Coffee 101: Choosing the Right Machine For Your Needs

It can be pretty daunting to begin looking for a coffee machine.

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September 3, 2019 10:19
Coffee 101: Choosing the Right Machine For Your Needs

. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

It can be pretty daunting to begin looking for a coffee machine. Not only are there countless features and price points to compare, there’s also a huge variety of type. No longer are coffee machines simply the drip machines you may have grown up with. In fact, the very first consideration you should make when buying a machine is simply what category would fit best with your lifestyle. This article explains the basics of five different types of great machines.

 

Simple Manual Pour-Over

 

We’re beginning with the most basic: the super simple manual pour-over. You may be able to picture this type of machine: a simple plastic cone that can sit on top of a mug.

Manual pour-overs allow you to fill a filter with your preferred beans, and then – as the name suggests – pour hot water over the grinds in order to brew great coffee directly into your cup.

This ceramic model by Mecraft is a great place to begin your search. While this is all basic, it’s a good place to begin our overview, because thinking about this machine will help you understand what you’re looking for.

Manual pour-overs are great for quickly brewing a single cup. This would be a great choice if you’re brewing coffee for one, and if you don’t mind brewing cups as you need them (as opposed to brewing a whole pot all at once). This type of coffee brewer also works well for bringing on a hike, backpacking or hunting trip. So next time you go on a trip with your spotting scope, binoculars, etc. you should also remember a pour-over!

 

Automatic Pour-Over

 

Automatic pour-overs are similarly simple. The finished product is very similar to that of a manual pour-over, but these machines actually automate as much of the process as possible.

One of our favorite automatic machines is the OXO Barista Brain 9 Cup model. This machine is a great introduction to the whole category because of how simple it is.

If you’d rather not be stuck manually pouring the water over your grounds, but would rather be able to walk away and come back to a finished pot, this is a great option. And if you want to be able to brew more than one cup at a time, an automatic machine is a smart move.

Many of these automatic pour-over machines are similar to our next category – the traditional drip machine – but they differ in some key ways. For example, most automatic pour-over machines actually run a “bloom cycle.” This function mimics the traditional pour-over method of letting the grinds “bloom” with a splash of water before really beginning to pour.

 

Traditional Drip Machine

 

These traditional machines are likely what you’re most familiar with. While similar to the automatic pour-over machines, this category differentiates itself in a couple of ways.

Many straightforward drip machines offer features such as programmability and warming. This means that you can set a time for the coffee to begin brewing and wake up to a fresh pot. It also means that you can choose for your finished pot to be kept warm throughout the day.

These could be important factors to consider, especially if you’re looking to buy a machine for an office or for a large family. I know that my family has religiously held on to our now decades-old drip machine because we like to have a pot ready in the morning, and then be able to brew another pot later in the day and always have hot coffee in the kitchen.

One of our favorite models of traditional drip machine is the KRUPS 10 Cup Grind and Brew model. It's especially great because it includes a grinder (and this can maximize the freshness of your coffee), but it’s similar to the wide range of other drip machines.

Be sure to pay attention to details such as filtering, programmability, whether the machine uses a hot plate or an insulated carafe, and the overall capacity.

 

Espresso Machine

 

Espresso is no longer exclusive to your trendy local coffee bar. Home espresso machines have seriously grown into their own, and models now offer a solid and reliable way to bring your favorite drinks into your own kitchen.

These machines use high pressure to pull shots full of delicious crema, and many of them are also able to steam milk. This means that you’ll be able to serve guests drinks such as lattés and cappuccinos.

One of our favorite models is the Barista Express, by Breville. Though there are a handful of more basic models, the Barista Express is a great place to begin your search because it shows the full range of features possible in a home espresso machine.

Many espresso machines also offer a range of automation. Some higher-end models are able to automate almost the entire process – from tamping the espresso puck, to timing the shot and frothing the milk – and this may be useful for those who are too intimidated to jump straight into the world of baristas.

 

Siphon Machine

 

The last category we’ll look at is siphon machines. These may be a bit of a shock – in addition to not being very widespread, they have a striking look and cause passers-by to pause for a moment.

This type of coffee brewer actually takes advantage of pressure to brew a perfect pot. These machines heat water in the lower chamber, and the steam pushes liquid up into the top chamber. In the top chamber, water is able to mix with grinds. When the water begins to cool, and when the steam condenses and causes the pressure to change, coffee is drawn back down to the original chamber. Grinds remain up top, and you’re ready to go with a fresh pot.

A good model to begin your search with is KitchenAid’s KCM0812OB Siphon Coffee Brewer. Though the mechanics are different from a traditional drip machine, the finished product is very similar.

These machines look great, and they’re enjoyable to watch, but they aren’t just a gimmick. Many users claim to prefer the taste of siphon coffee, and it’s worth exploring. Consider this type of model, especially if you’re looking for a fun way to brew coffee with guests.

 

Last Thoughts

 

These five different types of coffee machines can all serve different purposes, so it’s important to think carefully about what you’re interested in. You’re not just making coffee – you’re choosing how to make coffee. After taking a glance at this overview, you’ll be well on your way.


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