What to Look for When Buying a Coffee Machine

automatic coffee machine
When choosing an automatic coffee machine you want a machine that can grind the beans just prior to use.

If you are in the market for a new coffee machine, it may seem a little confusing or overwhelming to choose between all the different types on the market. To keep the buying decision relatively simple we have broken this down into three main types of coffee machines to look at – manual, automatic/semi-automatic, and capsule/pod machines.

The type of machine you choose is really dependent on the following:

  • The quality and strength of the brew
  • How much coffee you will be producing or how many people will be using it
  • Whether it will be a home coffee machine or an office coffee machine
  • And whether you want a coffee maker that is easy to use and clean.

So first things first – coffee machine or coffee maker? They are essentially the same thing; a coffee maker covers anything that makes a coffee while a coffee machine usually covers those that need power to run. As an example, a coffee machine would include manual, capsule, auto, semi-auto electric drip, or electric percolators. Coffee makers expand further to include just about any other coffee items that produce or brew the coffee such as drip filters, percolators, Turkish ibriks, French press, moka pots, and more.

At home you could have almost any coffee machine or coffee maker on the market – capsule machines such as the K Cup coffee machines are great for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time making a cup of coffee and want to be able to access the benefits of having so many different flavor options without buying a lot of different products (more on coffee pod and capsule machines below).

If you enjoy a coffee that tastes like the one from your favorite coffee shop, you would be more likely to consider semi-automatic or automatic espresso machines. But if you are a purest and after a traditional coffee that gives you the full experience, then you need to look at a manual espresso machine as anything else will only leave you disappointed!

For the office, you need to look for a coffee maker that is easy to use and easy to clean. Capsule-type machines are becoming more popular in an office setting now due to the ease of cleaning, use, and the option for so many different flavors.

If your budget stretches a bit further, you could install a semi-automatic or automatic machine but this will likely involve training staff members on how to use, fill, and clean the machine at the end of the day. However, the semi-auto and fully automatic machines are perfect if you receive a lot of business visitors and wish to serve them a stylish coffee.

Other Things To Look Out For

Thermoblocks

There are some factors you should look out for when purchasing your coffee machine. The first is whether they use single or twin thermoblocks. A thermoblock is the device in the coffee machine that heats the water to the best temperature, meaning the coffee beans won’t be scalded.

If the coffee machines you are considering have twin thermoblocks then you know your water should be heated at a quicker pace meaning your coffee will be ready to go not long after turning the unit on.

Having the twin thermoblocks also means that the machine is capable of creating enough steam required for milk frothing; all at the same time.

Pump Pressure

The pump pressure of the machine is important, especially for making a good crema on your coffee. The pressure is what forces hot water through the ground coffee and is measured in a “bar”. The best coffee machines will be capable of 15 bars or more.

Filter Holder

The quality of the filter holder is also important when buying a manual or automatic espresso machine. The filter is what holds the ground coffee and should retain the heat from the machine. The basic models on the market often have filter holders made of aluminum while the more expensive ones are made from brass which retains the heat for longer.

Milk Frother

Whether you need a milk frother or not depends on the type of machine you are buying and whether you enjoy coffee with milk. The frother is what makes that lovely creamy sweet milk you get in your coffee from the café. It allows you to make anything from a Cappuccino, Latte, and Macchiatos.

Capsule coffee makers, semi-automatic and fully automatic machines often come with an inbuilt milk frother so you shouldn’t need to worry about whether the machine has one of these types of machines. But for those who are all about producing quality, taste, and being able to produce this art form then your manual coffee machines will need a milk frothing or steam wand.

Capacity

The capacity of a coffee machine refers to the volume it can hold of coffee beans, used grinds, water, and milk. If you are only ever making coffee for yourself you can likely get away with an espresso machine that has a small capacity or a single-cup coffee maker but if you are buying a machine for the office, you will need a machine that has enough capacity for it not to need refilling every time someone uses the machine.

Coffee Machine Accessories

Finally, there are accessories to consider. If you are choosing between two machines that have the same capacity and the same quality build but one comes with accessories while the other doesn’t, go for the machine with the accessories. These coffee accessories can and often do include a milk frothing jug, a chocolate shaker, a tamper (for packing down the ground coffee into the filter), a spatula (used when pouring the milk), and a grinder brush (for cleaning the grinder if there is one in the machine).

