Coffee Machines: Buying Guide
Nothing tastes better than that first sip of coffee in the morning; the cup that blends that perfect aroma and taste to get your day started off on the right foot. While popping into your local coffee shop on the way to work might seem handy, nothing says convenience like having your very own coffee machine in your kitchen.
Easy to use and cheaper than café bought coffee, buying a coffee machine for your kitchen is a great investment for any coffee aficionado. But no matter if you’re looking to upgrade your current coffee machine, or buy an entirely new one, there are several factors you’ll need to consider before deciding which coffee machine to buy. Space, budget, and most importantly, your personal coffee preferences. Read through our comprehensive coffee machine buying guide to find the best coffee machine for your kitchen.
Before you start
While it might be tempting to buy the first fancy looking coffee machine you come across, especially if it’s decked out with a range of modern bells and whistles, it’s very important you select the coffee machine that’s right for you, and your kitchen. The worst thing that can happen when you buy a coffee machine is purchasing a model that goes unused while taking up valuable space on your worktops.
A thorough understanding of the types of coffee machines, especially their benefits and drawbacks, is necessary before buying a coffee machine. However, before we go through the main types of coffee machines available, let’s first touch on the three important external factors you’ll need to consider when deciding which is the best coffee machine to buy.
The best coffee machines come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from the squat and compact that can be hidden away at a moment’s notice, to the long and bulky models you might see in an actual coffee shop. The available space you have in your kitchen is going to be a key factor in deciding how big a machine to buy. Smaller models are ideal for studio and one bed flats, while larger coffee machines can look very stylish sat on the worksurface opposite a kitchen island. It’s a good idea to examine your kitchen and locate the best spot to place your coffee machine, that way you’ll be able to find a model that fits with your kitchen style.
The price of coffee machines can vary greatly depending on brand and coffee machine type. Prices range from a low £50, all the way upwards of £1,500 for the most expensive models. On average, however, it’s not difficult to find an excellent coffee machine for between £100-200. It’s important to remember, however, that price doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality. Many expensive machines out there might only produce mediocre coffee, yet some mid-range models can produce barista quality drinks. The best coffee machine for you may not be the most expensive so it can be useful to check reviews beforehand to get a feel for a machine’s quality, especially if you’re torn between several types of coffee machines.
In an ideal world, every type of coffee machine would be able to make every type of coffee; and while many of the more expensive models offer an impressive selection of options, most coffee machines are limited to the common types of coffee. If all you’re after is a standard americano or espresso, then a machine with twenty different options to choose from is not the best coffee machine for you. But if you like a latte or cappuccino in the morning, then finding a model that has an inbuilt milk tank or steam wand is a must.
Types of coffee machines
When it comes to buying a coffee machine in the modern day, there are four main types to choose from. Bean-to-cup, pod or capsules, ground coffee, or filter coffee machines. Each type uses different methods to make your coffee and offer varying levels of customization in how you prepare your morning brew. Consider all of these carefully when deciding which coffee machine to buy.
Bean to cup
The most expensive type of coffee machine, bean-to-cup models take your coffee beans and grind them up from scratch. Without a doubt, the biggest benefit of purchasing a bean-to-cup coffee machine is the fact you’ll be getting the freshest cup of coffee possible on a daily basis. Not only that, but bean-to-cup models are designed to grind a variety of beans, even allowing you to set the grind thickness, meaning you can choose your coffee’s exact flavour and strength.
Many of the high-end bean-to-cup models actually allow you to make two cups at once and offer touch-screen controls with a huge range of drink options. These types of coffee machines can be customised to save a range of preferences and settings, so in the morning, you can simply pour your beans in and press go.
