For some people, drinking coffee is merely a way to boost their flagging energy levels. But for many people, a cup (or few) of coffee goes beyond simply being part of their daily routine. The allure of coffee’s depth of flavor and aroma is enduring. True coffee lovers may find themselves on an eternal quest to discover the perfect cup of Joe. And those who’ve been lucky enough to do so will never tire of indulging in it. With so many of us spending hundreds of dollars on takeout coffee every year, a home coffee maker is an ideal investment. But before parting with any of your hard-earned money, it’s vital to learn about the different features various coffee machines provide. And whether you’re on a more restricted budget or have more cash to splash, in this article, you’ll learn about the pros and cons of cheaper versus more expensive models.
It’s true that with many things, you get what you pay for. But can the same be said for coffee machines? In this case, does more expensive necessarily mean better coffee? Can you taste the difference? You’ve probably already done a bit of research and seen the massive price differential between coffee makers. Perhaps you’ve contemplated going for a pricier version simply because you think it means it’ll be of superior quality. But hold on. Don’t overlook some of the cheaper models out there. Many brands create more affordable machines without sacrificing quality.
Much of what it comes down to is what you’re looking for in a coffee machine. An appliance with extra features, more innovative settings, and new programming settings will inevitably be more expensive. But perhaps you don’t need all the bells and whistles. Maybe you just want a simple to use, effective, reliable machine that serves up consistently excellent cups of the hot stuff. In that case, you don’t have to hand over hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
Of course, you’ll rather spend money on a machine that you know will provide great-tasting, premium-quality coffee. But more affordable models deserve an honorable mention. Many of these will create barista-style cups of Joe without burning a hole in your wallet. What we’ll do now is take a look at some essential features to bear in mind before purchasing your coffee maker. Choose right, and you’ll be enjoying high-quality beverages from your own kitchen countertop (and impressing any coffee-loving guests, too!).
Our Buyer’s Guide
The overall price of the machine
The coffee machine’s price is perhaps the most determining factor of all. Not all of us have the luxury of spending thousands of dollars on high-end home appliances. But we all want to ensure that what we do buy is of top quality and built to last. Coffee makers come various sizes and shapes and can be manual, semi-automatic, automatic, or super-automatic. From drip to auto-drip, siphon to single-serve, pod-based to French press, and so on, prices can range dramatically. You’ll often be paying extra for the latest technology, quality materials, design, and brand name.
Quality of materials
The more you pay for a coffee machine, the sturdier the build will tend to be. But that’s not all you’ll be paying for. The machine’s materials and parts will also be of better quality.
Cheaper machines will mainly use plastic—an undeniably inferior material to stainless steel and ceramic. Plastic parts have a higher tendency to break and need replacing. And as coffee machines tend to undergo pressure and wear and tear through frequent use, more premium materials will undoubtedly last longer.
Aside from durability, the type and quality of materials also impact the brewing process and the resulting aroma and flavor of the coffee. And in bean-fed machines, a prime example of this is with the grinder. Cheaper models use blades for grinding the coffee beans. More expensive versions tend to be equipped with burr grinders. These types of grinders will create a finer grind, resulting in a superior cup of coffee. The difference in taste is undeniable; the coffee will have a richer, deeper flavor. This contrast is one main reason why coffee connoisseurs will pay extra for machines with burr grinders. But don’t be disheartened if these types of coffee makers are out of your price range. The overall taste will often depend on the quality and variety of coffee beans you’re using. So, even with a more modestly-priced coffee maker, you may still be able to create a magical cup of Joe.
With most consumer items, you’re also paying for the brand name attached to them. More established, well-known brands will cost more, and this is also the case with coffee machines. Yes, often, the reputation is well-deserved. But it doesn’t mean that lesser-known makes should be overlooked. If you do your research, you should be able to find less-exclusive makes that manufacture equally reliable machines at more affordable prices.
