Today we’re going to look at some of the best bean to cup coffee machines that money can buy in the UK. Bean to cup machines are just about the perfect coffee maker for casual connoisseurs – they are pretty versatile and will allow you to make a full range of barista style, espresso based coffees.
They are also fairly easy to use – at least to make a basic, decent brew (we can’t guarantee good foam art – that’s up to you!) Using a bean to cup machine, you’ll be able to have barista standard coffee at home whenever you want.
Unlike some styles of coffee maker, bean to cup coffee makers have grinders built into them. This means that you simply need to add your beans, press a button or two, and watch as they’re ground down into perfect powder. From here, it will also heat the water, run it through the grinds and present you with a lovely espresso at the end – all hassle free and all pretty much automated.
You can use them to make a very nice espresso on its own, and you can usually use them to heat and foam milk, allowing you to create cappuccinos, lattes, flat whites, macchiatos or your own preferred coffee style.
Just as a quick note, please know that we’re talking about bean to cup espresso machines here, as opposed to bean to cup filter coffee machines. Both have their own merits, of course, and I’ve used both with great satisfaction over the years. But there is obviously a difference between the two.
There are a few different types of bean to cup machines available, and a plethora of individual models – so many that it can be quite overwhelming.
Never fear, however.
We’ve done the hard work for you (if trying out a host of different coffee machines can be considered hard work). What follows are what we found to be some of the best bean to cup coffee machines available in the UK, for a variety of reasons.
Why Buy A Bean To Cup Coffee Machine?
If you’re looking for a good quality espresso – either at home or in your workplace – you will generally have limited options. A Moka is a pretty safe bet, and actually is one of my preferred coffee making methods. However, it’s not a true espresso, lacking among other things a proper crema, and it needs a hob, which not every workplace will have.
Coffee pod machines are also OK, but you’re locked into buying pods from a small handful of vendors, the pods are expensive and wasteful (think how much plastic they use!) and the coffee is often substandard.
Semi-automatic espresso machines with grinders are also great but do take some specialist knowledge to work and can be quite time-consuming (though nobody can argue with the results). You need to develop your own barista skills and invest some real time into both honing your craft and making each individual coffee, which is effortful and outside the purview of most people.
Then there is the bean to cup espresso machine.
There are a few things that I think make bean to cup coffee machines a worthwhile investment.
First up is ease, of course. For minimum effort and maintenance, you have fresh, barista style coffee on tap. Simply refill the grinder, press a button, and there you go – a perfect coffee. There really couldn’t be less labour involved (even when you order one in a coffee shop, you still have to physically get yourself there!)
Then there is the freshness and flavour you get with a bean to cup machine. Coffee starts to lose flavour when it is ground. The fresher it is, therefore, the more flavour ground coffee will deliver. As the beans are ground up seconds before use with a bean to cup machine, they give the maximum in taste thanks to their superior freshness.
Different Kinds Of Bean To Cup Espresso Machines
Broadly speaking, there are two types of bean to cup espresso machines – manual milk frothing and auto milk frothing variants.
Simply put, if you want to maximise time-efficiency and make things as effortless as possible, go with auto milk frothing. They are expensive, however, and give you no control over the quality of the frothed milk (which can be quite low with some models). If, however, you want to do it yourself, you can save some money with a manual milk frothing machine whilst retaining autonomy over the milk.
I personally prefer manual milk frothing bean to cup espresso machines over just about any other type of coffee maker. It is the perfect combination of ease and control for me – and I’m a pretty dab hand with a milk frother, which you will be too with a very small amount of time spent experimenting. In fact, with just a little practice, anybody can get to the point at which they make a far better milk texture, with far more evenly spread heat (and no burning!) and a far better pour quality than even the fanciest machines can manage. You will get a much better flat white, cappuccino or latte by using a milk frothing wand.
How To Choose The Best Bean To Cup Coffee Machine
There are a few things we’re looking for in our bean to cup coffee machines. First and foremost, obviously, is the quality of the espresso they make. Realistically, if budget constraints aren’t a thing, this is all that matters. If it makes a good espresso, it stands a good chance of making our list.
However, budget constraints absolutely do exist. This needs to be reflected in our choices. If you can spend five hundred or five thousand pounds on a machine, and each makes a similar standard espresso, it’s a no-brainer. We therefore balance economy with quality, making sure they match up, making sure that everything justifies its price tag.
