Best Coffee Machines in 2022 : Automatic Coffee Machines for Home and Office
Our “Best Coffee Machines in 2022” series brings you our views on what we believe to be the best coffee machines on the market.
This review focuses on automatic bean-to-cup coffee machines. Within the broad range of coffee machinery, these are defined as those that prepare coffee from coffee beans by grinding, tamping and extracting coffee automatically after the initiation of the process.
They come in different sizes (e.g. small coffee machines for homes through to larger coffee vendors for office use) and for different uses (e.g. family at home through to office coffee dispensing).
For that reason we divide our review into coffee machines for home use (1 to 5 people); coffee machines for small offices (5 to 15 people) and coffee machines for larger offices (15 to 50 people/machine).
We list five models in each category that interest us, look at what makes them special, and then identify the one we’d buy.
If you are in the market to buy an automatic coffee machine, you’ll have to do your own research of course, but whatever your preference, we hope that this review will help you on your journey.
Category 1: Best Automatic Coffee Machines for Home Use
In looking at the best automatic coffee machines for home use, we looked for coffee machines that could at least make espresso, americano and cappuccino.
We then found that there was a natural split between those machines that could also make a cappuccino without having to move the cup or manually froth the milk, and those where you needed to first make the coffee and then steam the milk manually before adding it to the coffee. We term the former “one-touch” coffee machines because after you place your cup, it takes just one-touch to prepare any black coffee or coffee with added milk.
So we split this category into two and looked at coffee machines where coffee making and milk frothing were two separate activities, and those that had one-touch coffee making ability.
We kept the budget at less than R10 000 for the former and R20 000 for the more versatile, yet more costly, one-touch coffee makers.
In the two-stage range we narrowed our choice down to:
DeLonghi Magnifica S
At an entry level, the Philips 1200, like the DeLonghi Magnifica S, offers two coffee choices – an espresso and an americano. Any milk additions must be made using the manual steam wand that must be inserted into a small pitcher of milk. The machines are very similar in capability, but the Philips is slightly cheaper, and it has ceramic grinding blades which we think is important.
The Krups Essential offers three coffee choices and is similar in other respects to the Philips and the DeLonghi, with all three holding around 250g of beans in the hopper and offering 1.7 to 1.8 l of water in their tanks.
The Gaggia Anima is slightly more expensive than the DeLonghi Magnifica S, but it offers four drink choices and adjustable ceramic grinder blades.
The Siemens EQ.300 has 4 coffee drink options (espresso, cafe crema, cappuccino and latte macchiato) and a ceramic blade grinder. It also has a milk steaming function that lets you put 100ml of milk in your cup which is placed under the dispensing nozzles. You manually extend the steam wand into the cup, select your coffee choice, and both milk frothing and coffee making then takes place automatically.
Given the drink choices, ceramic grinder blades, easy milk frothing option and the price, we think the Siemens EQ.300 offers tremendous value.
DeLonghi Magnifica S
If you are going to spend more than R10 000 on a coffee machine, then you’ll want to have a really good automatic milk frothing capability in your machine along with more drink choices. Spending a little more gets you into range of the true “one-touch cappuccino” coffee makers with a good range of coffee options. Here we found:
DeLonghi Prima Donna (ECAM 550)
Siemens EQ.6 Plus s500
Krups Barista E60
Saeco Royal OTC
The DeLonghi Prima Donna (ECAM 550) offers 6 coffee choices and froths milk with ease. The small colour display screen is attractive too and the milk container holds a reasonable volume of milk for domestic use.
The Krups Barista E60 coffee machine has a touch screen and a good auto-rinsing cycle which made it a strong contender. It employs a frothing wand that extends into your cup with milk and froths it before adding coffee. We debated if this was better than having a container of milk that the machine draws on for a milk containing coffee and decided that we prefer the container option because it’s just easier than having to add milk to each cup. The coffee bean container was also slightly smaller than other models in the class, but the Krups Barista E60 is a very attractive machine with a small footprint.
The Philips 4300 offers 8 drink choices, an adjustable ceramic grinder and while we’d have liked a slightly bigger milk container, it is well priced for a machine with its capabilities.
The Siemens EQ.6 has an attractive display panel with 8 selections and unlike the DeLonghi Prima Donna and Philips 4300, it has a milk pipe that can be placed in an external milk container of a size that meets your specific coffee making requirements. This reduces the need to frequently refill the milk container in larger households or where coffee is consumed frequently.
The new Saeco Royal OTC comes from a line that has impressed in the past and this machine is no different. Although it does not have ceramic grinder blades, its water and bean hopper volumes were a lot larger than other machines in this category. It can provide 8 drink options.
We like the Saeco Royal OTC for its versatility and value, but if price had been a constraint, we’d have opted for the Siemens EQ.6.
DeLonghi Prima Donna
Saeco Royal OTC
Category 2: Best Small Office Coffee Machines 2022 (Automatic Bean-to-Cup)
We defined a small office as having up to 15 staff, and a daily coffee making demand of less than 30 cups per day.
