There’s nothing like the smell of freshly-brewed coffee, but rather than head to a coffee shop every day to get your caffeine fix, why not invest in a top-notch coffee machine so you can enjoy your daily cup of Java at home? While a few years ago making a cup of coffee at home involved putting the kettle on and popping the top on a tin of Ricoffy, these days most people’s home coffee standards are a little higher and sales of speciality coffee machines are booming. Whether you’re about to join the Java crew with a fancy coffee machine, or your existing machine needs replacing, here’s everything you need to know about buying a coffee machine in South Africa.
Picking the type of machine:
There are more ways to make coffee than you might realise, before you start your journey into researching which coffee machine is best you’ll want to decide which type of coffee machine you want. Some machines make several types of coffee, which is ideal if there are lots of coffee lovers in your household. Let’s take a look at the different kinds of coffee machines you’ll have to choose from:
Filter coffee machines: With a filter coffee machine 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 use any ground coffee with this type of machine.
Pod or capsule coffee machines: These coffee machines can be uses to brew pre-packaged instant coffee capsule pods. To start brewing you simply place the pod in the machine and press a button. The pod is pierced and hot water is sent through it and into a waiting mug. While often delicious and convenient, with a capsule machine you are often limited to the type of capsule or pod sold by your machine manufacturer. The pods can also be quite expensive.
Percolator machine: To make your cup of Joe 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.
You can view and find the best prices on different coffee machine options on PriceCheck.
Pump espresso maker: These machines use a thermostatically controlled boiler which heats the water to its optimum temperature for coffee. When this temperature is reached the water passes through the ground coffee at the correct bar pressure. These machines usually include a tool for steaming milk, so they can be used to make delicious café-style lattes and cappuccinos.
Bean-to-cup: This machine grinds the coffee beans and then runs hot water through them before dispensing your drink. It is essentially a pump espresso maker with a built-in grinder.
What to Look for in a coffee machine:
Once you’ve narrowed down the type of coffee machine you’re most keen on there is a lot to consider. Convenience is an important factor to think about. Do you want a nearly hands-free coffee-making experience in the morning or is the ritual of brewing coffee something you look forward to?
Easy-to-use pod machines work well for households that all prefer a different type of coffee and not in large quantities. Single-cup capsule brewers are great for people who live alone or households where each person prefers a different flavour or style of coffee. They’re also ideal for those who want to get their coffee fix as they’re running out the door.
On the other hand, brewers that make larger quantities are great for people who drink lots of coffee, as well as for large family breakfasts or dinner parties where coffee is served. Many larger brewers also offer custom brewing options for the perfect cup. From simpler brewing options like adding more or fewer coffee grounds or water, to more complicated machines that let you choose water temperature, brew strength, and a wide variety of brew sizes, there’s a machine to suit your coffee brewing needs.
You’ll also need to think about the type of coffee you want to make. While coffee makers and espresso machines tend to be separate machines, hybrid machines that brew both types of coffee are also available. While hybrid machines may not be the best choice if you’re looking for the highest quality of both brewed coffee and espresso, they will eliminate the need for having two machines in the kitchen. Pod machines often have espresso type drink options, but they aren’t the most authentic so if you like traditional espresso or cappuccino you’re better off with a specialist machine.
Some machines also go beyond brewing options and offer extra features to improve your coffee experience. Some machines include options for programmed brewing at a specific time while higher-end machines might include features like milk frothing, bean grinding, and notifications when the machine needs to be cleaned. Espresso machines and hybrid coffee/espresso brewers tend to offer the most options, but these often also come with the highest price tags.
Consider the long-term cost:
Of course, buying a coffee machine is not a one-time expense. If you opt for a single-serving machine, like a Nespresso then you’ll consistently be putting money into buying the necessary capsules. If you buy a drip machine, you’ll be buying new filters and grounds or beans with an additional bean grinder. Before taking the plunge, weigh the options and really think about what will be better for you — and your budget.
Also, keep in mind how much coffee you drink and whether your investment is worth the splurge. If you barely go through a cup a day, a single-serving machine could be perfect for you but if you’d prefer an IV of Java to keep you moving all day long, then you might want the machine with the biggest pot available. Look for machines that can hold up to 12 cups if you’ve got a coffee-loving family or office.
Think about how easy it is to clean:
If you have to clean the machine regularly or hand-wash a glass carafe every day and you can’t imagine you’ll have that time kind of time every day, then perhaps move on to something that can go in the dishwasher or that doesn’t need daily cleaning.
Capsule coffee machines are pretty straightforward to clean – just flush through with water every now and then and descale semi-regularly. On an espresso machine, you’ll need to dismantle the brew head, clean it and flush it through with water. And if the filter basket becomes clogged you may need to use a pin, or something similar, to unblock it. While higher-end, more complicated coffee machines may need more maintenance and cleaning the quality of the brew in your cup makes all the work worthwhile.