Coffee has entered a new vogue and re-creating an Italian espresso bar in your home is easier than ever before. So if you want to join the coffee trend, there's a huge range of machines available; it all depends on how much you want your machine to do for you.
Types of coffee machine and what they do
There's a lot to consider when you're choosing a coffee machine. What type of coffee do you enjoy - a pure and simple espresso, black filter coffee or a creamy cappuccino? How much time do you have, how much do you want to spend, and how much effort do you want to put into making your coffee? Essentially, what do you want the coffee machine to do for you?
Cafetieres and filter coffee machines
The simplest way to make some coffee is using a cafetiere, which is essentially a glass jug with a plunger filter. You simply add hot water to your ground coffee, for delicious black coffee in minutes and with minimum fuss. Cafetieres allow you to brew precise amounts as they come in different sizes, and are great for a few cups of coffee after dinner. These units offer great value and ease of use, although less variety than other types as they only make black coffee. You can of course also buy a separate milk frother gadget if you want to make a version of cappuccino.
Filter coffee machines like this KitchenAid Personal Filter Coffee Maker brews directly into the included thermal mug, or into any mug or cup of your choice. Again, buy a frother if you want to foam up your milk. These easy-to-use units heat their own water, which then drips slowly through a basket of ground coffee to infuse in a pot or carafe. Most models host hot plates too, keeping your coffee warm and ready to drink.
Espresso is coffee for the connoisseur, and these machines produce rich, concentrated shots of coffee. Let the crema melt on your tongue, while the heart fills your mouth with flavour and the body opens up the taste and warms your throat. Drinking espresso is an intense experience, and if you enjoy a strong coffee, then this is the machine for you.
The perfect espresso is drawn in three parts, with a crema, heart, and body. These parts should be distinguishable in the espresso, and needs to be drunk within 7 seconds of being made for the fullest and most lively taste.
Crema is the pure coffee extract you find on the top of an espresso. Resembling the head you'd find on a glass of stout, it's full of rich aroma and leaves a lingering flavour. A test of a good 'crema' is to put a little sugar on the top. If it takes time to fall to the bottom you've succeeded!
When you run water through coffee, it's essential that it's not too cold (which causes a sour taste) and below boiling temperature (as boiling water scalds coffee and impairs the flavour). Look out for machines with thermoblock heating systems, as these heat water fast and to its optimum temperature.
This Krups XP5210 Espresso Coffee Machine is a really stylish machine with an integral milk frother for capuccino, but if you're looking for something a little more compact and with a price tag to match, this Graef EM85 Electric Espresso Maker is great value.
An alternative solution to an espresso machine is a Nespresso machine; these offer some of the most glamorous options. Served in top notch restaurants up and down the country, your Nespresso is made using pods (arriving in a variety of flavours) that you simply slip into the machine. There's no mess from coffee grounds and no effort involved - your espresso is drawn from the capsule, which is then ejected.
The Nespresso Latissima machine even makes your Nespresso along with frothed milk, for a single touch cappuccino or latte macchiato that's dispensed straight into your cup. There's even a cup warmer to keep your coffee at the optimum temperature!
However, if you're a purist andyou prefer to start your coffee journey right at the beginning you may want to consider buying a coffee grinder - or you can go to the next level with a bean-to-cup machine.
As the name suggests, with these machines you can watch the progress of your coffee from a humble bean to a delicious coffee in your cup! Simply pour your beans into these machines, and leave them to grind the beans and then pull the water through to create an intense espresso, while frothing milk for a nutty cappuccino or latte.
Many of these machines also have descaling and cleaning programmes, for complete efficiency and ease of use. They're not cheap, but if you're a coffee addict, they're so worth it! DeLonghi make some of the best machines, or take a look at this luxury Jura model.