The phrase ‘bean-to-cup’ describes the process by which coffee is ground, pressed and brewed fresh in one go by a single machine. These machines are the perfect choice for anyone who loves a cup of coffee without the faff of making it.
Once restricted to the barista bars of proper coffee shops, bean-to-cup machines are now some of the best coffee machines to keep on your own countertop – many of which are proving hugely popular for the convenience they afford to coffee lovers.
There are many benefits to be drawn from these machines over, say, coffee pod machines. For a start, the quality of the coffee is almost unparalleled in terms of at-home brewing, as the beans are ground for each cup, meaning the taste is as aromatic and fresh as it gets. There’s also the considerable plus of not having to buy new pods for it every few days – a costly and non-eco-friendly endeavour that more and more coffee drinkers are keen to avoid.
We’ve tested a range of bean-to-cup machines against criteria, including design, functionality and ease of cleaning, to find the cream (or should we say crema) of the crop.
Read on to discover the best bean-to-cup coffee machines to buy. For more, visit our reviews section and find over 200 practical buyer’s guides offering unbiased advice on what equipment is worth investing in.
For more on coffee, discover our tried-and-tested favourite picks of the best espresso machines, the best pod machines and cafetières. Plus we bring you the best coffee grinders and our favourite reusable coffee cups, too.
How to choose the best bean-to-cup coffee machine
All bean-to-cup coffee machines share the fundamental qualities of having a compartment or hopper for storing whole coffee beans and grinders for dosing them freshly for your brew.
Depending on the space you have in your kitchen, plus your budget, favourite coffee and passion for the process, there are two main types of bean-to-cup coffee machine to choose from:
Automatic bean-to-cup machine
Simply select your coffee choice and the machine does the rest. Beyond emptying the cake tray (used pucks of compressed grounds) and filling the water tank, it’s a hands-off experience.
Manual bean-to-cup machine
These require the drinker to contribute to the process with steps like loading the portafilter, tapping out used grounds or steaming the milk.
Not all bean-to-cup machines produce espresso, so look out for these words during your research:
- Bean-to-cup espresso machine: the short, dark, rich result of brewing compacted coffee grounds under pressure with hot water, characteristically topped by a velvety gloss called crema.
- Bean-to-cup coffee machine: these are most likely drip-coffee machines and will come with a glass carafe. They’re great for producing black coffee for multiple drinkers in one go.
What to look for in a bean-to-cup coffee machine
Adjustable grind settings: different cups of coffee require different grind levels to achieve the right brew and intensity of flavour. For example, espressos require a fine grind while americanos do well with a coarser grind.
Milk steam wand: if milky classics like cappuccinos or lattes are your thing and you’d like to build some basic barista skills, a milk steam wand is a feature to look for.
Dual-height drip tray: not only useful for accommodating your favourite mug, but also important for preventing espresso from being brewed from too highly above the cup and splashing out.
Coffee pre-sets: whether manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic, the best bean-to-cup coffee machines will have saved (and adjustable) coffee settings to help you get the best coffee every time.
Ground-coffee option: an excellent back-up for if you run out of coffee beans.
Best bean-to-cup coffee machines at a glance
- Best designed bean-to-cup coffee machine: Smeg BCC02 bean-to-cup coffee machine, £679.95
- Best smart bean-to-cup coffee machine: Smarter Coffee Machine, £199
- Best bean-to-cup espresso machine: Sage the Oracle Touch bean-to cup espresso machine, £1,999.95
- Best mid-range manual bean-to-cup coffee machine: De’Longhi La Specialista Maestro bean-to-cup coffee machine, £999.99
- Best bean to cup espresso machine for adjustability: Gaggia Magenta Plus, £599
- Best bean-to-cup coffee machine for basic utility: Melitta Purista automatic espresso machine, £400
- Best mid-range bean-to-cup coffee machine: Sage Barista Express by Heston Blumenthal, £499.95
- Best manual espresso bean-to-cup espresso machine for beginners: Breville Barista Max, £299
- Best bean-to-cup coffee machine for beginners: Jura ENA 8 bean-to-cup coffee machine for beginners, £999
- Best bean-to-cup coffee machine for busy households: Melitta Caffeo CI bean-to-cup coffee machine, £500
- Best bean-to-cup coffee machine for simplicity: Gaggia Anima bean-to-cup coffee machine, £499
- Best entry-level bean-to-cup coffee machine: Gaggia Naviglio coffee machine, £349
Best bean-to-cup coffee machines to buy in 2021
Smeg BCC02 bean-to-cup coffee machine – Star Buy
Best designed bean-to-cup coffee machine
- Really compact countertop footprint
- Eight functions
- Iconic Smeg 1950s style
- Lightweight and easy to set up
- Milk steamed separately with steam wand
Star rating: 5/5
The brushed aluminium finish, matte pastel shades and iconic 1950s style of Smeg’s first ever bean-to-cup coffee machine aren’t the only reasons we love this machine. Launched September 2021, the gadget’s diminutive footprint carries all the flair of a modern, statement coffee machine without the intrusive depth, height and width of these traditionally-chunky appliances. Eight functions are available to select through its four-button interface; espresso, ristretto, coffee, hot water, light ristretto, light espresso, long coffee and a milk steam function from its adjustable wand. The outlet is height-adjustable to accommodate a variety of cups and to protect the precious crema from dripping out. At just under £700, it’s an excellent mid-range bean-to-cup we want in our own kitchens.
