Top 6 coffee machines: A groovy grind of love

Avoid the hassle of a traditional coffee maker, and the wastefulness of a capsule-gobbler, with one of these bean-to-cup marvels. It won’t really save you enough for a deposit on a castle, but switching your morning slurp to a home brew will soon pay for itself. The only question is, which machine?

Smeg BCC02 Review

What’s the story?

The smallest and most affordable machine on test, this Smeg is just 18cm wide. But its brewing specs aren’t cut down: you get a thermoblock water heater and burr grinder, and can tailor the grind with a simple manual control. It’s also good-looking, with curvy ’50s styling in a choice of six finishes.

But this is the only machine here that can’t make two drinks at once. Controls are just a series of buttons on the top, to pick from eight drink types; there’s no app. And the frother is a wand – so you’ll need a little jug to froth milk in, then pour it onto your coffee. Pricier models do the whole shebang straight into your cup and have touchscreen controls.

Is it any good?

Eight drinks is a bit of an exaggeration: there are four buttons across the top, to make three lengths of black coffee plus hot water. Press a fifth button and they light up orange and make ‘light’ versions of the same three drinks (mellower, taller but with the same single shot of coffee) plus steam. If you want, say, a double espresso, you have to wait and then press the button a second time.

Icons are basic and it’s hard to remember which button does what. But you can reprogram the coffee lengths to suit your tastes… and considering its size and price, it makes a decent drink with a good crema. The steam wand has a slight delay but foams cold milk well – and tidying up is as simple as a wipe with a wet cloth.

The machine largely cleans itself, and lights alert you when it’s time to clean the brewing group or use descaler. But it doesn’t talk you through this, so when an LED lights up you’ll need to get reading.


Gaggia Accademia Review

What’s the story? Proudly made in Italy, this top-of-the-range Gaggia comes in black glass or brushed stainless steel. It’s a large and luxurious machine with the emphasis on customisation. So you can fine-tune quantities, temperature, foam level, grind and pre-brewing. All mod cons include a cup-warmer and optional water filter.

The 5in touchscreen lets you select from 19 beverage types – far more than previous models – and these can all be tailored. Favourite settings can be saved in four user profiles that appear on the start screen. You can even set the foam level, and that foam can be made two ways: it comes with both a 600ml milk carafe and a steam wand.

Is it any good?

The Gaggia is both brilliant and disappointing. It’s very well-featured, but you can feel bewildered by choice. For each drink, five options appear on screen. And while the machine is powerful, it feels over-engineered – the way the front opens up for access to the innards is cool, but other machines do the same thing more simply.

A basic double espresso was nice, with good crema, but it took 1min 25secs and tasted no better than faster makers. Of course, all the variables can be adjusted, so you can at least dial back the pre-brewing to save a few seconds.

Sadly the milk carafe repeatedly failed us, giving steam but no foam. The design is clever (you fold an arm across over the cup) and self-cleaning, but ours just refused to behave. Thankfully there’s that second option, using the steam wand. This worked well, making a decent froth for cappuccino, and the purge cleaned it quickly afterwards.


De’Longhi Eletta Explore Review

Top 6 coffee machines

What’s the story?

This is De’Longhi’s first bean-to-cup machine that makes cold brew and cold coffees as well as the hot stuff. Scroll through icons on the 3.5in touchscreen for more than 50 drink types, each with three sizes. The water container slides out and must be removed for filling, but the brewing group is accessible for cleaning when the container is out.

It promises cold brew coffee fast – in under 5mins, in fact. After grinding beans and tamping them, it infuses the coffee with room-temperature water at very low pressure, extracting all the nuances for refreshing cold brew drinks on demand, best served with ice (the machine even comes with an ice cube tray).

You can use a steam wand or swap for a milk carafe, and it comes with two: one to make sweet and velvety microfoam for cold drinks, one to make hot and creamy microfoam for hot drinks. Both are OK with plant-based milks – but if you are using dairy, the cold carafe only works with skimmed milk. You can store the carafes in the fridge.

The Coffee Link app lets you manage the machine remotely, set extraction preferences and access more than 100 recipes. You can also set favourites in four user profiles.

Is it any good?

Setup is intuitive, with onscreen guidance and even a QR code to find the app. This downloaded fine but Wi-Fi pairing took us several attempts.

The screen is neat, with lots of options. A simple ‘coffee’ was long at 180ml, so a bit bland and with weak crema. But the 130ml americano was better and the 80ml double espresso, made in under a minute, tasted excellent. Cappuccino was tasty too. The machine pre-heated and then did everything straight into the cup.

Again the touchscreen guides you to make cold drinks. This involves more faff and a cold latte took 4mins in all, but it was gloriously refreshing and would cost a packet in a coffee shop.

The machine auto-cleans well after use; but if you’re fridging the milk carafes, you’ll need to clean them every couple of days.

Key specs

  • 19-bar pump pressure • 1.8L water
  • 300g beans • 450x385x260mm

STUFF SAYS Save on cold brew coffee and iced drinks, as well as speciality hot ones 5/5

Krups Intuition Preference+ Review

Top 6 coffee machines

What’s the story?

The name of this model says it all: controls on the 3.5in touchscreen are intuitive and it’s designed to let you tailor coffees and save personal preferences, so your morning cup of joe is perfect for you. There are 15 types, bespoke lengths and two user profiles.

