Coffee Machines: The Ultimate Guide

Coffee Machines: The Ultimate Guide

Coffee is big business in the UK, with us Brits drinking some 95 million cups every day. If you're constantly popping into your nearest coffee shop, though, the cost that caffeine habit can quickly add up. Luckily, there are a wide range of coffee machines on the market that will serve you up fresh coffee that tastes as good as that made by a barista- at just a fraction of the price!

But there are multiple types of coffee machines out there. What’s the difference between different types of coffee machine- and which is the right one for you? Luckily, we’ve put together the following guide to help you out. Read on, and all will be revealed!

Filter Coffee Machines

At the most basic end of the spectrum, you’ve got filter coffee machines These are sometimes also referred to as drip coffee machines. These work, as the name suggests, simply by slowly dripping hot water first through ground coffee, and then through a filter, so only the infused water comes out the other end.

The downside is that they can only make filter coffee. In that way, they’re not that different to a cafetière. The advantage they have over a cafetiere is that they can typically make much more coffee- often up to 12 cups. That makes them a good choice for those times when you’ve got a lot of people to make coffee for! Also, many come with a keep-warm function which will (surprise, surprise) keep your coffee warm for up to 45 minutes after you've made it.

The upside is that they are typically a lot cheaper than all the other types of coffee machine out there. When compared to bean to cup machines, filter coffee machines can come in at as little as 10% of the price. They are also the easiest to clean because they make coffee in a much simpler way than the other types.

And while you can't use whole coffee beans with a filter machine, you can of course grind them yourself to still enjoy the freshest possible taste. You can pick up manual grinders for as little as £10, or electric ones for under £30.

Pod Coffee Machines

Pod coffee machines, also referred to as capsule coffee machines, are pretty self-explanatory. As the name suggests, you just fill the tank with water, pop in a pod, and they'll produce deliciously fresh coffee for you in no time at all.

Pod machines tend to be fairly inexpensive, and are very simple to use. Since the pods themselves are hermetically sealed, the coffee inside is kept super-fresh. They also come in a huge range of different types. For instance, Nespresso currently produce 24 different types of pod. This means however you take your coffee, there will be a pod to suit your taste buds.

The downside of these is that they can only make coffee from pods, and typically only from pods made by the same brand as the machine itself. These pods are also quite an expensive way to make coffee if you’re going through a lot of it. The machines themselves tend to be loss leaders, because the brands know they'll recoup on the pods in the long run.

Espresso Coffee Machines

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Espresso machines make coffee by forcing highly pressurised water through ground coffee. If you fancy playing barista, then these are the way to go, as they are the type you'll typically find in coffee shops. They heat water extremely quickly to the optimum coffee-making temperature, to ensure that the beans don't burn and leave you with a bitter taste in the mouth. Many of them also come with a milk frother (or "steam wand" if you prefer), so they can be used to make lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and so on.

The downside is that if you want a full cup of coffee, you’ll also have to put the kettle on, as most espresso machines will only produce a shot of espresso. However, that's also the case with some bean-to-cup coffee machines, too,.

Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machines

These are the fanciest coffee machines around, and the type used in our very own liGo office. As the name suggests, these machines make coffee from unground beans. The biggest advantage of bean to cup machines is that they let you enjoy your coffee at its absolute freshest. Since the beans are only ground when you make a cup, you won’t find that they've lost their flavour by the time you get to drink them. Many models will also let you choose from a variety of different drinks.

The downside of these coffee machines is primarily the price. Since they are the most advanced type available, they are also the most expensive. Some can be found for about £300 or so, but many models run into quadruple figures. As such, these models are only for those who take their coffee very seriously indeed!

Since bean-to-cup coffee machines are the most complex type, they are also the ones with the most differences between models. One feature that you might want to look out for is a milk frother. This is a little extra nozzle on the coffee machine which shoots out steam, to give your drinks a nice creamy finish- perfect for cappuccinos.  You can get standalone milk frothers if your coffee machine doesn’t have one- they tend to be a bit expensive though.

How Often Should I Clean My Coffee Machine?

How often you clean your coffee machine will depend not only on the type, but also the frequency of use. If it's getting a lot of use- for instance, if you've got one in your office- then you'll naturally need to clean it more often than a coffee machine that only gets used for a weekend cuppa. If your coffee machine goes through heavy use, then you should really be giving it a good clean every month, following the instructions in the manual. On the other hand, if it's only getting occasional use, then you can probably get away with only cleaning it every three months.

As mentioned above, filter coffee machines are the easiest to clean. On the other hand, bean-to-cup machines, or espresso machines that are plumbed in, will require a fair amount of TLC. If you think this sounds like bit of a pain, then look out for a model with an integrated cleaning cycle, as this will do most of the work for you.