Are you a coffee fanatic? If so, a bean-to-cup coffee machine could be the perfect home gadget. These machines make great tasting coffee – and they don’t limit you to a single brand of “pod” either. In this article, I’ll show you how to choose the best bean-to-cup coffee maker for your home.
Why Buy a Bean-to-Cup Machine?
Home bean-to-cup coffee machines are scaled-down versions of those in coffee shops. They are pricey and seem to require more effort than a pod coffee maker – so why should you buy them?
The main reason is they grind coffee beans on demand. Instead of using pre-ground coffee, each dose is ground using the built-in grinder. This doesn’t allow time for bean’s oils to evaporate, so the coffee tastes fresher.
Bean-to-cup coffee machines work with any type of bean. They aren’t limited to those provided by a single brand – which is the case with most machines that use pods.
Don’t be put off by the complex designs either. Bean-to-cup machines make it easy to make great tasting coffee with an attractive crema and rich taste. Most models include a variety customization options, but you won’t need to manually grind or tamp.
How to Choose a Bean-to-Cup Coffee Maker
Now you know why bean-to-cup machines are becoming increasingly popular, here’s a quick guide to choosing the right model for your home.
Step 1 – Set a Budget
The biggest downside to bean-to-cup coffee machines is the price. The most expensive home models can cost $1,000+, while the cheapest cost at least $400. Commercial machines often cost considerably higher.
For this reason, you need to know how much you’re willing to spend before you start looking. Cheaper models may not have advanced features, such as automatic milk frothing or an integrated mobile app. Many still produce tasty coffee though.
Keep in mind that while bean-to-cup models are more expensive upfront, they can be cheaper than capsule machines in the long run. This is because capsules cost a lot more per cup of coffee.
Step 2 – Decide on Your Desired Coffee Varieties
Do you just want a coffee machine for producing a single cup of espresso? In this case, almost any bean-to-cup coffee machine can do the job.
If you want to make other types of coffee, however, you need to be more selective. Some machines can make cappuccino, latte and other milky coffees automatically. Others have hot water output for black coffee or even tea.
The good news is you have a near-endless choice of beans. I’m a fan of dark roast beans, but you can experiment until you find your favorite.
Step 3 – Coffee Customization
If you’re a coffee connoisseur, it’s important to be able to adjust your espresso depending on your tastes, mood and type of bean. Some of the most common customization options include:
- Grind Coarseness: Bean-to-cup machines grind beans automatically for the freshest taste. Most have the option of adjusting the grind coarseness. This can make a big difference to the taste of the final espresso, so the more options the better.
- Coffee Strength: One of the most important options is the strength of the coffee. Most machines have a few options for this, but more expensive models provide fine control over the strength.
- Water Quantity: The amount of water is an important setting on a coffee machine, as the size of your cup or mug can vary. Some models also have the option of brewing two cups at the same time.
- Brewing Temperature: Some people like their coffee piping hot. Others like it to come out the machine slightly cooler so it can be drunk immediately. Advanced coffee machines allow you to choose the brewing temperature.
- Pre-infusion: An advanced feature found on some coffee machines is pre-infusion. This provides a more consistent taste. While pre-infusion isn’t essential, it’s a useful feature if you want your coffee to taste great every time.
Step 4 – Consider Other Features
The type of coffee and customization options aren’t the only things to look for. Here’s a quick checklist of other factors to help you make the right choice:
- Automatic Milk Frothing: If you want milky coffees such as cappuccinos, some models include automatic milk frothing. Others have a manual steam arm – but this can take practice to get consistent results.
- Appearance: A coffee machine needs to fit in with the rest of your kitchen décor. Fortunately, most bean-to-cup machines are designed with a luxury appearance. Even so, it’s important to choose one that complements your kitchen’s design and color scheme.
- Hard Water Filter: Some coffee machines come with a hard water filter. This removes impurities before the brewing phase, which helps improve the taste of the coffee.
- Brewing Speed: If you’re desperate for a cup of coffee in the morning, even a short delay can be frustrating! Some coffee machines can make a cup of espresso in less than 15 seconds. Others take up to a minute – or longer if you want it to stop dripping before you remove the cup.
- Easy to Clean: It’s vital for a bean-to-cup coffee machine to be easy to clean. The best models have a drip tray that’s quick to remove, a removable brewing unit and various automatic cleaning functions. A descaling function can also be useful.
- Ground Coffee Mode: While brewing coffee from beans provides the freshest coffee, sometimes you might want to use pre-ground beans (such as if you want a decaf coffee). For this reason, many bean-to-cup machines also allow you to use ground coffee.
Choosing a bean-to-cup coffee machine can be daunting – especially considering the price of advanced models. The most important thing is to get one that produces great espresso each time you use it. Additional features, such as an easy-to-clean design, coffee customization and a fast brewing speed are also important.