If you are after that Barista quality coffee in the comfort of your own home, a bean to cup machine is a good option for you. The size and quality does vary but most machines are large (so make sure you have the space before you commit), and generally speaking, you'll get what you pay for!
A good quality machine will usually cost you around £400 - £500 but you can pay up to £1,500 (and more).
However, with some of the deals around this weekend (Black Fri / Cyber Mon), you can get some really good discounts at many of the high street brands (e.g. JLP have £200 off a De'Longhi machine). So below is some information to help you choose the right bean to cup machine (at the right price), for you....
Manufacturers vary, there are several traditional names available, and they bring an added value of trustworthiness, but there are some new names coming along who use quality parts and high levels of sophistication and style so don't be hasty in writing them off.
Software in machines is great nowadays, giving you lots of control and choice for your drinks, but bear in mind that physically the inbuilt grinder actually does the hard work of grinding the beans, and this is where it pays to make sure it is up to the job!
One of the main considerations is the output capacity. There is no doubt that all machines will make a super coffee once you get the hang of it, but the smaller/cheaper machines may struggle if you need to prepare more than a couple of drinks in succession. My first domestic machine (very very cheap) would only make one drink, and then you had to wait for five minutes for the second! Needless to say it was confined to the bin after about 6 months! At the other extreme, the espresso machines we use in our takeaway environment are capable of 100 coffees per hour flat out, but then they cost over £3000 each!
It is important to make sure that you choose a machine capable of producing the number of drinks you need within a reasonable time. It is worth asking the question before, to avoid disappointment later.
All domestic machines will run from a normal household electrical socket, you just need to make sure you have one near to your machine.
Extraction pressure is sometimes used as a selling point and it can be tricky to understand what you need. Essentially, very hot water ( around 94c ) is forced through the ground coffee at around 8-9 bar. Car tyres are roughly 2 bar, so that is some idea. Higher pressures are sometimes claimed, but don't mean much to me. (Pressure and grind particle size is a subject hotly debated in the coffee world, but essentially we probably need to get out more). In case you are worried about high pressure hot water in your kitchen, the way it works is that the high pressure comes from the cold water, which is then mixed with the (low pressure) hot water. So, no worries that the hot water tank will explode!
As you climb up the price range, you can expect more sophistication: inbuilt water tanks may give way to being plumbed in, powdered or fresh milk may be an option together with a milk cooler etc. etc. at each point it is worth weighing up whether the extra installation/ cleaning / maintaining is worth doing for the use it will be at home. it is easy to get carried away with the choices available, but better to pay a little more for quality, rather than features which you will not need.
Now what do i do? - Research!! Look at all the deals you can and find the best price on the machine you like. Some retailers have good comparison functions on their sites so make full use of these and look carefully at the specifications of the machine for the price. Make your decision and don't forget to come back to us for your fresh roasted beans!