Coffee is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It is a lifesaver for sleep deprived parents, overworked college students, the first thing many of us look forward to after rolling out of bed, something that can be shared over good conversations and it is universally enjoyed, bridging cultural and political gaps with a cup of goodness. Trust us, we get it. We know your coffee is important! That is precisely why we want you to have the absolute best home brewing experience as well as the absolute best home espresso machine, espresso coffee machine, and coffee grinder for home.
This article will explore everything that you have always wanted to know about coffee from the beauty and brilliance of a growing, picking, harvesting, roasting, grinding and brewing a single coffee bean to maximizing your enjoyment of every single cup by choosing a brewing method that most suits you. We will dive into the differences between craft brewed coffee, coffee makers, coffee grinders and espresso machines for the home. We will tell you what to look for when deciding between the best brewing device and whether or not your body is suited for coffee or the earth-shattering strength of a single shot of espresso. But first, let us delve a bit deeper into those tiny brown beans that become some of our favorite brews on the planet.
Table of Contents
- 1 First: Facts about coffee
- 2 Dating your coffee beans: Do’s and Don’ts
- 3 Coffee Do’s
- 4 Coffee Dont’s
- 5 How to choose the right machine?
- 6 Espresso machine vs coffee maker
- 7 What is the difference between espresso and brewed coffee?
- 8 How to pick the best espresso machine?
- 9 Types of espresso machines
- 10 Pump-driven espresso machines
- 11 Semi-automatic espresso machines
- 12 Super-automatic espresso machines
- 13 Difference of semi-automatic and super-automatic espresso machines
- 14 Steam-driven espresso machines
- 15 Manual espresso machines
- 16 Espresso machines by brand
- 17 Cappuccino makers
- 18 How to pick the best coffee maker?
- 19 Types of coffee makers
- 20 Drip coffee makers
- 21 Single-serve brewers
- 22 French Presses
- 23 Percolators
- 24 Coffee makers by brand
- 25 How to pick the best coffee grinders?
- 26 Types of coffee grinders
- 27 Electric blade coffee grinders
- 28 Electric burr coffee grinders
- 29 Manual coffee grinders
- 30 Coffee grinders by brands
- 31 A little bit about milk frothers
- 32 How to pick the best milk frothers?
- 33 Conclusion
First: Facts about coffee
- It takes roughly 70 coffee beans to make a single 6 to 8 oz cup of coffee.
- It takes 32 espresso beans to make a single shot of espresso.
- All coffee beans are actually seeds! If nothing (drying and roasting) is done to the coffee cherry upon harvest it can be planted and grown into a coffee tree.
- In many countries, coffee seeds are still picked by hand. However, other countries like Brazil that have plentiful harvests up to twice annually, have moved to using mechanical harvesting. This type of harvesting is known as “strip picking” and while it is far less common, it is far quicker and more efficient.
Did you know that it takes 3 to 4 years for newly planted coffee trees to bear fruit and mature for harvest? The fruit of a coffee tree, known as the coffee cherry, turns a bright, deep red, like a rich red wine, when it is ripe and ready to be harvested.
Dating your coffee beans: Do’s and Don’ts
Before we dive into types of brewing methods that will transform your bean into something brewable, we have got to get to know our subject matter a bit. Think of it as a first date: there are certain things you want to know right away like where this person is from, what it was like for them to grow up, what characteristics define who they are today, where they like to spend their time, etc.
It is the exact same for coffee beans. Here are a few things to look for (and do!) when choosing the best type of coffee as well as a few things that you should steer away from.
- Get conscious. Find out how your beans are bagged. Many coffee harvesters and workers are exploited, underpaid and forced into unfair labor practices and principles. Check for a “Fair Trade Certified” label to ensure that respect, equality and care is being given to everyone involved in the production of your coffee or espresso.
- Keep it fresh. Grind your coffee beans as you anticipate using them. Any unused and already ground beans lose flavor and freshness after 24 hours of being exposed to air and lose their taste as they neutralize in the open air.
