Sure, you love your favorite coffee shop and its signature latte. But are you ready to make one at home?
Investing in a high-end coffee maker or espresso machine is a big purchase. Many different types exist, and sticker shock can be an issue.
“People want to make a really educated decision,” says Ben Piff, sales manager for Portland-based Clive Coffee. “A lot of people have tried the more affordable equipment in the past, and they’re trying to look longer term.”
But the options can be overwhelming, said master barista Giorgio Milos, who teaches at Illy coffee company’s Universita del Caffe.
“It’s sort of a jungle,” he said.
We talked to experts to get the basics for beginners and beyond.
First, be honest with yourself. What do you really want a coffee maker for?
“Making a good cup of coffee at home is not easy,” Milos said.
Maybe you have a basic coffeepot. You grind your own beans, but you find the latte at your local coffee shop attractive — even though it’s expensive.
If you’re not up for spending a ton of time figuring out the best pour, your best bet might be a pod coffee maker. On the other hand, if you want to lovingly craft and experiment, browse the higher-end espresso machines.
“When you have manual control over the grind fineness, you can really become a home barista and find different flavors in the coffee,” Piff said.
In general, the pricier the machine, the more it will allow precise grind, pressure and temperature.
Type of drink
Do you want one shot of espresso each day, or do you want to craft a latte?
If you just want espresso, consider a single-serve espresso maker. “You don’t have to grind the beans; you don’t have to wait,” Milos said.
But for a Saturday morning, for example, he uses a machine that takes 20 minutes to warm up and 10 minutes to clean. “It’s a 45-minute process to pull the perfect shot of espresso,” he said.
For Piff, an affinity for lattes turned into home brewing.
“I really appreciate the cost savings of having that at home,” he said. “I know it would cost me a minimum $4 anywhere to get a latte, and the ones I make at home are better.”
On the flip side, if half the year you indulge in iced coffee, think a simple French press or maybe even a Mason jar with some type of filter.
Size and features
The counter space you have might help determine which product you purchase.
If you’re in a tiny apartment, you probably don’t want a huge contraption.
So think through size and then features. Milos suggests considering such features as temperature control – it’s important that the water is hot – and volume control, plus the cleaning cycle.
Consumer Reports ranks pod coffee makers by the speed of the first cup, repeat speed, size consistency, taste and convenience. And consistency of the temperature, which experts say is vital to a great cup.
For a specialty coffee maker, Consumer Reports also looks at convenience, cleaning and the handling of the carafe.
There’s some good news — the most expensive ones aren’t always the best, Milos said.
“I’ve seen, on the market, some really expensive machines that don’t really work well,” Milos said.
And think through future price. What happens if it breaks down: Will you have to ship it across the country? Some places, like Clive Coffee, offer customer help over the phone or through videos to save on shipping.
Piff discusses with customers exactly what they want, so that they end up happy.
“If it’s a whim, and somebody buys the machine, and they don’t understand the need to have a precise grinder, they’re bound to be frustrated really quickly,” Piff said. “And the machine will end up in a closet or returned, and they'll feel like, ‘I can’t make espresso.’ And that’s really tragic.”