We all love coffee. Especially in the morning, a cup of coffee can always get me going. At first you might be satisfied with instant coffee, but sooner or later you will want something taste better and more stylish, and you will start looking at brewing coffee with coffee ground and a coffee maker. We understand that choosing the best coffee machine could be a bit of a headache, and probably cost you a few cups of coffee too! Hopefully, this guide can help you choose the machine you like.
A list of different coffee type
If you are a beginner to coffee and don’t know much about the difference between Cappuccino and Americano, then you should start here. You can also jump to the bottom of this page to see our top 5 popular machine reviews. Also, check out our 2014 top coffee machine reviews.
The process of coffee making always involves grounding the coffee seeds and then brewing with hot water to extract the flavour. What separates an espresso from a filtered coffee is the fineness of the grind and the way how hot water mixes with the coffee ground. Here’s a list of different coffee type:
- Filtered Coffee or Drip Coffee: This is made by dripping hot water through a filter which is filled with ground coffee, and finally into a pot. The usual size of a filtered coffee is 240 ml and contains about 90 to 200 mg of caffeine. Filtered coffee can be prepared by using a filter coffee maker.
- Espresso: This is a small cup of strong coffee. The usual size of a shot of espresso is 30ml which contains about 80mg of caffeine. It should also have a good crema which is a layer of creamy golden foam that sits on top of the coffee. Espresso can be made by using an espresso machine or a coffee pod/capsule machine.
- Cappuccino: This is prepared with espresso, hot milk and frothy milk (foamed milk). The traditional cappuccino comprises of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 hot milk and 1/3 frothy milk. It can also be prepared by an espresso machine as some of them come with a tool (called a milk frother) which allows you to make a cappuccino. Alternatively, it can be made by a coffee capsule machine.
- Caffelatte or Latte: This means “milk coffee” and it is made with espresso and hot milk. A standard 240ml latte is usually made of a single shot of espresso (30ml), a large portion of hot milk and finally a layer of frothy milk.
- Mochacinno or Mocha: This is made by mixing a shot of espresso with hot chocolate.
- Americano: It is made by combining hot water with espresso. The caffeine per volume is similar to filtered coffee but the taste is different.
Introducing different coffee machines
After you have decided which type of coffee you would like to make, the next step is to pick the right machine that suits you the best. The best coffee machine would be the one that suits your personality and your needs. So we are going to introduce a few kinds of machine and the step-by-step procedure of using them. Hopefully it will give you a good understanding of the pros and cons for each types of coffee maker.
Filter/Drip Coffee Machine
Filter coffee machine works from top to bottom. Water is poured in a water tank at the top and being heat up with a built-in heating element. Hot water then drip through a filter filled with ground coffee. Finally the coffee comes out from the filter into the pot at the bottom. Most machines have a heater plate at the bottom to keep the coffee warm.
Brewing Coffee Step-by-step
- Put a coffee filter in the filter basket.
- Fill up the filter with ground coffee – the amount the coffee depends on your preference.
- Pour water into the water compartment.
- Push the button and wait until the coffee is done.
- Built-in water heater – which means you don’t need to boil water first.
- Come with warming plate to keep the coffee hot.
- Large capacity – most machine can make 8 to 12 cups of coffee in one go.
- It takes time to brew a full pot of coffee (on average 10 mins).
- Restrict to making filtered coffee only.
- Replacing filters can be costly (if using disposable filter).
- Need to clean the filter after using it (if using permanent filter).
Price Range: If all you want is a simple cup of coffee, filter coffee makers definitely do the work. But if you want something that you can buy from a coffee shop, you will need to look at the espresso machine or the coffee pod machine. The prices of a filter coffee maker are between £30 to £110.
If you love strong and intense coffee, an espresso machine would be your choice. It first heats up the water to the optimum temperature at about 90C (Coffee tip: boiling water will ruin the coffee by giving it a bitter taste). The hot water then passes through the ground coffee at a certain bar pressure in order to produce a small cup of strong coffee.
You may find that there are mainly two types of espresso machine in the market: Pump driven and Steam driven. The difference between these two machines is the way how they produce pressures. Stream driven machines only produce around 2-4 bar pressure while the pump driven machines can produce at least 9 bar pressure but they are more expensive.
Bar pressure is important because it is required to make a good espresso. A good espresso should have a good creamy golden layer of crema that stays on top of the coffee. Crema is a pure coffee extract that is rich in flavour. In order to get a good crema, a high pressure is a must and you should definitely choose the pump driven one if you want a good quality espresso.
Brewing Coffee Step-by-step
- Fill the portafilter with ground coffee.
- Tamp the coffee according to your preference.
- Attach the portafilter to the machine and turn until tight.
- Start brewing.
- An espresso should be ready in about 30 seconds.
- Espresso machines can also be used to make latte or Cappuccino. Many of them come with a milk frother that is used for preparing steamed milk and milk froth for this purpose.
