Buying a coffee maker can be a tricky task given the range of options available out there. It could have you wondering – what should i look for when buying a coffee maker? In this article, we’re going to be taking a look at just that.
To help you get an overview of the key things to look out for when buying a coffee maker, we’ll take a look at:
- Different Types of Coffee Makers
- Pod Machines
- Bean To Cup
- Milk Frothers
- Ease of Use
What Should I Look For When Buying A Coffee Maker?
Let’s now take a detailed look at the various aspects to look out for when buying a coffee maker.
Different Types of Coffee Makers
Generall speaking there are three main types of coffee machines for brewing at home. These are (i) pod/capsule machines (ii) bean to cup and (iii) ground machines. Let’s take a look at each one.
(i) Pod Machines
Pod or capsule coffee machines are those that make coffee from pre-packed pods/capsules. They offer convenience and a mess free way of getting your coffee fix. They often come in small sizes meaning they’re great if you are tight for space in your kitchen. The pods/capsules are typically available in a range of different flavours and coffee varieties giving you plenty of choice. These machines make for relatively straightforward coffee making as there’s little to do aside from placing the capsule into the machine and pressing a button. They do however, sometimes get criticised for their environmental impact as the capsules are typically not suitable for recycling.
(ii) Bean To Cup Machines
Bean to cup coffee machines are some of the most popular in the market and take whole beans, grind them and brew your coffee. As they only grind the beans at the point of use, they are said to produce the freshest coffee of the three main types. This is because the longer that coffee remains unused once it has been ground, the more of it’s aroma and flavour it loses.
Bean to cup machines come in many different varieties with some having fully automatic operation (i.e. press a button and wait) whilst others require some more manual intervention once the beans have been ground and brewed.
(iii) Ground Coffee Machines
The third main type of coffee machines are ground coffee makers. These use pre-ground beans to brew your coffee so do not offer the same level of freshness as the bean to cup variety. They do however, typically come in cheaper and smaller offerings than the bean to cup variety as they do not have the added cost and size of an integrated coffee grinder to deal with.
A major part of the decision when selecting a coffee machine is of course the cost. With this there are two factors to consider (i) the upfront cost of the machine and (ii) the ongoing running and maintenance costs.
(i) Upfront Cost
In terms of upfront cost, coffee machines can range from around £30/40 all the way up to £2,000. It all depends on what type of coffee machine you are after. Typically pod coffee machines tend to be the least expensive and these can be found froun £30 – £50 for well rated ones through to around £300 – £400 for the more high end options.
You can typically find very well rated bean to cup coffee machines from around £300 – £500 though these can get quite expensive as well with many going for between £1,000 – £2,000.
Ground coffee machines can usually be found for around £200 though can stretch as far as £500.
(ii) Running Costs
When it comes to running costs these vary depending on the type of machine you are buying.
Pod coffee machines tend to be the most expensive in the long-run as the costs of the pods/capsules mean you can end up spending far more than the cost of the actual machine every year. You do not have the same issue with bean to cup machines which rely on roasted whole beans that are less expensive than pods as well as ground coffee machines.
One of the key features to look out for when it comes to buying a coffee maker is the milk frother. These are key if you want to be able to make milk based drinks with your coffee maker such as cappuccinos and lattes.
Milk frothers usually come as either automatic or manual.
(i) Automatic milk frothers will make your life easier as they will take care of the milk frothing for you. Typically this involves placing a jug of milk under the frother spout and letting it do the work. They can also be used to heat up the milk.
Automatic milk frothers can sometimes be integrated into the coffee maker unit meaning you could have the option to simply press a button at the start and wait for a fully formed latte at the other end.
(ii) Manual milk frother will require you to get more involved with the action and typically need you to move the milk jug appropriately to get the desired effect. They can also be used to simply heat the milk rather than froth it or both.
It’s worth noting that you can also get seperate milk frothers if you prefer but the above cover those typically found on coffee makers.
Ease of Use
When it comes to selecting the coffee maker you want to buy it’s worth keeping in mind the level of involvement you want and its ease of use. If you want something that’s fairly hands off and requires little intervention then an automatic bean to cup coffee machine or pod machine may be worth considering. If you are particularly concerned with the freshness, then you may want to go for a bean to cup coffee machine.
If you like the idea of getting a bit more hands on then a manual coffee maker make be more to your liking perhaps a manual bean to cup machine. On the other hand if you like the idea of a more hands on experience but don’t want to get too involved then a semi-automatic machine may be more to your liking they typically combine some level of automation with more manual processes.
In terms of ease of use, you’ll want to pay attention to the control panels as well as how the coffee is actually made. There are some machines that just require the touch of a button or two (e.g. pod/capsule machines as well as automatic bean to cup and ground machines) giving you a real easy time. Whilst there are some machines that offer touchscreen capability making things even easier. There are others that require more effort to get your desired result and more manual operation.
Some coffee makers will allow you to create your own drinks based on pre-selected options that can then be programmed into the machine for repeated use. This means you can end up saving your perfect drink after you’ve experiemented with your machine and get the right balance (e.g. volume, strength, milk setting etc) for you every time.
When selecting your machine keep an eye on the dimensions typically expressed as width x depth x height. Keep in mind how any potential machine will fit onto your countertop. In particularly keep an eye for machines with water tanks at the bank of the machine if you need to place the unit underneath cupboards as you may be restricted with access.
Another key feature to keep in mind is the capacity of any potential machine you are looking at. The most important feature in this respect is the water tank. Typically a decent size tank is deemed to be around 1.5 litres and above to avoid you having to constantly have to top up the tank. Also keep in mind that some machines use up water for flushing out the system after each use.