How To Choose A Coffee Machine?

by Véronique Raymond
home espresso machine

Every coffee drinker knows how important that perfect cup of coffee is in the morning.

Whether you grind your own coffee beans or use a programmable pod machine or any other method in between, a quality coffee machine is an excellent and affordable alternative to frequenting a coffee shop.

Whether you are purchasing a coffee maker for the first time or you need to replace an old, outdated machine, this article will give you all the facts and guidance you need to make an informed decision.

 

Types of Coffee Makers

Even coffee drinking aficionados may be surprised to realise just how many types of coffee machines there are to choose from. There are 8 types that we are going to introduce you to, but you should note that there are even more to choose from if you’re looking for an extra special machine. A few types we won’t be talking about include the Aeropress (a portable, manual espresso machine), Moka Pot (stovetop) coffee makers, and pour over coffee makers.

Pros and Cons of An Espresso Machine

espresso machine

Espresso machines that you can buy for your home work exactly like the ones in your favourite coffee shops. They produce a single cup of espresso at a time and will be quite labour intensive even though they are semi-automatic, so it is important that you have the time to dedicate to your morning shot of caffeine. If you are a busier person, you may want to look for a super automatic espresso machine instead, though you will pay more. These are certainly not an entry-level type of coffee maker, because they are quite technical; you will likely need to practice a number of times before you achieve your perfect espresso.

One of the great benefits of espresso makers is that they are capable of working as a milk frother in addition to making your espresso; this means you can have espresso macchiatos at home as well. Espresso machines will be more expensive than other types of coffee makers, but for many people, the extra money and the extra labour are totally worth it. These machines are typically made from high-quality stainless steel, so they will be durable and long lasting as long as you keep them clean.

Pros and Cons of Drip Coffee Makers

Drip coffee makers are one of the most popular types of coffee machines that you can find in North America. They are electric machines that incorporate ground coffee, disposable or reusable filters, and self-made hot water. The brewed coffee can serve between one and four people typically, and there are many single-serve models and larger models available for purchase.

In general, these machines are incredibly easy to use and don’t require much effort. You put the right amount of coffee grounds in, add an appropriate amount of water, and the machine does the rest. They aren’t fully automatic which may be a deterrent for some folks, but they are highly reliable and durable machines great for almost any household.

Drip coffee makers are not capable of producing more complex drinks like cappuccinos or lattes, but for standard coffee made from ground beans, they are the best choice. They can be used as single-serve coffee makers but they are also capable of brewing for the whole family. One of the best things about drip coffee makers is that you can easily control the brew strength by adjusting the grounds to water ratio. One downside to keep in mind is that your coffee will ‘cook’ while sitting on the heating plate, so it is a good idea to empty the pot quickly and rinse it right away to avoid coffee sludge.

Pros and Cons of A French Press

French press coffee makers are one of the most popular ways to make coffee manually. They are very easy to use and clean, and there are even models designed specifically for travel so you can have excellent tasting coffee anytime, anywhere. These coffee makers are composed of a glass pot, a plunger, and a mesh metal filter. All you have to do is press the coffee down with the filter to brew coffee. None of the flavour-enhancing oils get trapped, unlike with a paper filter, so you can expect a delicious coffee that tastes full and rich.

The glass pot is more fragile than most other coffee makers will be, and it does require 100% manual effort to get the coffee brewed. This type of coffee maker isn’t for everybody, but they are affordable and look great on a counter top.

Pros and Cons of Pod Machines

pod machine

Pod machines are one of the best type of coffee machines for specialty coffee. Almost all pod machines will be single serve machines, as that is how the pods are designed, but if you make small cups of coffee, you may be able to get two cups out of a single pod. Pod machines are fairly compact and will not require much counter space, so they are great for every home size. They are one of the more high-end types of coffee makers due to their sophistication, but with the brand diversity, they are still fairly affordable.

Pod machines are great because you only need to fill the reservoir with water and put a pod in anytime you want coffee. The water reservoir is large enough for multiple uses without a refill, so they provide one of the most streamlined coffee making processes. They also require very little maintenance, although semi-regular descaling is still recommended to maintain the great coffee taste that you’re after. Pod machines are incredibly consistent machines, so once you find the pod that gives you your perfect coffee, you can be sure it will taste the exact same every time you make it.

Pod coffee machines are the ideal choice if you enjoy trying different coffee flavours on a regular basis. They are the simplest to use since they operate with the touch of a button, and since they are single-cup machines, you’ll have your coffee in only a couple of minutes. The water temperature for brewing is adjustable too. There are really only a couple of downsides to note; coffee pods can be quite expensive, and they are not interchangeable between brands.

Pros and Cons of Cold Brew Coffee Makers

Cold brew coffee makers are another type of manual coffee machine, but they do differ from a French press. Cold brew coffee actually works very similarly to hot tea. Ground coffee beans are placed in a mesh bag which is soaked in water for up to twelve hours. This extra-long brew time allows the flavour from the beans to leak out into the surrounding water. This water can then be used as a coffee concentrate, or heating up for drinking like a regular coffee. The brew time is of course not ideal for every occasion, but it is a really simple way to make coffee with little effort.

Cold brew coffee has the benefit of being much less acidic than standard coffee, so it is a great alternative for those who are sensitive to acidity or just want to try something new.

