Why do you need a good coffee machine and what do you need it for? You should ask yourself the following questions before choosing a coffee machine:
- What are you going to use the coffee machine for?
- What kind of coffee will be used?
- What space is available?
- Is it user-friendly?
- Is it safe and stable?
- What does it cost?
- What about the guarantee?
What are you going to use the coffee machine for?
There are thousands of different brands of coffee machines.
- Firstly you should know whether you need the coffee machine for private use, to make a few coffees in the house for yourself and your guests, or are you a business/restaurant/coffee bar or even an office.
- The price and size will depend on what is required.
The size of the boiler is very important here. The larger the boiler, the more it can produce, but it takes up a lot of space.
- In choosing a coffee machine ask yourself what kind of drink do you mostly make with the machine, i.e. more espresso, long coffee, cappuccino, latte, hot chocolate, or tea…
All of these do affect the life, quality, and consistency of the machine.
Some brands manufacture a coffee machine with two boilers – one is used only for coffee, and the other is for the steamer, teas, etc.
We can make it simpler by dividing the machines into three categories:
Automatic traditional machines
The automatic traditional machines are divided into two:
- Fully automatic traditional machines and
- Semi-automatic traditional machines.
* Do not confuse them with the fully automatic machine.
In the fully automatic traditional machines, you adjust the time of the coffee cycle, according to the kind of coffee you are making.
When it reaches the end of the cycle it stops automatically. However, you can adjust the timing if necessary.
The semi-automatic traditional machines have a stop button - on/off so that you can stop the water when you want to.
These machines are ideal for coffee lovers who want to invest some effort in making their coffee but are not fanatical about having the exact coffee as the manual traditional machine produces.
In some of the machines, you can add an automatic milk foamer, but these do not always live up to expectations. On the other hand, using the manual classic foamer, you require some knowledge and training; otherwise, you may "burn the milk".
In many models of the fully automatic traditional machines, digital screens or lights are added in order to help you control the function of the machine and to be aware of different kinds of problems.
These machines are most commonly used because they combine ease and control of the making of coffee. The price is reasonable.
Manual traditional machines
These machines are also known as the Napoli system, and they can be found in Naples.
Although in the last few years they have come back into fashion, thanks to the retro designing that many are looking for.
The piston actually replaces the electric pump from the automatic traditional machines and it supplies the correct water pressure (9 bars) to extract the coffee.
These machines are a development of the first espresso machines from the beginning of the last century. They require higher skills and more involvement from the user who makes the coffee.
* These machines are not so common, but they give high-quality coffee. They are very simple but they are relatively expensive.
Fully automatic machines
Also known as super-automatic. In this type of machine, the coffee is made by pressing a button.
The machine grinds the coffee, pours it, tamps it, and extracts it. Some machines allow you to add the beans; some machines have the foaming done automatically, and some machines have a foaming knob like the traditional machine.
You can program for each type of coffee, the amount of coffee needed as well as cleaning and disposing of the coffee grounds.
These machines are very expensive and they suit people who want an easy way of making coffee.
You should realize that you may compromise the quality, and you risk a shorter working life because of the complex electronic mechanism.
What kind of coffee will be used?
An important aspect of choosing a coffee machine is what kind of coffee are you going to use; ground coffee, pods, capsules, or coffee beans. Each of these has an effect on the preparation of the coffee, the time involved, the ease and price of the coffee.
Of all the coffees, ground coffee is the most difficult to make. You must grind the coffee beans, pour them into the coffee handles, and tamp it. After extraction, you should dispose of the leftovers and clean the coffee handle.
The advantage of this method is the good result achieved, the cheap price per cup, and you also have an option to work with other kinds of coffees.
In certain machines, you can work with pods after an adjustment of the machine.
Pods are disposable paper holders that contain certain amounts of coffee. The cost per cup is a fraction higher than ground coffee, but it is simpler and cleaner. When using pods tamping is unnecessary.
Capsules are the easiest and cleanest method of them all, but it is the most expensive per cup and it limits you from using the other kinds of coffee.
Often you can only use one brand of the capsule in a particular machine which limits you to one type of coffee.
When you use coffee beans without an external grinder, it is as though you are using a super-automatic machine, where the coffee beans go directly into the hopper and are ground automatically. This system is relatively clean, easy, and fresh. The problem is that it does not get the best results.
