The Daily Grind: Guide To The Best Types Of Home Coffee Machines & Grinders

How to choose the best coffee brewing machine and coffee grinders

Learning how to make coffee at home like your favourite barista starts with a great-quality coffee machine and grinder. Not only is it a terrific money-saver to brew your own coffee at home to take with you in a thermos or keep-cup, but brewing espresso is also an art form that can become an important and comforting daily ritual in some people's lives. If you're looking to invest in a coffee machine, read our expert guide below for a detailed rundown on the best types of coffee machines and grinders, as well as tips on how to use & care for them.

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The best types of home coffee machines

Choosing the best type of home coffee machine for you will depend on your personal preferences, budget, and how much effort you are willing to put into brewing your coffee. We've created a guide for the three most popular types of coffee machines in Australia to help you determine which machine might suit you best:

Pod & Capsule Coffee Machines

A capsule coffee machine is a type of coffee maker that uses pre-packaged coffee pods or capsules to brew individual servings of coffee. These machines offer convenience and simplicity, as the coffee pods or capsules contain pre-measured coffee grounds, removing the need for measuring and grinding coffee beans.

Key features & benefits

  • Convenience & easy care: One of the significant advantages of pod and capsule coffee machines is their convenience and minimal maintenance. They require little to no cleaning, as the used coffee grounds are contained within the pod or capsule and can be easily disposed of. The machines often heat water in a separate chamber, eliminating any residue buildup.
  • Consistency & variety: Coffee pod machines are very easy to use, and they can produce a consistent cup of coffee every time. They are also relatively compact and easy to store. There is a wide variety of pods and capsules available on the market, so you can find pods or capsules for any type of coffee you like.

It is worth noting that using coffee pods or capsules can be more expensive compared to using ground coffee or whole beans. These machines also have limited customisation options, as the coffee strength and taste are predetermined by the pod or capsule. They may also create additional waste due to the pod and capsule packaging, but this can be minimised by choosing reusable coffee pods.

How to use a pod or capsule coffee machine

Coffee pods and capsules are typically made of plastic or aluminium, with a special tab that allows them to be inserted into the coffee machine. To use a capsule coffee machine, you simply insert the pod into the machine, press a button, and the machine pierces the pod or capsule, allowing hot water to pass through and brew the coffee.

Coffee pod machine care tips

  • Descale the machine regularly: If you live in an area with hard water, you may need to descale your pod and capsule coffee machine regularly. Descaling removes the buildup of scale, which can improve the taste of your coffee and extend the life of your machine.
  • Empty the drip tray and used pod container regularly: The drip tray and used pod container should be emptied after each use to prevent them from overflowing and causing a mess.
  • Wipe down the exterior of the machine regularly: The exterior of the machine should be wiped down with a damp cloth to remove any spills or coffee residue.
  • Use the correct pods or capsules: Using the wrong pods or capsules can damage your machine. Make sure to use pods or capsules that are compatible with your machine.
  • If you're not going to use the machine for a while: Empty the water reservoir and clean the machine. Store in a cool, dry place. This will help to prevent mould and mildew from growing in the machine.

Automatic Coffee Machines

Automatic coffee machines come with features such as adjustable grind settings, milk frothers, programmable settings, and bean-to-cup brewing. These features allow for customised coffee brewing with different strengths and flavour options. With an automatic coffee machine, you simply need to add water, coffee beans, and other necessary ingredients, and the machine takes care of the rest.

Key features & benefits

The main benefits of an automatic coffee machine are ease of use and consistency. Since the machine controls the brewing process, there is no variation in the amount of coffee, the grind size, or the temperature of the water. This results in a consistent cup of coffee every time without the need for monitoring the process. Here are some additional benefits and features of an automatic coffee machine:

  • One-touch operation: Automatic coffee machines can be operated with the press of a button, making them easy and convenient to use.
  • Grind settings: Adjustable grind settings allow you to customise the strength and flavour of your coffee.
  • Milk frothing abilities: You can find automatic coffee machines that come equipped with milk frothers, which allow you to make delicious foamy cappuccinos and lattes.
  • Bean-to-cup brewing: Some automatic machines can grind fresh coffee beans and brew a fresh cup of coffee every time.

When choosing an automatic coffee machine, ask yourself how hands-off you want the process to be. Since some machines offer attributes such as automatic grinding, milk frothing and programmable timers, consider which features are important to you and choose your machine based on these preferences.

How to use an automatic coffee machine

Automatic coffee machines generally require you to add coffee beans or grounds into the machine. Fill the water and milk reservoirs to the correct level. Select your desired drink type and begin brewing into your cup or mug.

Learning how to use an automatic coffee machine will vary based on the specific model. Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions before first use.

Automatic coffee machine care tips

Some automatic coffee machines clean themselves, but regular care and maintenance are still required. Remember to clean the machine regularly, approximately every 2-3 months, and to follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and descaling. Regular cleaning helps prevent clogs, buildup of coffee residue and ensures the machine produces great-tasting coffee.

How to clean an automatic coffee machine:

  1. Empty the drip tray and used coffee grounds container.
  2. Wipe down the exterior of the machine with a damp cloth.
  3. Clean the brewing unit & water/milk reservoirs with warm water and mild detergent.
  4. Descale the machine if necessary.
  5. Run a cleaning cycle.

Manual Espresso Coffee Machine

A manual espresso coffee machine is a type of espresso machine that requires the user to manually control the brewing process. This includes grinding the coffee beans, tamping the coffee grounds, and pulling the shot of espresso. Manual espresso machines are typically more affordable than automatic espresso machines, and they can give you more control over the brewing process. They are constructed from high-quality materials such as stainless steel, brass and copper which can handle high pressure and high temperatures for extended periods of time.