Ultimate Coffee Machine Comparison Guide

Included in the table below are the following details:

  • Coffee machine images
  • Make and model details
  • Some of the best features
  • Customer ratings – This is the average of user ratings on Amazon, which can assist in helping you decide what is the best coffee machine for you
  • Price – This is the average price on Amazon. These can vary depending on specials, but as an approximate guide:
    • $ = under $50
    • $$ = $50-$100
    • $$$ = $100-$500
    • $$$$ = $500-$1000

Here are our picks of the best coffee machines on the market:

CategoryProductFeaturesRatingPrice
BEST AUTOMATIC COFFEE MACHINEDeLonghi ESAM3300 Automatic Espresso/Coffee Machine

Best Automatic Coffee Machine
Easy-to-use push button control panel

Unique beans-to-brew system grinds beans instantly

Mixes steam and milk to create a rich, creamy froth

Professional quality

Prepares espresso, coffee, cappuccino, latte drinks, and more


4.1 out of 5 stars
$$$$

buy from Amazon
BEST K CUPS COFFEE MAKERKeurig K60/K65 Single-Cup Brewing System

Best K Cups Coffee Maker
Digital Clock for programmable brewing

Sleek Single touch control panel

Fast brewing time, less than a minute

3 brew sizes (6 oz., 8 oz. & 10 oz.)

Adjustable brew temperature


4.4 out of 5 stars
$$$

buy from Amazon
BEST ESPRESSO MACHINEDe’Longhi EC155 Espresso and Cappuccino Maker

manual-coffee-machines
Use espresso coffee pods or ground coffee

Inbuilt milk frother for lattes & cappuccinos

Self-priming operation to cut start-up time

Indicator light with the on/off function lets you know when the unit is ready to go


3.8 out of 5 stars
$$

buy from Amazon
BEST K CUP VARIETY PACKKeurig K-Cup Coffee Variety Sampler Pack

K-Cup Variety Pack
Wide range of styles and flavors

Made from the highest quality Arabica beans

Lets you sample many of their finest coffees


4.0 out of 5 stars
$

buy from Amazon

Types Of Coffee Machines

So now we know the basics and the functions to look out for when buying a machine, next is to understand the different types of coffee espresso makers on the market.

Manual Coffee Machines

A manual coffee machine
A manual coffee machine is for those who want complete control over their brew.

A manual coffee machine is for those who want complete control over their brew – you manually load the coffee into the filter, put it into the machine, press the right button, and away you go. If you want milk you can then manually heat the milk using the milk wand. These are the types of coffee machines you will see in coffee shops and are the best type of machine to look for if you are serious about your coffee; are after a machine that should stand the test of time and (and have the space in your kitchen).

If this resonates with you then you should consider buying something from the range of Delonghi coffee makers – specifically the Delonghi Pump Espresso machines or the Saeco manual espresso machine.

The price of home espresso machines can vary wildly from a couple of hundred dollars for a small single-cup coffee maker to thousands of dollars for a machine that can hold two or three (or more) filters and produce multiple cups of coffee at once. If you are after your first manual one-cup coffee maker, a product such as the Krupps espresso maker may be a great option. For your first machine, you want something in the lower price range but still produce good quality espresso. This machine is perfect for getting a taste of the art form and practicing the craft.

If you are after a commercial coffee maker for your café, restaurant, or the like, a manual coffee machine is your best bet. While they are more expensive, they also produce better coffee in a commercial setting; and are capable of making mass quantities day after day.

Automatic Coffee Machines

Automatic and semi-automatic coffee machines are the middle ground between a manual machine and a capsule machine. Some models have the option to push one button and everything is done (including the cleaning of the machine) while others offer pre-set options for one or more shots, the style of coffee, the number of cups, and more. When choosing an automatic coffee machine you want a machine that can grind the beans just prior to use. This will ensure that you still get the same great flavor from using fresh coffee beans without the need to pre-grind them; a great convenient feature built into these machines.

The automatic Jura coffee machine is a perfect example of the type of automatic machine to look for – it grinds fresh coffee beans as you need them, there is a simple one-touch option for the type of coffee you would like and it has an integrated maintenance program which rinses, cleans and descales the machine while cleaning and rinsing the milk section.

Another option would be the fully automatic Delonghi coffee machines which have some models with silent grinders, the ability to adjust the coffee and water output, a one-touch auto system, or the option to personalize your coffee to cup size, shot amount, and temperature.

