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Coffee Makers Buying Guide

Early in the morning, the alarm clock  sounds and you curse the person who decided Monday was part of the work week. This is not so bad; it means you get to drink the black sludge--reminiscent of none other than the finest fuel engine oil--specifically brewed to choke down the start of the day. Wait, that doesn't sound right--for we are not pigs, we are human beings! And in the name of labourers everywhere (because that is surely what we are) we declare that we want a bold, caffeine -laden energy blast straight from our very own kitchen. And it must taste GOOD! It must taste better than good. Is that so much to ask? If there is anything to look forward to in the week, it is the morning coffee , the subsequent trip to the loo, and the climactic moment of unionising key and front door to illuminate couch and telly. "Ah, it's over". What an existence! 

And all of that starts with the right coffee maker . 

Different Machines, Different Methods, Different Coffee

Percolator 

  • Prohibition got the axe, why not this?
  • Boils coffee which burns away the essential flavours.
  • Over-extracts the bitter flavours producing that aforementioned sludge.
  • Flavours come in several variations of disgusting.

French Press 

  • The rich, heavy bodied flavour makes up for the manual pump aspect (for some).
  • As mentioned above, it is not automated.
  • Original model is rather small but can be found in size ranges of four to ten cups.
  • Must be enjoyed immediately because it lacks a heating system (unless the coffee is poured into an insulated container).

Automatic Drip 

  • Simple and cost efficient.
  • Creates a light brew which extracts most of the oils and sediment (if you like the grit, don't buy it).
  • Newer models have a function to brew varied amounts to full taste (unless it indicates a one to four function, it only brews a full pot at optimum taste).
  • Comes with fun functions (see Filter Coffee Makers category).

Cappuccino Machine 

  • Makes cappuccino, not coffee. Duh.
  • Provides the frothy, fun finish.
  • A lighter, sweeter flavour for the person who likes coffee, but not that much.
  • A nice addition to the kitchen.
  • Can be an impressive entertaining device.
  • If you want an original cup of coffee, do not buy this machine.

Cold Water Brewer 

  • Easy, but very long brewing process (over twelve hours).
  • Once the brewing is done, there is little effort involved.
  • Unlike heated brewing methods, can be stored up to three weeks.
  • Good flavour, less acidity.
  • Best method for making iced coffee, but can be used to make hot coffee as well. 

Vacuum Coffee Maker 

  • Extremely strong flavour (does not lose any of the original essence).
  • Claims to mix water and coffee grinds perfectly (a rare occurrence).
  • Taste dependent on amount of grinds added to upper pot.
  • Often results in coffee grounds in your brew.

Espresso Maker 

  • Comes in manual, semi automatic, automatic and super-automatic models, allowing a person to be as hands on or hands off as they please.
  • Very bold rich taste for the serious coffee lover.
  • Stove-top espresso machines require nothing but heat to make the coffee. This plugless feature allows it to be taken almost anywhere.
  • Available in special outdoor models.

Combination Coffee Maker 

  • Can make several different variations on that beloved beverage known as "coffee".
  • Usually has ability to brew filtered coffee, espresso and cappuccino using one machine.
  • Can make two different types of coffee at the same time.
  • Good for those whose partner has a deviating palate.
  • Bad for those who have little counter or storage space.

Most Commonly Used

Filter Coffee Makers

This fine machine has evolved into the modern man's standard coffee maker. It does everything short of buttering your crumpets, and ensures that there are not any "oops" moments which trace your appliances  to catastrophic disasters--foul smells, shattered glass, burning buildings; that sort of thing. So the police never pop in on your weekly staff meeting to questioning the untimely occurrence in your flat. "No, officer, it could not possibly have been my coffee-maker  that started the fire; my turn of the century technological kitchen device has an automatic turn off function".