Unfortunately, when we say expensive, we mean it. The most expensive bean-to-cup coffee machines exceed over £2,000. They can also be incredibly large, bulky, and noisy. You’ll need to be sure you have the space to put them, and a willingness to endure loud grinding sounds first thing in the morning. On top of this, it can take time to master the controls to make that perfect cup, and the maintenance required for a bean-to-cup coffee machine can be laborious. However, if you want the best quality coffee possible with unlimited flavour choice, then a bean-to-cup model is likely the best coffee machine for you.
Pods or capsules
Compact, inexpensive, and simple to use, a pod or capsule coffee machine can fit snuggly into any corner of your kitchen. They’re easy to use and hassle free when it comes to preparation and clean up, subtly matching any aesthetic thanks to their sleek and modern design. Simply select your flavour, slip your preprepared pod of choice into the machine, and press the activation button.
A pod machine is one of the best coffee machines for those who have limited time in the mornings or aren’t a regular coffee drinker. The pods are hermetically sealed, meaning they stay fresh for months at time, and each pod brand provides a range of exotic and classic flavours to choose from. Pod machines are ideal for those looking to get great value for money. They’re low maintenance and provide a consistently good flavour. Basic pod machine models can cost as little as £40, though these won’t come with any bonus features like attached pod storage, preference saving, an external water tank, or extra drink options like hot chocolate. That being said, they’re the best coffee machines for beginners.
The real downside to capsule coffee machines is their limited drinks capacity. You can only make one drink at a time and drink options will be limited on the basic models. You’ll likely have to purchase a standalone milk frother as well if want a latte or cappuccino, as most pod machines lack any form of internal milk tank.
You’ll also be restricted to using the specific type of pod for your machine’s brand, meaning you might be missing out on flavours provided by other coffee beans. Alongside this, while you can buy a lot of pods in one go, the bags are often pricey. And if you’re trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible, you may struggle to find pods that are fully recyclable.
Ground coffee machines fall in between bean-to-cup and capsule models. The classic café style machine, this model is more hands on than other types, but it gives you precise control over your drink. You can get some very traditional looking ground-coffee machines with plenty of style options if you’re after that vintage feel, and many models are specifically beginner friendly for coffee newcomers. For added freshness that can compete with bean-to-cup models, you can also grind fresh coffee beans beforehand and use them instead of shop-bought ground coffee. Plenty of ground coffee machines also allow you to make two cups at once, so your partner doesn’t have to wait for theirs in the morning.
However, being hands on means you’ll have to prepare your ground coffee of choice in the filter yourself. This can be messy and will likely require you to do some cleaning up afterwards; though this can be offset by using ESE pods, the coffee version of teabags that sit neatly in the filter. It can also take time to properly master making coffee in this way as there is a large room for error when learning.
Using a ground coffee machine definitely requires more effort, but they offer a better flavour range than pod machines. They’re also very economically priced with a good ground coffee machine sitting anywhere between £60 and £150, giving you an excellent price compromise for your budget.
Filter coffee machines are much less common nowadays and are the best coffee machine for those who specifically like filter coffee. They work by dripping hot water through a ground coffee filter into a warm jug for a very distinct black coffee flavour. Filter coffee machines are great if you want to make a lot of coffee in one go, being handy and convenient for refills, which makes them the perfect addition to many office kitchens. They’re also rather inexpensive, costing as little as £35. You can buy bean-to-cup versions for flavour variation, but these are very pricey and offer less of the benefits of a bean-to-cup model while providing the same drawbacks.
Unfortunately, filter coffee machines will only ever make black filtered coffee. Milk must be added separately, and you’ll need to regularly top up on filters. Filter coffee machines can also take excessive time to clean thoroughly, requiring you to hand clean any parts that aren’t dishwasher friendly.
Coffee machine features
While a coffee machines primary function is to produce the type of coffee you love, some of the additional features they come with can add that extra bit of simplicity when making a brew. These aren’t necessary, but they’re certainly worth looking out for if you’re enthusiastic about making the best coffee possible.