- Educate yourself on the proper brew ratios. The amount of water to grounds is important for creating a bold, balanced flavor.
- Experiment with all sorts of beans. Different roasts showcase different benefits. For example, a dark roast will have a rich, bold flavor whereas a lighter roast will have the highest amount of caffeine content and can be super delicious as an iced summer coffee. Additionally, lighter roasts tend to have citrus or floral tones whereas darker roasts will contain hints of chocolate, caramels, nuts and smokier flavors.
- Choose quality over quantity. Really. Even if you are an avid coffee drinker, choose quality. Part of the enjoyment of coffee is allowing yourself to savor the subtleties and embrace the quirky characteristics of a craft cup of joe. Give yourself permission to spend a few extra dollars on something worthwhile.
- Do not use old coffee grounds. When it comes to coffee, fresh is really best.
- Do not buy cheap coffee. It is usually not ethically or sustainably produced and it definitely is not going to taste as good.
- Do not water it down. Pay attention to the water to grounds ratio and choose the strength of your preferred brew within reason.
The difference of the crema is obvious; left cup has the espresso made from fresh ground beans (1 minute ago) whereas the right one has the espresso made from old ground beans (10 days ago). For better espresso quality and rich and thick crema, always prefer grinding the beans right before the brew.
How to choose the right machine?
Now that we have looked at qualities and characteristics of beans that are important, we can look at the machine that will brew them. There are all sorts of machines out there and you are likely to stumble upon them in your search: pricy ones, cheap ones, complicated ones, simple ones, quality ones, poorly made ones, innovative ones and basic ones. In order to get the most out of your machine, you have to know what to look for.
- Price. Everyone knows that price plays a factor. How much are you willing to spend?
- Choice. What is in your brew? Do you prefer coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, espresso? All machines are made differently. Knowing what each machine can and will do is the best way to get the most out of your money.
- Time. Factor in your time. Some machines require more time and clean up than others. A traditional drip coffee maker, for example, is fairly simple to set up and clean up, however, a super-automatic espresso machine will require a bit more effort and clean up your part and a bit more time as well.
- Asses your needs and shop for the occasion. Ask yourself what the main use of the machine will be. What are your daily needs? Is it for everyday use or a quick grab-and-go deal? Consider getting a standard machine. Want to host fancy afternoon or mid-morning brunches at your house? Consider getting something a bit more involved and detailed. Your guests will appreciate the aesthetics as much as they will rave about the taste of whatever coffee delight it is that you want to share.
- Personal preference.
Espresso machine vs coffee maker
The main difference between an espresso machine and a coffee maker revolves around the type and strength of coffee produced. A coffee maker will (traditionally) utilize and require you to have a higher ratio of water to grounds whereas an espresso machine will utilize a greater ratio of beans to water. Are you looking for something small and strong to sip on? Go with espresso. Want to drink something tasty all morning without getting the jitters? Try going steady with a cup of coffee.
Espresso machines are usually a bit more pricy and time consuming than coffee makers are, however, there are exceptions on both ends. Using a percolator to brew your coffee is a more drawn out process, however, it yields one wicked cup of joe! When it comes down to weighing your options for an espresso machine vs coffee maker, you have a lot to consider! Do not get overwhelmed, though, your coffee considerations are full of potential and possibility. The sky is the limit.
What is the difference between espresso and brewed coffee?
Espresso is a concentrated caffeinated beverage that is made by running a small amount of near-boiling water (usually 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit) through finely ground coffee. While coffee is similar to espresso in that it can be made from the same beans, it usually involves a larger grind and more water, diluting the coffee’s strength and making a larger amount.
How to pick the best espresso machine?
Picking the best espresso machine for home involves determining what kind of experience and taste you want to have. Before buying an espresso machine for home, make sure you test it against the following options and components:
- Is the espresso machine well-made? Sturdy? Quality parts and appliances?