Key features & benefits

  • Control: A manual espresso machine gives the user complete control over the brewing process. This means you can adjust the pressure, water flow, and temperature of the brewing process to make the perfect shot of espresso. Experienced baristas love the ability to experiment with different techniques to create unique flavour profiles.
  • Quality: Manual espresso machines often produce better quality espresso than automated machines due to their ability to offer complete control over the brewing process. You can use high-quality beans and adjust the grind size and tamping pressure to produce a rich and full-bodied espresso.
  • Customisation: Manual espresso machines allow you to customise your espresso drinks to your liking. You can experiment with different grind sizes, tamping pressures, and brewing times to find the perfect espresso for your taste.
  • Skill level: Manual espresso machines require a certain level of skill to use. Using a manual espresso machine at home can help to elevate your coffee-making skills.

Manual espresso machines are often favoured by espresso purists who believe that they offer greater control and the ability to fully appreciate the nuances of each cup of coffee. Although they do require a bit of practice to master, manual espresso machines offer a unique and authentic brewing experience. They offer complete control over the brewing process, durability, affordability, and portability.

How to use a manual espresso coffee machine

Using a manual espresso machine can be a bit more complicated than using an automatic machine, but the results are often more rewarding. Here are the basic steps to using a manual espresso machine:

  1. Preheat the machine: Fill the boiler with water and allow it to heat up for at least 20 minutes before using.
  2. Grind the coffee: Grind your coffee beans to a fine consistency, as this will help the water extract more flavour. You should aim for a grind size slightly finer than table salt.
  3. Load the coffee: Remove the portafilter from the machine and add the ground coffee using a coffee scoop. Level off the coffee with your finger or a straight edge, but avoid compressing it.
  4. Tamp the coffee: Tamp the coffee with a tamper to ensure even distribution and to create an even surface on top of the coffee.
  5. Lock the portafilter: Place the loaded portafilter into the machine and lock it in place securely.
  6. Pull the shot: Pull the lever down slowly and maintain consistent pressure throughout the process. The amount of time it takes to pull the shot will depend on the grind size and the amount of coffee used, but you should aim for a shot lasting 20 to 30 seconds. For semi-automatic machines, you may be able to pull the shot by pressing a button.
  7. Steam the milk: If you want to make a latte or cappuccino, you'll need to steam some milk. Fill a pitcher with cold milk and place the steam wand into the milk. Turn on the steam and allow the milk to heat up and form a frothy foam.
  8. Pour the drink: When the shot and milk are ready, pour the milk into the espresso shot and enjoy! You can use this time to practice your latte art.

Manual espresso machine care tips

After each use, remove the used espresso puck and rinse the portafilter basket and group head. Wipe down the exterior of the machine with a damp cloth. Every few weeks, use a cleaning solution to break down any coffee oils or residue that may have built up in the machine. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for specific cleaning procedures.

Best types of coffee grinders for home use

What is best for grinding coffee?

Burr coffee grinder

One of the best options for grinding coffee is a burr grinder, which uses rotating abrasive disks to crush the coffee beans into uniform particles. This allows for more consistent and precise grinding, resulting in better flavour extraction and a more enjoyable cup of coffee. Blade grinders can also be used, but they tend to produce uneven particles and can overheat the coffee, causing a burnt taste.

Blade coffee grinder

A blade coffee grinder is a type of coffee grinder that uses a spinning blade to chop and grind coffee beans. When turned on, the electric blades chop the beans into smaller and smaller pieces until they reach the desired consistency. This type of grinder is often less expensive than a burr grinder, but may not produce as consistent a grind.

Built-in coffee machine grinder

Coffee machines with built-in grinders can be a convenient and efficient choice for coffee lovers. With a built-in grinder, you can grind fresh coffee beans just before brewing, ensuring maximum flavour and aroma. You don't have to worry about buying a separate grinder and making a mess, as everything is contained in one machine.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is tamping?

Tamping is a crucial step in the espresso-making process. It is the process of compressing ground coffee into a compact puck inside the portafilter basket. Tamping is done to ensure that the hot water passing through the coffee extracts optimal flavour and aroma.

What other home coffee-making methods are available?

Other popular methods of at-home espresso and coffee-making you may wish to consider include stovetop espresso makers (also known as a percolator or moka), French presses & coffee plungers, and pour-over coffee makers.

What coffee machine should I buy?

Choosing the right coffee machine for you is a matter of preference. Do you prefer drip coffee, espresso, or a combination of both? Do you want a machine that requires minimal effort or are you willing to put in some extra time to brew high-quality coffee? Answering these questions will help guide you to finding the best coffee maker or espresso machine to suit your needs.

Best coffee machine & coffee grinder brands in Australia

When it comes to espresso and coffee machines, there is one coveted kitchen appliance brand that consistently remains Australia's favourite: Breville. From Breville coffee and espresso machines to Breville coffee grinders, they are known for their innovation and high-quality construction. Breville also offers a great range of coffee machine accessories such as descaling solutions, steam wand cleaners, and tamping mats.

Shop Breville

For an alternative brand offering high-performance coffee machines & grinders at a competitive price, consider Smith+Nobel. Exclusive to Harris Scarfe, Smith+Nobel coffee machines are affordable and designed to produce barista-quality coffee. Shop from their range of standard espresso machines, retro/vintage design coffee machines, coffee grinders and milk frothers.

Shop Smith+Nobel