A Guide to Choosing Coffee Makers
When investing in a coffee maker it’s important to consider the type of coffee you like and the amount of use your machine will get as prices can vary greatly dependent on the kind of coffee the machine makes and how easy it is to use.
Cafetieres are one of the most commonly used and highly affordable types of coffee maker. They are generally made from a glass container which contains a metal filter attached to the plunger. If you plan to drink one or two cups of coffee a day then a cafetiere is ideal because you can control the amount you make and have fresh filter coffee in just a few minutes. You can buy cafetieres in different sizes, so it’s easy to find one to suit your needs.
Filter Coffee Makers
You can find a wide range of filter coffee makers available with various features and cup volumes. A basic filter coffee maker can be bought for under £20. The machine works by slowly allowing water to drip through ground coffee in a filter, into the container below. Most machines use special thermos containers and a hot plate so that the coffee can be kept warm.
Filter coffee makers can be purchased with paper or permanent filters. Permanent filters are cheaper because you don’t have to keep replacing them but they need to be cleaned after each use, unlike paper filters which can simply be thrown away and replaced. These plastic filters also tend to have slightly larger holes in them than paper filters do. This may result in small amounts of residue in the bottom of the pot or in your cup. In other words, a paper filter may provide slightly better results.
More modern filter coffee maker designs utilise a pod system where ground coffee is encased in foil and placed in the machine so no mess is created. Percolators work in the opposite way where the filter coffee is at the top of the machine and the water at the bottom. As the water boils it travels up a tube and through the ground coffee and brewed coffee settles to the bottom of the jug.
Some people prefer to use a percolator because it’s easy to see how dark the coffee is getting so you can have more control over its strength. However, many coffee lovers feel that percolator coffee is not as good as normal filter coffee.
Espresso and Cappuccino Machines
An espresso or cappuccino machine can make a great kitchen accessory and is ideal if you like strong coffee. The machines are driven by steam which creates a more concentrated and richer flavour than ordinary filter coffee.
The two basic types of espresso and cappuccino makers are pressure machines and pump machines. Pressure machines boil water within a chamber which is then forced through the coffee grounds. The steam is then used to create a frothy effect.
Pump machines generally cost more to buy than pressure machines and utilise a separate water tank with a temperature controlled boiler to keep the water at the ideal coffee-making temperature. Many coffee aficionados believe that the water in pressure machines is too hot to make an authentic espresso so if you want to become a real connoisseur then a pump machine is an ideal choice.
When buying an espresso or cappuccino maker it’s important to consider several factors. Firstly you need to look at the bar pressure. This tells you what speed the steam is forced through the coffee beans at. Between 15 and 19 is an ideal bar pressure for an authentic espresso.
More sophisticated models should have a thermoblock which controls the temperature of the water so that the coffee isn’t scalded, which can impair the flavour. The ideal temperature is around 90C and you can also choose a model which heats milk to the right temperature for frothing.
Basic coffee makers have aluminium filters that don’t retain heat as well as brass, which is used in more expensive machines.
As with kettles, the higher the wattage you have on your machine the quicker the water will be boiled. However, extra power means your machine will cost more to run so you only really need a very high wattage if you will be making lots of espresso.
One of the most appealing things about making filter coffee is grinding your own beans. There are several different types of coffee grinder available starting at very reasonable prices. Wheel grinders spin extremely fast to grind the coffee and can make a lot of noise. Conical burr grinders spin slower and are a lot quieter but more expensive.
When choosing a coffee grinder look for one that allows you to grind beans to different levels of coarseness. Coarse ground coffee is ideal for cafetieres or percolators, medium is ideal for filter machines and extra fine is perfect for espresso machines.
To make sure the coffee you buy is as fresh as possible the best rule of thumb is to buy it as you need it. When coffee is stored for long periods of time it begins to lose its flavour so keep it fresh to achieve the best results. Store your coffee beans or ground coffee in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. If you plan to consume your coffee within a week then it can be kept at room temperature but if you plan to keep it for up to a month then store it in the fridge.
Before using any type of coffee machine flush hot water through it first to remove any residue or air bubbles. When cleaning your machine use fresh water and don’t use detergent in the machine.