Ground coffee/beans vs. pods
You’ll also need to consider whether you’re going to opt for a machine that uses ground coffee, beans, or pods. This affects the price of the machine itself, and the cost of different types of pods, ground coffee, and beans varies widely, too.
Grocery store-bought ground coffee costs, on average, $16.90 per bag. That amounts to around $0.74 per cup. Undeniably cheaper than an Americano from your local Starbucks! But any coffee enthusiast who knows their beans will attest that you get what you pay for. In that case, you may be looking at spending a lot more on quality barista-quality beans than you expected. Again, though, everything is down to personal preference. You might be okay with using less expensive ground coffee or beans with your machine.
If you opt for a pod-based machine, you’ll probably be looking at even more of an expense. Most pods are single-use only. And if you’re a caffeine fiend, you may find yourself having to stock up on the pricey little pods more often than you would have liked.
Coffee making skills
Depending on the type of coffee maker you purchase, your level of coffee-making know-how, skill, and enthusiasm may have a significant impact. Anyone who purchases a home-based coffee machine will want the coffee to rival that of coffee house ones. Certain coffee maker types (siphons, French press, etc.) require more manual input. In contrast, others merely need you to press a few buttons (automatic espresso machines, for example). If you’re someone who takes pleasure in brewing your coffee yourself, the former may be a better option. But if you’re happy for a machine to do most of the hard work, then the latter will be perfect.
Suppose you go down the automatic coffee machine route. In that case, you’ll need to ensure you pick a model that you’ll feel comfortable using. Plus, many of the premium models may have extra features that you simply won’t use. Make sure that you pick the suitable device for your specific needs and requirements and one that won’t confuse or frustrate you.
How much does the average automatic espresso machine cost?
The price range of these types of coffee makers varies wildly. Good quality espresso machines tend to start at $500 and go upwards to thousands of dollars. As we’ve mentioned, this is often down to the design, quality of materials and parts, extra features and functions, and the brand name. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the more premium-quality the machine will be. And that means superior tasting cups of coffee.
However, it’s important to remember that you can find lesser-known brands offering good-quality machines. Plus, even the premium brands will often have more affordable models to choose from. Yes, they may not come with fancy features. But if you’re looking for a simple espresso machine, you’ll be able to find a solid investment.
Why should I buy a home espresso machine?
Ask yourself the following questions. Do I drink more than one cup of coffee a day? Do I make daily trips to a coffee house? Am I tired of using a manual coffee maker? If you’ve answered yes to any of these, then an automated espresso machine will be a fantastic buy. Not only do these appliances save you time (they have in-built grinders and brewing, often with an additional milk frother), but also money. Think about how much cash you spend yearly on takeout coffee, and you’ll never recoil at the price of one of these machines again. You’ll be able to customize and program the drinks at the touch of a button. Plus, most models are durable and long-lasting, providing you with exceptional coffee drinks for many years.
Is it worth spending a little more on an espresso machine?
If you want your machine to provide more than just a simple cup of espresso, then, yes, it’s worth spending extra. More expensive models offer more variety, flexibility, and customization options. You’ll be able to adjust the strength, amount, and temperature of your coffee. (Even programming your machine to save these settings, so you don’t have to input them every time you use it). Higher-end devices also offer wireless connectivity, meaning you can use an app to “order” your drink anytime, anywhere. Plus, pricier versions are having installed with self-cleaning functions. They will provide alerts when anything needs changing, emptying, filling, or replacing. All in all, you’ll be paying extra for convenience and quality.
Don’t be daunted by the range of coffee makers out there. And don’t be put off by the price, either. Whatever your personal coffee needs, how much you’re willing to spend, and your level of coffee know-how, you’ll be able to find a suitable machine. As this article has discussed, it’s not necessary to pay through the nose to enjoy daily, home-brewed cups of the hot stuff. Take some time to identify what you want from your coffee machine and then take it from there. You’ll be able to get a better idea of the machines available in your price range. Before you know it, you’ll be savoring full-flavored, aromatic, barista-style coffee produced in the comfort of your own home.