If you run a small business or are after a good coffee machine for home, automatic and semi-automatic coffee machines are a great option for easy use and easy cleaning.

Automatic and semi-automatic coffee machines are in the mid-range price bracket starting at around $1000 for single-cup coffee makers up to $4000 for the top-of-the-range options.

Coffee Pod Machines

Coffee pod machines are becoming very popular in the home and small office coffee market. Being easy to use and clean, it is no wonder that they are gracing the countertops of most homes around the country.

It seems like overnight the coffee pod market just popped up from nowhere and with so many brands and machines now appearing in stores every day, it can be a little overwhelming when deciding which brand or machine to choose.

Coffee pod machines are often single-cup coffee makers and with so many different flavors, strengths, and various coffee and non-coffee drinks available, a pod machine is perfect for those who love the convenience of having machine-made coffee without needing to spend lots of money on a coffee machine for gadgets that you just don’t need.

Difference Between Coffee Pods & Capsules

Keurig K-Cup Variety Pack
Coffee pods and coffee capsules… Do you know the difference?

When you are looking at coffee pod machines you may be wondering why some say they take coffee pods while others say they take coffee capsules. Is there a difference?

There are a few differences between pods and capsules and while the names are usually interchangeable, the products are different. A coffee capsule is a vacuum-packed foil capsule that requires the use of a capsule coffee machine in order to produce your perfect brew.

A coffee pod, on the other hand, is a round pod, usually made in a material similar to a tea bag that is placed into a filter for brewed coffee.

There is also a difference in the way they are produced. The capsule is vacuum packed in single serves which helps maintain the integrity of the coffee; by avoiding excess moisture, and exposure to light, heat, and oxygen. As any great lover of coffee knows all these elements can affect the production and taste of your coffee.

Coffee pods are also packed in single serves but are pressed between two sheets of paper. They both contain a similar amount of coffee, with the pods often containing 7g of coffee and the capsules containing 5g to 7g of coffee.

Then there is the taste difference. A coffee capsule usually has water pushed through, similar to the way water pushes through a filter in a manual coffee machine; whereas a coffee pod is brewed over a period of time and is better if you want to control the strength of your coffee.

Coffee Capsule Machines

Coffee capsule machines have been taking off in homes and offices over the past couple of years and it is easy to see why. Machines such as the K cup coffee makers are great for use at home when everyone wants something different or for when you have guests drop by and they are so easy to use and clean that they are perfect in a small office or small business environment.

The capsules that are used in these machines come in many different flavors and strengths, so are great for those who just want a basic coffee; they aren’t so great if you prefer full control over your coffee.

While a K-cup coffee machine or a capsule-based Delonghi coffee maker fits into a home or office environment easily, they are also a great option if you run a motel or a small hotel where you would like to have a coffee machine in each room available for guests.

These types of machines are also great if you are only starting out in the world of coffee machines. They aren’t expensive (usually no more than $500) and are great for dipping your toes into the world of coffee.

Considerations When Choosing a Pod or Capsule Machine

The Keurig K60/K65 Special Edition is a popular choice for coffee makers
The Keurig K60/K65 Special Edition is a popular choice for coffee makers

Around the world, there are some popular coffee pod machines and coffee capsule machines. Some machines use both capsules and pods while others are solely designed to use one or the other.

Some of the most popular machines include the Keurig K Cup, the Delonghi Espresso pod machine, Lavazza espresso machines, Hamilton Beach pod brewers, and the Senseo pod brewers.

Before purchasing your next single-serve coffee machine an important consideration to look into is whether the machine will only allow you to use one type of pod/capsule system or whether it allows for multiple branded coffee pods to be used within your coffee pod machine.

An example of this is Nespresso coffee machines and the latest K Cup coffee brewers (Keurig 2.0). They were designed to only allow for their specific brand and range of coffee pods to be used within their brand-name coffee pod machines.

This restriction means that you are tied to using their coffee pods and drinking their brand of coffee. In effect, it buys a customer for life; and limits your choice of price point, flavor, and beverage options.

Whereas other coffee machines have been designed to allow for use across various brand names; which does not limit you to only being able to consume one type or range of coffee.

Other brands include Melitta pods which are compatible with the Hamilton Beach and Senseo pod brewers; Senseo pods which work with some of the Hamilton Beach pod machines.

