There are so many different types of home coffee machine out there on the market. For those who don’t have experience using them, it can be difficult to decide which machine suits you. You might want something that’s easy, automatic, and efficient, or conversely something which allows you more direct control.
To learn more about the different types of machine and what they offer, I spoke with Aurimas Vainauskas, the founder and CEO of Coffee Friend. Read on to learn more about some of the different types of home coffee machine, and what sets them apart.
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Home Espresso Machines
Espresso machines were first invented in Italy in 1884. They have been a staple in cafés throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. However, there are many models that are also appropriate for home use.
“The main benefit [of a home espresso machine] is that it offers the ability to learn more about coffee,” Aurimas says. “It will help baristas to develop and improve [their skills at home], and increase the variety of drinks they can prepare. You can truly experiment, and it allows you to adjust and control so many parameters up close.”
Home espresso machines come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they are generally quite large. Some of the higher-end home espresso machines may also require plumbing, which can be costly.
Espresso machines usually break down into four distinct categories: manual, semi-automatic, automatic. Manual espresso machines rely on a lever or a manual pump to force the water through your coffee bed.
Most home espresso machines are semi-automatic. When using a semi-automatic machine, you grind the coffee, load the portafilter, tamp, and press a button to start the shot. This gives you a lot of control over a variety of parameters.
Automatic espresso machines are largely the same, but have one fundamental difference. While you have to press the button twice to start and stop the water flow with semi-automatic espresso machines, fully automatic machines stop themselves. This means you only have to press the button once.
Whichever subcategory you choose, you will be able to produce espresso and espresso-based beverages (such as cappuccinos, lattes, and americanos). However, creating high-quality espresso at home will take time and practice.
One of Aurimas’ top tips for home espresso machine users is to take care when tamping. “Many people find that their favourite coffee can taste different depending on the amount of pressure they use when tamping it,” he says.
Pod And Capsule Machines
If you’re after shorter, espresso-style coffee, but want ultimate convenience, you might consider a pod or capsule machine. Aurimas says: “Capsule machines are great for those who are always in a hurry and prefer very quick preparation and easy maintenance.”
Some 59 billion coffee pods were sold in the UK alone in 2018, and the global market has experienced tremendous growth in recent years.
Aurimas adds that it’s also a good choice for customers who want to mix things up. “You can add different-flavoured capsules one after another and enjoy great variety. You can even use them for decaf right after you’ve made a cup of fully-caffeinated coffee.”
For machines that use classic Nespresso pods (which are the most common) you can choose from hundreds of different official or Nespresso-compatible capsules. Some specialty coffee roasters have even started selling pods in recent years.
Using one of these machines is simple. You insert a pod into the machine, press a button, and receive consistently extracted coffee in a matter of seconds.
Most capsule machines have a number of presets to choose from, making it easy to make adjustments if you prefer more or less water in your beverage. Generally, however, pod machines allow for much less control than other machines.
“Many also find them convenient for their small size and easy transportation. It’s also a great choice for smaller families who enjoy only a few cups [between them] every day,” Aurimas adds.
Filter And Batch Brewing
For those seeking cleaner-tasting and less intense coffee than espresso, filter machines or batch brewers are an excellent option. They are easy to use, and offer a different type of coffee altogether.
However, batch brewers often take five minutes or longer to brew a cup of coffee. This is because batch brewers require a coarser grind. Brewing filter coffee requires larger sized coffee particles when compared to espresso, as it is brewed with more water.
“A filter coffee [batch brewer] is great for families that drink a lot of coffee,” Aurimas tells me. “This is because you can brew the whole pot at once. [Many machines] also keep it warm for some time, too.”
The longer brew time will also bring out the more complex and delicate flavours in the coffee, while offering a lighter and cleaner mouthfeel when compared to espresso. This makes it an excellent choice for those who prefer drinking black coffee.
Using a batch brewer is simple. Add water to the tank, grind your coffee, and place it into a filter in the brewing chamber. After that, you typically press a button to start the brew.
However, using a predetermined ratio of coffee and water will help you to bring out the best characteristics in the coffee. While ratios vary from machine to machine, a coffee-water ratio of around 1:16 is often recommended.
If you want an ultra-convenient way to drink freshly ground and brewed coffee, then bean-to-cup home machines are an ideal choice. If they are primarily used to make espresso, they may also be referred to as “super-automatic” espresso machines.
With bean-to-cup machines, you simply your coffee beans straight into a built-in grinder. Based on your selection and brew method, the machine will then adjust its grind settings automatically, and then begin brewing.
Some bean-to-cup machines are also equipped with automatic milk steaming capabilities, as Aurimas explains. “This allows [you] to program and preset your favourite ratios.
“With some machines, you can even create different user profiles for different family members, and create complex and [typically high-skill] milk-based beverages like lattes or macchiatos in less than a minute, without any effort.”
The entire process of grinding the beans and brewing the coffee takes just a few minutes. A bean-to-cup machine is an excellent option for anyone who wants to drink a range of café-style beverages but doesn’t have time to swap between a variety of different brewing methods.
Aurimas adds: “The main advantages [with a bean-to-cup machine] are its functionality, ease of use, and convenience. It allows the user to prepare various coffee drinks from freshly ground coffee beans. In many cases, they can do this with just one single touch of a button.
“The automatic systems in these coffee machines often make it easy to clean while delivering consistency and reliability, no matter which beverage you choose to prepare.”
Despite the abundance of automatic options on the market, some consumers prefer to have more control over how their coffee extracts. Manual brewing methods, such as pour over filter coffee and full immersion brewers, require more skill and technique, but can unlock totally different cup profiles.
“A pour over brewer allows [you] to extract crisp, clear notes, more tea-like textures, and generally less acidity,” Aurimas explains.
You will most likely need more equipment to successfully brew coffee manually, including a scale, a good grinder, and possibly a pouring kettle, but there are several advantages to using manual methods.
Aurimas adds: “Some people prefer the ability to bring their equipment along with them when traveling, since manual brewers are compact and easily transportable.
“Others want to see the whole preparation process up close, control the pour, and just love the manual part of it all.”
Useful Tips For Brewing Coffee At Home
No matter which machine or method you choose, there are some best practices that you can follow to ensure that you always drink high quality coffee.
Keep your home machine and brewing equipment well-maintained and clean so that they perform at their best and don’t produce stale tasting coffee. Pieces which are in regular contact with coffee grounds, such as portafilter baskets, can quickly accumulate a build-up of sediment and oils from the coffee.
Preheat your cup or server to improve your extraction and keep your beverages hotter for longer.
Prewet your paper filters to remove the papery taste and ensure a more even extraction.
Use a scale, when necessary, to weigh coffee and water. This will help you find an ideal ratio for your preferences, and won’t extract coffee that’s too strong or weak.
Finally, use good beans. Purchasing carefully produced and roasted coffee, with flavour profiles that you enjoy, will be the key to crafting delicious beverages at home. Buy from a good roaster and pay attention to the information on the packaging, such as the origin and tasting notes.
Choosing a brewing method can be daunting. There’s a huge variety of options on offer, and they all offer different advantages for different types of coffee drinker.
If you’re unsure about which coffee machine you want to buy, consult the guide above. Do you want convenience? Do you want control? Or do you want the ability to make a variety of beverages with the same machine? Think about what you want before you choose a coffee machine – and make sure your purchase suits you.
Enjoyed this? Then read A Brief History Of Coffee Pods
Photo credits: Coffee Friend, Tasmin Grant
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