Best Coffee Machines 2018: Espresso, bean-to-cup, pod and filter machines

There’s nothing better than a cup of coffee, except a fresh cup of coffee. And the only thing better than that is a fresh cup of coffee you’ve made yourself. Thankfully it’s easier than ever to do that, especially if you’ve got a good machine.

We’ve split our best of list into the four main categories of coffee machine (manual espresso, bean-to-cup, filter and pod) to help make your choice easier. However, there are two coffee machines that really stand out. The Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart is a top bean-to-cup machine that does everything. If you’re on a tight budget and want something simple, the Tassimo Vivy by Bosch capsule machine is hard to beat.

How we pick the best coffee machines

best overall coffee machine

Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart

If a supremely good cup of coffee is your priority, and money no question, our overall recommendation for the best coffee machine goes to the Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart. It can make practically any hot drink under the sun with the same attention to detail delivered by any good manual machine.

£1005.41

To accurately compare coffee machines, it’s important to test them in a consistent way. For any machine that uses whole beans or ground coffee (bean-to-cup, filter and espresso) we start by roasting our own beans (fairtrade Peruvian). Roasting ensures that we have consistent quality and that the beans we use are fresh. For capsule machines, we use a variety of pods to test the capabilities of each machine. Where we’ve reviewed more than one of the same-type of capsule coffee machine (Nespresso, for example), we use the same pod types for each review.

For each coffee machine that we test, we measure the temperature of the final coffee and perform a taste test of black coffee (espresso if available, filter otherwise). Where milk frothing is available, we also make a cappuccino, noting down the ease and quality of the milk steaming, and the texture and taste of the final drink. When fresh milk can be used we use organic skimmed milk; for some capsule machines we use the provided UHT or powdered milk pods.

Coffee is a hugely varied drink, and it’s important to buy the model that meets your particular needs. As such, we’ve picked machines ranging in price from £55 to £1,699. We’ve split our top choices into the following categories:

  • Manual espresso machines – Similar to the machines that you see in coffee shops, these give you the best results with a little practice.

  • best value coffee machine

    Tassimo Vivy by Bosch

    The best value coffee machine that gets our recommendation is the Tassimo Vivy by Bosch. It's incredibly cheap for a coffee machine this versatile. It's a perfect size for compact kitchens and can even make fruit and herbal teas alongside great coffee. It's super easy to use, just like other Tassimo pod machines.

    £39.99

    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 no hassle these are for you.

  • Filter machines – These make coffee by dripping hot water through coffee grounds. A smooth taste and large caraffe make these good for anyone that likes a lot of coffee, or for entertaining a lot of people.

  • Pod machines – The ultimate convenience, you just drop a pod or capsule in, tap a button and you’re done.

Nespresso Barista hero

Nespresso Barista

Pros:

  • Great choice of recipes
  • Simple operation
  • Produces some stunning drinks
  • Doesn’t need a Nespresso machine

Cons:

  • Little control over volume
  • Whisk attachment makes pouring fiddly

Strictly speaking, the Nespresso Barista isn’t a coffee machine at all, which is why it’s in a section of its own. Rather, it’s a handy device that can make everything from iced nitro cold coffee to automatically foaming milk for use in a flat white.

This simple device stores 13 recipes directly on the main jug, but the app lets you access more and swap in and out your favourites. Making drinks is easy: you add the ingredients, such as a shot of espresso and some ice cubes or cold milk, then select the recipe you want and hit the start button. The Barista then whisks the ingredients together, heating if required, and you’re done.

The ice recipes are simply amazing, with the iced nitro blending espresso and ice cubes to create a stunning, frothy cold drink that’s perfect on a hot day. And, we were impressed by the Barista’s ability to create frothy hot milk. The one downside is that volume is rather limited, designed for Nespresso’s own glassware rather than creating a full mug. However, the upside is that the Barista doesn’t need a Nespresso machine and you can use it with espresso from any source.

Buy Now: Nespresso Barista at Nespresso from £175

Best manual espresso machines

Manual espresso machines give you that full barista experience at home. In terms of size, price and quality, the Smeg ECF01 is the best machine that we can recommend. Keep reading for other, more specialist, recommendations.

Smeg ECF01

Smeg ECF01

Pros:

  • Beautiful retro-chic styling
  • Some truly neat features
  • Super-quick to heat
  • Great-tasting coffee
  • Can handle taller cups and mugs

Cons:

  • Oddly positioned power switch

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. Take its Thermoblock tech, which helps it reach optimal temperature in a staggering 40 seconds, for instance. Or its clever knack for remembering exactly how much water you like in your coffee every time. There’s no denying its 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.

