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The Best Coffee Machines

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Looking for a quick hit of caffeine, or a carefully crafted cappuccino? Well, there's an appliance here that can deliver the goods

Whether you're a fan of cappuccino, macchiato, espresso, mocha, ristretto or just plain-old filter coffee, only the very best coffee machines will make you the coffee you want time after time. The thing is, choosing the right machine for you depends not only on your favourite type of coffee, but also on how much time, effort and money you want to invest in the brewing process.

If you're not quite sure what you're after, then scroll down for a run through the basic types of coffee machine plus their strengths and weaknesses. But first is a list of our favourite coffee machines, including manual espresso, bean-to-cup, pod and capsule, and filter coffee machines.

The best coffee machines

1. Sage Barista Pro

If you're looking for an all-in-one manual espresso machine, then the Barista Pro takes some beating. While cheaper all-in-one machines can make a half-decent espresso, the Barista Pro is capable of ekeing almost every drop of flavour from the finest coffee beans.

It's also far more consistent than cheaper machines – its integrated burr grinder accurately delivers the same amount of ground coffee time after time, and the volumetric sensor pushes the same amount of water through the coffee for a simply pitch-perfect cup of espresso.

Unlike some of Sage's recent models, the Pro is a fully manual machine, but it's well worth taking the time to dial in the perfect settings – do that, and the quality of coffee is impressive. The thermojet technology means that you won't be waiting around, either, as it takes just three seconds to get up to temperature.

Key specs – Dimensions (HWD): 406 x 354 x 406mm; Water capacity: 2 litres; Cup warmer: Yes; Milk frothing: Manual (steam wand); Coffee type: Beans (built-in burr grinder)

2. Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart

The Melitta Caffeo Barista TS has been our favourite fully automatic coffee machine ever since we first tested it – and the Smart version only improves matters. It produces a range of espresso-based drinks that are almost as good as a manual machine can make. Almost.

It's incredibly fully featured, with two bean hoppers allowing you to produce a variety of coffees. It can make a huge variety of different drinks, right from the touch panel on the front. The new Smart version, which is currently the same price, adds Bluetooth, which allows you to control the entire drink creation process down to the temperature and the order in which the various elements are delivered to your cup.

It also lets you download new recipes and even step your way through the machine's various maintenance tasks directly on the screen of your smartphone. The Melitta Caffeo Barista TS and TS Smart are the kings of automatic coffee machines: they produce great coffee and are incredibly easy to use and maintain.

Key specs – Dimensions (HWD): 365 x 255 x 465mm; Water capacity: 1.8l; Cup warmer: Yes; Milk frothing: Yes (automatic); Adjustable grind: Yes; Adjustable strength: Yes (five steps)

3. Nespresso Essenza Mini

The Essenza is a classy, petite Nespresso machine. There are no frills or fancy features – it makes only espresso and lungo coffees – but the tiny footprint, fuss-free styling and consistent coffee quality are a great combination.

You get to choose from a range of colours and the same machine is made by two different manufacturers: Krups and Magimix. In practice, the only difference between the two is their shape: the Krups is a classic slimline rectangle, and the Magimix is a more unusual rounded triangle shape. The price and coffee options are identical for both, so it's just a matter of choosing which you like the look of best – or which is cheaper.

Whichever you choose, the Essenza is supremely easy to use: insert the capsule on the top, then press the button and wait for your coffee to be poured. If you're a fan of milky coffees, though, bear in mind that you'll probably want to shell out for a separate milk frother to help make lattes and cappuccinos.

Key specs – Dimensions (HWD): 205 x 110 x 325mm; Water capacity: 0.6l; Cup warmer: No; Milk frothing: No; Heat up time: 25 secs; Coffee sizes: Espresso, Lungo; Maximum cup size: 110mm; Used capsule capacity: 6 capsules

4. Melitta Look Timer

This is a great filter coffee machine. It takes paper filters, which we much prefer to the washable metal filters on some machines, and the all-round build quality is solid. It doesn't just look and feel the part, however, and one novel addition is that the AromaSelector dial adjusts the strength and flavour of your coffee; this can be handy for subtly tweaking the brew to suit different types of supermarket ground coffee.

The sizable glass jug allows you to make lots of coffee in one go, the removable tank is a nice touch, and the hotplate underneath keeps your coffee warm once it's brewed. Another welcome feature with this machine is that you can adjust the time the hotplate comes on for - so you don't have to put up with horribly stewed coffee if you've left it sitting for a while.

Key specs – Dimensions (HWD): 330 x 240 x 225mm; Water capacity: 1.5l; Machine type: Filter; Stay warm: Yes (hot plate)

How to buy the best coffee machine

Should you buy a manual espresso machine?

Pros: Best-tasting coffee; flexibility | Cons: Time-consuming; messy

If you want the flexibility to create anything from espresso to ristretto to cappuccino, a manual espresso machine similar to what you find in coffee shops is the best choice. The downside is that you'll need to learn to manually grind and tamp the coffee, steam your own milk to perfection, clean the machine and repeat the process for every cup. However, the added control makes it possible to get the absolute best from every variety of coffee.

Should you buy a bean-to-cup machine?

Pros: Easy to use; great coffee | Cons: Expensive; daily cleaning is tedious

If manual espresso sounds like too much work then a bean-to-cup machine is a great choice. Simply pop water and coffee beans in the machine, and you can get a shot of coffee at the press of a button – and without cleaning the machine between every single shot. Pricier machines include integrated milk frothers that dispense a cappuccino or white coffee at the press of a button. The results are never as good as manual machines though.

Should you buy a coffee pod or capsule machine?

Pros: Quick, consistent results; mess-free | Cons: Coffee pods can be expensive

This is the simplest option of all – and basic machines are available quite cheaply. Each pod or capsule contains the perfect amount of coffee, so you simply buy the type with the strength and flavour you like best. For no-hassle, no-mess coffee that tastes consistently good, they're hard to beat. Some machines add built-in milk frothing so you can get a latte or cappuccino at the touch of a button. The results don't taste as good as manual espresso or bean-to-cup machines, though, and pods can be pricey.

Should you buy a filter coffee machine?

Pros: Cheap, quick, easy | Cons: Only makes black coffee

If you just want plain and simple coffee to fill a mug, or want to be able to make enough coffee for several people at once, a filter coffee machine is a great choice. These generally require you to use ground coffee (although a few do have integrated grinders), but they're a good bet for making simple, unfussy black coffee.

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