Special Features:

  • Built in Grinder: For the person that needs fresh grounds this could be a real convenience. It is always possible to buy a grinder  separately but if one machine holds the power to make every cup, this function is worth it. The bean  to grinder to spoon  to filter  method is so tedious.
  • Built in Timing System: Ever wake up in the morning barely cognizant only to reach for the coffee beans but grind the peppercorns? A nice steaming cup of hot pepper water. Delicious! In order to avoid such a situation, the timing system was designed for the less than awake sleep walkers who cannot function properly in the morning. Just prepare everything the night before and upon awakening, the coffee is already made. What could be better than this? 
  • Containing Your Coffee: This is more important than one would think. The way in which coffee is contained can dramatically affect the taste, especially if it is going to sit for awhile. Typically coffee-makers have glass carafes  that sit on a hot metal plate to keep the beverage warm, but this can burn the coffee if it is left out for too long, thus damaging the flavour (though it doesn't matter as much if it is going to be drunk in twenty minutes or so). Insulated thermal pots  are good for keeping the temperature hot but do not apply additional heat; therefore the taste is preserved. These pots are also more durable.
  • How many Cups? Some coffee machines come with a one to four cup feature. This allows for extra brewing time (to reach the correct flavour) while making smaller quantities of coffee. A machine such as this allows a person to make a full bodied flavour despite how many cups they want. Most machines can brew smaller quantities without this function, but the taste will be weaker. 
  • Quantity: Make sure you get a pot  big or small enough to suit all your needs. Will you be entertaining? Only drink one cup ? Six, ten? Pay attention to the volume that can be made at a time.
  • Filters: If paper filters  are being used, then the cone shape is the best for taste. Most machines have adopted this feature but some still have the flat bottom style. The cone shape allows the water to pass through as evenly as possible, therefore extracting the most taste from the beans. 
  • Removable Water Holders: A relatively new invention, this was made for the extremely lazy coffee connoisseur. Instead of having to pour water into the holder via the pot--talk about straining the muscles--this feature allows the holder to be detached and filled directly. If it is a pain to fill and pour, eliminate that step with this feature! 
  • The Pause Function: The pause and serve function elicits varied responses from users. For some people it is a Godsend, as the impatience of waiting for coffee can lead to scary withdrawal. It keeps anxiety levels down by allowing mid-brew removal of the pot; this way you can get it into your system almost as quickly as direct injection. Just pour the coffee into your cup, and resume brewing once the pot is placed back on the plate. A downfall to this feature is that under extraction--which produces a weaker flavour--is common. This is usually rectified with mixing in the remaining brew, but if impatience rules, that is the chance one must take. The taste may suffer, but if the senses are dulled from sleep, it might not matter. By the time they have awakened, you may be on your second cup. 

Espresso Machines

Models: No, we are not talking cars, or women, we are talking coffee.

  • Manual: Known for its trademark lever, this model has an old world charm. The manual lever gives you complete control over extraction, a procedure that provides custom flavour for the self proclaimed pro. It has everything one could ask for in his or her espresso machine  and companies selling it boast a unique sweetness unmatched by any other brewer--complete with built in exercise machine for forearm muscles. Not into exercising? Then maybe this isn't the machine for you: the manual pump makes this process a tricky endeavour and it can be a hassle at first. This little machine is a very expensive investment--they range from £215 to over £1000--so before buying, make sure it is exactly what you want.
  • Semi Automatic: More effortless than the manual espresso machine , but still gives complete control over the brewing process. It is brewed through an electric pump rather than a lever, but you determine when the process starts and stops. You also determine the dosage, compact your own coffee into the filter (otherwise known as tamping) and strip your own grounds.
  • Fully Automatic: The main difference between this model and the semi-automatic  is that with the fully automatic , the stop time is predetermined. Everything else is virtually the same.
  • Super Automatic : This machine does everything necessary in the espresso making process. Everything. Good for some (especially for multi-taskers), but not for everyone. It does not allow much participation on your part, so if you desire a hands on experience this isn't for you. The price starts upwards of £400, so It is also quite costly.

Popular Product Names

Tassimo 

Krups 

Senseo 

Gaggia 

Delonghi 

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