Sage by Heston

Sage by Heston Blumenthal The Oracle

Pros:

  • Superb coffee quality
  • Satisfying mechanical action
  •  Excellent auto-frother settings

Cons:

  • Intimidating price
  • Requires good vertical clearance

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 on top 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 coffee. It takes a little practice to get everything right, but when you do The Oracle makes stunning espresso every bit as good as from a top coffee shop. Thanks to the configurable and simple-to-use steamer function, frothing milk for all types of drinks is straightforward.

To top it all off, The Oracle looks absolutely fantastic in its brushed-metal finish. This is one coffee machine that you’d happily have out on display for all to see. It’s a little expensive, but if you want high-quality coffee in one simple package, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Gaggia Classic Deluxe Coffee Station

Gaggia Classic Deluxe Coffee Station

Pros:

  • All-new metal parts
  •  High-quality grinder
  •  Excellent performance

Cons:

  • Soft buttons

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 clever accessories. With 34 grind settings, ranging from super-fine to coarse, getting the right balance can be a little tricky at first; but once you’re used to it, the grinder creates perfect coffee to make espresso with.

This bundle also sees an updated Gaggia Classic espresso machine. When the Gaggia Classic 2015 was released, we weren’t that impressed with its plastic parts and lower build quality, compared to the original Classic. With this bundle, the Classic has an all-new metal drip tray and professional-quality group handle. The result is a high-quality coffee machine.

Fortunately, espresso quality matches the looks and the Gaggia Classic Deluxe is capable of pouring high-quality espresso shots. With the included steamer wand, you can froth up your milk and make practically any type of drink. If you want that hands-on experience for making espresso, this kit gives you everything you need.

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 clever accessories. With 34 grind settings, ranging from super-fine to coarse, getting the right balance can be a little tricky at first; but once you’re used to it, the grinder creates perfect coffee grounds to make espresso with.

Best bean-to-cup coffee machines

Beant-to-cup coffee machines give you the ultimate in convenience, using fresh coffee beans that are ground on demand. Out of the machines that we’ve tested, the Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart is our favourite choice, followed up by the best-value Gaggia Anima.

Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart

Pros:

  • Excellent coffee
  • App makes programming the machine easy
  • Excellent milk frothing
  • Lots of drink recipes

Cons:

  • Drip tray tricky to empty
  • Occasionally reports an empty bean container too early

An update to the excellent Caffeo Barista TS (also on this list), the Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart is the best bean-to-cup machine that we’ve tested.

The ‘Smart’ part of its name comes from the built-in Bluetooth, which lets you programme the coffee machine’s built-in profiles and recipes. This is far quicker and easier than using the touch controls on the front of the Caffeo Barista TS Smart, letting you get the exact type of drinks that you prefer..

As with its predecessor, the TS Smart has a dual bean hopper, letting you use two types of whole coffee beans at the same time. Throw in excellent espresso (with the new AromaIntense feature), brilliant automatic milk frothing and simple controls, and the Caffeo Barista TS Smart is a stunning bean-to-cup coffee machine.

The original Caffeo Barista TS is a little cheaper, but if you can find the extra cash, the Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart is well worth it.

Melitta Caffeo Barista TS

Melitta Caffeo Barista TS

Pros:

  • Makes amazing espresso
  • Excellent milk frothing
  • Lots of recipes to choose from

Cons:

  • Drip tray fiddly to empty

With the supreme 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 for experimentation.

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.

 

Miele CM7500 hero

Miele CM7500

Pros:

  • Smart spout adjusts height automatically
  • Simple maintenance
  • Excellent coffee and milk drinks
  • Looks great

Cons:

  • Icons hard to understand
  • Slightly fiddly to programme

A big, bold bean-to-cup coffee machine, the Miele CM7500 is a high-end model that does pretty much everything automatically. That 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 are at the top of their game from this machine and we’ve not seen better.

Programmable user profiles lets each member of the house get the style of drink they want. Only a slightly fiddly interface detracts from what’s otherwise a brilliant high-end machine for true coffee lovers that want quality quickly.

Gaggia Anima 13

Gaggia Anima

Pros:

  • Great-tasting espresso
  •  Simple to use
  •  Easy maintenance

Cons:

  • No steam tap
  • No cup warmer

A bean-to-cup machine that does everything for you feels a little bit 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, made exactly the way you want it.

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

PrimaDonna Elite

De’Longhi 
Elite Experience

Pros:

  • Super-powered drinks customisation
  •  Dual-boiler system
  •  High quality results

Cons:

  • Slightly buggy Android app experience
  • Less flashy systems are a lot more affordable

If you want your coffee machine to be really smart, the De’Longhi PrimaDonna Elite Experience is the machine for you. As well as dispensing all types of coffee drinks, including automatically frothing and steaming milk, this coffee machine hooks up to your phone.