Smarter coffee machine – Star Buy
Best smart bean-to-cup coffee machine
- Small and lightweight
- Interchangeable front panel designs
- Scheduled wake-up and home modes
- WiFi, app and voice-controlled compatibility
- Filter coffee only
- Minimum four-cup quantity (equated to two mugs)
- Longwinded start-up before first use
Star rating: 5/5
The Smarter is simple on the surface with a control panel consisting of four buttons. Beneath this lie some sophisticated and incredibly modern offerings, including connection compatibility to smart home devices like Amazon Alexa plus control via the Smart 3.0 app. The front panels are interchangeable for black, white and grey designs which is a nice personal touch. We could get used to fresh coffee waiting for us when we wake up in the morning. Read our full Smarter coffee machine review.
Sage Oracle Touch bean-to-cup espresso machine – Star Buy
- Available from Sage (£1,999.95)
Best bean-to-cup espresso machine
- Extensive adjustability
- Five presets
- Noisy grinder
- Water tank opening placed above the touchscreen
- High price
Star rating: 5/5
This bean-to-cup machine by Sage is the premium offering by a brand renowned for its expert coffee appliances. The brushed-metal outer takes some effort to keep clean of finger marks, but beyond that it’s hard to fault the Oracle Touch. It combines full automation with great adjustability, meaning both beginner baristas and coffee experts have what they need to make a great coffee every time. The only irks we found were that its water-tank top-up is positioned just above the touchscreen controls, so it’s easy to get drips onto the screen. It could also do with better non-slip feet, as you twist to lock the portafilter into place. However, we’re scraping the barrel here. Read our full Sage Oracle Touch espresso machine review.
De’Longhi La Specialista Maestro bean-to-cup coffee machine – Star Buy
- Available from Lakeland (£999.99)
Best mid-range manual bean-to-cup coffee machine
- Milk frother
- 250g capacity bean hopper
- Quick starting
- Large countertop footprint
Star rating: 5/5 stars
This bean-to-cup coffee machine has the grandeur of a heavy duty commercial machine in a countertop package. It’s packed with useful little features, like a bean sensor to flag when the coffee is running low and a one-second quick-start function, but it’s the sophistication brought by the main features that make it so special. It has a dual heating system for the water and milk, smart tamping function for compressing its grinds and it produces deliciously smooth, rich espresso. Read our full De’Longhi La Specialista Maestro coffee machine review.
Breville Barista Max
Best manual espresso bean-to-cup espresso machine for beginners
- Cleaning accessories provided
- Accompanying stainless steel milk jug
- Robust and sleek design
- Tall on countertop
- Single-height cup holder means espresso sometimes splashes
Star rating: 4.5/5
This sleekly designed bean-to-cup by Breville shares the same brushed-metal exterior of much more expensive counterparts and comes with most of the trimmings required for building basic barista skills. It’s great value for money. Single and double shot settings are on offer, as is a 200ml manual mode, ideal for americanos. Paired with the stainless steel milk jug, it’s possible to achieve silky steamed milk using the steam wand. Single-cup programs work better than double-cup options. Read our full Breville Barista Max coffee machine review.
Gaggia Magenta Plus bean-to-cup espresso machine
- Available from Gaggia Direct (£589)
Best bean-to-cup espresso machine for adjustability
- Duo drip tray
- Height-adjustable espresso outlet
- Efficient grinders
- Forceful hot water setting
- Unevenly split espresso between two cups
Star rating: 4/5
If an espresso outlet spout is too high above the espresso cup, the coffee will splash out. Gaggia’s elegantly designed Magenta Plus combats this in two ways: a height-adjustable spout for accommodating cups of different heights and a dual-cup holder finished with anti-slip silicone grips. It’s a tall machine which requires additional height for filling its water and bean compartments, so isn’t the best model for sitting under low cupboards. However, it does produce excellent espresso. The two-cup setting split the espressos a bit unevenly and took longer to brew, so we’d recommend it for single-cup shots which take under 90 seconds to make. Read our full Gaggia Magenta plus coffee machine review.
