What to look for when buying coffee machines
- A drip coffee machine makes a single/double portion or large quantities of brewed coffee quickly and easily
- A pump espresso machine grinds coffee beans and makes several cups of coffee at a time
- A coffee capsule machine uses pods to make single-serve espressos in no time
- Choose a coffee machine with features you find useful, such as an automatic timer and brew-strength control
There's nothing like coffee to boost mornings, and if you're the type of person who needs his/her own daily dose of morning caffeine, then it's best to invest in your own coffee machine. As such, here's a guide to help you browse which coffee machine best suits your needs.
Basically, all coffee machines use pump or steam pressure to pass heated water through fine coffee grounds, thereby extracting flavour from the beans. Today, these are the types of coffee machines: the traditional drip coffee machines, pump espresso machines and the more sophisticated coffee capsule machines.
Before you decide which type of coffee machine to buy, think about what kind of coffee you prefer (e.g., a black espresso or frothy cappuccino), how much coffee you routinely brew (e.g., single serve or several cups), what features are most convenient for you and, finally, your budget. Prices mainly vary depending on the type of coffee, convenience and ease of use.
Types of Coffee Machines
Drip coffee machines
A drip coffee machine is, by far, the most popular type of coffee machine. A drip coffee machine requires you to fill a chamber with water, which will then slowly drip through a basket of ground coffee, using a paper or reusable filter. The water flows through and absorbs flavours and aromas. Coffee is then served from the carafe or coffee pot, which sits atop a heated plate that keeps the coffee warm.
A drip coffee machine comes in different cup volumes – it can make a large pot of coffee or just a small amount, enough for one or two cups. It's convenient since it's easy to use, there's no need to boil the water first and the brewed coffee stays warm thereafter. A drip coffee machine is ideal for making brewed coffee quickly and easily.
Pump espresso machines
A pump machine is the most well known type of coffee machine for making espressos and cappucinos. It works by forcing water at high pressure through a tightly packed container of fine coffee grounds, therefore producing a rich, strong cup of coffee. With a traditional frother, you can also enjoy other coffee variants, namely, cappuccino and caffe latte.
Manual pump machines are generally favoured by espresso aficionados since the user controls the coffee-making process using a hand lever. For novices or simply those who want a quick cup of espresso, automatic and semi-automatic models are recommended.
When choosing an espresso machine, consider one with a bar pressure of more than 15 bar, as this is essential for producing good crema (or foam); otherwise, the machine will produce bitter-tasting coffee.
A pump espresso machine is ideal for those who prefer to grind their own coffee beans. It's also suitable for making several cups of coffee in one go.
Coffee capsule machine
A coffee capsule (pod) machine uses a "pod" system to produce espresso coffee. Essentially, a pod contains a pre-measured amount of blended, roasted and grounded coffee and stays fresh for up to 9 months. Once the pod is dropped in the compatible coffee machine, the machine heats up water and forces it through the pod, thereby releasing flavour and extracting the coffee to the cup. A pod is good for one-time use only and is then disposed of.
A coffee capsule machine is an easy, simpler, mess-free way of making exceptional espresso coffee. It requires no measuring or spillage of coffee granules and has no filter holder to clean.
The downside is that you are limited to the supplier's range of coffee flavours, and it is typically more expensive than the first two types of coffee machines since you need to purchase coffee refills online.
A coffee capsule machine produces a single serve of coffee, and as such, it only takes seconds to brew.
Coffee Machine Features
Coffee machines come with various features for convenience and ease of use. Whether you find these features useful or necessary depends on your coffee-drinking habits. Decide which features you should look for by consulting this list:
Capacity of a coffee machine
If a cup of coffee is enough to perk up your day, consider single-serve coffee machines such as coffee capsule machines. For those who drink a cuppa with their family or intend to purchase for entertaining guests or conferences or with a family, choose a large-capacity coffee machine.
For people who prefer to wake up in the morning with a cup of coffee ready, it's best to pick a programmable coffee machine. The automatic "on" switch ensures that you'll get a cup of fresh coffee when you need it. An auto-shut off feature also comes in handy, especially if you're the forgetful type.
Thermal carafe/thermal mug
A thermal carafe keeps your coffee hot for hours and also prevents it from burning. It doesn't have a burner, which means that it's easily portable.
This feature allows you to personalise your coffee by producing a weaker brew or a more full-flavoured one without having to purchase new beans or grinds. It produces a weaker brew by diverting water from the coffee grounds, while for a stronger brew, it slows down the water flow.
Consider a coffee machine with a built-in coffee bean grinder if you want to use fresh coffee beans and grind these with each pot. A drawback with a grinder is difficulty in cleaning and that coffee grounds tend to spill.
It's recommended to choose a coffee machine with a water filter, as the filter removes chlorine, odour and prevents odd taste. For those concerned about water quality, a whole-house or faucet filler might be a more suitable option.