What space is available for the coffee maker?
Many people forget this important and elementary aspect. Before choosing a coffee machine, get its dimensions, remember that the machine has to breathe, and space must be found for cups, milk jugs, cleaning materials, etc.
Machines differ in design and this affects the space they require. For example, the heating tray may be above the machine, the steamer may vary in size, etc.
It is also important that the machine should be heavy enough to prevent it from moving while you unload and disassemble the machine.
Is the coffee maker user-friendly?
Each person has a different way of working the machine depending on the amount of control and effort he wants to use.
It is a good idea to go to the shop and try out the machine, i.e. press the buttons, try to understand their function.
See if they are located in a comfortable position for you; try to dismantle the water tray, the coffee handle, to see if it is easily done.
Make a cup of coffee; see if it suits your way of working. A good technical specification book indeed can help you with information too, but it is always better to try out the machine before.
* Coffee maker info buttons and programs: In many of the new machines there are a lot of different buttons that indicate many different functions, e.g. the water level, the temperature, the level of coffee beans, the number of cups that have been made, etc.
Some have different programs i.e. the type of coffee you want, the strength of the coffee, etc. Not all are relevant for your needs.
On the one hand, you might not know what your future needs will be, but on the other hand, too much information may be counter-productive depending on your personality.
* Coffee maker electrical capacity: It is preferable that the electrical capacity will be high enough so that the boiler can get to the correct temperature quickly for the preparation of the coffee (90°) and to create steam to foam the milk. The recommended capacity is at least 1000 watts.
* Coffee maker pressure: At the end of the preparation when we see the coffee, we often examine the “cream” of the coffee. This is a function of the coffee beans and especially the pressure of the coffee pump.
In order to extract the coffee completely, you should have a pressure of 9 BARS. Higher than that can cause an over-extraction that burns the coffee.
* Coffee maker boiler size: The size of the boiler affects the speed of making the drinks. If you have a large boiler you can make more coffee and steam milk at the same time. The larger boilers take more space and are more expensive in price and running costs.
There are also different types of boilers, for example, one with a heat exchanger. Some machines have two boilers – one for the coffee and the espresso and one for the tea and steam. In this system the waiting time is minimal.
* Coffee maker heating tray: Another thing you should consider is the heating tray. Many machines have a heating tray on top and some do not.
It is better to heat the cups before. If you do not have a heating tray, you could always fill the cups with hot water before use.
In the Napoli machine, they often separate the tray from the machine. This prevents spillage from wet coffee cups that can damage the electrical system of the machine.
* Coffee maker pouring spout: It is important to check that you get a pouring spout with an option to make one or two cups at the same time. It is also important to know what size of cup you can put under the pouring spout.
For example, in places that make a lot of "Take Away" coffee, they usually use a Tall version, so the longer T.A cup can fit under the pouring spout.
* Coffee maker water filter: Different machines have different water filters. A water filter is needed in order to filter the chalk in the water. The chalk is the biggest enemy of the coffee machine!
Maintaining a water filter can make a difference in having a good coffee machine for two years or ten years.
Some machines have a permanent water filter in them; some have disposable filters that require changing.
* Coffee maker waste tray: Do not forget to check out the liquid waste tray. After the coffee has been made, the liquid waste ends in the tray.
In restaurants and cafés, the liquid waste goes straight to the sewage, but at home, you usually have to dispose of the liquid waste yourself.
Check that this action is easy to do. Some machines even have an indicator about the tray state.
Is the coffee maker safe and stable?
Coffee machines made of strong and quality materials, like Stainless steel or Steel, are better than ones made out of plastic. They are usually heavier and more stable. They don’t move under any pressure.
It is important that a machine has a system to protect the boiler from lack of water, otherwise, the pump will overwork and the thermostat will overheat.
What does the coffee maker cost?
This is a major factor. There is a very wide range of prices and it depends on different factors as we discussed above; the type of machine, the electrical power, the size of the boiler, the materials, the additions and also the brand of the machine.
No coffee machine can cover every eventually and suit everyone or every place. The prices range from 237 USD up to 80,000 USD.
What about the guarantee?
A guarantee is usually for one year and in some cases, it is for two years. Do not compromise on a guarantee of less than one year.