Whether you sip a strong espresso, crave a cappuccino or love a latte, a good coffee is always in reach thanks to the latest barista-worthy makers and some trade tips.
Suit your own tastes
For many of us, coffee is more than just a drink. There’s a comforting ritual in making, sharing and enjoying a daily caffeine (or decaf!) fix. “What makes a good coffee is very different for everyone,” says NSW state manager Sam Sgambellone of Veneziano Coffee Roasters.
“There are criteria that experts look for, like flavour balance and tactile quality. But ultimately, it is what brings enjoyment to whoever is drinking it.” Want to boost your coffee-making skills at home? Beyond hitting a button and mastering the milk frother, it pays to familiarise yourself with the snazzy functions, features – and brews – available. While we’ve taken the legwork out of your search for the best machine.
Match your lifestyle
When looking for a coffee machine, you need to ensure it’s a great match for you and your lifestyle. “Consider what type of coffee you like, how you like it, how many you’ll be making [each day] and how involved you want to be in the clean-up,” recommends Gary Brown of Harvey Norman. Also be realistic about how much time and effort you are prepared to invest in the process, offers Sam Sgambellone of Veneziano Coffee Roasters. These considerations will position you somewhere on the spectrum, from a fully automatic to fully manual coffee machine. “After you’ve determined where you sit, and your budget, taste a coffee from a machine in that category to see whether it produces a cup you would be happy to drink each day,” says Sam.
Make it like a barista
In recent years there has been a trend towards manual machines, as more people want greater control when making their coffee, explains Gary. “The younger generation particularly enjoy all things artisanal and, with growing education around coffee, people are realising it isn’t that hard to make your own great coffee,” he says. Starting from about $200, to upwards of $1000 for the high-end models, these machines give you hands-on control of the various processes, including grinding coffee beans, dosing, strength and tamping the coffee. Bar pressure (the speed hot water is forced through the coffee) is another aspect to check out. “Look for at least nine bars to deliver a great espresso,” says Gary.
“Typically there is a trade-off between convenience and quality, so there needs to be a match between your effort levels and expectations.”Sam Sgambellone
Pressing all the buttons
While coffee making can be an art form, it has also become high-tech. Automatic coffee machines will grind beans, extract the espresso and froth milk at the touch of a button, with various models offering touchscreens where you can save individual preferences, allowing coffee to be made specifically to suit each regular user. “Semi-automatic machines allow you to control various aspects of the process,” says Gary. “While machines like the Breville ‘Oracle Touch’ can be fully automatic or fully manual, giving you complete flexibility and the best of both worlds.” In-built machines that sit flush with cabinetry are also available, enabling you to keep benchtops clutter-free. Automatic benchtop machines range from $550–$4000, with in-built models priced upwards of $6000. Capsule coffee machines, on the other hand, are part of the automatic family and do away with the coffee grinder and beans altogether. Instead, you load coffee pods into the machine and press a button to do the rest. “Entry-level capsule machines, sub $100, have been particularly popular in transitioning people from instant coffee, as they’re incredibly convenient, consistent and easy to clean,” explains Gary. “However, the better capsule machines deliver a better cup of coffee.” Priced from $120-$1000, a key consideration is whether you like the flavour of the pods (and there are many varieties available to choose from), designed to be used with the specific machine.
Let's go shopping
“Coffee is like wine; people have very particular preferences in what they like to drink.”Gary Brown
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