost more, but give you everything you need in one package.

Pod espresso machines

Pod espresso machines are the definition of convenience. They all run on pods of coffee that you drop into the machine; tap a button and you get your drink dispensed perfectly.

The second benefit of pod machines is the range of flavours and choices of coffee available, letting you make different drinks to suit your mood. With other coffee machines, you’re largely stuck with a bag of coffee until you’ve finished it.

Some pod machines have automatic milk frothing, although the quality differs from machine-to-machine. Nespresso has its own Aeroccino machine, available with some models of coffee machine or as a separate purchase. This whips up hot or cold milk at the touch of a button, so you can just free-pour the results into your cup.

There are pod machines that use powdered or UHT milk in pods. It’s a convenient way of getting a milky drink, but the results pale in comparison to using real milk.

There are numerous pod systems on the market, but three main ones. Nespresso is arguably the best, delivering high-quality shots of espresso with a great choice of capsules. Even those dedicated to manual espresso machines (which still produce the best results) will grudgingly accept that Nespresso produces great coffee without hassle. The downside is that you can only buy the official capsules in Nespresso stores or the online store; there are third-party “compatible” capsules for the machines, although only for original Nespresso, not the newer Vertuo system, which uses different pods.

Nescafe Dolce Gusto machines are comparatively cheap, with a wide-range of pods available in supermarkets. This system is a step up from instant coffee, but the reliance on powdered milk is a little disappointing.

Tassimo machines and pods are similar to Dolce Gusto, with a similar range of pod options available online or in good supermarkets. These use UHT milk capsules for some drinks.

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