- Price. How much are you willing to spend?
- Use. Are you looking for an espresso machine for industrial purposes or for personal and in-home use? You could be looking at a $1,000 difference here.
- Check for an infusion gauge, which tells you when you need to adjust the grind or add more coffee.
- Does it come with a warranty? A good company will stand behind their services and stand behind their products. Considering the amount of technical malfunctions and unexpected breakages that could happen while the machine is under your care, this is never a bad idea. Better than safe than sorry, right?
- Usability. Is the machine easy to use and understand?
- Low-maintenance and easy clean up would be beneficial in the long run.
- Quick and easy to operate.
Types of espresso machines
If you are new to espresso or simply have not tried your hand at making it at home, it can be a great way to save money, experiment with new flavors, fun roasts and exotic blends and bring some energy into your kitchen. It can also be incredibly overwhelming. Espresso machines come in all sorts of shapes and sizes from pump-driven to steam-driven to semi-automatic and super-automatic and manual. If you want to get the most out of your espresso machine for home, you have got to have a pretty good understanding of what it does and how it does it because this directly affects the type and quality of espresso you will produce.
Why complicate things when we can keep it simple? Here is a brief overview of how the different types of espresso machines function and why we think they are so great.
Pump-driven espresso machines
Pump-driven espresso machines are generally considered superior to steam-driven espresso machines. They are also considered classier and higher end which makes them a bit more expensive. The main difference that separates a pump-driven machine from a steam-driven one is that the water is forced through the grounds with an internal pump instead of with steam.
Because the pressure of a pump-driven machine is more intense than a steam-driven one, the flavor is typically more intense and often times more robust because of it. These machines are great for hosting larger parties or industrial use because the water tank can be refiled at any time without cooling, as opposed to a steam-driven machine, which requires a tiny resting period before it is capable of going again.
Pump-driven espresso machines can further be separated and divided into the following categories:
Semi-automatic espresso machines
Semi-automatic espresso machines require a bit of effort on your part in that you are responsible for controlling the length/volume of espresso with an adjustable dial. This is great if you have experience with espresso making but can be a bit difficult for those who are just beginning because they are not sure of when they should start and/or stop the brewing process.
Super-automatic espresso machines
Super-automatic machines are entirely automatic machines with a ton of fun features for spicing up and drawing out different qualities in your espresso. For some machines this means having a larger reservoir, separate heating chambers for steaming and brewing and/or automatic controls and monitors that oversee and take care of the brewing process for you. While the extra gadgets may make this machine seem a bit more complex, we think it is far easier to navigate in the long run. Like everything, it just takes a little while to get used to.
Difference of semi-automatic and super-automatic espresso machines
The main difference between semi-automatic and super-automatic espresso machines is how involved you are in the process. A semi-automatic machine requires more of your attention and time because it requires you to adjust the settings to your preferences. That being said, once you have adjusted the settings, you are pretty much good-to-go until you are ready to change it up and try out something new.
Steam-driven espresso machines
Steam-driven espresso machines are quite capable of producing a great shot of espresso, however, the quality does not quite compare with a pump-driven espresso machine. While this machine does require time to cool after being used, it still takes between 2 to 4 shots of espresso at any given time.
Manual espresso machines
Do you like to figure things out on your own? Do you believe in success by failure? That creativity is born from experimenting? If so, then this type of espresso coffee machine might suit you well. Manual espresso machines, unlike all other espresso machines, offer the user complete control over the entire brewing process.
Espresso machines by brand
There are a lot of options out there when it comes to choosing a brand of espresso machine that works best for you. It is important to consider which features, specifically, make for the best home espresso machine. We believe that when you pay more, you get more. A few extra dollars really does mean a little bit more quality. Here are a few of the absolute best brands of espresso machines on the market: Delonghi, Saeco, Rancilio Silvia, Gaggia, Mr. Coffee, and Breville. If you are still looking for more top espresso machine brands that sell amazing products, then keep exploring!
