Coffee Machine Buying Guide – Step 3: The Extras

2 down, 2 to go. You have chosen your price, machine type and boiler strength now onto our final piece of consumer advice, the extras. These are the little intangibles that you do not make the headlines and more importantly the inconsequential features that vendors will throw at you to put you off the scent.

What to Look For

Usability

You can have the most capable machine in the world, with the best boiler, amazing built in controls and an array of flashing lights that show you ‘something’ is happening. But how is it to use? This can often be an afterthought for engineers and designers. Here are a few pointers:

Size – a compact machine is fantastic but can you slip the portafilter handle out easily, is their enough clearance below the group head for the cups you own.

Positioning – check the switches and knobs to make sure they are accessible, are the indicator lights easy to see, does the portafilter lock easily.

Cup Warming Tray – many machines will use the heat of the boiler to warm cups, but with poor heat exchange these can act more as a fancy aesthetic than usable cup warmer.

Before you buy a machine run through the process of making a coffee, most retailers will have usable display models, so make sure you test it out.

Design and Sustainability

The design of a coffee machine is actually important. Even the smallest machines are noticeable so they have to look the part. Will it fit with your kitchen or café? To justify the cost you will need your coffee machine to last a long time, so pay attention to the build quality. If it feels flimsy or unstable then chances are it won’t last. Look for good quality materials and a solid body.

Things That Don’t Matter

Many retailers will try their best to sell you a machine with all the bells and whistles, justify extra cost because of inbuilt features that you will either never use or have no impact. Just a few common examples are:

The Crema Enhancer – these generally damage the espresso in the search for an attractive looking coffee. There are some exceptions but generally this is either marketing nonsense or a destructive force.

4,000 BAR pump - You find a lot of cheap espresso machines bragging about 15, 16, or even 18 BARs of pressure. This makes very little difference. Almost every machine available has a vibratory pump inside that is more than adequate for the task of producing 9 BAR of pressure.

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