Coffee machines buying guide
Before you invest in an expensive coffee maker, think about what coffee you enjoy and how you like to drink your coffee. There are numerous machines and makers to choose from.
Cafetières / French Press
Cafetieres are usually made of glass container with a wire filter mesh attached to a plunger. They are ideal for a coffee beginner, as they are easy to use and easy to clean. They are also a great value and designs are endless, ranging from a simple design, such as Bodum Brazil through to quirky ones, such as Alessi Inka right to a designer ones such as Alessi Cactus!.
Filter Coffee Machines
Filter coffee machines are easy to use and they come in different cup volumes. You pour cold water in the top of the machine where it is warmed by a heating element, then the water simply drips down through a a basket of ground coffee to infuse in a jug below. The jug is kept warm by a hot plate.
Filter machines have either permanent or paper filters. Permanent filters save you money but they can be messy to clean and can taint. Paper holders are more hygienic and can be simply thrown away after use.t produce a cup of filter coffee without any mess. That is one of the reasons why offices prefer filter machine as they main coffee maker.
Pod or capsule coffee machines
These coffee makers became popular in recent years due to its ease of use and little mess one creates while preparing coffee. You just need to insert pod or capsule into a designated place in the machine and press a button. The pod is pierced and hot water is sent through it and into a waiting mug.
Fine ground coffee is inserted above a water chamber. As the water boils it is forced up a tube and down through the coffee back into the compartment below. You can get stove-top versions or electric versions which contain a heating element.
These are steam-driven machines that produce very strong coffee. Espresso coffee is much richer and more concentrated than filter coffee and is the base for a cappuccino or latte. There are two basic types of machines, with pump machines the more expensive.
Pump espresso maker
These use a thermostatically controlled boiler which heats the water to its optimum temperature for coffee (between 85C and 92C). When this is reached the water passes through the ground coffee at the correct bar pressure. They usually include a tool for steaming milk so can be used for lattes and cappucinos.
More expensive than pressure machines, pump machines have a separate tank and a thermostatically-controlled boiler with a 'Thermoblock' system that heats up the water to between 85-92°C – the optimum temperature for making coffee. The water is then sent through the coffee holder at the correct bar pressure. Espresso coffee is made by using finely-ground coffee. Some pump machines also use a pod system.
Water is boiled in a chamber and this builds pressure and steam. Eventually enough pressure is built up and forces the boiling water through to the coffee. This steam can then be used for frothing. A drawback is that the water used can be too hot to make an authentic espresso. Make sure you check out the bar pressure, as it might not be powerful enough to make
a really good espresso.
Bean-to-cup coffee machines
For the ultimate coffee experience at home, bean-to-cup machines provide you with a sophisticated espresso - and they're also wonderfully easy to use.
Fresh beans are ground and used to make espresso on demand, giving you a truly fresh coffee. Many of these machines are completely automatic: add water to the tank, pour milk into a dedicated container and fill the coffee bean hopper. Then simply press the button for your coffee, and the machine grinds the beans, dispenses your coffee and froths the milk.
Several higher-end machines have cup warming facilities that gently warm your mug; this ensures delicate espressos do not experience a sharp change in temperature when they hit the cup.
Bean-to-cup machines can cost more than more traditional coffee makers, and sometimes be slightly noisier while grinding beans and producing coffee. Nonetheless, the level of noise produced is very acceptable, and the superior espressos produced make these machines well worth the investment.