Did you know that by adding your favorite milk (or non-dairy substitute) to a single shot of espresso makes for a delicious and traditional cappuccino? It is pretty much that simple too. Well, kind of. There is some frothing involved, which makes for a light, whipped and creamy treat. Cappuccino makers come with a steaming wand that is separate from the espresso pull. Most traditional and conventional espresso makers allow you to create your own traditional and unique cappuccino variations.
How to pick the best coffee maker?
Coffee, while it is similar to espresso, is an entirely different ball game when it comes to choosing the right coffee maker. Thankfully, you will want to be looking for some of the same things that you would look for in an espresso maker.
- Is it well-made? Sturdy? Quality?
- Price. How much are you willing to spend?
- Size and usage. Are you looking for a coffee machine for industrial purposes or for personal and in-home use? Most coffee makers are made for personal usage or for drinks with friends.
- Does it come with a warranty? A good company will stand behind their services and stand back their products. Considering the amount of technical malfunctions and unexpected breakages that could happen while the machine is under your care, this is never a bad idea.
- Quick, easy to use and understand.
- Low-maintenance and easy clean up.
In addition to these, we would add:
- Be on the lookout for whether it can use a reusable filter (think green!) or paper filters. Even if it does only accept paper filters you can always use 100% recycled and unbleached filters to do your part in caring for the earth and our planet.
- Serving size varies greatly (4 cup to 14 cup carafes are normal).
Types of coffee makers
Here is where you can get super creative and fancy. Want the stove to make it for you? Go with a percolator. Want to preset the machine to beginning brewing 5 minutes before your alarm goes off so that you can wake up to the smell of fresh, hot coffee? Stick with a traditional drip brew coffee pot. Want to monitor and control the strength and smoothness of your coffee, press it by hand and pour it hot? French presses are magical. So where do you start and what the heck is the difference? Let us take a look!
Drip coffee makers
Drip coffee makers are by far the most traditional way to brew coffee. Perhaps the best feature of a drip coffee maker is the ease of using it through and through. Easy to understand, easy to clean up, easy to manage, easy to forget about (especially if you set up a daily alarm and the coffee makes itself). Most coffee aficionados would say, though, that what a drip coffee maker gains in ease it loses in taste. And we will not argue with them. It is true. If you want to experience your coffee in some of the best ways, a drip coffee maker probably is not your best bet. For most people, however, “it will do just fine.”
Most people know this type of brewer by the leading brand in its area: Keurig. This little brewer has its benefits, too, although it does have its fair share of downfalls. At a glance, a single-serve brewer is great for singles, or even couples, who want a fast but not frequent solution to making coffee. Each little cup is already portioned out for you, which makes it super simple to make. You can also add your own grounds into a reusable nylon coffee filter and reduce waste, which is by far the greatest known downfall of the single-serve brewer. It uses a lot of energy for the small amount of product that it produces. It also produces a lot of waste that does not biodegrade in landfills.
Also known as plungers and press-pots, this form of coffee brewing is largely utilized by the Italians, the Irish and the French. While it is definitely gaining in popularity with coffee connoisseurs, it is still fairly unknown in the west. One huge perk of the french press is that it allows you to have total control of what goes in, how much goes in, how fine or how course the beans are that go in, how long it stays in, and how hot you want to make it. Like the manual espresso machine, you are the boss through and through.
When in Spain do as the Spanish do. I remember my first trip to Spain and how they served me coffee in a percolator. I remember it being near espresso strength and I remember loving it, but I had no idea how it worked. It amazed me. Here’s the scoop. A slender and circular tube runs the length of the contraption, from top to bottom. Water is poured in the bottom portion of the percolator and a small chamber of (traditionally) coarse-ground coffee is placed in the top chamber, which has little holes for the water to funnel through. The percolator is placed on low heat and set on the stove top for a slow extraction process as the water filters up the funnel and to the top compartment.