A tall silver tower, the PrimaDonna Elite Experience is far from subtle, taking up a huge amount of room. It’s the large colour touchscreen that really stands out, giving you one-touch drink making control. The UI is easy to use, and we found it more reliable than the slightly clunky smartphone app. From the touchscreen, you can configure and control recipes to get the perfect cup, the way you like it. Espresso is produced with dark body and rich enduring crema, while milk-based drinks were light and frothy.

As easy and customisable as the PrimaDonna Elite Experience is, it’s an expensive coffee; if you don’t need this level of customisation, smaller and cheaper bean-to-cup machines are available.

Best filter coffee machines

Filter coffee machines simply drip hot water through coffee grounds, creating a rich and standard cup of coffee. There are many different styles, but we highly recommend the clever Oomph Coffee Maker.

 
Oomph Coffee Maker

Pros:

  • Great coffee quickly
  •  Easy to use
  •  Simple to maintain

Cons:

  • Could keep coffee warmer for longer

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. When done, you push the outer sleeve down, pushing 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 getting more bitter.

Coffee from the Oomph is brilliant, with a rich and smooth taste that’s quite different to anything that we’ve tested 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.

Everything can go into the dishwasher at the end, making the Oomph easy to maintain and look after. Most importantly, the Oomph is excellent value and you don’t need anything more complicated than a kettle to make coffee.

Melitta AromaFresh Grind and Brew

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Makes great coffee
  • Timer option

Cons:

  • Can’t control the amount of water used

All coffee is best made with freshly-ground beans. If you don’t have a grinder already, but want the best filter coffee, the Melitta AromaFresh Grind and Brew is the model for you. This machine grinds the beans, then automatically brews the coffee. 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, as you get a fresh one each time you make coffee. Washable filters may seem more convenient, but they can get tainted with use. Coffee quality is excellent from this machine, producing rich and smooth coffee in large amounts. There’s a handy timer, too, so you can set the machine so that your coffee is ready in the morning.

A hotplate can keep the coffee warm in the glass carafe for 40 minutes by default (there are 20-minute and 60-minute settings); the default should do the job, as over-heating coffee can make it taste bitter. For convenience and quality, the Melitta AromaFresh Grind and Brew is an excellent choice.

KitchenAid Personal Coffee Maker

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Convenient
  • Eye-catching

Cons:

  • Limited scope
  • Insulated mug is basic

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

It produces coffee that’s ready to drink straight away, but which is still hot enough to add some milk before you leave. It’s a great, convenient option for anyone who needs their coffee fix in the morning, and 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.

Best pod coffee machines

For the ultimate in convenience, you can’t beat a pod coffee machine. Our top pick for versatility and drink quality is the excellent Nespresso Vertuo Plus. Our best-value pod coffee machine is the Tassimo Vivy by Bosch.

Nespresso Vertuo Plus

Pros:

  • Rich and full-bodied mugs of coffee
  •  Extremely simple to use
  •  Excellent build quality

Cons:

  • Pods are more expensive than normal Nespresso pods
  • Larger pods require more storage space

If you’re a fan of longer coffee drinks, you’ll love the new Nespresso Vertuo Plus. Using a completely new pod system (the Vertuo’s capsules are not compatible with older Nespresso machines, or vice versa), the Vertuo Plus 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 delivering a rich and frothy crema.

The coffee from this machine doesn’t just impressive, it tastes amazing, too. Rich and full-bodied, we love the coffee from this machine. There’s a wide choice of capsules available, in cup sizes of 40ml (espresso), 230ml and huge 414ml. Each capsule has a barcode on it, which the Vertuo Plus reads to set the brew parameters, turning out the perfect coffee at the end, and giving single-button control.

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

Tassimo Vivy by Bosch

Pros:

  • Simple operation
  • Compact size
  • Also makes milk-based drinks and tea
  • Amazing value

Cons:

  • Limited to compatible T Discs
  • Basic functions
  • Picture instructions can be confusing

The Tassimo Vivy is ridiculously cheap for such a versatile coffee machine, which is why 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 also 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 is great, too, since it includes 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.

Nespresso Prodigio

Nespresso Prodigio

Pros:

  • Prepare coffee remotely via an app
  • Notifications for maintenance
  • Brews multiple cup sizes
  • Smart and compact design

Cons:

  • Milk function costs extra
  • Uses only compatible pods
  • Pricier than standard machines

Bringing the smarts to coffee making, the Nespresso Prodigio brings app-controlled caffeine to your kitchen worktop. It connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth to let you remotely brew coffee from the comfort of the sofa or the warmth of your bed – and it will even alert your phone when you’re running out of coffee. There are notifications for when the machine needs descaling, the water tank is low, and when the capsule container is full too.