Pros and Cons of Siphon Coffee Makers

Siphon coffee makers are the ideal machine of choice if you are looking for a statement piece and a functional unit combined into one product. These machines are also called vacuum pots, because they incorporate a very unique brew system. While people that use siphon coffee makers boast about how flavourful the coffee is, they are complex machines that require a significant chunk of time and effort for each brew. They are prone to damage as well because of their numerable fragile components.

While these machines may not be practical for every day use, they are an incredibly unique type of coffee maker that will produce great-tasting results for special occasions.

Pros and Cons of Percolators

high end coffee machine

If you’re looking for a throwback, a percolator may be the right type of coffee maker to add to your home. It produces the traditional steam whistling sound that many folks will remember, and it is fairly straight forward. It does require more cleaning than a drip coffee maker, which is one of the main reasons it has fallen behind in popularity, but it is still a great way to get your morning coffee ready.

These machines are known for producing a consistent, flavourful pot of coffee, so if that is your priority, you’ll definitely be getting your money’s worth.

Pros and Cons of Thermal Coffee Makers

Thermal coffee makers work exactly like drip coffee makers, but instead of the coffee dripping into a glass pot on a warming plate, it drips into an insulated thermal carafe that keeps it warm. This is a much better option for individuals or families that drink coffee throughout the day instead of just in the morning, as it stays warm without ‘cooking’ like it would on a drip coffee maker heating plate.

This is one of the more expensive types of coffee makers on the market, but it is a no-brainer if you want your coffee kept hot until the pot is empty. These machines are programmable and easy to use, so they are great for busy folks as well.

 

Extra Features To Look For

Many coffee makers on the market are old school machines that combine hot water and coffee grounds and don’t do much else. However, the popularity of at-home coffee machines demanded that the market step it up. As a result, there are many models out there that offer some pretty unique and convenient features that just might end up on your must-haves list.

Automatic Milk Frothing

Milk frothing is an incredibly popular addition to many types of coffee related drinks. A steam wand is used to add air bubbles to milk, creating a foam. Many coffee makers, espresso machines in particular, have automatic milk frothers in place to create the perfect drink without any input from you.

Barista-Style Brew Options

If you have a reliance on lattes, cappuccinos, or any other type of barista-level coffee drink, you’ll want to look for a machine that is capable of producing those same drinks in the comfort of your own kitchen. Pod machines are great for this, since you can find pods for pretty much any type and flavour of coffee, but there are others out there too if you want a more hands on experience.

Built-In Coffee Grinders and Water Filters

If convenience is your thing, you may feel that a built in coffee grinder or water filter is something you need in your next coffee machine. Water filters help ensure your coffee is healthy and doesn’t contain any unwanted flavours, and a coffee grinder gives you the option of purchasing whole beans without the need to grind them yourself. These features will raise the price tag of the machine, but many people will find it is more than worth it.

Schedule Setting

Programmable coffee makers revolutionised the coffee machine industry. If you are one of those people that cannot function before a morning coffee, you know exactly how invaluable it is to have a coffee machine that can be set to your weekday and weekend schedule to have coffee hot and ready for you whenever you step foot in your kitchen. Many pod machines and drip coffee makers are capable of setting schedules, so you will have some diversity in the market when you start looking.

 

Most Important Things To Think About

While you may have a general idea of what you’re looking for in a coffee maker, we’ve outlined some important factors that should be taken into consideration before you make a final decision.

Brewing Time

The amount of time a coffee machine takes to brew coffee will have two significant effects on your experience. First of all, a coffee machine with a longer brew time will obviously require you to spend more time waiting for your coffee. If you have other things to get done while waiting or you buy a machine that will have it ready for you when you wake up, then a long brew time won’t be an issue, but if you are a get up and go kind of person, a long brew time will be a major inconvenience.

A long brew time also means that your coffee will end up stronger and potentially too sour or bitter, since more of the coffee ground components are being extracted into the water. however, the reverse can also happen; if your machine does not have a long enough brew time for your preferences, you may end up with a coffee that is too dull. Choosing a coffee machine with an adjustable brew time, or one you already know works with your tastes, is essential.

Temperature Control

Temperature control is not a guarantee when shopping for a new coffee maker. Many of the more sophisticated electric models will allow you to adjust the brew temperature, but many will not have this capability. Of course, and manual machines will rely on you to get the brew temperature right. The water temperature will affect the taste and strength of the coffee, so it is important to know what you are getting. Hotter brew temperatures will increase the extraction of necessary components like caffeine, acids, and oils, but it will also make the coffee more bitter tasting.

Price Range

Your budget will always be an import factor when considering a new purchase. Many high-end coffee makers can be purchased for upwards of two hundred dollars, but it is certainly not necessary to spend this much money. You can still get a reliable machine for half that price, and if you are going down to bare bones, you can find a coffee machine at essentially any price point.

Brewing Method

Most types of coffee makers will differ from each other in the way they brew coffee. Some are manual and some are electric; some use mesh filters, others use metal; some will use coffee grounds and others will use pods. There are many other factors that may vary in the brewing process depending on what type of machine you get, and these things will affect how your coffee tastes, how many cups a single cycle can make, and how long the brew will take.

Brew Capacity

The number of cups a coffee machine can make in one brew cycle is an important factor to consider. If an entire family needs a cup or two (or three) to get going in the morning, a single serve machine is likely not the best choice. Large drip coffee makers will be the best for brewing large volumes at a time, but a single serve pod machine is another alternative, since the water tank can hold enough water for several cups, and the pods are quickly brewed and swapped out.

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