Choosing The Right Coffee Maker For Your Kitchen
No kitchen tool or appliance has changed more than the coffee maker. We all remember watching cowboys boiling coffee over an open fire. That has morphed into today’s high tech gourmet brewers, with bean grinders and milk frothers. Regardless of your coffee tastes, there’s sure to be a coffee maker that will fit not only your taste, but your counter space and lifestyle, not to mention your budget. Don’t get overwhelmed by the huge amounts of coffee makers available. With a little research and a little patience, you will be able to find that perfect coffee maker.
Before you start shopping, you will want to narrow down what you are going to use this coffee maker for. How often do you drink coffee? Are you a coffee snob or do you just need a hot cup of caffeine to get going? Will you be making tea and other flavored drinks? Do you like espresso drinks? Don’t forget your budget and your available counter space, both need to be factors in our purchasing plans.
Espresso or No Espresso
Most espresso makers are good sized pieces of equipment . They usually cost quite a bit more than other coffee makers (some super-automatic units will run a few thousand dollars) and are limited to making just espresso, cappuccino and lattes. These machines will usually make just one cup at a time and you will need to clean parts of the machine after each cup is brewed. Espresso is a coffee drink that is very concentrated, giving you a richer, stronger coffee taste. An espresso maker is designed to make this special type of coffee and it won’t work for making a more traditional cup of coffee.
Espresso fanatics prefer to use only an espresso coffee maker, specifically the extremely automatic models that will handle every step from grinding the coffee to putting it into the cup.
More traditional coffee drinkers who like to have a pot of coffee available at all times, and aren’t thinking about lattes or other specialty preparations of coffee, tend to choose standard coffee makers. These makers won’t make espresso but work well for people who like to begin their days with a traditional cup of coffee. While they may be picky about the type of coffee that they drink, they often won’t get involved in the grinding of coffee beans. Ground and right out of the bag will work just fine.
For this type of coffee drinker, an espresso machine is useless. They can use single serve makers (K-cup) or other automatic coffee makers, but they don’t need steam wands and pressurized brewing. Some still use the old fashioned stop top percolators, brewing coffee on the stove like their grandparents. These types of coffee machines, usually classified as drip brewers, allow you to make coffee quickly and keep a pot on hand for refills. Prices for drip brewers can be as low at $20 but a good unit with a timer and brew options will cost much more.
Choosing a Drip Brewing Coffee Maker
Standard coffee makers are offered in drip brewing , French press brewing and combination designs. Most drip brewing coffee makers make 6 to 12 cups of coffee with each brew. If you find that you need less coffee, you can find smaller units that will make 2-4 cups each time. Most drip coffee brewers are simple in their design and very easy to use. Add water, put coffee and a filter into the filter basket and you are ready to brew.
A recent addition to the coffee brewing world are pod coffee makers, also called k-cup machines. These coffee machines use single serve coffee pods, self contained coffee cups that hold one cup’s worth of coffee grounds. While the cost of the machine itself can be economical, the coffee pods are more costly than ground coffee and you may find that one cup of coffee will cost up to $1.00. While this is not a huge figure, one cup of a reasonably priced ground coffee in a traditional brewer will cost as little as $.05 per cup.
Another alternative that works great for single cup brewing is a French Press coffee maker. This is the type of coffee maker that you may see at a restaurant where the coffee is made at the table. It’s easy to use and can make for an impressive presentation.
Choosing An Espresso Machine
Typically, an espresso maker will be available in semi-automatic, automatic, manual and stove top designs. These makers usually make one cup of espresso at a time, and they require more attention to detail and constant cleaning that a standard drip brew machine.
As you would expect, the more automated features that an espresso machine has, the more expensive it will be. Each feature of an automated espresso machine takes away a manual step that you would need to do. This can range from grinding the beans to frothing the milk to steaming the drink. A fully automatic espresso machine can cost thousands of dollars and is a big piece of equipment. Make sure you have the counter space if this unit is your choice of coffee maker.
Semi-automatic means exactly what the title implies. Some, but not all of the brewing steps are done with a push of a button. These units are far less expensive are are aimed more for the home market. A manual espresso machine is a basic piece of equipment. You grind the beans and tamp them into the holder. You start the water into the coffee container and you use the wand to steam the milk and make any foam. These can be as inexpensive as $35 and will make a very good cup of espresso.
A stove top espresso maker is similar to a stove top drip brewing coffee maker. Beans are ground and put into a filter basket. The unit is placed on a stove top and the boiling water will settle over the grounds. Internal steam is used to force the water through the beans, giving you a more concentrated coffee flavor.
Which unit is best for you? That will depend on what type of coffee drinker you are. Many people don’t care for espresso, it has a very strong flavor and you end up with a cup of coffee that is only one ounce in size. If that is you, a drip brewing system is the way to go. Check your budget, check your counter space and begin shopping!