Once upon a time, a cup of coffee got as technical as putting the kettle on and opening a jar of instant roast. The only problem with instant coffee is it tastes like cardboard compared to freshly brewed coffee, with none of the aromatic qualities.
Modern technology has lifted the lid on a whole new world of possibilities. Now there is a different problem – trying to sniff-out the right coffee-making machine has become as complicated as trying to buy a smartphone.
With Christmas just around the corner, a coffee machine may be the perfect gift for the coffee connoisseur in your life and you may find yourself needing to take the plunge. So here is an easy guide to some of the kind of technology available.
Filter coffee machines
You pour cold water in the top of the machine where it is warmed by a heating element before dripping down through a basket of coffee into a jug below, which is kept warm by a hot plate. You can use any ground coffee.
Pod or capsule coffee machines
This is where the main market is right now. The coffee is in a pre-packaged capsule which you put into the machine. When you press a button the pod is pierced and hot water is sent through it and into your waiting cup. This is the theory behind the popular Nespresso range of machines.
Nespresso has been at the forefront of the coffee capsule revolution and through partnerships with trendy appliance manufacturers such as De’Longhi, an Italian company known for the design of its products, Nespresso has given homemakers access to café style coffee, with a touch of style and finesse. Capsule machines also come with “milk frothers”, a device used to make cappuccino and lattes. The milk frother can also be used to steam your milk.
If you want to get creative with coffee, visit the Nespresso site for 300 different coffee creations.
Capsule machines are typically easy to clean, but you tend to be limited to the type of capsule or pod sold by your machine manufacturer – unless you opt for a machine like the Sunbeam CM2000 Multi-Capsule Espresso unit.
The Sunbeam Multi-Capsule Espresso Machine is designed to be compatible with four different capsule systems. Colour coded capsule cartridges allow you to easily and quickly change capsule systems so you are no longer locked into one capsule coffee brand.
Ground coffee is inserted above a water chamber. As the water boils it is forced up a tube and down through the coffee back into the compartment below. You can get stove-top versions or electric versions which contain a heating element.
Pump espresso maker
These use a thermostatically controlled boiler which heats the water to its optimum temperature for coffee (between 85C and 92C). When this is reached the water passes through the ground coffee at the correct bar pressure. They usually include a milk frother for steaming milk so can be used for lattes and cappuccinos.
This machine will grind the coffee beans and then run hot water through them before dispensing your drink. It is essentially a pump espresso maker with a built-in grinder.
OK. Does all that have you in a grind? If you are buying a machine without an integrated grinder and you want to use beans, there is one major consideration. Making good quality coffee is all about getting the grind right. You should spend more on the grinder than any other piece of equipment.
There are plenty of grinders to choose from and Sunbeam’s Multi-Grinder 2 is a good option.
But if you want an all-in-one machine, then you really cannot go past the Breville Barista Express.
Breville has created a very well thought machine encased within an elegant stainless steel design that would look great in any kitchen.
The engineers at Breville really took their time designing the Express by adopting the perspective of an average consumer and asking what they really need.
Their answer was an inbuilt burr grinder, customisable volumetric controls and 16 bars of pressure to turn
fresh coffee into excellent espresso.
The next benefit of the grinder is what all-professional baristas strive to achieve – consistency. By being able to grind the same dose of coffee every time, tamp it, and then pass the same amount of pressurised water through it, you have the ability to produce consistent results. And if your coffee tastes a little too bitter or weak you can easily adjust your setting to create the best possible coffee.
Now that we have looked at the kinds of machines available, here’s a handy checklist of other considerations when choosing a specific model of coffee machine:
Size and weight
Before buying, consider where you’ll keep the coffee machine. If you plan to stow it away, check that it’s light enough to lift easily. Some of the bigger machines are quite heavy.
Consider how often you’ll be using your coffee machine, and for how many people. Water tank capacity is important if you want to make lots of espressos, while machines with a single spout make only one cup of coffee at a time.
Coffee machine brand
A coffee machine is a luxury lifestyle product – it becomes as much a statement as owning a BMW or Mercedes Benz. So it’s unsurprising that more premium brands including Lavazza and De’Longhi offer coffee machine ranges. But you’ll also find excellent coffee machine options from companies such as Sunbeam and Breville too.
Coffee machine style and colour
Retro coffee machines, red coffee machines, blue coffee machines, stainless steel finishes… you’ll find any number of coffee maker styles, colour and finishes to match your kitchen. Plus look out for coffee machines that also have kettles and toasters to match.
Ease of use
A coffee shop barista might make it look easy, but getting to grips with a coffee machine – complete with levers, buttons and filters – can be a daunting task. Work out whether you have time to devote to your love affair with coffee or if you are only after a quickie.
Speed is important for time-stretched coffee lovers – and the average time it takes for your coffee machine to brew up isn’t something you’ll know until you try it out. Good coffee machines take less than 15 seconds to make 30ml and stop dripping, while poor coffee machines can take up to 30 seconds to release 30ml and a further 30 seconds before they stop dripping completely.
Coffee machine accessories
It’s worth seeing which accessories, if any, accompany the coffee machine you’re considering buying. Items like milk frothers, milk jugs, coffee grinders and matching coffee spoons and cups all add to the overall home coffee making experience.
These should be easy to lift and remove. Stainless steel trays require polishing as well as cleaning.
Porta filter stiffness
When you’re in the shop, see whether you can easily fit and remove the coffee machine’s porta filter (the porta filter holds the filter containing the coffee; it has a handle). If you find this tricky, a capsule coffee machine may be better for you.
Your coffee preferences
With bean-to-cup and traditional espresso machines, you’ll be able to select a type of coffee that suits you. If you’re shopping for a capsule machine, it’s worth checking which types of coffee are in the range to ensure your tastes are catered for.
When it’s all said and done, remember to always have the best coffee in the world available in your kitchen. PNG coffee is available in all forms, including capsules. So with the busy Christmas season now here remember…stay calm and enjoy PNG coffee.