Coffee makers have come a long way. From yesterday’s cowboy pots boiling coffee over the coals to today’s sleek gourmet brewers, there’s a coffee maker to fit every taste, every lifestyle, every budget and every counter space. So where do you begin finding the coffee maker of your dreams?
Before you head for the appliance aisle at your favorite store, do a little homework. Consider what kind of coffee you prefer, how often you drink coffee, how much space you have for a coffee maker, how much you can afford to spend on a coffee maker. These are the issues involved in deciding whether to purchase an espresso or a non-espresso coffee maker.
Choosing a Coffee Maker: Espresso or No Espresso
Espresso coffee makers are fancy. They cost more than other coffee makers (some cost thousands of dollars) and make a variety of coffee types including cappuccino and lattes. Espresso machines often make only one cup of coffee at a time and require cleaning after each cup. The coffee is stronger than that brewed by other means.
True coffee aficionados often prefer to use the espresso coffee maker, especially the super automated models that do everything from grinding the coffee to pouring it into the cup.
Typical coffee drinkers who prefer to have a pot of coffee available at all times and aren’t interested in lattes or other versions of coffee tend to prefer non-espresso coffee makers. Non-espresso coffee makers work well for people who like to start the coffee brewing and go on about their usual activities while it brews. They buy coffee already ground and don’t bother with beans or grinding.
For coffee drinkers needing large quantities of coffee, non-espresso is the way to go. Large percolator type coffee urns can be used to make more than a hundred cups of coffee at one time.
They also prefer returning to the coffee pot time after time and refilling their coffee cup over making only a cup at a time. Non-espresso type coffee makers are much less expensive than espresso machines.
Choosing a Coffee Maker: Non-Espresso
These coffee makers are available in drip, French press and combination models. Drip machines often make 6 to 10 cups of coffee at a time. For those who need a lesser quantity, it’s better to buy a model that makes 4 cups (or less) at a time. Drip coffee makers are inexpensive and easy to use.
There are pod coffee makers available which use single serving pods to brew coffee. Pod coffee makers can be inexpensive but the coffee itself costs more than standard cans of pre-ground coffee.
French Press coffee makers are great for a few cups of coffee at a time. Combination coffee makes featuring both espresso and non-espresso coffee makers in one machine are also available. These machines give coffee drinkers the best of both worlds.
Choosing a Coffee Maker: Espresso
Espresso coffee makers come in semi-automatic, fully automatic and super automatic models. These machines make fewer cups at a time and may require more time and attention that a standard drip coffee maker.
The more automated an espresso coffee maker is, the more features it will offer. Some take care of everything from grinding the coffee beans to filling the cup with coffee and ejecting the used coffee grounds.
The more features the espresso coffee maker offers, the higher the price tag attached to it. These coffee makers can cost anywhere from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars.
The first decision to be made in choosing a coffee maker is the need to determine whether an espresso coffee maker or a non-espresso coffee maker is needed. Coffee preferences, budget and quantity of coffee to be made are factors that affect the decision-making process.
Coffee Maker Glossary
Coffee has a language all its own. Here are a few of the frequently used coffee maker terms.
Auto Frother: device that automatically froths milk for cappuccinos and lattes.
Automatic Drip Coffee Maker: machine that automatically heats water and filters it through the coffee.
Automatic Espresso Machine and Coffee Maker: an espresso machine featuring controllable, programmable coffee dosing.
Bean to Cup: fully automated coffee making process. Machines with bean to cup capability do everything from grinding the beans to filling a cup with coffee.
Boiler: steam machine inside coffee maker. Machines with larger boilers usually are more powerful and produce more hot water for beverages.
Boiler Element: electric element that heats boiler in electric espresso coffee makers.
Cappuccino: Italian espresso based beverage.
Cup Warmer: metal portion at top of espresso coffee maker where cups are placed for warming.
Dosing: refers to either the number of grams of coffee per cup or the amount of brewed coffee per cup.
Drip Tray: Part of espresso coffee maker where coffee cup sits for filling.
Espresso: Italian black coffee which preceded specialty coffees. Rich black coffee.
Filter Basket: Metal filter where grounds are placed for brewing.
Filtered Method: process of brewing coffee with a filter, coffee is separate from the water.
French Press: aka plunger pot. A cylindrical coffee maker in which ground coffee is steeped then filtered. Coffee grounds are pushed to the bottom of the pot with the plunger. Coffee stays in the top of the pot.
Fully Automatic Espresso Machine and Coffee Maker: machines which automatically manage the brewing process from coffee bean to fresh cup of coffee.
Grind: process of preparing coffee beans for coffee brewing.
Group: Portion of espresso coffee maker that brews coffee.
Group Handle: Portion of espresso coffee maker that holds the filter basket that ground coffee goes into.
Heat Exchanger: heats water for coffee without taking water from the boiler.
Hopper: portion of grinder that holds coffee beans.
French Press coffee maker:
Knock-out Box: container used to knock the used coffee grounds from group handle.
Latte: Hot beverage made with one quarter coffee, three quarters of steamed, hot milk with little froth.
Mocha: term used to describe hot beverage made from espresso, chocolate and milk.
Moka Pot: Classic Italian espresso-maker used on top of the stove.
Percolator: coffee maker that continuously runs water through the coffee grounds to make coffee.
Pod: a self-contained, single serving unit of ready to use coffee.
Pour/Pour Speed/Pour Time: the amount of time required to pour coffee from group into cup. Should be 25 to 30 seconds for espresso.
Pump: device that moves water through the coffee maker.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine and Coffee Maker: machine without pre-set dosing capability.
Steam Arm/Wand: metal tube delivering steam to froth milk.
Super Automatic Espresso Machine and Coffee Maker: machine which automatically manages brewing process from coffee bean to fresh cup of coffee in addition to other features such as a water filter.
Tamping: act of pressing ground coffee into filter basket.
Vacuum coffee maker: machine using vacuum process to make coffee.
Traditional espresso coffee maker: machine that is not a bean to cup automated model.
Water Filter: filters contaminants from water for better coffee taste.
Water Font: nozzle used to dispense water from machine boiler.
Water Softener: filters lime and minerals from water, preventing build up of scales in the coffee maker. This is a must have for anyone using hard water.