- You can also use it to prepare other types of coffee: mocha, macchiato, Americano e.t.c
- Some models allow ground coffee and ESE pod which can be convenient.
- It takes only 30 seconds to prepare a shot of espresso.
- It could be messy so it may require some cleaning.
- You can only make up to 2 cups of coffee at a time, so you will need to repeat the process a few more times if you want more coffee.
- The size is usually bigger than a normal kettle.
Price range: You can find some espresso machines for less than £100. A good one that has higher quality and more functions should cost more than £100. But remember, the more expensive the machine is doesn’t necessary mean it is a better one. You can get a pretty decent one for under £150.
Coffee Capsule/Pod Machine
Instead of using ground coffee or bean, coffee pod machines use pre-packaged sealed coffee capsules which contains ground coffee inside. The capsules are pierced when they are inserted into the machine. Hot water then passes through the capsules under a certain bar pressure and finally produce a cup of hot beverage. This is an espresso machine with a easy-to-use pod system and it is gaining popularity in Britain. This might also be the new trend of home coffee machines.
When you start choosing your best coffee pod machine, you may find that there are several brand names for the same model, e.g. Nespresso Pixel by Krups, and Nespresso Pixel by Migimix. This is because coffee company (e.g. Nespresso) usually partners with many machine manufacturers (e.g. Krups, Migimix, De’ Longhi e.t.c). You can just pick whichever is cheaper because apart from the names, there are rarely any differences.
Brewing Coffee Step-by-step
- Fill up the water tank.
- Insert a coffee capsule.
- Push the button and a cup of hot coffee will be with you very soon.
- Super easy way to make a cup of coffee
- Not limited to coffee only, you can also buy capsules for hot chocolate or ice tea.
- Unlike ground coffee which would lose its freshness once open for more than a week, capsules can be stored and stay fresh for months.
- The design of these machines tends to be stylist and sleek which looks good in the kitchen.
- Not as messy as other machines that use ground coffee
- Easy to clean
- You can only use the capsules that are manufactured by the same company as your coffee machine. E.g. a Nespresso machines are only compatible with Nespresso capsules.
- Capsules are more expensive than ground coffee.
- Some capsules are not recyclable.
Price range: Coffee pod machines are increasingly popular and you can find them selling at as low as £50. Most of the newly made ones are sold at above £100, they come with more functions like automatic volume control etc.
If you are crazy about your coffee and love to have all the functionality, a high-end coffee pod machines would suit you. They cost above £300 and most of them have a cup heater and a built-in milking frothing steam pipe so that you can make a professional cappuccino.
We have picked and reviewed the following 5 machines. They are some of the most popular models on the market and they all have very positive feedbacks from the users. But at the end of the day, only you can find your best coffee machine which suits your needs perfectly.
Morphy Richards 47586 Meno Espresso Machine
At under £90, this Morphy Richards Espresso Machine is well made and stylish and it is a great product on the market. The size is not too big so it will still look great if the kitchen is small. It is also easy to use: the portafilter is easy to remove and the instruction is straight forward.
The crema made is rich and creamy; the espresso has a great flavour and doesn’t have bitter taste. The steam milk frother also works very well as it can produce nice milk froth quickly. One of the problems is that the cup holder is not large enough to place two normal sized coffee cup side-by-sides, but it will be fine if you are using small espresso cups. Some users also found that the coffee is just warm enough and they could do a bit hotter, but this can be overcome by pre-heating the cups before making the first coffee.
Overall it is a great machine with a great price. If your budget is under £100 and want a decent espresso machine that can make good coffee, this would be the choice. There might be some complaints about the coffee not being hot enough but this is all solvable if you don’t mind a little bit of preparation before making the coffee.
- Great price
- Rich flavoured espresso and nice crema
- Easy to use
- Coffee not hot enough
- Small cup holder
De’Longhi Icona ECO310 Espresso Machine
Made by the Italian company De’Longhi, the Icona ECO310 will certainly make you an authentic coffee.
It comes in large choice of colours to choose from so you don’t have to worry about the colour not matching your kitchen. You can also choose the normal version or the De’Longhi Vintage
version. Not to mention it’ll match with other De Longhi kitchen appliances in the same range.
You can use both ground coffee and ESE pods and the coffee is full of flavour. It can make a creamy lovely crema which make the coffee perfect. If you prefer cappuccino, you’ll love using the steam wand that comes with the machine as the steam produced is well-distributed and steady. The steamed milk is rich and smooth. If you are very passionate about your cappuccino, you should also consider getting a professional milk jug and thermometer.
The operation cannot be easier. With the 3-button operation system, anyone can be a barista in just a few minutes. The three buttons are simply on/off, coffee and steam.
