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There's nothing quite like that morning coffee to help get your day started. Now, you can skip the cafe queues and bring barista-quality coffee to your home. Below is a simple guide on what you need to look for when shopping for a coffee machine.
The Types Of Coffee Machines
- Manual: For people who like control over their coffee-making, the coffee grounds are loaded by hand into a cup-shaped filter.
- Capsule: Easy to use and mess-free, simply insert the sealed capsule ("pod") of pre-ground, pre-measured coffee.
- Automatic/Semi-automatic: Decide what you want your coffee machine to do for you. Some models perform tasks at the push of a button, including cleaning the machine. They also offer a range of pre-sets for one, two or three shots of espresso at the push of a button.
Grinding The Coffee Beans
Some coffee machines have a built-in coffee bean grinder, which can be adjusted for coarse, medium, fine or extra-fine granules. Coffee grinders come in two types:
- Conical burr grinders: A metal cone at the base rotates against another surface at the top. These spin more slowly, tend to clog less and are quieter.
- Blade grinders: Beans are sliced finely using a blade. These may grind beans unevenly and leave coffee with a slight burnt taste if ground too long.
If the espresso maker doesn't have an in-built coffee grinder, you'll need to buy a standalone one or use pre-ground coffee instead.
What Is A Thermoblock?
This is the internal component of a coffee maker that heats water to the optimum temperature range for making coffee (between 85 and 96°C). For good flavour it's important that you don't scald the coffee. Machines with twin thermoblocks make coffee quicker because they heat the water for the coffee and create steam for frothing the milk at the same time.
Pump Pressure Is Important
The pressure used by coffee machines to force hot water through the ground coffee is measured in "bar". An espresso machine capable of 15 bar or more should be more than enough for making a good "crema" (foam).
Do I Need A Milk Frother?
Milk frothing is the process of adding air into milk. Perfectly frothed milk has a creamy, light texture and sweet taste, which compliments coffees such as cappuccinos. Some coffee machines have a built-in milk frother (or steamer), which is a metal rod that injects steam into the milk jug. For machines without a milk frother, you can buy a frothing (or steam) wand separately.
It's All About Capacity
The volume of each container in the machine — for coffee beans, ground coffee, used coffee grinds, water and milk — is measured in litres or grams. A large-capacity coffee maker is handy if you're often entertaining guests.
Don't Forget The Accessories
Most coffee machines include a milk frother jug, plus other accessories such as chocolate shakers, tampers (for packing down or "tamping" ground coffee), coffee spatulas (for preparing the beverage) and coffee grinder brushes (for cleaning coffee grinders).
Keep It Clean
It's important to clean your coffee machine regularly and thoroughly after using it as the residue of bitter coffee oils can affect the taste of your next cup of coffee. Don't use regular dish-washing detergent, though. Coffee machine cleaning kits have specific cleaning agents to remove coffee oils, milk froth residue and lime scale.
What's In A Bean?
There are two types of coffee beans:
- High quality coffee blends consist of 100% Arabica beans.
- Generally, Arabica beans produce a superior taste to Robusta beans.
- Arabica trees require approximately four to five years to produce fruit. They need subtropical climates and must be grown at high altitude (600 to 2000 metres).
- Cheaper, lower quality coffee blends may consist predominantly –- or even entirely — of Robusta beans.
- Robusta beans tend to make a coarser and more bitter coffee that has about twice as much caffeine as Arabica coffee.
- Robusta trees produce their first crops within two to three years of being planted. They can grow under a larger variety of environmental conditions.
Generally, the best coffees are pure Arabica blends. However, a low quality Arabica isn't necessarily better than a high grade Robusta.
How Do You Like Your Coffee?
There are two basic styles of coffee:
- Espresso: Brewed by forcing a small amount of steaming hot water under high pressure through tightly packed, finely ground coffee beans. The result is a small shot of richly flavoured coffee — called a "short black" — topped with a light brown foam known as "crema". The espresso shot forms the basis of coffees like lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos and mochas.
- Regular: Brewed by hot water coming into contact with pre-ground beans for at least one minute. Compared to espresso, regular coffee is brewed at a lower temperature for a longer time, uses more water and needs the beans to be more coarsely ground.
Coffee artists: Manual coffee machines suit those who love the art of making coffee and want total control over the process.
Entertainers: Capsule coffee makers allow you to switch between different flavours. They're easy to operate and you don't need to worry about grinding coffee beans.
Office space: Automatic machines suit frequent use because they make coffee quickly, at the press of a button.
Simple Coffee Machine Choices
Types: Manual, capsule or automatic/semi-automatic.
Grinding: Some coffee machines have built-in coffee bean grinders.
Pump pressure: Look for 15 bar or more, essential for good "crema" (foam).
Accessories: Chocolate shakers, tampers, coffee spatulas and grinder brushes.
Cleaning kits: Clean the machine regularly to guarantee good coffee every time.