Other than this, build quality, ease of use and longevity are also important. If that five thousand pound machine will last you six decades and the five hundred will struggle to make it through six months, then it’s best to save up for a bit and actually invest. Everything on our list is well-made, built to last and easy to use for a long time as a result – and don’t panic – we haven’t featured any machines that cost £5,000 or more!
Then there is the difference between auto and manual frothing. Neither will be a deal breaker. However, if an auto-frother is rubbish, you’ll not see it on our list. For that matter, if a milk wand is rubbish, you won’t see it either. And the price needs to reflect the gadgets you get – two comparable machines should be priced differently if one offers auto and one doesn’t.
Our Top 7 Bean To Cup Coffee Machines
As ever, it’s a balancing act, although it’s one we think we’ve got right. Everything on this top 7 list will give you value for money, will last you a good while, will be easy to use and, most importantly, will give you a very nice brew.
Our top pick: The De’Longhi Magnifica
Let’s start off with one of my favourite bean to cup coffee machines in De’Longhi’s Magnifica ESAM4200. It gives you a very nice espresso at the touch of the button and comes with an easy-to-use milk frothing wand so that you can really personalise your coffee. It makes a particularly good latte macchiato with silky smooth milk, and, if you’re into it (I’m not, particularly), you can create some decent latte art with it.
The Magnifica ESAM4200 is also one of the most reasonably priced bean to cup coffee machines out there. It’s actually pretty cheap which, considering the quality of espresso and wand, is amazing. It can give some of its (much!) more expensive competitors a very good run for their money whilst being easy to live with and saving you a fair amount of cash.
One thing that more expensive machines will generally give you is a lot of attention spend on the grinder. They will give lots of different grind settings, all with different uses. The Magnifica ESAM4200 has a full seven grind settings, which is both as many as some of its more expensive competitors and far more than you’ll probably need (I can almost guarantee you’ll never actually use more than three or four settings on any grinder, no matter how much of a connoisseur you are!)
You will find the Magnifica ESAM4200 easy to use and a provider of great coffeee, as I mentioned above. There is no clear reason for it being so cheap. It will give you as good an espresso and as good a milk texture as any other machine, is incredibly compact, so won’t take up much room on your kitchen counter, is easy to use and incredibly well thought out in general.
The front-loading tank is nice to work with. There is plenty of steam power. The internal mechanisms are pretty quiet and very reliable. The drip tray is removable and dishwasher friendly and makes the whole maintenance and cleaning of this bean to cup model as easy as it could be.
The only real downside is that it’s hard to adjust the settings back and forth with any accuracy. It uses dials and knobs rather than push buttons. I personally like this, simply as an affectation if nothing else. However, you will need to get to know the machine a bit as you use it or risk quite variable coffees. This is the only downside I could think of and overall it is a small price to pay for such a high quality machine that comes in at such a reasonable price – and hey, we should all get to know our coffee machines a little anyway.
De’Longhi Magnifica S Ecam E22
Once more, De’Longhi are offering quite a lot for the money. Though it’s not that much more expensive than the ESAM 4200, the Magnifica S Ecam E22 offers pretty much everything you get from it with a few added bells and whistles. If you want to save money in absolute terms, consider the ESAM 4200. If you want a good deal with a bit of something extra, take some time to look at the Ecam22.
The Ecam22 makes a lovely espresso, which, as we have seen, is fairly fundamental in judging an espresso machine. This is, of course, at the touch of a button, keeping much of the fuss out of the process. The milk frothing is automatic. As with the ESAM 4200, it comes with a milk frothing wand – this is nice to use, pretty quiet (as is the overall machine) and makes for a fantastic, rich, creamy cappuccino.
The steam wand also doubles as a hot water tap, making Americanos easy to make without having to boil water separately. The water tank is large, front loading and easy to get to. You can adjust the brew height, allowing you to use different sized cups. The grind, also quiet, has 13 settings. These all come together to make it feel and perform just a little bit better than the ESAM 4200, justifying the slightly higher price tag quite ably.
Melitta SOLO & Perfect Milk
The Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk bean to cup coffee machine is another product that nicely pairs form and function – it is a compact, smart design that comes loaded with technological gadgetry. It also delivers the holy grail of bean to cup coffee machines – a genuinely lovely cup of coffee that is quickly and easily made.
