Recce your kitchen space
Don’t miss out the first step! Go and have a look at your kitchen and decide where your new coffee machine will stand. Not only can coffee makers be bulky but some require you to add water, beans or filters from the top.
If you have to drag your machine out from under your kitchen cabinets every time you use it, you’ll soon find yourself reverting to your kettle and a spoonful of instant. In the end, the best coffee maker for you will be one that fits both your habits and your counter space.
Filter or drip coffee makers are the best choice in terms of ease and value. A frill-free option, they make a straightforward cup of black coffee – actually, even better than that, they make a whole pot. This means they’re a good option for bigger households or people who work from home and are likely to want more than one cup in relatively quick succession.
The disadvantage of a filter machine is that the heated plate will continue to warm the coffee sitting in the pot, giving it a bitter, stale taste. Coffee from a filter machine will only be at its best for half an hour as the coffee continues to oxidise and grow more acidic.
Thermal filter machines are a good compromise, as they come with an insulated pot that keeps coffee at an ideal drinking temperature for hours.
We haven’t tested it but Amazon is selling the 1.5L Russell Hobbs 20680 Buckingham Filter Coffee Machine for £28, down from £54.00. That’s a 49% discount.
The classic variant of the home espresso maker – and the one most like to appeal to coffee aficionados who want their beverage just so – will be the partly-automated, or manual, machine.
These require you to grind the coffee beans in advance and give you full control over the brew. They also feature a steam wand for frothing milk, allowing you to produce lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, cortados and more.
These need some thought before purchase. Not only do they tend to be among the largest and priciest machines, but they are also highly labour-intensive.
You need to grind the beans first, then fill the portafilter and tamp down the coffee, froth milk, add it and clean the machine afterwards – so it’s probably only worth investing in one if you enjoy the experience of making the coffee nearly as much as drinking it.
However, these machines are very aesthetically pleasing and as you can fiddle with settings to control every aspect of your coffee, they’re a good option not only for coffee mavens but for people who like their beverage with a side of gadget.
With the caveat that we haven't tested it, Currys PC World is selling the De’Longhi Icona Micalite ECOM311.BK coffee machine in either black or red for £99.99 – a massive 50% saving from its RRP of £199.
The bean-to-cup machine is a fully-automated espresso maker. While some bean-to-cup machines operate like a standard, partly-automated device, with each setting controlled by hand, most have automated the majority of functions, like milk frothing. They also often feature automatic cleaning programmes. The upshot of this is that they’re quicker and simpler to use, operating at the touch of a button.
As they have an added grinder, the bean-to-cup machines are the largest and most expensive on the market.
Amazon is selling the De’Longhi ETAM29.620.SB Autentica Plus bean-to-cup coffee machine for £437.95. It’s down from an RPP of £649.99. That’s a saving of £212.04, or 33%. Just a note: we haven't tested this machine.
Capsule coffee machines
If convenience is king, this is the coffee machine for you. You simply fill the water reservoir, insert a capsule, press a button and coffee appears. The capsules are single-serve foil or plastic containers filled with pre-ground coffee. Some capsules also contain milk and chocolate powder, for pre-mixed cappuccinos and the like – just don’t try offering one of those to the coffee purist in your life.
While the coffee in capsules arguably stay fresher thanks to its individual packaging, coffee experts argue that the finely ground capsule ingredients have passed their best long before they make it to your cup. They also claim that capsule coffee is not strong enough for the typical coffee-lover.
However, some capsules a barista-style coffee experience is not everyone’s priority. Capsules come into their own when making Capsule machines are quick, consistent, simple to use and easy to clean. Therein lies their appeal.
For the most part, they are considerably less expensive than espresso machines – although the difference is not as pronounced as you might think, particularly with a good deal on the latter. A regular coffee drinker would probably be better off saving for an espresso machine. But price isn’t really the capsule machine’s selling point: it’s ease of use. And on this, it can’t be beaten.
There’s one caveat, though. Plastic capsules are hard to recycle and while Nespresso offers a drop-off service so people can recycle their aluminium capsules, it’s a poor second to not creating such disposable items in the first place. Until biodegradable capsules are the standard, coffee capsule machines will be the least environmentally-friendly choice.
Incidentally, although the terms ‘pod’ and ‘capsule’ are often used more or less interchangeably, a coffee pod is a slightly different thing than the foil or plastic capsule. A pod is a paper-wrapped coffee serving that has a lot in common with a teabag.
With the caveat that we haven’t tested it, John Lewis is selling the Lavazza A Modo Mio Desea capsule coffee machine for £99.50, a 50% saving.
Connected coffee makers
Connected coffee makers come in many forms: espresso makers, capsule or drip machines. They’re usually controlled from a phone app although, in some cases, via your Alexa. While an app interface may (arguably) be more user-friendly for fiddling with brewing settings, the overall usefulness of a connected coffee maker does somewhat elude us.
You can set it to brew on schedule and adjust the settings from bed, which admittedly sounds quite nice (although mainly because thinking about bed and coffee is generally a good thing). However, you still have to fill it with water and beans. And, as coffee purists know, the best coffee is the freshest coffee.
To that end, while you can start the brewing process from bed, you’ll still be running down the stairs to grab and swig the finished product before it cools.
Unless, that is, your drone can whisk it up to you? And your robot vacuum cleaner can mop up after your drone? Ah, future-world problems. Can’t wait.
It hasn’t been tested by us but Amazon is selling the Melitta F86/0-100 Barista TS smart coffee machine for £725.97, down from £853.99. That’s a saving of £128, or 15%.
Don't forget to check out our round-up of the best coffee machines in the Christmas sales.