Kitchen test: best coffee makers

Updated on 19 January 2015 | 0 Comments

We’ve pitted eight top-selling machines against each other to give you an idea of which one to buy.

There’s something magical about coffee machines. People gravitate towards them like flies to fruit (as I recently witnessed when a new Nespresso was delivered to the office), and they add style and glamour to any kitchen. Especially those pastel-coloured espresso machines, with their additional steam wands and easy-to-use ‘capsules’.

So it was with great happiness that the office agreed to test eight top-of-the-range coffee machines, assessing them all for a) ease of use, b) appearance and c) quality of resulting coffee. Eight people took part in the test and an overall mark out of 10 was given. Starting from the least well-performing machine, here are our results…

8th place: KRUPS XP5620 Espresso Machine

coffeeThis sleek, die-cast metal machine comes with a 15 bar pump pressure (more powerful than your average espresso machine), a patented stainless steel compact ‘thermoblock system’, a 1.1 litre removable water tank (pretty generous), and a steam nozzle for milk frothing and liquid warming.

Our testers appreciated its mature design (“this machine would fit well in my modern kitchen”; “it looks expensive”), although a couple did miss the lack of bright, pastel colours often favoured by more fashionable brands. The key problem with the KRUPS machine was, ironically, how powerful it was. “Random jets of steam erupt every now and then”, “this seems like a bit of a dangerous machine to me”, and “almost too powerful” were included in the comments.

It did make good coffee (although, of course, much of that depends on the type of ground coffee you use), and we liked the incorporated ‘tamper’ to compress the ground coffee into its basket. Making it a part of the machine as opposed to including a tamper spoon also means there’s one less piece to lose.

RRP: £199
Score: 55%
The best deal we found on this machine was at Debenhams 

7th place: Impress Coffee Brewer

coffeeLove coffee, but can’t be bothered with an expensive gadget to make it? The Impress Coffee Brewer is a good, affordable alternative. It’s a cafetiere-cum-Thermos that brews a cup of coffee in three minutes or less. You pour fresh grounds into the outer cup, followed by boiling water, and let it brew for three minutes-or-so. Then, push down the inner cup and clean, rich coffee flows up into the vessel as the grounds get pushed down. Three layers of insulation keeps your drink piping hot.

Problem is, only half of the people who tested it were successful although, admittedly, some of our testers did rush the job. Those who concentrated found the Impress Coffee Brewer perfectly adequate, if a little tough to push down. But, because of the three tiny airholes on top of the plastic lid, there was a spillage risk so chucking it into one’s bag might be a bad idea.

Comments varied wildly from “Great stuff – something I’d love to have with me at work” to “it spilt all over me!” which is perhaps why the Impress Coffee Brewer only scored 60%. As for how it looked: “Simple looking – nothing special”; “doesn’t need to be any fancier than it is”.

RRP: £34.99 from Firebox 
Score: 60%
The best deal we found on this machine was at Amazon 

6th place: Lavazza A Modo Mio: Favola Cappuccino

coffeeThe only machine we tested which purports to make the perfect cappuccino – all the other machines either made espressos, or a carafe of filter coffee. Problem is, the A Modo Mio milk jug is plonked onto the side of the main machine, making it too wide for the average kitchen surface space. Plus the milk jug, which heats and froths milk, doesn’t have its own handle, and so pouring the frothed liquid is quite a painful experience. And you have to remove the steam wand and frother (which form part of the milk jug’s lid) before pouring, which is quite irritating if you’re not near a sink, as it will undoubtedly cause mess.

For a cappuccino, you must first make a shot of espresso – this machine uses special Lavazza capsules – and then add the milk. The former is very simple, but as with all these capsule-enabled machines, plastic waste is an issue. Comments included: “Makes an excellent cappuccino, but it’s too much like hard work for me”; “quite a fun machine, but a bit fiddly”; “the capsules make it so much easier”; “I like the red colour, but it’s a bit squat”.

RRP: £139.95
Score: 64%

5th place: DeLonghi Dedica

coffeeMost of the machines we tested made espressos by using ‘handles’ which you tip a tablespoon or two of ground coffee in to. The kind of machine you’re likely to spot at a café. Personally, they’re my favourite type – it’s the most authentic way to make an espresso, and doesn’t involve capsule-related waste.

The DeLonghi is nice and slim, and I imagine would fit into even the smallest kitchen space. However, we found the drip tray to be a bit wobbly (it could have done with some kind of clip), and the initial sound made by the machine was more high-pitched and irritating than any of the other brands we tried. Comments included: “This is the only machine of the lot that would fit in my kitchen”; “stylish and Italian-looking”; “makes a decent cup of coffee”; and “a wee bit wobbly in parts”.