In fact, you can micromanage its drink-making brilliantly. Set the ground coffee dose (6-9g) and grind level, choose from three water temperature levels, set milk quantity, then adjust length and strength. You can also prepare two drinks at once. But there’s no app – it’s all done on that screen. The cup height range is 85-135mm.

The Krups comes with a stylish milk carafe that can be stowed in the fridge when not in use. It’s plastic (but looks like glass) and dishwasher-safe. The tube and straw can also be used to take milk straight from a bottle or any other container.

Is it any good?

There’s no denying the looks of this one are classy: matt black with clean lines. It would suit a modern kitchen or even a small office – and the 3L water tank is huge, so it won’t need refilling too often. You can fill the tank in situ, but it has a good handle and fill-hole if you prefer to take it to the sink. It comes with an optional water filter.

On first use, the Krups takes 5mins to clean itself. Onscreen instructions always update you on what it’s doing or what you need to do. You can control every coffee-making variable on that display, and there are four buttons beside it: power, home (for a full menu of coffee options) and profiles 1 and 2. Each profile lets you type your name, set a personal backlight colour and pick seven favourite drinks, made your way. You can even give them keywords.

We saved a ‘morning espresso’ and could pick length from 40-70ml with one, two or three shots. A 60ml double espresso took 50 seconds, had a good crema and tasted very flavourful. More of a froth-fancier? Cappuccino tasted excellent as well.

Key specs

  • 15-bar pump pressure • 3L water
  • 250g beans • 400x360x240mm

STUFF SAYS This one lets you fine-tune every parameter for truly bespoke brews 4/5

Siemens EQ900 TQ907GB3 Review

Top 6 coffee machines

What’s the story?

Snappy name, huh? There are three EQ900 models, starting from £ so naturally we tested the range-topping TQ907GB3 with dual bean containers and a stainless steel finish. Its 0.7L milk container pops into the left side or can be kept in the fridge.

You can control all the variables for its 33 drinks on the large 7in touchscreen or via the Home Connect mobile app. That app even lets you add Alexa or Google Home voice control.

This would be a classy addition to any kitchen but its large capacities, immersive screen and intuitive controls mean it could also serve an office. There’s even a cup warmer on top that you can turn on or off. You’ll see a dozen beverages on screen but there are more in the app.

Is it any good?

The Siemens took a minute to boot up and its wide screen went ominously black at times. A QR code led us to app download and Wi-Fi pairing, but then the screen suggested a software update would take up to 15 minutes. Hal 9000 saying “I’m afraid I can’t make that coffee, Dave” sprang to mind, and we were soon pining for something less hi-tech.

The screen’s guided tour includes Comfort mode (making popular drinks at one touch) and Barista mode (letting you pick strength, length, temperature, milk ratio and more). Via the app there’s even a Playlist mode, but it’s not what you think: it lets you line up multiple drinks for visitors.

When it rinses itself, the video of water on the screen is impressive, but it almost feels like you should be watching TV or social media feeds as you wait for your brew. Double espresso (65ml as standard) took 52secs, long enough for a few headlines or memes. The crema was robust and flavour-rich enough to rival your favourite coffee shop; cappuccino took just under 1min 30secs, and looked and tasted beautiful.

You tell the machine when you want the milk system cleaning. It’s all done without manual help, and onscreen instructions walk you through how to use tablets for deep cleaning and decalc when needed.

Key specs

  • 19-bar pump pressure • 2.3L water
  • 2x 270g beans • 470x392x315mm

STUFF SAYS Dual bean hoppers and a lush screen give this one a semi-pro feel 4/5

Jura J8 Review

Top 6 coffee machines

What’s the story?

The fanciest machine in this test, the Swiss-made Jura lets you make speciality coffees at home. It even comes with a Sweet Foam function: you can adjust the sweetness, flavour and intensity of milk foam through a syrup attachment – a world first that lets you make sweet lattes like a pro.

It offers 31 beverages, selected on a 4.3in touchscreen. You can fine-tune the dose (5-16g), and choose from 10 coffee strengths and three brewing temperatures. Its Coffee Eye sensor detects the cup and whether it’s under the coffee or milk spout, firing out its drinks accordingly.

You can fill the water tank in situ or take it to the sink, and it comes with an optional water filter.

Is it any good?

Jura says the grinder features “sound design inspired by Formula 1 technology”. We didn’t find it quite that exciting, but the whirr is high-pitched and a bit classier than most. The looks are sleek too, and the glass milk carafe can be stored in the fridge when not in use.

The app is called JOE (Jura Operating Experience – see what they did there?) and it connects via Wi-Fi. First download the app, then use the QR code on screen to pair. Hmm., we tried this multiple times, with the QR and typing the password, all to no avail. Ah well, thankfully the J8 works fine without JOE.

A double espresso (90ml, though you can tailor it) took 1min 30secs and had good crema and flavour. Then we filled one of the two small containers with vanilla syrup and clipped it to the milk frother; the instructions for this weren’t all that clear but it worked fine. The vanilla latte was classy, no doubt about it, but for non-standard stuff we preferred the De’Longhi with its iced drinks.

The J8 offers one-touch auto cleaning, and it’s thorough, but sometimes fiddly: you’re expected to use a cleaning agent daily if making milky drinks. For simple cleaning, it rinsed the milk dispenser but not the tube in the carafe, so we cheated, put water in and then dispensed ‘hot milk’ to clean it.

Key specs

  • 15-bar pump pressure • 1.9L water
  • 280g beans • 446x348x318mm

STUFF SAYS If you’re all about coffees with sweet syrups, this machine is for you 4/5

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