Bean-to-cup coffee machines are the latest craze to sweep the DIY coffee world. Having started out as the kinds of ultra expensive and exclusive devices nobody could afford, they’re now well within reach for most people. With every year, hundreds more products emerge with their own unique selling points. Prices range from the sublime to the ridiculous, but the truth is you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to benefit from an outstanding bean-to-cup coffee machine.
What makes bean-to-cup coffee machines different from all other coffee machines is largely given away in the name. Rather than utilising coffee grounds, they instead use whole coffee beans which are automatically ground as and when required. In terms of why this makes the difference, it all comes down to the way in which the moment you grind your coffee beans, they begin to lose fragrance and flavour. This is because the grinding process releases the oil within the beans – the greater the gap between grinding and brewing, the greater the reduction in flavour.
Of course, there’s also much to be said for the convenience of the bean-to-cup coffee machine. Technically speaking, you could grind the beans required for each cup of coffee individually, prior to using a standard coffee machine. Likewise, you could take charge of frothing and dosing the milk according to your own unique tastes. Nevertheless, when working with a high-quality bean-to-cup machine, all you need to do is press a button…that’s it.
From the grinding to the brewing to the heating and frothing of the milk, absolutely everything is done for you. And given the fact that the beans are ground seconds before the coffee is brewed, you are guaranteed the freshest and highest quality cup, every time.
Of course, none of the above is particularly helpful when it comes to the small matter of choosing from the thousands of different bean-to-cup coffee machines available. As such, it’s worth considering a few important considerations and pointers, before going ahead and making your final decision. Personal preference plays a key role as always, but there are also certain factors that need to be considered along the way.
First and foremost, it’s worth thinking about exactly how much you want to spend. The reason being that while £100 will certainly stretch to a capable machine, you could also easily spend £1,000+ on something rather more premium. For the most part, the extra expense tends to go on things like additional features, exclusive branding, exterior styling and so on. That said, if you are not particularly interested in any of these things and just want a machine that covers the basics, there’s little point paying over the odds. Consider your priorities when determining how much you are willing to spend.
In terms of features, things really do vary from one extreme to the other. Right at the bottom of the scale come those bean-to-cup coffee machines that grind the beans, brew the coffee and distribute it at the touch of a button. At the other end of the scale, there are those that are incredibly precise when grinding to specific sizes for specific coffees, offer total temperature control, can be used to make a wide variety of creative coffees at the touch of a button, take care of frothing the milk and basically serve a little like a supercomputer attached to a coffee machine. Again, how many of these features you want or need comes entirely down to you.
One of the coolest features some of the more advanced machines offer is that of being able to program your own custom coffee creations. After experimenting with various strengths, temperatures, milk contents and so on, you can ask the machine to remember exactly how to make your custom coffee, in order to then make it at the touch of a button.
What tends to be advantageous with the more expensive machines on the market is that they are usually designed in a way that makes them much easier to clean. Not only this, but they also have a tendency to stay cleaner over longer periods and may have intelligent, inbuilt cleaning systems.
Last but not least, the speed at which bean-to-cup coffee machines produce coffee varies massively from one to the next – something to take into account if the machine is likely to be used for a larger group of people. Likewise, some machines are better suited than others to settings that need to be kept quiet, given the inevitable noise they make while in operation.
In a sense, there’s no such thing as making the wrong choice when it comes to bean-to-cup coffee machines, as it all comes down to your own preferences and priorities. Nevertheless, it still pays to take the above considerations into account before purchasing, just to ensure you are not disappointed with the decision you make.
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