RRP: around £195
Score: 66%

4th place: kMix Coffee Maker

coffeeOne of two filter coffee machines we tested. The Kenwood range comes in an array of super exciting colours (everything from yellow to green, blue, pink and orange) and is nice and compact. We’ve never seen such a cool-looking filter coffee machine! The ThermoGen heating technology ensures good brewing temperatures, and a heated plate will keep coffee hot for up to two hours. There’s also an auto detection feature that tells you when it’s time to descale the machine.

Comments included: “Definitely the easiest machine to use”; “old fashioned coffee, but a modern-looking machine”; “I’d love to have this in the corner of my kitchen”; and “not particularly exciting, but to the point”. True, there’s no steam wand for frothing milk but the kMix does what it’s supposed to do, and does it well.

Generally speaking, our testers preferred the taste of espresso machine coffee to filter coffee. But bear in mind how much cheaper the kMix filter coffee machine is compared with the others we tested.

RRP: around £72
Score: 70%

3rd place: Morphy Richards Espresso Coffee Maker

coffeeThe cheapest of our espresso machines at £99, and one of the best performers. The Morphy Richards was widely complimented (“really sweet and the perfect size for my small kitchen”; “compact and cosy looking”), and was the only machine that cleverly secured its drip tray by making it magnetic.

It’s another handle espresso machine, although because of its small size it’s near-impossible to fit a proper coffee mug underneath the spout. It’s purely designed for espressos, although you could always make an Americano by pouring your espresso into a larger mug, and topping that up with hot water.

“Very easy to use, although the coffee grounds went everywhere on my first time using it”; “simple to use – does the job”; “I wouldn’t need any more than this” were among the comments. The only problem (or benefit, depending on how you look at it) was the fact that the machine didn’t stop automatically – it kept pouring out coffee, which got progressively weaker and weaker, until we told it to stop. If you know how you like your espresso, it’s great; but if you’re not sure, it might take you some time to work out when to stop the flow. 

RRP: £99.99
Score: 74%

2nd place: Cuisinart Grind & Brew Plus

coffeeA fantastic performance from our second filter coffee maker, the Cuisinart Grind & Brew Plus. It’s the only machine in our line-up which could grind beans and turn them into coffee – the built-in ceramic burr grinder presses the beans between its plates for a perfectly even grind. As a result, it released the best aroma of the lot. It also takes ground coffee, if you can’t find beans.

“Love the grinding noise this machine makes, but I’m glad it only lasts for 10 seconds”; “can’t get more genuine coffee than this”; and “love the idea of turning beans into coffee, right under my nose” were included in the comments. The appearance, although a little large, was also generally accepted as pleasant and modern. Plus it’s fully automatic and programmable, so you can have fresh coffee waiting for you when you wake up in the morning if desired. The machine even knows how many beans to grind for your requested cup amount. All in all, a great piece of kit.

RRP: £150
Score: 79%
The best deal we found on this machine was at Amazon

1st place: Nespresso Maestria Coffee Machine

coffeeTry as we might, the team couldn’t help but love our one and only Nespresso machine. It’s slick, stylish, works like a dream, quiet and beautiful, plus it makes a perfect creamy espresso. Most were taken by its appearance (“by far the sexiest machine”), and it had the longest queue of people waiting to use it.

People enjoyed picking their Nespresso capsule, plopping it into the machine, and pressing ‘go’ – a much simpler process than all the other brands we tested. There’s no filters to clean, no coffee grounds to dispose of, and barely any mess. A genius machine – no wonder it’s taking over offices across the globe.

It’s got a large water tank (1.4 litre capacity), can take any sized mug, and you can even run a 20-minute de-scale programme to keep it working smoothly. It will also turn off nine minutes after last use to conserve energy. “I really need this machine”; “please can I take it home?”; “super swish”; “works so very smoothly”; and “by far the most impressive-looking machine of the bunch” were among the comments. But you do have to pay for class – it was by far the most expensive machine we tested.

However, do bear in mind that there are cheaper Nespresso machines out there... the Nespresso 'Pixie', for example, is much smaller and nearly half the price of the Maestria at around £180. And the even more basic Krups 'Inissia' is just £90. You can view a wide range of cheaper Nespresso products here.

RRP: around £315
Score: 87%
The best deal we found on this machine was at Amazon

Do you have an espresso or filter coffee machine at home? Which one would you recommend? Talk to us in the Comments box below.

You might also like

Tea or coffee: which do we love more?

When do you drink the day's first coffee?

Kitchen test: Tefal vs Breville low-fat fryers


Be the first to comment

Do you want to comment on this article? You need to be signed in for this feature

Copyright © All rights reserved.