One might be tempted to think that there is no shortage of contenders in this category. However, the mistake many people make is to think that they can use a domestic coffee machine in an office environment. You really can’t!
The reason is that there are some significant differences in operating a coffee machine in an office environment. Some are logical and straight forward like the size of the bean hopper and waste trays. At home you may only need to fill both once a day, but in an office, a 1l water tank has to be filled every 4-5 cups! Then other reasons that may be less well known, are things like, the need for boilers (they are actually called thermoblocks) in machines designed for domestic use to cool down between cup making sessions which may be difficult to achieve in an office, and while you at home may know which buttons to “gently” press, office staff care less for the coffee machine than a home user. When not “fit-for-purpose”, added wear and tear results in premature failure… not good for office staff satisfaction scores!
So robustness and capacity become factors to look at in an office coffee machine.
We looked here at coffee machines with integrated milk frothers in the R20 000 to R40 000 range. These machines offer the robustness we need and also more functionality for the office coffee environment (e.g. bigger waste containers). We identified:
Siemens EQ.9 s300
DeLonghi Prima Donna Soul
Saeco Royal OTC
The Siemens EQ.9 comes with a 2.3l water tank and offers 8 standard coffee choices (then it also has the double cup function) as well as milk foam and hot water. The bean hopper at 290g will allow for around 25 cups of coffee and it has a ceramic grinder blade assembly. We thought this machine offered good value.
We included two Jura machines in our small office category because they come in at very different prices – but both could be used in small offices.
The Jura E8 is the lower cost option and a solid machine with touchpad selection (not to be confused with a touchscreen) but we’d only use this in an office of up to 10 staff given its water tank capacity of 1.9l (offering between 10-15 cups of coffee per fill in a typical office environment).
The more expensive Jura We8 takes coffee making to a new level with its colour touch screen. It has important features for an office, like its ability to actively monitor bean levels and its 3l water tank. While there are no ceramic grinder blades, both the E8 and We8 are great machines but are priced higher than other machines in the category for the features offered.
DeLonghi is a well-known Italian brand, and the Prima Donna Soul is a stylish machine with its 4 inch touch screen, 2.2l water tank (Jura E8:1.9l and Jura We8:3l) and 500g bean hopper capacity (Jura E8: 280g and Jura We8: 500g).
The DeLonghi Prima Donna Soul is the only machine in the review with its own in-built milk holder (500ml) versus the others where milk is placed in an external container of any size, and there are two issues to consider here. The first is if this is enough for your office so as not to need constant filling and the second, is that because it cannot be cooled, will you use the milk up in a reasonable period so as not to have it warm up?
The Saeco Royal has crossover potential from the home coffee machine category to a small office. Its 2.8l water tank and larger 1kg coffee hopper and 40 puck waste tray, allow for this, along with a simple user interface. It is a value for money machine.
So which coffee machine would we choose for a small office? While the Saeco Royal was a relatively expensive option in the domestic coffee machine category, it comes into its own in this category and we see it as offering more value than any other machine. It is our choice.
DeLonghi Prima Donna Soul
Saeco Royal OTC
Category 3: Best Large Office Coffee Machines 2022 (Automatic Bean-to-Cup)
The larger office environment can use the “Small Office Coffee Machines” listed above if the number of staff is taken into account to avoid over-use (generally less than 50 cups per machine/day).
However, corporate offices are more generally better suited to larger automatic coffee machines with bigger bean hoppers that can accommodate 1kg of beans at a fill, and larger water tanks or direct plumbing options.
We also had to split this category into two – the automatic bean-2-cup coffee machines that use fresh milk and bean-2-cup coffee vending machines with powdered milk canisters (just to note that coffee vending machines can come with fresh milk options and hot chocolate, sugar, flavoured cappuccino etc, but are typically used with powdered milk).
Automatic Fresh Milk Coffee Machines
In the automatic fresh milk range, we went with selections from R30 000 up to R85 000 in our purchase consideration and we liked:
Saeco Aulika Evo
Jura Giga X3
The Jura’s we selected came in at the two extremes of our price range with the Jura Giga X3 hitting the high end and the Jura X8 somewhere mid-range.
While we liked the Jura Giga X3 for its touchscreen, 5l water tank, greater drink choice with 11 standard coffee options (with double cup functionality in addition) and its 150-cup rated capacity, we felt the Jura X8 offered more value for money.
Of course, we realise that the Jura X8 offers fewer drink choices with 7 standard coffee options (plus double cup functionality), but this is more than enough for any office environment. It has the same 5l water capacity as the Jura Giga X3 in its onboard tank, but comes standard with a smaller 500g coffee bean hopper. This can always be expanded to 1kg if bean capacity is an issue, but 500g of beans will get you to well over 30 cups per fill. While not a touchscreen machine, the 2.8 inch colour display is more than adequate.
The Saeco Aulika offers great value. It has a slightly smaller water tank at 4l and a useful 1kg coffee bean hopper. We really liked its “double boiler/double pump” feature, which is a big advantage because the machine can dispense milk and coffee at the same time. This reduces waiting time at the coffee machine. The only drawback we find is that it doesn’t offer a coffee brew with more than 10g of coffee. This is not an issue in a 200ml cup, but offices that prefer coffee in larger mugs may find this limiting.
