The different varieties of coffee drinks available in coffee shops can be staggering for a someone new to coffee drinks. From espresso to mocha to macchiato, the list is almost endless. Defining the exact type of coffee machine you need for each type of coffee drink is beyond the scope of this write-up. However, this buying guide will introduce you to the basics on selecting a coffee machine to enable you catch-on with the coffee fever!
Coffee makers can be generally classified as slow-brew and fast-brew machines. Slow-brew coffee makers produce coffee-based drinks while fast-brew coffee makers produce espresso-based drinks. Espresso based drink are more concentrated than coffee drinks.
Drip coffee makers are very common to find. In a drip coffee maker, heated water is allowed to slowly flow through a filter containing ground coffee beans. The water absorbs the coffee and seeps through the bottom of the filter into a container. Drip machines are simple to use and can typically brew up to 12 cups of coffee.
French presses have been in use for over a century. It also does not require electrical connection and works best with coarsely ground coffee. It works by pouring hot water (ideally heated to about 93-96 degrees Celsius) on ground coffee in the machine. After allowing the mixture to sit for up to 8 minutes, you push a plunger down to force the drink through a filter to the bottom of the machine.
Percolators work by forcing hot water up through a coffee filter. The brew drips back to settle in the hot water at the bottom. The process is repeated until the required coffee strength is achieved. It's a quick process. Already brewed coffee gets recirculated with every subsequent time the hot water moves up through the filter.
Steam espresso machines are the first type of espresso machines to be released. They work by forcing steam through the coffee to brew it.
With piston-driven espresso machines, you make use of a piston to force hot water through ground coffee. The piston is either manual or spring based.
In pump-driven espresso machines, a motorized pump generates the pressure needed to brew the coffee. Pump-driven units are popular in commercial coffee machines. There's also a newer type which is air-pump driven. They work similar to french presses.
Bean-to-cup machines are different from other types of coffee makers in that you feed in fresh coffee at the inlet and your coffee drink comes out at the exit. All other types of coffee makers use of ground coffee. With highly advanced bean-to-cup machines you only need to feed in beans, water, and milk, enter your preferred type of drink and the machine takes care of the whole process unattended.
Bar pressure is the unit for measuring the water pressure used in brewing coffee. The right bar pressure is needed to get the best taste out of an espresso drink. After several experiments, 9 bars is held to be ideal. But you will need a machine which has higher bar pressure capability to brew espresso at 9 bars. A 15 bar capable machine is usually recommended.
One way to ruin the taste of a coffee drink is over-boiling the water. A thermoblock-fitted coffee machine works by heating water to ideal temperatures for brewing. Another advantage is that it is quicker using a thermoblock to heat water as the heating is done on the fly, instead of heating the whole volume of water.
Permanent filter holders found in coffee machines hold the ground coffee and keep the coffee warm. Brass and copper filter holder are considered to be better than aluminium and stainless steel ones. Brass heats up and maintains heat fast. It is also corrosion resistant. Copper is also the most effective antibacterial agent.
Valves control the flow of water in the coffee machine. They are either mechanical-based or solenoid-based. Solenoid valves are more effective for controlling the water pressure.
- Number of servings - Brew-strength control - Pause and brew - Built-in water filter - Coffee cup warmer - Adjustable grinder
Prices vary widely across the different types of coffee machines, depending on the features on the machine and the number of servings you require. The first question you need answered is which type of drink would you mostly use it, whether coffee or espresso based. From this point, you would be able to narrow down your choices. Slow-brew machines are usually lower priced. Bean-to-cup machines will usually cost higher than other types of coffee makers. Also factor in the cost of usage. French presses and air-pump driven machines cost cheaper to run because they are hand-powered.