The downside of this machine is that it can take a while (about 5 -10 mins) to start when you turn it on the first time in the morning. Some users have also reviewed that it is rather difficult to tighten the portafilter into place unless you have a good grip.
- Stylist and match the range
- Quick and effective milk frother
- Simple 3-button operation
- Portafilter may be hard to use
- Take a while to start up
De’Longhi EC820.B Espresso Machine
With its glossy surface and chrome finish, the De’Longhi EC820.B is undoubtedly stylish. It gives a modern and up-market feel to the kitchen.
The machine heats up fast in the morning and it only takes about 30 seconds from switching on the main to making a very fine restaurant quality espresso. The coffee is delightfully smooth and strong and the crema is excellent! The steaming wand is efficient and powerful, it will heat enough milk for a cup of cappuccino in less than a minute. Unlike some other models, the steam nozzle is removable which makes cleaning very easy.
For those who like to make two cups of espresso at the same time, this coffee maker comes with three interchangeable filters (for one or two cups or ESE pods). It is also equipped with a cup warmer on top and a removable drip tray.
Some users have reviewed that there are some downsides for the EC820B. We have gathered the users’ feedbacks and concluded that there are three major problems.
1) Some may have a leaking problem. Water seems to leak from overflow hole under the drip tray.
Suggestion from users: Remove the drip tray and you may find a water overflow hole. Clean it regularly to make sure that there are no limescales which may potentially block up the hole.
2) You will need to wait for the machine to cool down if you want to make a coffee right after dispensing the steam. The reason is that both hot steam and coffee dispenser are sharing the same heating system for this model.
Suggestion from users: To work around this problem, prepare the coffee in this order: always coffee first and steam the last.
3) The instructions are confusing. A lot of users have expressed that the instruction book is totally useless. Luckily, the machine is not difficult to use. You will need to use it for few times at the beginning with trial and error. Once you get used to it, it becomes very easy.
- Quick starting up
- Excellent coffee and crema
- Removable steam nozzle allows easy cleaning
- Powerful steaming wand
- Machine needs to be operated in the correct order
- Limescale will cause leaking problem
- Useless instruction book
Nescafe Dolce Gusto Melody 3 Coffee Pod Machine
The red model looks like a ladybird and the black one looks like a poodle. This fun looking coffee capsule machine definitely captures the attention in the young and vibrant generation. Besides the funky body shape, the chrome finish in the drip tray and the pod holder gives the machine a shiny and elegant look.
The best thing about the Melody3 is the ease of use: everything is easy with this machine. It is easy to make a coffee, all you need to do is to push a button, wait a minute for the machine to heat up, then insert a capsule and finally pull the handle to start or stop dispensing the coffee.
Making cappuccino is also easy, you just need to put in the coffee pod and dispense half cup of coffee. Then replace with the milk pod and dispense the other half. The whole process only takes about 20 seconds and a cup of creamy cappuccino is done.
The Nescafe capsules have a large range of variety and they are not just limited to normal espresso. You can chose espresso, lungo, chocolate, choco caramel, ice peach tea, ice cappuccino and a lot more!
Cleaning is very easy with this machine as it doesn’t make much mess. The water tank is removable so it is easy to fill up water or clean. The drip tray only requires a few wipes to keep clean.
- Easy to use and clean
- Quick coffee making
- Option to make hot or cold drink
- Large variety of drink. (Tea, hot chocolate, etc)
- Lacking milk frother
- Capsules generally cost more than ground coffee
Nespresso Pixie Coffee Capsule Machine
Unlike the young and funky Dolce Gusto Melody 3, the Nespresso Pixie has a mature and classic look. The great thing about this machine is the auto power off feature. It will turn itself off after 9 minutes of inactivity which, believe me, happens more than you thought.
From starting up to finishing heating takes about 30 seconds. Brewing the coffee from the capsule takes even quicker. The coffee is simply amazing. Nespresso offers a wide selection of coffee. You can choose the coffee capsules based on the strength (from the weakest 2 to the strongest 12) and tastes (woody, spicy, fruity, roasted, citrus, sweet or winy). You will need to experiment each flavour to find the one that you like the best. The 19-bar pressure extracts most flavour out of the coffee pods and it also gives a creamy, aromatic crema on the coffee.
If you want to make cappuccino or cafe latte, you can opt for the Nespresso Pixie Aeroccino
version (cost £20 more than the normal version on Amazon.co.uk). The Aerocinno accessory is a milk frothing machine that makes milk foam for you cappuccino. Simply pour in the milk and push the start button. It will stop as soon as the milk foam is ready.
One downside is that if you are using a bigger cup, it may not fit the cup holder as it is designed for small espresso cup.
- Easy to use and clean
- Quick coffee making
- Automatic switch off
- Indicator light for low water level
- Wide coffee selection (different strength and taste)
- Capsules are restricted to coffee only. (No chocolate, peach tea, etc)
- Cup holder is not big enough for bigger cups.