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This guide is written for anyone who has decided that it’s time for a new coffee machine. Yet, with so many different types of coffee machines, models and brands out there … what coffee machine should you choose?

This Ultimate Guide will take you through your choices and leave you confident you know exactly what you want.

The first thing you need to know is that there are 6 types of coffee maker to choose from.

Types of Coffee Maker

After reading about each type of coffee maker, you can narrow down your choice very quickly and so we’ll spend most of this article outlining this in detail:

  1. Traditional manual espresso coffee machines

Polaris 2 Group EVD Commercial Coffee MachineThe traditional manual espresso machine is exactly what it says: manual. These are the type of coffee machines you see in cafes and restaurants. When using one of these machines, you have to either grind your coffee beans or use ground coffee and add this to a portafilter prior to extraction. Once you have tamped the coffee in the portafilter and placed the portafilter back in the group head housing, you can extract your coffee by running hot water through it.

Then if you are making a milk-based drink like a cappuccino or latte, you’ll need to use the steam wand on the machine to froth your milk.

Generally manual espresso machines are made for trained baristas who master the art of getting their grind to exacting standards; their grammage in the portafilter to an optimal level and their tamp technique consistent and appropriate to the extraction they need.

Don’t forget, if you buy one of these machines, you’ll also need to buy a grinder and a set of barista accessories like a tamper, tamp mat, brushes and cleaning tools. The point being that this is not your cheapest option by a long way.

If any of the above sounds really foreign to you, then this type of machine is not for you. On the other hand, if you know and understand the manual coffee making process, then you might want to add a single group machine from Wega to your list if you are looking for a home coffee machine, or a two or three group machine if you are operating in a commercial setting. Then learn more about the different black coffee drinks and white coffee drinks you can make with this machine.

2. Filter coffee machines and pour-overs (also collectively known as drip coffee makers)

Filter coffee machines can be electrically powered (known as “percolators”) or have no power and rely on you pouring hot water over the grounds using a kettle (known as “drip coffee makers”).

They are relatively cheap and easy to use and only require you to place a filter paper into a brew basket and fill it with ground coffee before hot wateA coffee percolator or drip coffee machiner flows over the coffee and drips coffee into a flask below.

The only thing you have to know is how much ground coffee per cup of coffee and how many cups you want to make. Most home machines make between 6 and 10 cups and the commercial filter coffee machines make from 10 cups to 100’s of cups in a single brew.

Making 10 cups typically takes about 5 minutes and the electrically operated machines also keep the coffee hot through the hot plate on which the flask sits.

The downside of these types of machine is that you may not drink all the coffee which can lead to wastage, and you cannot froth milk to make cappuccino or latte. That doesn’t stop you from making less coffee each brew by limiting the ground coffee and water used, or buying a separate electric milk frother to use with your filter coffee machine.

One other important fact is that filter coffee tastes different from the espresso method of coffee making that the manual espresso, automatic and coffee vending machines use. Filter coffee relies on gravity to draw 150 to 200ml of hot water through the ground coffee per cup, whereas the espresso method uses pressure to force just 35 to 60ml of hot water through the ground coffee to make the espresso base that americano, cappuccino and latte are made from. The rest of the volume of these drinks is made up of hot water and milk.

As you can imagine, each method extracts different compounds and quantities of these compounds, and as a result, the taste differs.

We also include pour-overs in the type description because non-electric filter coffee makers are popular and include brands such as Chemex, where making coffee becomes more of an art because just the act of pouring the hot water and regulating its flow, can change the coffee taste profile dramatically. In an electric percolator, water is delivered at a fairly constant rate and there is no option to pour, rest, pour etc to vary extraction characteristics.

3. The Coffee Plunger (also known as the French Press)

A plunger or French PressThis simple device consists of a glass housing into which a measured amount of ground coffee is placed, and then hot water added. The plunger assembly which includes a filter mesh screen, is then added from the top and when ready, the plunger is depressed and pushes the ground coffee in the suspension to the base of the glass housing. The liquid coffee on top of the filter is then free of grounds and can be poured out.

This is the fastest method of coffee preparation because all of the grounds are exposed to all of the water at the same time. It also allows a certain volume to be made and reduces wastage.

Over many brews, you will learn just how long to leave the coffee exposed to the hot water before pressing the plunger down and pouring the coffee into your cup. Too long and the coffee can take on bitter compounds and too short and your coffee will be weak.

These plungers come in 1 cup through to larger 10 cup versions and are relatively inexpensive.

4. Coffee capsule machines

Coffee capsules have become popular in recent years as they are incredibly easy to use, come in a variety of blends, are sealed for freshness until used and the coffee capsule machines are relatively cheap.A coffee capsule machine and coffee capsule selection

Another advantage of the capsule is that you get coffee in under a minute and there is no mess like a soggy filter paper from a percolator , or as we’ll see in the automatic coffee maker section below, no coffee pucks to clean out. You can also vary your coffee choice instantly by choosing a spefic capsule blend, whereas in an automatic coffee machine, you tend to add one type of bean to the bean hopper and must use that up before changing the blend.

So with so many benefits, why even think about another type of coffee machine? The answer is twofold. First, the capsules cost more than any equivalent amount of coffee would – way more in fact and currently a capsule would cost you about 8 x the price of the equivalent amount of ground coffee. That is significant!

The second drawback is the environmental impact of capsules. Sure, there are recycling schemes available, but some capsules are less recyclable than others and you have to commit to recycling. Why not take a look at our more in depth article “The Pros and Cons of Buying a Coffee Capsule Machine” to find out more.

Most of the cheaper coffee capsule machines do not offer milk frothing functions, but again, here you can purchase an electric milk frother as a separate item and so this isn’t really a disadvantage other than having to make frothed milk separately.