Standalone milk frothers
Not every coffee connoisseur is a fan of pure black coffee. For those after a latte or cappuccino, a standalone milk frother is a must when you’re purchasing either a pod or filter coffee machine. These models usually never come with an inbuilt milk tank or frothing function, requiring you to handle this yourself. Standalone frothers, heat and froth the milk for you, meaning all you have to do is add it to your drink once it’s finished brewing.
Typically only found on bean-to-cup and very expensive ground coffee and pod machines, automatic frothers enable your chosen coffee machine to automatically draw milk from an internal milk tank, foam it, and dispense it seamlessly into your drink.
Milk pods are preprepared pods of UHT or powdered milk that you can add to your cup to give it that frothy quality for minimal effort. They’re great if you often find yourself rushing out in the morning.
If you want a more traditional coffee making experience, purchasing a model with a steam wand attachment lets you froth your milk quickly and separately before adding it to your cup. Easy to clean and sometimes partly automated, steam wands are usually inbuilt features on mid and high-range ground and bean-to-cup coffee machines.
Many of the more expensive coffee machines come with memory functions that allow you to either adjust the pre-set drink settings or save your own. This means you can pick your modified setting immediately and dispense the perfect cup on demand.
With smart phones taking on more of a prominent role in how we control our homes and appliances, it’s no surprise that some of the best coffee machines now let you download apps that allow you to remotely control them. Picking up a model with smart phone connectivity means you can switch your coffee machine on the moment you wake up and have a steaming cup ready for you when you enter the kitchen. Just remember to leave a mug in place the night before.
Other things to consider
Like with many kitchen appliances, a good coffee machine is an investment. So, while ensuring it can make that all important perfect cuppa, capacity, maintenance, and running cost are also very important factors to consider before choosing which coffee machine to buy.
As mentioned, the most expensive types of coffee machines are bean-to-cup. Buying a top of the range bean-to-cup model will potentially set you back upwards of £2,000. However, for a model with all the best features that doesn’t break the bank, you’ll likely be spending around £850.
The cheapest coffee machines on the other hand are filter coffee machines. The price of these ranges from £35-50 on average, though more expensive handmade versions are available.
Pod and ground coffee machines sit in the middle. Good pod machines cost between £50-100, with the most expensive models coming in at £400. Ground coffee machines sit at a similar price range, with their high-end models costing closer to £500.
In terms of cost per cup, ground coffee machines are going to give you the best value for money, whereas the necessity of buying capsules for pod machines means that this type will ultimately cost you more in the long run.
Not all coffee machines are created equally. While many if not all pod machines have an auto wash features that makes them easy to clean and descale, the majority of filter and ground coffee machines may require hand cleaning to some degree.
Bean-to-cup models are the most maintenance intensive. While grinding your beans gives you the freshest flavour, regular use often makes the grinder prone to jamming. This can make bean-to-cup models rather tedious to unblock and clean. Some designs are self-cleaning and descaling to a degree, but this feature is only found on the most expensive models.
Be sure to check how to clean your chosen machine before purchase, especially if parts are machine washable for ease of use, so there are no surprises with your chosen model.
Many coffee machines will have sizable water tanks but it’s worth considering investing in a model that can hold at least 1.5 litres of water. This means you can make more cups before it needs refilling. This is particularly important for pod machines as many of the cheaper options come with very small tanks.
Where to buy a coffee machine
Most kitchen retailers will sell one or more of types of coffee machines, both online and in-store. But here at Wren Kitchens, we stock a wide variety of all types of coffee machines in a range of styles, meaning you can find the exact machine you want that fits your kitchen, and makes a brilliant cup of coffee each and every time.
With Wren Kitchens, our team of appliance experts have decades of experience to help you pick and choose the perfect coffee machine for your kitchen. book an appointment at your local showroom today to speak to an expert and we’ll guide you through the process of building your dream kitchen .
If you want to fit your kitchen out even further but want to do more research, you can find a range of kitchen and appliance buying guides in our inspiration section.