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The ultimate guide to
coffee making

Enjoying a rich cappuccino is one of life’s little treats, and it’s no longer restricted to coffee shops – the availability of compact and affordable machines mean you can indulge at home every day. If you’re looking to recreate that perfect cup of coffee, but really don’t know where to start, we’ll help you make sense of the technical stuff as we spill the beans on coffee machines.

Did you know that coffee grows on trees?

The coffee plant has clusters of fragrant white flowers that ripen into bright red fruit (sometimes referred to as a coffee cherry), and these usually contain two seeds – what we know as coffee beans.

The two most common coffee species are mild and aromatic Arabica, which roughly accounts for ¾ of the world’s coffee production, and Robusta, a stronger, more bitter-tasting bean with much higher caffeine content. Each season, the average coffee tree bears enough fruit to make about half a kilo of roasted coffee, and the fruits ripen at different times, so it’s usually picked by hand.


The beans are separated from the fruit by a washing process, or by letting them dry in the sun. After this, they’re usually bagged, graded and sent to the roasters. Still in their raw, green state (in which they’ll stay fresh for a long time), the coffee beans are roasted at about 250°C, making the beans expand and double in size, and changing their colour, smell and density.

The roasting creates the oils which give coffee its characteristic flavour and aromatic properties. After this, the beans are set to fulfil their destiny, making the ground coffee for the drinks we all love so much!

Know your coffees

Not sure of the difference between a cappuccino and a latte? Don’t know your macchiato from your mocha? Read on – coffee shop menus will be a mystery no longer!

Espresso
Espresso
Short, strong, intense and black – plain and simple.
Espresso doppio
Espresso doppio
A double shot of espresso.
Espresso con panna
Espresso con panna
Espresso topped with whipped cream.
Ristretto
Ristretto
Literally ‘restricted’. A shorter extraction makes a smaller, thicker, intense espresso.
Macchiato
Macchiato
Espresso with just a dash of steamed milk.
Café au lait
Café au lait
Similar to a latte, but made with strong coffee rather than espresso for a less intense flavour. About half coffee, half milk.
Cappuccino
Cappuccino
Equal parts espresso, steamed, frothed milk, sprinkled with chocolate.
Americano
Americano
Espresso diluted with extra hot water after brewing.
Mocha
Mocha
Espresso with hot chocolate and steamed, frothed milk.
Frappe
Frappe
Like a coffee milkshake – coffee, sugar and a little water are mixed, poured over ice and topped up with milk.
Lungo
Lungo
A longer extraction – the same amount of ground coffee as espresso with twice as much water.
Latte
Latte
A third espresso with two thirds steamed, hot milk.

The machines

Gone are the complicated, ‘need a degree to work it’ machines of old – many of the models nowadays require you to just add water and press a button to create the perfect crema-topped coffee. Here we guide you through the various types on the market.

Cafetières

For black coffee

Not really a machine, but if you’re new to proper coffee, or only make it occasionally, this is a great place to start. Also known as a French press, mix hot water and ground coffee, leave to brew, and as you push down the plunger, a wire filter separates the ground coffee from the water.

Cafetière

Grind & Brew/ Bean to Cup

For black coffee and espresso

If complete convenience and optimum freshness is your goal, these are the machines for you. A premium option for those in pursuit of the ultimate home coffee experience, they grind whole beans on demand, then brew your drink while the fragrant oils are at their finest, automatically dispensing and tamping the correct amount of grinds.

Bean to cup

Espresso machine with milk frother

For espresso, cappuccino, macchiato and latte

Rich, intense espresso is the starting point for cappuccino and latte, and these larger machines have an option to make longer drinks, usually with a built-in milk steamer/frother, or an additional machine to warm and froth the milk.

Espresso machine with milk frother

Capsule/pod machine

For espresso and lungo

Quick, clean and easy to use, coffee is sealed into a capsule or pod for longer-lasting freshness – just drop it into the machine and press go – high bar pressure pierces the capsule to extract the coffee. A time-saving, convenient option, there are no messy grounds to clean up – Nespresso machines, for example, are absolutely foolproof.

Capsule/pod machine

Pump machine

For espresso

Working with a Thermoblock system, water is heated to around 85-92°C, the correct temperature for brewing coffee without scalding, and a high-pressure bar pump forces water through the coffee to draw out the full character and rich aroma one cup at a time.

Pump machine

Filter machine

For black coffee

Water drips through a filter filled with ground coffee, into a pot or carafe below. Some models have hotplates to keep your coffee or cups warm, and filters that are permanent and just need to be rinsed, or paper, which you simply throw away after use. Some newer models take filter pods – a bit like a teabag – these are clean in use as the ground coffee is neatly contained. Good for large quantities of coffee.

Filter machine
Cuisinart Grind & Brew Automatic
Cuisinart Grind & Brew Automatic
Now improved with a glass carafe and hotplate in the base to keep your coffee hotter for even longer, the Cuisinart G…
£99.99

Pressure machine

For espresso, cappuccino and latte

Water is boiled in a chamber, and when pressure and steam are built up, it forces the water through the coffee. The steam is also used for frothing milk.

Pressure machine

Percolators

For black coffee and espresso

Available in traditional stove-top models or convenient electric versions, ground coffee is held in one part, with the required amount of water in the other. As water is heated, it is repeatedly forced up through the ground coffee, and then filtered coffee drips into the base. This brewing process is slower than with a coffee machine, but the rich aromas make it worth the wait.

Percolator
Stovetop Coffee Percolator
Stovetop Coffee Percolator
The retro good looks of our polished stainless steel, kettle-style percolator with soft-touch handle come straight out of a 1950s diner
£31.99
Lagostina Stove Top Espresso Maker
Lagostina Stove Top Espresso Maker
Stove top espresso pot. Suitable for gas, electric, solid plate, ceramic and halogen hobs.
£25.99
4 stars out of 5 based on 4 reviews.