What coffee machine should you get? A buyers guide

Anula Wiwatowska
Apr 18, 2024
Icon Time To Read7 min read
// The guide you've bean waiting for

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Australians are proud coffee addicts and we all want to be close enough to our supply should a craving hit. At-home coffee machines are the best way to keep yourself buzzing without breaking the bank, but which coffee machine should you get? Well that all depends on you.

When picking the right coffee machine for you you’ll need to consider how much work you want to put into your daily coffee, how much maintenance you’re willing to do on your machine, and of course your coffee preferences. There are options out there for every level of coffee-snob, let us break it down for you.

What to look for in a coffee machine

Pin
Bar pressure

Bar pressure- the speed that water is pressed through the coffee- of between 15 and 19 is said to be the optimal level.

Info Box
Filter holder

Look for brass holders on filter coffee machines as these retain heat longer than plastic or other metal alternatives.

Price Tag
Milk frother

Does it have one? Or do you need to buy one separately?

Light Bulb
Wattage

More wattage, the faster the water comes to temp making the brewing process faster.

Megaphone
Integrated grinder

Is a grinder included or needed with this machine? How much more time and money will this set you back?

Heads Up
Coffee options

Consider your coffee choices. If you like to try new beans then don’t lock yourself into an ecosystem that limits you.

Coffee pod machines

Best for:

Households wanting to step up their instant coffee game, but don’t want the hassle of machine maintenance

Price Tag
Cost per coffee

Approximately $0.80

pro
Pros
pro Easy maintenance
pro Simple operation
pro No clean up
con
Cons
con Lower caffeine content
con Pods are an environmental disaster

Pod coffee machines are by far the most popular in-home coffee solution in the country. According to 2019 data almost 50% of Aussies had a pod machine like Nespresso, or Aldi in their homes, and it is pretty easy to see why. Capsule coffee machines are generally cheaper to buy, require very little maintenance, and you don’t need any café style skills to operate them. Just pop in a pod, press a button and you’re ready to go. Many come with milk frothers and even steaming wands, or these can be bought separately to use in conjunction with your pod machine.

The mechanics of these machines have lowered the barrier to entry for many households, allowing a good chunk of Australians to step it up from instant coffee, to fancier instant coffee. The downsides however are based around the coffee itself. Comparatively speaking, prepackaged coffee pods are significantly lower in caffeine than a manual or automatic espresso machine. On average Nespresso pods contain around 55-65mg of caffeine, while a cafe espresso can have up to 126mg according to a University of Newcastle study. If you’re a big coffee drinker then chances are pod coffee may leave you unfulfilled.

Furthermore coffee pods are kind of an environmental nightmare. Australia alone contributes 8,500 tonnes of coffee capsules - or 2.4 million pods - to landfill every year. Globally the number is closer to 576,000 metric tonnes. Trends suggest that Australians are becoming more conscious of this however with more sustainable pod alternatives hitting stores, and pod recycling programs surfacing. If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of pods but still want the convenience they bring, look for compostable pods, or even reusable stainless steel options that you can put your choice of beans into.

Nespresso coffee machines: Classic vs Vertuo

Nespresso is easily the most well known pod coffee machine, but the brand has been going through some changes. Now you can get either Classic or Vertuo machines. Classic machines have the pod coffee you’re familiar with, the shape that has been copied, and every coffee capsule wants to be compatible with. Its ubiquitousness means that Classic machines offer you plenty of variety while still using the same machine, which is a huge win for consumers.

Vertuo pods on the other hand are Nespresso’s newest innovation making better coffee for the same amount of effort. These pods each have their own barcode which the Nespresso coffee machine scans before brewing; noting the ideal water temperature, pressure, and brew time for that exact coffee variety. While we found in our testing that the coffee was a marked improvement from the Classic pods, it has its downsides. As it stands, Vertuo compatible pods are only available from Nespresso meaning you’re locked into a coffee ecosystem. You also lose some flexibility around your personal brewing preferences unless you have a more advanced machine with Expert Mode

If you’re a Nespresso loyalist and totally happy to let the Clooney-approved brand choose your adventure for you, then Vertuo pods will likely elevate that experience for you. On the other hand, if you want more flexibility we would recommend going for a Classic machine.

Our favourite coffee machine gadgets

We're writers, we run on caffeine and deadline adrenaline, of course we have gadget recommendations.
Ember mug in gold
Ember Mug 2
There are cheaper ways to keep your beverage warm for longer, but nothing as thoughfully put together, or joyous as the Ember Mug 2
Sale price valid until withdrawn by Dyson
bialetti mini express in yellow
Bialetti Mini Express Set
A miniature Bialetti stovetop coffee maker, made for two. It is adorable, romantic, but most importantly caffeinated.
Avanti Little Whipper Milk Frother
Love a cold (or warm) foam on top of your coffee? The Avanti hand milk frother is a perfectly space-saving solution. Plus look, its a cow!
We do our best to find you the best coffee gadget deals each day, but some may expire before we get a chance to switch them out. Deal prices are valid as of the publish date on this article.