It’s one of the more intuitive offerings on this list, in my opinion. The operating panel features a fairly simple LED symbol display that makes everything very straightforward. You also get a couple of pre-programmed coffee settings, with extra settings for specialist coffees, so you’re ready to go almost as soon as the machine is out of the box. It has what Melitta call an ‘Auto Cappuccinatore’ – a button that, when pressed, gives you a particularly velvety cappuccino with lovely, frothy milk.
From here, you can get a little bit involved if you want to. Coffee strength can be altered manually, as can things like the coffee outlet height, so you can always be sure of using your favourite mug or latte glass. You can adjust coffee grind size, giving you a range of options to suit your own tastes. There is also a double cup mode so that you can make two coffees at once.
The internal workings of the machine are pretty clever, too. The Melitta Caffeo Solo moistens the freshly ground coffee prior to brewing, as part of its ‘aroma extraction system’. This helps to release the coffee’s subtle flavouring. Though it may sound a bit gimmicky, it works really well – you can taste the difference, with a fuller range of flavours hitting your palate.
Onto the nuts and bolts of living with it, now – the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk is a great machine to use on a day to day basis. It features a removable brewing unit for ease of cleaning, and you can access the machine’s interior, also for ease of cleaning. It will also tell you when it needs to be cleaned or descaled. As above, it’s compact and stylish, so will fit into your kitchen very well whilst looking great on the countertop.
However, my favourite feature of the The Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk is the Melitta Companion App. It is full of tips to help you make the most of your coffee – it features information on things like how to get the best out of the machine, how to make the perfect coffee for your tastes, alongside instructions on the maintenance of, and working with, the machine. Top marks for user friendliness, here and a top choice for anyone looking for a great fully automatic bean to cup coffee maker.
Melitta CI TOUCH
It features a double sealed 2-chamber bean select system – basically, there are two compartments for beans that can both be used at once. This allows you to mix and match coffee beans for flavour variation.
Don’t get me wrong, this is cool, and leads to good results, but seems a little over-engineered to me. I’ve achieved the same result by simply putting a couple of different styles of bean into a grinder – or, in this case, an integrated, bean to cup grinder – and brewing as normal. It’s maybe a bit more involved, but if you’re concerned enough to be trialling different combos, there’s a good chance that this extra little effort won’t be a deal breaker.
As with many other offerings on this list, the Caffeo CI Touch pre-soaks the coffee grinds, giving optimal aroma and flavour extraction. It does indeed give a consistently lovely, quite delicate blend of flavours, utilising every note available in each bean.
The machine is fully automatic, offers four strength levels and three different brew temperatures, and allows you to make either one or two cups of coffee at once. You can also store up to four personal preferences in its ‘My Coffee’ memory feature, which I love.
What really sets this apart, however, is the design, both internal and external, and the build quality, for which it won the 2019 Housewares Small Electrical’s Innovation Award. Its smooth, elegant designed structure, and push-button cleaning system means that you will always have an immaculate beauty on your counter top. It also has a noise-reduction system, refined operational capacities (I’m not sure what this quite means, but it was cited by the judges, sounds nice and fits well with the feeling of quality you get when you buy the CI Touch), and, importantly, a set of energy-saving features that will both save you money in the long run and boost your green credentials.
If you like quality and beauty, and if you like innovative design and the freedom to play around with your coffee, making it perfectly to your specifications, you will likely derive a lot of satisfaction out of the Caffeo CI Touch.
De’Longhi Eletta Cappuccino Fully Automatic Bean To Cup Machine
It’s no surprise to have a list like this being partially dominated by De’Longhi – they are one of the biggest names in the game and consistently come out with fantastic machines. The Eletta Cappuccino is a case in point. Well made, well designed, with an effortlessly good cup of coffee at the end of it, it does exactly what you want it to.
You get a fair amount of choice with this fully automated bean to cup machine. Though it is indeed fully automated, you can still choose between auto or manual milk frothing. I like this feature in particular – sometimes you just want to press a button and get your coffee in a hurry, but sometimes you have the leisure to be able to properly steam and pour your milk and to have this level of flexibility is important for those leisurely weekend brews.
You also get nine on touch buttons giving you everything from a cappuccino to a flat white – though not the best flat white, which is unsurprising (baristas can struggle to make a proper one, so a machine stands a small chance) but still disappointing. Nonetheless, every other drink on the menu is as you would want it – rich, well flavoured, with creamy, frothy milk. If you go with the manual option on your milk frothing, and manage to master it, you will probably end up getting a better coffee from the Eletta than you would from most coffee shops – especially from a high street chain!