We looked at another coffee machine that had the double boiler/double pump combination that would suit a commercial office environment. Here we found the Apollo 12, which is similar to the Mythos Duo which a number of sellers, including ourselves, offer.
These machines are indeed very similar in many respects – both produce good coffee and their milk frother offers decent milk foams. The Apollo 12 has a 2l tank with an option to buy it with an 8l tank, and the Mythos Duo has a 6l tank. Then for bean capacity, the Mythos Duo has a 1kg hopper whereas the Apollo 12 has an 800g capacity.
Both coffee machines offer 24 drink options on colour touch screens that we found to be responsive and attractive for a corporate environment, and both have a rated capacity of 100 cups a day.
We felt that there was significant value for money in both these coffee machines, but we couldn’t vote for a machine we offer, and we chose the Apollo 12 as the worthy winner.
Saeco Aulika Evo
Jura Giga X3
Coffee Vending Machines (Powdered Milk)
Larger corporates have greater beverage demands and so we also had to consider coffee vending machines. These are very much automatic coffee machines, but they offer more drink choices than the automatic coffee machines that use fresh milk as outlined in previous categories.
They have larger canisters that can hold more consumable product (e.g. hot chocolate, milk powder, sugar etc) and can handle higher usage rates. They don’t usually have an in-built water tank, but instead are either plumbed into mains water or they have a pump and are connected to a 20l water bottle.
They also typically use a powdered topping milk or skimmed milk, and whereas fresh milk has to be stored in a fridge, skimmed milk products are shelf stable, which means you don’t have to worry about cleaning fresh milk systems like you do in the fresh milk automatic coffee machines reviewed above.
For the coffee vending machines we kept the budget under R85 000 as well, and we looked only at table-top coffee vendors offering coffee bean coffee with at least three canisters for milk powder, hot chocolate and sugar. We liked:
Nescafe FTS 60E
La Rhea Variplus Grande Premium
Rheavendors XS Grande
Here we had five very similar machines. There was one without a touch screens, the XS Grande. A solid contender given its manufacturer, but we felt that the market has moved on from buttons to touch screens.
We were undeniably swayed by the looks of the four touch screen models (Azkoyen Zen, La Rhea Variplus, Fusion FTS 60E and the Jetinno JL28) and their ease of use.
The FTS 60E gives you 24 drink choices on its impressive 10 inch touch screen interface. It has four canisters for soluble products in addition to the bean hopper, and these are well sized.
The La Rhea Variplus Grande Premium, besides being attractive on any counter top and having 12 touch selections, has a number of really great features such as its variflex brewing system with an infusion chamber that adapts to the quantity of ground coffee required for a particular drink and varitherm boiler that provdes water at a temperature most suitable for a particular coffee drink.
Azkoyen are another doyen of the vending machine industry and the Zen comes with an 8 drink selection touch screen and canisters that can hold up to 2.2kg of powdered milk/hot chocolate. With its 1.9kg bean hopper, it offers over 180 drinks per fill. The only think that we think may limit the machine, is its 10g brewer capacity. Again, this is adequate when 200ml cups are being used, but will probably not be enough for a 250 to 300ml mug.
We also looked at the new Jetinno JL28 which has seen rapid uptake in Europe as the balance between functionality, looks and cost makes it a very worthy contender. Besides the fact that a user can adjust each drink to their liking with sliders that increase/decrease coffee, milk and sugar in a drink, we liked the option (like in the Zen) to have paper cups pre-loaded in the machine.
This machine offers a Swiss made Ditting grinder, over 20 drinks from the colour touch screen menu, a 14g brewer and 4 soluble powder canisters (2 x 1.5l and 2 x 1l capacity) for sugar, hot chocolate, milk powder and a flavoured cappuccino (vanilla, hazelnut, caramel etc) or instant coffee. The rated capacity of this machine is up to 300 cups per day.
When it came to making our choice for a coffee vending machine best suited to a corporate office, or in fact any office looking for a powdered milk alternative, the JL28 was our choice.
La Rhea Variplus Grande
How we did the review
Our approach was to first identify three categories of automatic bean-to-cup coffee machine placement and here we settled on:
Home coffee machines
Small office coffee machines
Larger office coffee machines
We then looked for what we considered a reasonable price range within each category and identified five automatic coffee machines within that range. This meant that we excluded very niche coffee machines, such as those that might have designer appeal, and focused on what we thought a typical buyer in that category would look for. We found the machines by identifying coffee machine suppliers active in South Africa.
We then evaluated each machine for its functionality and also looked at reviews from buyers that were made on various websites because this added diversity to the opinion.
Bringing it all together, we identified five coffee makers in each category that we thought were among the best, and then we tried to narrow down our choice to select what we thought was “the best coffee machine” in each category.
These are our views and do not constitute buying advice. You’ll need to do your own research.