Over the past decade or so, fancy coffee has slowly shifted from an occasional treat to a daily habit, with plenty of people schlepping to Starbucks every single day for their latte fix, rather than suffering through the office's dodgy filter machine.
Nowadays plenty of coffee machines can replicate the whole Starbucks menu at home - often with just a push of a button or two. And while they're expensive, if you're a coffee shop regular you'll quickly make your money back on the savings from that daily spending. Still, there are countless machines out there to choose from - so let us break down the main types, and guide you with reviews of our favourite tried and tested machines.
If you know what type of machine you want to pick up and you want to make sure you get the best price, take a look at our guide to the best coffee machine deals right now, and check out our guide to the best smart kitchen gadgets if you're looking for more kitchen tech.
Best coffee machines: What to look for
The first thing to figure out is what sort of coffee machine you're looking for. There are four main categories - though there's plenty of room for further specificity within them - and which is right to you will depend on how fussy you are, how much you're willing to spend, and how much work you're willing to put into your morning cup.
Manual espresso machines
The coffee obsessive's coffee machine of choice, home espresso machines are essentially mini versions of what you'll find in a typical coffee shop - though they can actually get pretty big! These rely on highly pressurised steam to produce shots of espresso, which you can then mix with milk or water for longer drinks.
Some espresso machines include grinders, though others will require pre-ground beans, though almost all of them will include a milk frother so you can make a perfect cappuccino too. A manual espresso machine is probably the way to get the absolute best coffee at home, but it does require a bit more patience and effort, and it may take you time to learn how to make it just right.
Bean-to-cup machines (automatic)
If that sounds like a lot of work, you might prefer a bean-to-cup machine. These are essentially automatic espresso machines: you just add the beans, hit a button, and the machine will grind, heat, and brew, delivering you a shot of espresso with minimal effort.
Many will also include a variety of options for adding milk or extra water to your drinks, but there is one big downside: you'll have to pay for all that tech, with good bean-to-cup machines starting around £400/$400 and often climbing to £1,000/$1,000 and above.
Snobs might turn their noses up, but capsule machines are a great option if you want a quick, easy way to get a single cup of coffee in the morning. Each pod or capsule includes the perfect amount of coffee, and there's a variety of flavours and strengths to help you find the right style for you.
Nespresso is the market leader here, but there are rivals. You'll also get a lot of choice, with higher end machines including more brewing options, milk frothers, and even smart functionality. Just remember that while the machine might be cheaper than a manual espresso or bean-to-cup system, you will pay more for the capsules in the long-run so buy in bulk if you can.
Finally, if you're not one for fancy espresso but just want no-frills black coffee, you might want a filter machine. The old office staple is still a great choice, especially if you need to make coffee for lots of people at once, and the machines are often friendlier on your wallet.
Look out for how long the machine can keep coffee warm after its brewed, how many cups it can make at once, and whether it has the option to schedule coffee to brew at set times - or even smart functionality so you can set it to brew remotely. Some filter machines include a grinder, but most will require pre-ground coffee.
Best coffee machine reviews
- Reviewed on: 2 July 2019
The Lavazza Deséa is certainly the best pod/capsule based coffee machine we've tested so far, even though it's not the most expensive one.
It's both stylish and well-made but more importantly makes a wide range of coffees from espresso to macchiato. The complexity means it take a little while to get used to all the buttons but it is pretty much one-touch operation once you get you head round it all.
The Deséa produces consistent coffee and with the option to boost temperature and foam if needed. It also does it more quietly than any other coffee machine we've used.
Read our Lavazza Deséa review.
- Reviewed on: 5 April 2019
It might not have features like a fancy screen and such, but the Gaggia Naviglio has enough features for the average drinker. Most importantly, it's very affordable for the quality.
This stylish machine is a little on the loud side and has an annoying blinking power light, but makes excellent coffee with simple and intuitive controls. It's got features like adjustable strength, a built-in milk frother and is customisable so the coffee is the perfect length.
If you want great quality bean-to-cup coffee without breaking the bank and don't need anything too fancy, then the Naviglio ticks all the boxes.
Read our Gaggia Naviglio review.
- Reviewed on: 30 January 2019
If the main thing you want from a coffee machine is convenience, the Dinamica is probably for you. It's conveniently sized, conveniently designed, and convenient to use, offering you freshly ground espresso in less than a minute, with just a couple of button presses.
Serious baristas will want to look elsewhere for more in-depth controls and customisations, but if you just want to get a good cup of coffee without having to think too much at 7 in the morning, this is a great choice.
- Reviewed on: 30 January 2019
The Nespresso Expert and Milk is a comprehensively featured Nespresso machine with some slightly unnecessary smart functions bolted on. Still, you get a range of coffee styles and a built-in milk frother, it's dead easy to use, and every now and as long as you're organised, you'll get to make yourself a coffee from bed every now and then.
None of the smart features are essential of course, and ultimately they're more a matter of convenience than transformation. Most of the time you'll make your coffee the same old way you would with any other Nespresso machine. But for those rare occasions you're able to plan ahead, prepare a pod and a cup, and wake up to the smell of a fresh coffee, it just might all be worth it.
Read our Nespresso Expert and Milk review.
- Reviewed on: 30 January 2019
The Infinissima is a Nescafe Dolce Gusto pod coffee machine that's really easy to set up and use, and looks great, designed to look like an infinity sign.
As with any pod machine, you've got to remember that over the long haul it’s not cheap - the coffee pods work out at about 25p a cup. Still, it's hard to deny the convenience, or the impressive range of drinks - coffee and otherwise - that the Infinissima and other Dolce Gusto machines are capable of creating without you needing to do any more than press a couple of buttons.
Read our Nescafe Dolce Gusto Infinissima review.