Automatic coffee machines

Best for:

Those who prefer freshly ground beans, but not the mess they make

Price Tag
Cost per coffee

Approximately $0.45

pro
Pros
pro Infinite bean options
pro Takes some tweaking but otherwise set and forget
pro Minimal skills required
con
Cons
con More expensive
con Needs more upkeep

Automatic coffee machines are another step up from pod coffee, to instant coffee in another format. As you may have guessed from the name, automatic coffee machines do all the heavy lifting for you. For the most part you’ll just need to pour in your beans, press a couple of buttons and you’ll have a freshly brewed espresso. The experience itself is very similar to pod coffee machines but because the beans are freshly ground by the machine itself you’ll get better depth of flavour, and higher caffeine content (depending on your beans and grind preference). When you first get the machine you will probably need to play with the grind settings a bit until you get it exactly where you want it. Once you’ve figured out these settings though, you’re ready to sit back and sip on fresh coffee til your heart’s content… or beating too fast.

This also means that you have the choice of any beans you want. Buying coffee beans in bulk can be quite affordable, and ultimately bring your cost per coffee down significantly from pod coffee. You also don’t have the environmental impacts to worry about, and your coffee grounds can be composted or just mixed in with soil for the garden.

Many automatic machines include a milk frother or a steaming wand too. Generally if you have a steaming wand you’re going to have to steam your own milk which can be a bit of a learning curve (pro tip, get a food thermometer and steam it to 60 degrees C). This also makes the process a bit more time consuming, but the payoff is worth it in my opinion.

Upkeep of automatic coffee machines is much higher than that of pod machines however. In my household we have the DeLonghi Magnifica S and an ongoing joke that it always needs something. Either the coffee catch area needs to be cleaned, or the water jug is empty, or the beans are running low, or it needs to be descaled, or the steamer needs a deep clean. Apart from descaling, none of these tasks take very long to do, but there are just more moving parts to consider day-to-day.

Manual coffee machines

Best for:

Coffee connoisseurs

Price Tag
Cost per coffee

Approximately $0.45

pro
Pros
pro Complete control over brewing process
con
Cons
con May need external grinder
con Steep learning curve
con Messier and longer brewing process

If you’re the kind of person who wants a manual coffee machine then you already know that you want it. We’re not going to try and dissuade you, but if you’re tossing up between a manual and an automatic there are a few things worth considering. 

Manual coffee machines have the advantage of letting you entirely customise your brewing process. You have control over the grind, the tamper, the beans, the milk- all of it. For coffee connoisseurs and those that love the ritual of pulling a cup of coffee this is a serious upshot, but for less experienced or time-strapped households it could be too much. There is a lot going on when it comes to brewing good espresso, so be wary that you’ll need to put in a bit of time to learn how to do it to your liking.

Many manual machines, especially cheaper options also may not come with an included grinder. You’ll either need to buy one yourself which is an additional set up cost, or buy pre-ground coffee. If you’re buying from a cafe you can usually just ask them to grind it up for you when you buy a bag.

Whether you have an external or in-built grinder, manual coffee machines make for a messier process. Since you’re dealing with loose grounds you’ll need to be pretty on the ball when it comes to cleaning your machine, less your future brews suffer.

Filter coffee machines

Best for:

People that like filter coffee?

Price Tag
Cost per coffee

Approximately $0.86

pro
Pros
pro Big batch brewing
pro Very cheap starting options
pro Quiet
con
Cons
con Expensive per coffee cost
con Limited brewing options

Since filter coffee uses gravity rather than pressure to brew, baristas say that it can help unearth the more delicate notes from the coffee beans. It also means the brewing process is almost silent, and allows you to brew big batches at one time. While the coffee itself is well watered down (a 1:16 coffee to water ratio is recommended), it does require quite a lot of beans at once which can make it quite expensive. You’re also limited to just a big ole cuppa coffee, maybe with a splash of milk in there if you’re feeling it. Frothing and steaming is pretty much off the table with filter coffee.

As an Australian the only filter coffee machines that I picture are from American television shows, sitting behind the bench in a diner. According to known American and Reviews.org Managing Editor Adam Smith,

“[Filter coffee machines are for] nostalgic Americans fondly remembering the days of their youth, hanging out with friends at the local Denny’s back when it still had a smoking section, drinking cup after cup of coffee and chain smoking while the latest hits from the Seattle grunge scene played in the background.”

If that is you, or it strikes a chord, then maybe filter coffee is a good option.

Coffee machines compared

Product
Our score
Price
Coffee type
More info
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
🔥From $229
$183.20
Pod coffee
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
From
$396
Manual espresso
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
🔥From $649
$449
Manual espresso w/ grinder
4.3 out of 5 stars
4.25
From
$1297
Manual espresso w/ grinder
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
🔥From $299
$199
Pod coffee
4 out of 5 stars
4
🔥 From $699
$469
Automatic espresso w/ grinder
4 out of 5 stars
4
🔥 From $899
$619
Automatic espresso w/ grinder
3 out of 5 stars
3
🔥From $299
$199
Manual espresso
Anula Wiwatowska
Written by
Anula Wiwatowska
Anula is the Content and Social Media Editor within the Reviews.org extended universe. Working in the tech space since 2020, she covers phone and internet plans, gadgets, smart devices, and the intersection of technology and culture. Anula was a finalist for Best Feature Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards, and an eight time finalist across categories at the IT Journalism Awards. Her work contributed to WhistleOut's Best Consumer Coverage win in 2023.

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