Anyone who knows me personally has a hard time believing that I didn’t actually like coffee until I was well into my 20s. Until then, I’d only ever tried instant coffee – and basic ones at that. It was only when I went to live in France for a year that I discovered proper coffee and my tea-drinking habits were abruptly cast aside.
A couple of decades later and my kitchen is awash with different types of coffee and coffee makers and I’m always inviting friends over for coffee (I do have to keep a jar of granules in for my dad, though, as he always requests ‘normal’ coffee…).
If you’re a coffee lover like me, you’ve probably got a favourite way of making coffee and with all the different ways to make your brew, it can be hard to decide what contraption or machine to invest in next. In this article, we’ll talk about the different types of coffee makers to inspire you for your next coffee-related purchase.
Different types of coffee makers
Filter coffee machines
These machines have been around a long time. They’re generally inexpensive and easy to use. Despite their low cost, they can make great coffee. If you love consistent coffee and aren’t fussed about the advanced features that other types of coffee machines offer, this is all you need.
Filter coffee machines work by slowly dripping water through a funnel containing ground coffee. Typically, this drips into a jug that is kept warm by a heated plate underneath. You can pick one of these up for as little as £20 to £30 (there are high-end filter coffee machines too) and so they’re a great choice for people who love real coffee but don’t have a large budget.
One great thing about these machines is that they can make a lot of coffee all at once. Some models will make around 12 cups per brew, which makes them ideal for people who like to host guests.
- Great value for money
- Makes a lot of coffee at once
- Any ground coffee can be used
- Coffee stays warm in the jug
- They lack advanced features and only produce black coffee
Coffee pod or capsule machines
I remember when these first came out and advertising was everywhere. I wouldn’t say the novelty has worn off as such, but real coffee lovers who like experimenting with ground coffee quickly cast these aside. However, they are great for having a quick, consistent coffee with minimal input and cleaning.
To use a capsule or coffee pod machine, you need to insert a pod into the machine and press a button. Each pod is sealed and contains ground coffee. You need to buy coffee pods that are designed for your specific machine and can’t use ground coffee or fresh beans.
This does mean that you pay quite a lot for each cup and so these machines aren’t as cost-effective as others. You also have the added environmental impact of leftover plastic waste with each cup made.
- The machines are reasonably priced
- The capsules are convenient and consistent
- There is a good range of different capsule flavours, including decaf options
- You can only use the specific capsules for your machine
- The capsules make for a more expensive coffee compared to other coffee machines
- You can’t use fresh beans or ground coffee
- They produce a lot more plastic waste
If you’re predominantly an espresso drinker, it would make sense to have a traditional espresso machine. These are great for using pre-ground coffee to make espressos and are less costly than a bean-to-cup machine.
Since they don’t grind coffee, they also have a smaller footprint on your kitchen counter. Unlike capsule machines, you’re able to use any type of ground coffee with these too.
A traditional small espresso machine gives you that real barista-style coffee without a huge, cumbersome machine.
- It’s a cheaper machine than a bean-to-cup machine
- Smaller footprint than a bean-to-cup machine
- You can customise your coffee
- You can use any ground coffee
- Lacks the convenience of a capsule machine
- The machine doesn’t grind the coffee and so you need to buy pre-ground coffee
For true coffee enthusiasts, a bean-to-cup machine is the go-to. A bean-to-cup machine does exactly as its name implies: it grinds coffee beans fresh for every brew. Lots of these machines also have very advanced features and include milk frothing wands to produce lattes or cappuccinos, for example.
As well as having the freshest coffee possible, these are also easy to use. Though lots can be customised in terms of the coarseness of the grind, the time, and the coffee strength, a lot of these machines also take pre-ground coffee too.
As you might expect, bean-to-cup machines are often the most expensive type of coffee machine with the most advanced models costing around £1500. However, there are some top models available for just a few hundred pounds.
- You get the freshest coffee as the beans are freshly ground for each cup
- There are lots of ways to customise your coffee
- Many come with milk frothing capabilities for lattes and cappuccinos
- The machines can be quite expensive
- These have a large footprint on your kitchen counter
If you’re looking for manual brewing devices rather than electric, the next few coffee makers will cover just that. Firstly, meet the AeroPress.
The AeroPress is a relatively new coffee brewer consisting of a cylinder and plunger, a bit like a syringe. Ground coffee is placed inside the chamber then the plunger forces hot water through the coffee to produce a strong coffee that’s similar to an espresso.
- It’s a portable coffee maker
- Easy to clean
- It’s more difficult to get an espresso crema
- Heat isn’t retained for long
- Lots of pressure needed
- The seal will need replacing every 2-3 months
The French press is actually one of my favourites! It’s great for beginners and you can brew lots of coffee at one time. It’s also recommended to use a coarser grind with a French press so if you’re grinding your own coffee, this saves time too.
A French press is relatively inexpensive and can also be used for a cold brew too.
- Easy to use
- Cleaning is easy
- Uses a coarse grind
- Produces a coffee sludge, which is harder to deal with than drier grounds from other types of coffee brewer
- It’s easy to over-extract the coffee
Coffee percolators have been around since the late 19th century and so offer that vintage appeal too. Percolators are very practical and once you’ve got the hang of using one, you can enjoy a variety of coffee types and flavours.
- Percolators retain the heat
- They’re easy to clean
- They add a depth of flavour
- They take a while to get used to using
- You can end up with a bitter-tasting coffee if you leave it too long
- They can be messy
Final thoughts on types of coffee makers
For anyone just starting out buying their own coffee-making gadgets, the choice can feel overwhelming. Understanding the differences between different types of coffee makers can help you choose which would best suit your lifestyle and tastes. Don’t forget, there will always be great versions of each type of machine to suit a range of budgets, so don’t automatically presume the cost will be prohibitive. Equally, also don’t presume that paying more for something means you’re getting a better cup of coffee. Make sure you read customer reviews before making a purchase.