You can control the temperature and strength of the coffee you get, along with the aroma of the end result. The brew height is adjustable. Once more, a good range of options giving a machine fantastic utility and customisation. The touch panel that helps you to achieve all of this is smart and very user friendly.
The design carries a lot of the Italian chic that went into the making of this machine. Sleek, elegant, white stainless steel panelling makes the machine look discreet yet beautiful, giving you an understated yet lovely addition to your kitchen. It is quite classic De’Longhi and should be celebrated as such.
The Gaggia Brera is a fantastic little machine. Compact, modern looking, incredibly stylish and easy to use, this bean to cup machine is a lovely gadget to have on your kitchen counter. It’s also a bit of a steal, priced incredibly competitively so that you won’t break the bank getting hold of one.
It’s easy to use. There is great frontal access to the water tank and coffee grind waste. The mechanics are quiet, giving you a bit of a soft purr rather than the clanking grind that some coffee machines will make. The controls give you the choice over the grind of the coffee, the amount of coffee used in each shot of espresso, and the length of each espresso shot. This makes it both simple and highly customisable. The steam pipe is long enough to be used as a steam wand, especially if you remove the panarello.
Though you won’t often need to use a machine’s full array of grind options, it’s nice to have them so that you can fully customise your brew. This is where the Gaggia Brera is slightly lacking. It costs more and offers less than the De’Longhi machines we’ve featured on this list. The grind adjustor itself can also be a bit stiff – though, again, you won’t find yourself using it much after you find the setting to suit your own personal tastes.
If you really do want to be able to get finnicky over your grind, and to be able to adjust it all the time, there are better bean to cup machines. In fact, there are better coffee machine options overall – you will likely be better off going for a traditional, straight espresso machine.
This isn’t as usable as the De’Longhi offerings. However, it comes close, and it’s incredibly stylish. If you want something that will give you a good espresso, be pretty easy to live with, and something that looks great in your kitchen without taking up too much space, this may be the one for you.
Gaggia Magenta Plus
The machine itself can give you three different types of coffee – espresso, espresso lungo and americano – all at the touch of a button. The ceramic grinders are well-made and built to ensure an even grind every time. The machine also makes use of a pre-brewing method, in which the grounds are soaked in hot water for a few seconds before the actual brewing itself begins. This makes full use of the coffee’s flavour and gives a decent level of consistency between shots. You can also bring in a good degree of personal choice as you brew your coffee. You can adjust the aroma intensity choosing the quantity of ground coffee per cup, with five different levels from which to choose. The stainless steel espresso tray allows you to get the right height for a good shot, ensuring a uniform crema.
However, it’s the milk wand that really makes the Magenta shine. It’s one of the cheapest machines – if not the cheapest machine – to feature a proper, barista quality milk wand. Stainless steel, shaped to allow for different uses and different kinds of milk jugs, and impeccably made, it gives you a genuine velvety froth that you would be surprised at even in the fanciest of hipster coffee bars. You can also use it to dispense hot water, for your teas, infusions, or simply to top up your Americanos and lungos.
The interface is pretty workable, too. It has a full colour display for visibility and allows you complete control without too much faffing about. Everything is made simple enough, from making your coffee to cleaning the machine. You can remove all the bits you need to in order to clean it easily enough.
Overall, it’s a decent quality bean to cup machine with an amazing milk wand, especially for the price.
If you are not that fussed about coffee, go with something more basic like pods or even just a decent instant (I can’t believe I just said that),.. but… (and this is a big but) if you are a budding barista who wants to take some time over every cup, splash out a bit and show off to your mates, you would be best served getting a traditional espresso machine. However, if, like most of us, you want a good cup of coffee, well-made, quickly and pretty much hassle free, a bean to cup coffee machine is for you – any of the offerings on this list will leave you a happy customer.
For Italian chic and beauty, try the De’Longhi Eletta. For innovation and high-function design, perhaps the Melitta CI Touch is your cup of… well, not tea. For a good, all round coffee experience, with beautifully silky coffee at a genuinely ridiculous price (in a very good way), maybe turn your attention to the De’Longhi Magnifica ESAM4200.
Whatever you choose, a very nice cup of coffee will be in your immediate future with one of these machines.