For many people, coffee isn’t just a morning drink; it’s a ritual, a necessity, a pleasure and a love language. That’s why shopping for an at-home machine is serious business – and often confusing when you discover the sheer amount of choice on offer. We’ve consulted the experts so that you have all the information you need, from beans to machines and everything in between, to make the perfect brew.
How to select the right coffee machine model
The options can feel endless, but there are two main categories: automatic and manual. Which one you choose should suit your lifestyle. Alana Hollings, national brand manager – Electrical at Harvey Norman, suggests thinking about how much effort you want to put into making a coffee.
“An automatic coffee machine with an integrated milk frother would be the best option for someone who wants a good coffee with minimum fuss,” she says. These high-tech machines grind beans, extract espresso and froth the milk at the touch of a button. If you want to personalise your coffee a little more, semi-automatics will allow you to grind and tamper your coffee while the machine does the rest of the work. Capsules are also automatic but do away with beans altogether, simply requiring a capsule of ground coffee to extract your espresso shot. As close to the convenience of instant coffee as you can possibly get, these machines are easy to clean, low effort and pods come in a variety of flavours.
Manual machines have increased in popularity as people realise anyone can make a great cup of coffee if they do their research and have the right tools. Manual machines allow you to control every step of the process, from grinding to dosing, tamping and determining the strength of the cup you want. The speed at which hot water is forced through the coffee is called bar pressure; aim for at least nine bars.
How to select the right coffee beans
The two most common and popular types of beans are arabica and robusta. “Arabica is more flavoursome and doesn’t have as much caffeine,” explains Sam Demelis, national coffee training manager at Complete Hospitality Training. “The robusta beans are slightly cheaper. They have a slightly higher caffeine content and can be quite bitter.” That’s why Sam recommends robusta for coffee with milk and arabica for black coffee. Ultimately, it comes down to trial and error, and you don’t have to pick one or the other. “Mixing beans and creating blends to suit your palate can be really fun. Keep it simple and make sure you’re happy before you give it to anyone else.”
Coffee machine price range
When it comes to coffee machines and makers, the price range truly couldn’t be wider. At the higher end of the budget are espresso or automatic coffee machines, which can stretch from $500 all the way to $10,000-plus. If you are looking for more affordable options that still achieve great results, try a stovetop coffee maker (a Moka pot is one example), French press, Aeropress, pour-over, cold brew or cold-drip makers. And if that lengthy list of recommendations makes your head spin, refer to the glossary below to see how these work and what their benefits are.
How to make a great cup of coffee
A quality cup of coffee begins with the beans. “For automatic or manual coffee-machine users, storing whole beans or fresh grounds in a vacuum-sealed canister is important as the coffee starts to lose its flavour as it comes into contact with air,” advises Alana. If you use a capsule machine, opt for a quality product and store them appropriately.
Whole beans kept in a cool, dry cupboard (not a fridge) are the best option as they retain their oils longer. Sam suggests only grinding as many beans as you’ll need for 4-5 days at a time. “The finer the grind, the higher the chances are your coffee will be bitter,” warns Sam. The best consistency is slightly finer than cracked pepper. To get a good crema (the fine layer of froth on top of your espresso) make sure you’ve ground the beans to the right consistency for your machine, tamped evenly and used fresh coffee. Then simply sit back and enjoy!
“A lot of passion goes into making coffee. It puts a smile on your face when you get it right”Sam Demelis, Complete Hospitality Training
Common mistakes when buying a coffee machine
According to Sam, the biggest mistake people make is judging a machine by the brand. “People almost feel as though they need to have a certain brand of coffee or a certain brand of machine,” says Sam. Instead, he suggests doing your research to find a machine that fits your price range and lifestyle.
How to clean your coffee machine
Keeping your coffee machine pristine is one of the easiest ways to ensure its longevity and may even improve the taste of your coffee, says Sam. “After every use, flush out the group head (the part of the espresso machine that you attach the group handle to) so that you rinse out old coffee grinds. Wash the drip trays and keep the water tank empty when you’re not using it.” If you clean your machine regularly then you (thankfully) won’t have to use heavy chemicals to descale build up. If you prefer a lower-maintenance option, Harvey Norman’s Alana Hollings recommends buying a capsule machine.
The best coffee machines and accessories to shop 2023
Looking to up your coffee game? Read on for our top picks of the best coffee machines and accessories to shop in Australia.
Looking to add a pop of colour to your morning routine? The new Vertuo Pop range from Nespresso will do just the trick. Available in a range of fun and bright colourways, but our pick is this one in a bold red hue. This machine is the most compact and affordable machine in the brand’s Vertuo range.
If cold brew coffee is your thing, this elegant setup will serve up stylish aesthetics with your morning brew. Plus, its compact size means to takes up less space in your kitchen as well as your fridge.
With pre-programming for dosing and grind profile, this streamlined unit has a conical burr grinder to get through your daily dose. If you’re after a full-bodied, aromatic and flavoursome brew, we’d recommend adding this grinder to your coffee-making set up – stat.
With a fun dash of retro styling, this little wonder will sit prettily on your benchtop. Choose neutral tones or a pop of colour from one of four colours – blue, cream, white and black. Plus, you can set auto-programs for your family favourites – from hot chocolate to the perfect chai or cappuccino froth. Molto bene!
More than just looking the part, this knock box will save your benchtop and collect all of the mess of coffee grinds for easy disposal.
This stylish vacuum plunger combines elegance and simplicity to keep your brew warm. The stainless steel finish blends seamlessly with your kitchen appliances, while the oak handle lends a touch of nature.
Compact and colourful, Smeg’s award-winning retro design is simple to use and the perfect way to add a pop of colour to your benchtop. Choose from seven colours to match or contrast with your kitchen palette.
Handmade in Milan, this stunning machine combines old-school Italian design with a passion for perfect coffee, it’s one for the traditionalist.
Having established itself firmly in the domestic espresso landscape, Breville has done the research to discover what people want, and The Oracle is the brand’s answer to achieving specialty coffee at home. Plus, in a sleek black finish, this machine is made for the modern kitchen.
Use beans or coffee grounds in this Italian-made high-tech machine that offers 14 different beverage options to choose from. An espresso tray and built-in frother does away with a fiddly milk jug and promises a flawless espresso every time. Oh, and you can save four different user profiles to save your choices once you find your favourite brew.
With an onboard conical steel grinder, this smart machine brews two espressos at a time while you use the manual milk frother. The drip tray goes into the dishwasher for easy cleaning too.
Designed for the hands-on coffee enthusiast, the Bellman works like any stovetop machine to brew your espresso but also has an integrated steam wand to froth your milk. It may take a bit of tinkering to get it right, but when you do, it’ll brew up to nine espressos to perfection.
This manual machine allows plenty of hands-on coffee creativity with classic espresso machine styling in a stainless steel finish. Presets can be tweaked to personal taste, and the triple thermoblock heats water for espresso separately to steam for frothing milk. A stand-alone, Tap & Go conical burr grinder keeps beans fresher and delivers a consistent grind straight into the filter basket.
There’s a reason La Marzocco is every barista’s go-to coffee machine. At-home baristas will love the new Linea Micra, a compact version of the Linea Mini and Classic, with café quality features such as a dual boiler for temperature control, a convertible portafilter and a cool touch wand for safe steaming. The Linea Micra is even IOT app compatible with remote control, so there’s no waiting around in the morning to start brewing.
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