The Tassimo pods work with the Tassimo machines and come in a small variety of flavor and roast options from various coffee producers; Wolfgang Puck which has specific capsules available for use with K Cup brewers or pods available for various brewers; or Ese espresso pods which can be used in place of loose coffee grounds in manual coffee machines.

Since coffee consumption is on the increase many of us like to buy our coffee pods in bulk. So, if you are looking to buy cheap K cups or K cups in bulk it is certainly worth shopping around as many coffee producers make capsules that can be used in the K Cup coffee maker.

Similarly, if you are using something like the Delonghi espresso capsule machine, you may also be able to find much better pricing if you shop around and search online.

So when you are next purchasing your coffee pod or capsule machine it is recommended that you check out the different types of machines along with the different brands of pods or capsules that may or may not be accepted by the machine. Checking for this feature with your coffee machine will limit the surprise further down the track so that you do not get a rude shock when your favorite brand of coffee cannot be extracted from the pod machine you bought.

My suggestion is to start here and then work out the type of machine and price range. By doing so you are not limiting yourself to three or four different types of coffee when there are so many options out there, and more to come.

How To Choose a Coffee Pod or Capsule Machine

If you have been looking around for a while you might be wondering how to choose the best coffee pod machine or capsule machine out of all of those on the market.

Firstly you want a quality machine within the price range you can afford. There are many cheap capsule and pod machines available but if you are looking for something to last, you will need to go with some of the more reputable brands; those that have been around for some time.

You will also need to decide if you want a machine that takes capsules or pods. Capsules are probably easier to come by in many different flavors but as mentioned previously you will want to check out what type of pods the machine can and can’t take. If you don’t want anything fancy and just want a plain coffee in various strengths, a pod machine may be best.

Something else to keep in mind is the price of the capsules or pods – sometimes these can be quite expensive hence why it is best if the machine you buy can take pods or capsules made from various companies, rather than just being limited to one or two; this will allow you to shop around for the best-priced pods or capsules.

Once you have chosen between a pod and capsule-based machine and you know your budget, it really comes down to some of these other characteristics:

  • The look and feel of the coffee machine
  • The size of the coffee maker
  • The functionality of the coffee machine; whether it is a single-serve coffee maker or whether it can make multiple coffees
  • Whether your machine only produces straight coffees, such as an espresso or long black, or whether you can produce cappuccinos or lattes, or other coffees that allow for milk
  • And finally, you need to know whether the coffee machine you buy will fit into your kitchen space.

A coffee pod machine can be a great addition to any kitchen or small office and with so many options available ranging from the machine itself through to the variety of coffee pods or flavors of the capsules; you will certainly find something suitable for you or your loved one.

Conclusion

DeLonghi ESAM3300 Automatic Coffee Machine

Choosing a coffee maker can be difficult, with so many options on the market from manual to capsule, a single-cup coffee maker through to a multi-cup coffee machine, and from different functions to differing styles, it is no wonder people get confused.

Once you have chosen your coffee machine make sure you give yourself time to learn how to use it correctly. For those buying a capsule-based machine, you should be up and running pretty quickly but for those buying an automatic or manual machine, it is worth checking out all the different functions until you find what suits you best.

The best recommendation we can give is to choose a machine that has the most functions with the best possible quality in the price bracket you can afford – and never think that you can’t afford some of the higher-end brands such as Delonghi, Jura, or Saeco coffee machines; these brands make some great machines at a range of prices.

The good news is with coffee being one of the most consumed beverages on the planet; the price of coffee machines has gotten ridiculously affordable; meaning no matter where you are in the world and no matter what your budget we can all access a machine that will easily please our needs; even if you are the fussiest of coffee drinkers!

We know that coffee and tea are popular, and because of this popularity, with many of us having at least a few cups every day, we know what we like and don’t like.

But heading out for a few cups each and every day can add up… plus it’s not the most convenient, especially first thing in the morning when we just want a cup of our favorite coffee to start the day off on the right foot.

That’s where automatic coffee machines come in. They are now more affordable than ever, meaning that everyone can have their favorite cup of coffee in their own home, saving precious time and money.

Above we have compiled some of the best coffee machines on the market, helping you to decide which one will be the most suitable for your particular coffee preference and budget. We all have personal preferences, so that’s why we have listed some different options for you to choose from.

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