Are you interested in the merits of coffee machines? With the proliferation of cafe culture, coffee shops are now found on virtually every street corner. And if you're a keen coffee drinker, you'll know all too well how quickly your coffee habit can start costing you.
One Americano a day from a well-known coffee chain for example, could easily end up costing you around three bucks, and often a lot more, depending on where you live. Over a year, that could mount up to over $1000. And that's before we start buying larger sizes, or extra shots, or fancy coffees.
So coffee machines offer a potential alternative. But are they worth it? Here's what we think.
Are Coffee Machines Worth It?
We've already highlighted one reason why you might be considering a coffee machine, if you regularly buy your drinks from one of the many coffee shops that are out there. Alternatively, you might still be relying on your freeze-dried instant coffee. Which, as most coffee connoisseurs will tell you, just isn't the same.
So whether you are coming from this as someone who spends a disproportionate amount on coffee, or someone looking for a slightly more delicious way to obtain your caffeine fix, coffee machines may well offer you an answer.
We'll start by taking a look at the variety of machines that are out there, then examine the respective benefits and drawbacks of coffee machines. By the time we're done, you'll have a much clearer idea of whether one will be right for you or not.
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Types of Coffee Machine
It's fair to say there are a lot of different types of coffee machines on the market, each of which will be suitable for a slightly different audience. This can make it difficult to figure out exactly which one meets your needs. On the other hand, it does mean there is almost certainly something suitable for you.
There are lots of different types, including percolators, siphon coffee makers, stovetop, aeropress, cold brew, and French press. We're going to focus purely on the ones that we'd really consider to be coffee machines. These include:
- Bean-to-cup machines - these take whole coffee beans and grind them for you into coffee grounds. This is then passed into a coffee puck, before hot water is added to create an espresso. Some will allow you to create other types of coffee at the touch of a button, such as cappuccino or latte. Others are more limited, and won't add milk for you.
- Coffee pod/single-serve machines - you'll no doubt have encountered these, either in your local shops, or advertised on TV. They are by far the easiest to use. You simply add a pod of your preferred coffee type into the machine. It then heats the water, runs it through the pod, and into your cup.
- Espresso machines - these use ground coffee, either bought in a bag, or you can buy beans and grind them yourself. These are similar to what you'll find your nearest Barista using. You'll need to tamp the coffee yourself, and then choose whether to make a single or double shot of espresso. They usually don't make other types of coffee, hence the name. But you can recreate your preferred beverage with the likes of a steam wand or milk frother.
So now that you have an idea of the different types of coffee machines, what are the respective pros and cons? We'll cover that next.
Benefits of Coffee Machines
Cost - We've already given a conservative estimate of your potential spend on cafe-bought coffee. So the chances are you'll save considerably by making your own coffee. And even if you fancy getting some Kenyan Blue Mountain coffee (some of the most expensive in the world) you'll likely still be spending the same, or less, per cup than you would from a coffee shop.
Customisation - Having your own coffee machine gives you complete control over the type of coffee you make, and the choices are virtually limitless.
You can also control how weak or strong it is, how much milk you add, and tailor just about every single aspect of it to your own tastes. As a result, you'll often end up with a superior coffee to the one you just paid five bucks for.
Speed and Convenience - This applies most of all to pod-type machines. But you can produce a coffee in under a minute. You don't need to travel anywhere, you don't need to get dressed, and you don't need to wait in a queue.
Environmental Impact - While there is definitely a trend toward encouraging people to reuse coffee cups, the fact is that every day, millions of single-use coffee cups are being thrown away after our collective trips to the coffee shop.
If you make your own coffee, you're far more likely to use a reusable cup. And even if you want one to take to work, you're going to use a travel mug or some other reusable beverage holder. So there's a significant environmental benefit.
Drawbacks of Coffee Machines
Initial Cost - This really depends on the type of machine you want to buy. While some are extremely cheap (especially pod-type machines) your initial outlay on an all-singing espresso machine could be thousands. So you'll need to use it a lot before you break even compared to buying a coffee every day.
Environmental Impact of Pods - Yes, we did say that coffee machines can help to reduce your environmental impact. But coffee pods can potentially undermine this, as they often use plastic. Happily, many pods are now compostable or recyclable, so this does help to reduce waste. But it's still something to consider. Two or three pods a day will produce a lot of recycling over a week or a month.
Maintenance and Cleaning - A final factor to consider is the cleaning and maintenance that's required. If you go to a coffee shop, you don't have to worry about any of this. But your coffee machine will need to be regularly cleaned, and all those coffee grounds can get messy.
Space - Depending on the type of machine you go for, they can take a lot of worktop real estate. So they might not be ideal if you don't have a large kitchen.
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As is so often the case, it really comes down to how much coffee you drink and whether you are going to benefit from having your own machine. A few things you might want to think about:
- How much coffee do you drink? A regular coffee drinker will potentially save a lot more over time than an occasional coffee drinker.
- What's your budget? Coffee machines come in all shapes and sizes, and can be very affordable. The cost of pods can though, offset the cheaper initial outlay. Compare what you generally spend each week at your local coffee place, and work out whether you're going to make savings or not.
- What matters when you're having a coffee? Is it taste, convenience, cost? Or could it even be the social element of sitting in a cafe and people-watching? Depending on your priorities, and why you drink coffee in the first place, may also influence your decision.
Overall though, we'd say there are some pretty clear reasons why you might want to consider a coffee machine. For most people, it can save them money, give them a coffee that tastes just as good, if not better, than they were previously getting, and can be much more convenient.