The Prodigio backs up its Internet of Things brain with some nifty coffee-making features. As well as setting the machine to make coffee instantly or on a timer from anywhere around the house, you can customise family profiles and make a wide variety of great-tasting drinks from capsules. There are manual buttons, too, for the times when you don’t have your phone to hand. A neat size and minimal styling top off the attractive bundle.

The basic model doesn’t come with any milk option, but opt for the more expensive Prodigio&Milk and you get an integrated Aeroccino, which automatically heats and froths milk, so that you can create everything from a cappuccino to a latté.

De’Longhi Lattissima Pro

Pros:

  • Fresh milk foam
  • One-touch drinks
  • Touchscreen for easy use

Cons:

  • Pricey for a pod machine
  • Regular cleaning needed for entire milk carafe
  • Restricted to compatible pods

The De’Longhi Lattissima Pro Nespresso machine is the absolute ultimate in pod coffee making. The key feature is the fresh milk carafe and its automatic foaming function, which is something you’d normally see on larger bean-to-cup coffee machines. It also has an impressively high 19-bar pump pressure and you can adjust the amount of milk, froth and coffee for each drink – it even remembers your preferences for later.

The high-pressure pump means this is a fast machine – it took us just 25 seconds to make a coffee and 40 seconds for milk drinks. Since this is a pod machine, it’s very easy to use, too. The quality of coffee produced using the Nespresso Grand Crus pods is excellent, and we particularly love the latte macchiatos that the Lattissima Pro makes.

KitchenAid Nespresso Artisan

Pros:

  • Sleek design
  • Six pre-programmed drink sizes
  • Large water tank

Cons:

  • Sleek design
  • Six pre-programmed drink sizes
  • Large water tank

If you already have a kitchen of matching KitchenAid appliances then the Nespresso Artisan is perfect for you. Like all KitchenAid appliances, it’s available in six colours, so you can match it perfectly to the rest of your KitchenAid fare.

It also sports the iconic design for which the brand is so famous. That – and the high-quality die-cast zinc and aluminium construction – accounts for its original high price (it’s now a fair bit cheaper), but the design and build quality are in a different league to other Nespresso machines.

The Artisan has a large 1.4-litre water tank and the pod bin can hold up to 14 pods, so it’s the perfect machine for entertaining lots of people. You can choose from six drink sizes, but note that there’s no milk function built in. This won’t be an issue for those who enjoy the fine art of manual milk frothing, however.

Nespresso Expert&Milk

Pros:

  • Prepare coffee via an app
  • Integral milk frother
  • Brews multiple cup sizes

Cons:

  • Comparatively expensive
  • Not dishwasher safe

With the ability to be operated via a Bluetooth Smart app, the Nespresso Expert&Milk takes coffee-making to the next level.

It’s been designed to offer a greater choice of personalised drinks, boasting an integral milk frother, four adaptable serving sizes and three temperature settings, so you can have your coffee exactly how you like it.

Part of the next-generation, flat-to-the-wall machines inspired by professional kit, Expert&Milk’s wide but shallow shape is also a plus for kitchens with limited space, since it can fit at the rear of worktops.

The performance is fantastic, and every cup we made was flavourful, aromatic and came with a rich, silky crema. Nespresso’s ever-increasing variety of coffees, which also includes decaffeinated and flavoured options, ensures you’ll never get bored too.

AEG Fantasia

Pros: 

  • Automatic hot and cold milk frothing
  • All removable parts dishwasher safe
  • Large water tank

Cons:

  • Sensitive touchscreen
  • Awkward shape
  • Limited to compatible pods

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.

But 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.

That was our pick of the best coffee machines, for more information on what to look for when buying one, keep reading.

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 on 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 give you 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 the ideal for big groups or dinner parties. And, the smooth taste they give is different to everything else on the list, and perfect for people that 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 along the way. 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, which is used 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 as 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 for you. This is the ultimate in convenience, giving you 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 inside, and the used coffee grounds have to be emptied (they’re dropped into a bin). All bean-to-cup machines give you 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 can also 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 that you produce, so that 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, so you all get the type of coffee that you want.

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 get tainted with use, affecting the taste of your coffee. Paper filters are a better option, from a taste perspective, 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 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 available, letting you make different drinks depending on 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 Aerocino 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 a lot of pod systems, 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 with no hassle. The downside of the system 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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