Available from Gaggia Direct (£589)
Melitta Purista automatic espresso machine
Best bean-to-cup coffee machine for basic utility
- Height-adjustable spout
- Quick grinding
- Water hardness test included
- Five grinder settings
- Long (but narrow) footprint on the countertop
- Lacks hot water function
- No accompanying descaler
Star rating: 3.5/5
The Purista is an entry level machine that does the basics well. Its espresso was richly dark, packed with flavour and topped with a good creme. Single and double shot coffees with adjustable aroma intensity are on offer on the five-button interface, with coffee quantity controlled by a twist-dial. Its grinding is quick and efficient, while also proving to be one of the quietest bean-to-cup machines tested. There’s no hot water setting for americano fans, but twisted to max quantity, the machine will deliver a 200ml cup of black coffee. Read our full Melitta Purista automatic espresso machine review.
Sage Barista Express by Heston Blumenthal
Best mid-range bean-to-cup coffee machine
- Large capacity
- Slightly complex settings
Star rating: 4.5/5
This machine from reputable electronic brand Sage has a mid-range price point and easy-to-use interface, making it a good choice for everyday use if you’re a coffee lover but not quite an aficionado. The challenge is in logging the preset functions, as there are lots to choose from. Once you’re set up and away, you will be spoilt for choice, whether you want an espresso with a perfect crema or homemade flat white to rival your favourite coffee shop. Read our full Sage Barista Express coffee machine review.
Jura ENA 8 bean-to-cup coffee machine – Star Buy
Best bean-to-cup coffee machine for beginners
- Easy-to-use interface
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Buttons take time to get used to
Star rating: 5/5
This is a machine that manages to be both technologically sophisticated and incredibly simple to use. Its big USP is the Bluetooth-powered function, which allows you to use your phone to select your coffee from the comfort of your bed. It has stylish good looks, with a unique sculpted water chamber that is practical and eye-catching. It is a large investment – especially the version that’s finished in aluminium – but with its simple touchscreen functionality, it is suitable for coffee novices as well as budding baristas. Read our full review of the Jura ENA 8 coffee machine review.
Melitta Caffeo CI bean-to-cup coffee machine
Best bean-to-cup coffee machine for busy households
- Dual-cup functionality
- Energy saving
- Milk container is a little clumsy
Star rating: 4.5/5
This coffee machine can make two drinks simultaneously, which will be of huge benefit to busy families who have to push to get out of the door in the morning. This is a premium machine that delivers consistently good coffee that’s rich, flavoursome and aromatic with a smooth and reliable crema. We did think the detachable milk container was a little impractical. But, all in all, this machine will give you everything you need to produce professional standard coffees in a convenient way. Read our full Melitta Caffeo Cl coffee machine review.
Gaggia Anima bean-to-cup coffee machine
Best bean-to-cup coffee machine for simplicity
- Simple and efficient
- Slightly longwinded cleaning process
Star rating: 4.5/5
Some coffee machines overwhelm you with choice – the Gaggia Anima isn’t one of them. It is refreshingly minimalist and produces great results, the ‘lungo’ option creating particularly well-balanced coffee without a strong aftertaste. The machine looks good but not flashy. There are some slight downsides, mainly the maintenance requirements and manual approach to some coffee making, but overall this is a simple, reliable machine. Read our full review of the Gaggia Anima coffee machine
Gaggia Naviglio coffee machine
Best entry-level bean-to-cup coffee machine
- Great price
- Tasty coffee
- Manual grind adjustment
Star rating: 4.5/5
The Naviglio is practical, compact and produces great espresso. If you want all the benefits of a bean-to-cup coffee machine but don’t have the inclination to spend time fiddling about with settings, you’ll enjoy the simplicity of this Gaggia machine. It isn’t the most attractive to look at, being made almost entirely of plastic, but it is neutral and minimalist in design. All the main components can be accessed via the front, making it easy to maintain. Read our full Gaggia Naviglio review.
How we tested bean-to-cup coffee machines
We reviewed a representative sample of bean-to-cup coffee machines and scored them on the same criteria using our testing matrix. We marked them on the following criteria. The marks out of five for the following core criteria decided each product’s overall star rating:
Ease of assembly and packaging
We scored the machines on how easy they were to put together, plus considered packaging and whether there was excessive plastic.
Quality of material
The overall standard of the coffee machine material, be that metal or plastic.
Ease of use
How simple is the mechanism and how helpful is the manual?
Value for money
Does the bean-to-cup coffee machine offer a good return on investment?
The taste and consistency of coffee, including the freshness, quality of the crema, extraction and strength of flavour.
These criteria also played into our decision making process:
Quality of the grind
Does it effectively process the whole coffee beans?
How many added features are included – is there a milk frother and temperature control; does the machine make different coffee types?
Is the water chamber easy to refill and how often do you need to do it?
How bulky is the bean-to-cup coffee machine?
Ease of cleaning
We scored both everyday wipe cleaning and more intensive deep cleaning for long term maintenance.
Ease of storage
If you want to store your coffee machine in a cupboard rather than leave it out, how easy is it to pack away.
Coffee recipes and tips
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This review was last updated in June 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.