The buyer’s guide to coffee machines

When all you want is a great caffeine hit in the morning, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the variety of coffee machines. We’ve got you covered, whether you’re keen on a press-of-the-button latte or a freshly ground espresso.

Capsule machines

These shapely devices produce single-serve coffees from ground and roasted coffee in a pod. Models that use the pod-delivery system are convenient and easy to clean – perfect if you’re rushing out the door. The mechanics of the machines are quite similar brand to brand, but according to coffee roastery Coffeelab retail manager Steven Waird, it comes down to “aesthetics, the ability to steam milk and sticking with your trusted appliance brand”.

Manual machines

These devices are geared towards the die-hard coffee lovers who crave barista-quality coffee at home. Aficionados will love the full bean-to-cup experience that sees them grinding the beans and frothing and heating the milk, ensuring coffee is tailored to personal taste. “Manual machines can get a little confusing and quickly overwhelming. Your best bet is to find a machine that has a boiler to heat the steam, a commercial-sized group handle and filter basket, and control of the water temperature,” says Matt. You may also need a stand-alone coffee grinder to accompany your machine.

Automatic & semi-automatic machines

These models sit in the middle zone between the ultra-convenient capsule coffee devices and the home-barista nature of the manual coffee machines. Automatic options will grind beans for you and deliver your latte or piccolo just as you like it, some with just the press of a button. A semi-automatic machine lets you get a little more involved in the production process, allowing you to grind the beans and manage the strength of your caffeine hit. As different machines will offer different features, you should try before you buy.

Daily grind

For models that incorporate beans, the power of the grinder is important. Some coffee machines have a built-in bean grinder that lets you choose from multiple options of coarseness, but if you need to buy a separate grinder, you’ll want it to be a big performer. “If you want a cheaper coffee machine, spend 80 per cent of your budget on the grinder and 20 per cent on the machine,” says Matt. Burr grinders use wheels to crush the beans to your desired coarseness, though they can be quite noisy and expensive. A cheaper option is a blade grinder, but you can’t be as specific with the grind.

Milking it

If you are particular about milk in your coffee, a model with a steam arm or wand will let you finely tune your brew. “A steam arm gives you complete control over the way the milk is textured and heated,” says Lachlan. Automatic machines will have different settings for your coffee of choice and most pod machines use a separate heating/frothing element for milk. Consider the degree to which you want to be able to tailor your coffee experience to determine the option for you.

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