5. Automatic coffee machines

Mythos Duo Touch Coffee MachineAutomatic coffee machines have risen in prominence in both the domestic and office environment. At the touch of a button you can have your coffee beans ground, automatically placed in a brewing chamber, tamped and hot water under pressure can automatically be passed through the ground coffee. In addition, most automatic coffee makers have a fresh milk frothing system integrated into the cycle and so you can easily make the so-called “one touch cappuccino”.

Again, a very simple process for espresso making through to cappuccino and latte drink making.

Using coffee beans allows you to store your coffee longer than ground coffee and the coffee always tastes that much fresher than when using ground coffee where oxidation occurs the second the beans are ground. Coffee beans also tend to be cheaper than ground coffee.

The disadvantages are that these machines are not cheap. You look at paying 10x the price of a simple home coffee percolator and 5x the price of a coffee capsule machine for a domestic machine. Office coffee machines are more expensive too, but then offer a range of additional features and are built stronger for commercial coffee quantities.

You also have to look after these machines by ensuing the milk frothing system is properly rinsed and detergent cleaned regularly to avoid rancid milk, and the machine creates coffee waste (similar to the ground coffee pucks that a traditional manual espresso machine makes) that has to be emptied on a regular basis. So great benefits but a little extra work required.

6. Coffee vending machines

A coffee vending machine for office rental or saleAs we move into the office or larger commercial space, coffee vending machines become more appropriate. These typically have canisters to hold coffee, milk powder, hot chocolate, latte powders, tea and sugar and can make many different drinks at the push of a button.

Here you need to think about the drinks you want to consume, the number of these drinks, and if you want them delivered free of charge or if you need to attach a payment system. This will start to determine if you opt for a free-standing coffee machine with larger canister size and number, or if you go with a table-top model that is compact but may have less choice and smaller canisters that need more frequent filling.

Another choice to be made is if you want soluble coffee or coffee bean based coffee – the former are called instant machines and the latter are known as “bean to cup” machines. Some coffee vending machines can also provide fresh brew tea or use instant tea.

Suffice to say, this is where you need the advice of experts in the provision of coffee vendors because there is complexity in determining what will be suitable – not only from a coffee machine perspective, but also a cost perspective.

Typically, these service providers will look to solutions that cost less than having staff leave the office for the local coffee shop or because all ingredients are locked in the machine and are portion controlled, less than the cost of ingredients left on counters that are lost to “office shopping”.

Although coffee vending machines can come with a fresh milk option, one of their advantages is that powdered milk can be stored for longer in a machine and automatic cleaning cycles reduce the need for human oversight of cleaning protocols.

The disadvantage of a coffee vendor of this type is probably the cost, but given they are designed for volume sites, the cost per cup of the coffee produced is no more than any of the other machines set out above.

Coffee Machine Models


A range of different coffee machinesSo now you know what type of coffee machine you are interested in. Now it’s time to evaluate all the models of that type of coffee machine.

Models will differ from store to store, supplier to supplier and country to country. The important thing is that you will now start your review knowing what type of coffee machine you are looking for and what the important features are.

Then it’s about comparing features of each model you have access to, in order to determine which offers the minimum features you need and the best value for money.

This is where comparative shopping websites, and our review of the best coffee machines, become important. Many offer you the opportunity to compare features across models on one screen. If not, look each up and try to identify what each has, relative to the other.

You’ll likely come up with a few models that have the same features and then differ only on price and brand. Let’s consider brands because sometimes, price is not reflective of quality, and you’ll want to know which is more likely to operate as you expect it to.

Coffee Machine Brands

There are many different brands of coffee makers

We all know that brands can influence price. For example, Nike or Adidas sports shoes typically cost more than no-name brand sports shoes because the Nike and Adidas brands are marketed as dependable, trustworthy and stable. These companies offer you a silent promise of “you’ll get what you expect”.

The same is true of coffee machine brands and here, questions such as “is it easy to operate?”, “are the instructions clear?”, “will the machine perform as it should?”, “what service can I expect if it breaks?” are all logical questions you should ask.

Well known home brands like Philips, Siemens, Nespresso and De Longhi typically provide you with well written instruction manuals and have service centres to support maintenance. For more commercial machines, such as Wega or La Marzocco in the manual espresso range or Jetinno or Bianchi in the coffee vending machine range, you’ll need to find local distributors and find reviews about their service. Wega has a long history of success and its why we distribute the brand.

The two most important aspects here are conditions for returning the machine if it doesn’t meet your needs and after sales service support.

On the first, it is better to purchase your coffee machine from a reputable supplier that will accept returns, within say, a 7-day period if the machine doesn’t meet your needs. For the second, make sure your coffee machine type, model and brand are supported locally and don’t buy a coffee machine that has poor back-up support. Your warranty is typically a 12 month warranty, but after that you could be on your own if service is poor. It may be a cheaper model, but you’ll waste hours trying to have it serviced and long wait times will only frustrate you further.

Again, search for reviews on the brand and the company you’ll be buying from to make sure others who have bought the same model and brand from that supplier, are saying positive things.

So what coffee machine will it be?

Which coffee machine should you choose?

Armed with knowledge of the different types of coffee machine available and knowing that you need to look across models of that type, your choice will come down to functionality, brand and price. If you are looking at a domestic coffee machine, you may also want to look at the aesthetics of the solution and how it would fit into your home.

For office coffee situations, it’s primarily functionality versus cost.

Whatever you choose, and here you may want to look at our page on the different coffee machines we offer, make sure you are happy with your coffee maker. Life’s too short for bad coffee!


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