BEAN TO CUP MACHINE
For many, a cup of freshly ground coffee is the only way to start the day. And short of hiring your own in-house barista, one of the best bean-to-cup coffee machines will be easiest way to whip up a delicious drink at home each morning. If you know bean-to-cup is your perfect coffee companion, however, we’ve tested models from major brands including De’Longhi, Gaggia and Sage to bring you our pick of the best:
These machines have one simple goal: to produce the freshest coffee possible. The fresher the coffee, the more full-flavoured the shot is. By grinding the coffee beans, extracting the flavour and making an espresso, bean-to-cup machines are able to make some of the tastiest at-home coffees around. However, this premium performance doesn’t come cheap.
They do have a tendency to look intimidating, with their large, often metallic, design and plethora of variable options, but most are simple to use. The best feature of bean-to-cup machines is that they do almost everything for you (from grinding beans to making more complex coffees) at the touch of a button. On most models, there’s no need for tamping either.
Most bean-to-cup coffee machines allow you to adjust the drink size, coffee strength and sometimes the strength of the aroma, too. On some models, you can save these settings, so you can repeat your favourite combinations.
If you’re less concerned with embracing your inner barista, and more interested in enjoying fresh coffee quickly, look for a machine that has a pre-set drinks menu alongside its manual controls. Offering the likes of a cappuccino or flat white, the settings mean that when you’re in a hurry, the machine does all the work for you.
Some coffee machines can be controlled via an app on your phone. You need to make sure you’re prepared though by having enough beans in the container and water in the tank, and a mug ready under the spout. If it’s all set, you’ll be able to make a coffee without having to get out of bed – a dreamy way to wake up!
No one enjoys cleaning out a coffee machine; it’s a bit messy and there are a lot of parts that need to be disassembled. Plus, it’s difficult to manually clean the internal parts. An automatic cleaning function will cleanse your coffee machine in less than 20 minutes, with some getting the job done in less than half this time. A few models also run an auto rinse programme when the coffee machine is turned on, flushing out the system to make sure you’re making coffee with fresh water.
How we test coffee machines
We want to know whether you can rely on these machines to deliver you the coffee you like, every time. To do this, we make a series of single and double espressos, using the same coffee beans for every machine. We look for the presence of a crema and measure the volume of liquid produced to analyse how consistent the machine is, working within a small margin of variation.
Our expert tester also looks at how it steams milk, and how the grinder works, considering how much control the user has over the settings.
Finally, each machine is assessed according to its ease of use, design and product guidance.