Read our review of home coffee makers – we put espresso machines and pod coffee machines through their paces to bring you the best, from the cheap to blowout.
Best… budget pod machine
Best bits: Small kitchen footprint, reasonable price point and excellent milk frother
Comments: We were really impressed by this unassuming model. It’s easy to set up, slimline in shape (even with the milk jug attachment) and intuitive to use. It’s compatible with Nespresso pods (as are so many pod machines on the market), and the coffee had an excellent crema, however we were most impressed with the milk attachment. It works silently to magically heat milk to the perfect consistency to make cappuccino, latte or flat white.
Best… pod machine for families
Best bits: Multi-functional milk attachment and slimline shape
Comments: Another model with an impressively diminutive kitchen footprint, this capsule machine has a glossy black-and-chrome finish that’s a touch on the ostentatious side. However this affordable machine heats up quickly, is easy to use and has a very handy milk attachment that not only heats, but also blends milkshakes too – ideal for coffee mornings with little ones in tow.
Best bits: Beautiful aesthetic and simple, vintage-style level-operated pod chamber
Comments: KitchenAid specialise in handsome kit that can be displayed proudly on surfaces – provided you have the counter space to take it. This pod machine doesn’t have a milk attachment but the coffee extraction is excellent. It’s quite large for a pod machine – it’s almost as big as a manual home espresso maker – but the water chamber is built-in so the whole thing feels neat and tidy.
A note on pod machines and the environment: If you like to use coffee pods but are concerned about the environmental impact of using disposable capsules, please note that Nespresso operates a recycling service. We also have a coffee gadget review that gives some alternative coffee-making options that don't involve pods or machines.
Best… espresso machine
Best bits: A professional standard machine with all the requisite functions you’ll need
Comments: This machine comes with a heavy caveat – it’s a huge investment. However lots of the other machines we tried were clunky and confusing, and this one, as you’d expect for the price tag, is a smooth operator. It grinds fresh beans, distributes them to the perfect weight, creates a professional-standard espresso and features a milk foaming nozzle. If you know an aspiring barista, this is the machine for them.
Picking up coffee while you’re out and about is a luxury (or some might say an essential) but the cost stacks up in time. With the right machine and reusable portable cup, barista-style coffee can be knocked up for your commute from the comfort of your own kitchen. Pod machines win on the convenience front and bypass the need to grind beans – they’re a good way to ensure that all-important coffee freshness too.
What should I buy?
There are dozens of coffee machines on the market, starting at around £50, and price doesn’t always mean better quality.
Coffee pod machines have become incredibly popular. On the plus side, they’re convenient and you’re guaranteed to have foil-fresh coffee in moments (beans and ground coffee quickly go stale once a bag is exposed to open air). On the other hand, the pods aren’t always recyclable and you’re limited to coffee from certain brands.
Home espresso machines use the same ‘tap and pack’ method as you see in cafés and coffee shops. Here, you place the coffee into a chamber, fasten it into the machine and it drips a condensed espresso with the all-important crema top. Espresso machines are usually bulky and can cost over £1000. We think this is a choice for the serious coffee devotee, not to mention those with large kitchens.
Filter machines are an affordable option as they operate on a simple dripper function and prices start around £50. They’re good for making coffee in bulk and they can be left to their own devices.
Certain brands dominate the coffee machine market. Pod machines are generally compatible with either Tassimo or Nespresso capsules. Lavazza, DeLonghi, Gaggia, Krups, Dualit and Gaggia all offer multiple models, but other electronic brands like Morphy Richards and Russell Hobbs sell their own versions too.
How we tested:
We tested pod and espresso machines, asking brands to send us their chosen model for each category. We tested using the pods or espresso provided, or otherwise used our own ground coffee to test the espresso machines. If there was a milk frother attachment or nozzle, we tested the heat function using semi-skimmed milk.
What we looked for:
Ease of set up: As with all electronic kit we test, we looked for clear instruction manuals and a quick and simple set-up time.
Kitchen footprint: Coffee machines can be extremely bulky but not always worth the surface space expenditure. We looked for streamline kit that could be packed back away in the cupboard if necessary.
Ease of use: One of the big bonuses of choosing a coffee machine over a cafetière or stovetop pot is the convenience factor – if a machine is difficult to understand or had pointless features it was marked down.
Coffee result: We looked for a coffee shop-standard brew with a good mouthfeel, professional crema and smooth flavour, paying due attention to the varying flavour profiles of the different coffees provided.
Milk result: We heated milk according to instructions and judged based on the supposed result – cappuccino milk on its foam and latte milk for its consistency.
More on coffee…
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This review was last updated in February 2017. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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