Coffee makers by brand
The most common coffee maker for home comes by way of the following brands: Keurig®, Cuisinart®, Jura®, Mr. Coffee® and more.
Additionally, there are hundreds, even thousands, of others such as: Holstein, Frigidaire, Zojirushi, Bella Dots Collection, Black & Decker, Capresso, and super fun and unique ones like this Michael Graves Design Coffee Maker.
How to pick the best coffee grinders?
Picking the best coffee grinder is a bit easier than picking your coffee brewing machine. The most important thing to remember when searching for the best coffee grinder is that the best coffee comes from the freshest beans. How you grind it and what you grind it with, well that is purely up to you. Traditionally, blade grinders are the cheapest and most common grinders found at most shopping centers and supermarkets. It will do the job, but it will not quite compare to a flat blade or a conical grinder.
Types of coffee grinders
By now you are realizing that coffee and its “condiments,” if you will, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. If we have a million options for espresso and coffee machines you better believe that we have options for coffee grinders too! Here is what to look for when searching for the best coffee grinder for home.
Electric blade coffee grinders
Electric blade grinders are the most commonly used and cheapest form of grinder currently on the market. If you are just beginning to grind your coffee, this is a great place to begin as it will complete the task at hand and still create an incredibly fresh and aromatic cup of coffee. You can find these for $25 and up and they are pretty reliable for the price.
Electric burr coffee grinders
Flat blade, or conical grinders have 2 cone-shaped burrs that face each other from a distance that gauges and determines the grind size. Coffee beans are crushed between these two blades and are ground when one burr rotates and the other stays put.
Manual coffee grinders
This will make you feel ancient and super cool at the exact same time. Manual coffee grinders require manpower and lots of it. Get in a good workout for the morning and strengthen those hand muscles and forearms because you have to churn that handle, baby, churn it.
The price difference for this kind of grinder has a huge fluctuation and can be anywhere from $20 to $2,000. How it works? It is actually quite simple. Pour the grinds into the chamber, set your desired size of grounds (espresso, fine, percolator, french press, coarse, etc.) place the lid on, grind and empty them from the tray at the bottom of the grinder.
Coffee grinders by brands
Among the best of the best brands for coffee grinders, varying as they may, we have the following candidates that will not let you down:Capresso, Hario, Breville, Baratza Encore, Rancillo, and Gaggia.
A little bit about milk frothers
Real coffee drinkers would tell you that the difference between a really great cappuccino and an incredibly amazing and totally unforgettable cup of coffee is a milk frother. The two most common types of milk frothers are electric and automatic milk frothers and they can both be used to froth cold or warm milk. Newer technology has come out with milk frothing carafes and heaters that do not require an immersion frother like the Epica Automatic Electric Milk Frother and Heater Carafe.
How to pick the best milk frothers?
Start simple and build up. If you like the results you get with a simple hand-held immersion frother then keep using it. If you feel like branching out and want to try something new, gravitate toward the new stainless steel frother and heater carafes.
Coffee is incredible. From its very beginnings as a tiny seed in the ground the production of coffee from bean to bag to belly is truly incredible. Now, more than ever, we have hundreds of ways to enjoy this red bean and seed and even more ways to prepare it and taste it. Machines, roasting techniques, harvesting practices, brewing process, and so much more, make it an increasingly popular art form of creative and culinary expression.
Culinary expression, especially when it comes to coffee, is made possible by the many tools that we have at our disposal. Espresso machines, coffee machines, grinders and frothers all add layers and elements to our coffee brewing experience. And now you know that choosing one is all about finding what you love in life in a product that can be purchased. Keep trying new products, keep sampling new types of coffee, and keep exploring. The world (and even the world of coffee) is to great to ignore.
Whether you are choosing 1 new coffee or espresso machine to add to your kitchen repertoire or you are looking to purchase 1 of our package bundles which consist of a diverse range of hand-selected coffee and home brewing items for your enjoyment, we are glad you stopped by to learn a bit more. Happy homebrewing!