I have a confession to make: I’m an addict. I’m a coffee addict. A morning without a caffeine driven burst of energy is like a Sunday without Sunday roast. The only thing worse than no coffee is a cup of poorly done coffee. With coffee shops like Nero, Costa and Starbucks just an arm’s length …
I have a confession to make: I’m an addict. I’m a coffee addict. A morning without a caffeine driven burst of energy is like a Sunday without Sunday roast. The only thing worse than no coffee is a cup of poorly done coffee. With coffee shops like Nero, Costa and Starbucks just an arm’s length away, coffee drinkers all over the world have raised their expectations as to what a decent cuppa should be like. Gone are the good old days of humble instant coffee. Instead, we’ve entered a new era of high-street coffee culture with Skinny Vanilla Lattes, Double Americanos and creamy Mocha Coolers.
But it’s not just the powerful coffeehouses that got us hooked on caffeine. Thanks to a rapid advance in technology we can now enjoy specialty coffees at home. These days, you can buy all kinds of machines and devices to brew your morning joe – from traditional filter machines to high-end bean-to-cup systems. Which coffeemaker is best for you depends on various factors including the type of coffee you like, how often you plan to use your machine and your budget.
The French press – also known as cafetiere – has been around for decades and coffee connoisseurs all over the world swear by it. Sleek and compact this style of coffee maker is usually composed of a glass or metal cylinder, a plunger and a strainer. Using a French press is probably the easiest way to enjoy a cup of quality, traditional coffee. Simply put the desired amount of ground coffee into the bottom of the cylinder, add hot water and push down the plunger. The coffee at the top is ready to drink.
The benefits of using a French press is that you can brew unfiltered coffee, which preserves most of the coffee bean oils to enhance the flavour. On top to that, you can adjust brewing time and temperature to cater to your individual tastes. As a bonus, a French press can also be used to brew loose leaf tea.
Available in different materials and shapes, this type of coffee maker usually comes with a low price tag, allowing everyone to enjoy a hearty coffee. Popular designs include Bodum’s red and black ‘Brazil’ coffee makers.
However, a coffee plunger is not for everyone. Bear in mind that you can only brew a limited amount of coffee, which goes cold if used over a lengthy period of time. Another drawback is that coffee sediment can remain at the bottom of your cup.
Like coffee plungers percolators are an old favourite way of making coffee. They consist of a pot with a chamber that holds the water and a perforated basket for the coffee grounds, which sits just above the water. At boiling temperature the water is forced up through a tube to filter back into the compartment below.
Percolators are available as stove-top or electric versions with a heating element. Bialetti’s ‘Moka Express’ has pretty much become a synonym for stove-top espresso makers. The Dualit Cordless Coffee Percolator 84036 comes with a heat proof handle and an automatic setting – ideal for those who don’t want to watch their coffee too closely.
Using percolators is the least favoured brewing method amongst aficionados since the water is overheated and the brew susceptible to over-extraction. However, those who have mastered the brewing process praise the rich and aromatic flavour.
Filter coffee machines:
If you are looking for an easy-to-use coffee maker with no bells and whistles that just prepares great cuppa, then a filter coffee machine might be the choice for you. A standard drip coffee maker is still the most popular type of brewer in homes and offices. Water drips through a filter with finely ground coffee to infuse in a pot or carafe. Filter coffee machines can be used with any ground coffee and usually come equipped with thermos pots and hot plates to keep the brew warm.
Filter coffee machines come in different cup volumes and are ideal for making large quantities of coffee. Some models such as the Morphy Richards Accents coffee maker or the Russell Hobbs Heritage filter coffee maker include a display with a programmable timer so you can set it to greet you with freshly brewed coffee in the morning.
Compared to automatic drip models manual drip coffee makers give you greater control over temperature, water ratio and extraction. You simply pour heated water over the grounds at the pace you desire.
Pod/capsule coffee machines:
Less labour intensive than percolators or cafetieres these coffee machines use disposable pods, k-cups or capsules that provide a set amount of coffee instantly. Nespresso, Tassimo, and Keurig are among the most popular brands for a quick caffeine fix. Most are single-cup coffee makers, where the pod is put into the machine and infused with water.
Coffee pod and capsule machines are increasingly popular, mainly because they meet coffee lovers’ dual needs for quality and convenience. By just pressing a single button on your machine, your favourite cuppa is ready to drink. You don’t have to clean messy filter holders and there is no spillage of coffee granules. However, this type of coffee maker may not be the most inexpensive option, as prices range from £70 for entry-level systems to £500 for high-end models.
Nespresso is the Apple of pod machines and has the broadest range of designs and colours available. The smallest and fastest of the Nespresso range, the Pixie has a sleek, modern design to fit easily on the kitchen counter. If you are a fan of fluffy milk froth, you can upgrade to Nespresso’s Citiz range which comes with an integrated aeroccino. Krups’ Nescafé Dolce Gusto Piccolo is ideal for those with a tighter budget.
The main downside of this type of coffee maker is that you are bound by the supplier’s range of coffee pods and capsules. Before you buy a machine, you should also check whether pods are available in your area and compatible with your system.
Pump espresso maker:
The most popular type of espresso machine today, this pump-driven model produces much stronger coffee than filtered machines. When the water reaches the right temperature for perfect expresso extraction, it is forced through the ground coffee at high pressure. The high pressure involved in the steaming process extracts more of the coffee granules, creating a richer, fuller and stronger flavour.
Pump espresso machines are ideal for lovers of a more authentic espresso taste. They usually come with an in-built coffee grinder and a tool for steaming milk, so can be used to produce a variety of espresso drinks including mochas, lattes and cappuccinos. The Gaggia Baby Class, for instance, works with both ground coffee and ESE pods (Easy Serve Espresso) and comes with a turbo frother attachment for even steam distribution.
Brew true barista-style coffee in your own home with a bean-to-cup machine. At the touch of one button, a bean-to-cup machine grinds, brews, froths milk and dispenses sophisticated espresso straight into your cup.
Since bean-to-cup machines take care of the entire brewing process, they can cost considerably more than traditional coffee makers. With prices starting from £300 not everyone will enjoy the convenience of an ultimate in-home coffee maker – unless you have pockets as deep as Starbucks or a generous employer. The Philips Saeco bean-to-cup coffee machine or De Longhi’s Magnifica range are good examples for better-value models. Both provide fully adjustable coarseness settings and a memo function to ensure that your perfect cuppa is only a fingertip away.