Committing to a coffee machine is a big deal. Choose well and you'll have a happy partnership that (literally) fills your cup every day. Choose poorly and you'll be left with a bitter taste in your mouth.
But before you change your relationship status, it's important to identify what you do and don't want. We'll talk you through the different coffee machines you're likely to find on your path to true love, and how to decide which is your perfect match.
Once you've figured out what you're looking for, you can find the best coffee machine in our reviews by filtering by brand, style, price, and more, to eliminate the deal breakers and red flags and find the machine of your dreams.
How to decide which coffee-making style suits you best
What are you looking for in a new (coffee) partner? Do you tend to fall hard and fast, or are you happy to take things a little slower and develop a deeper connection?
If you're all about convenience, a pod or automatic machine is your perfect match. If you're all about taste and don't mind investing time in the relationship, you'll fall for a manual or semi-automatic machine.
What's your coffee love language?
- Acts of convenience: You want coffee, quickly – pod machine
- Quality time: You'll put in the work to make good coffee – semi-automatic machine
- Nerds of caffeination: You geek out over all things coffee – manual machine
- Physical touch: You want cafe-quality coffee at the press of a button – automatic machine
CHOICE perfect match: Coffee edition
These four coffee-loving CHOICErs have found their perfect match in a coffee machine. We explain the pros and cons of each type of machine to help you find your perfect match.
Zara: Admin assistant who lives in a four-person household
As office administrator at CHOICE, Zara needs to be ready to go first thing in the morning, with as little fuss as possible. She drinks her coffee black and likes to mix things up with a flavoured coffee or two occasionally.
So why does Zara prefer a pod machine? For a busy household with multiple coffee-drinkers vying for the machine, simple and straightforward is the way to go. A pod or capsule machine ticks the boxes in terms of speed, ease of use and clean-up time.
What Zara says about her perfect match:
"I'm in a long-term relationship with an Aldi pod machine and it's a cracker. I probably wouldn't bother with a frother because for a home coffee they taste great. There's not much I don't love about it, honestly!"
CHOICE coffee machine expert Adrian Lini talks us through the pros and cons of coffee pod machines vs manual coffee machines to help you choose which you should buy.
Bea: Ex-barista who's particular about her coffee
Senior policy and campaigns advisor Bea developed a love of coffee while working as a barista during her studies. While she has now hung up her apron for good, she still appreciates a good brew but can't justify the skyrocketing costs of cafe coffees. She knows her way around a commercial coffee machine but also wants to keep things relatively simple at home.
Why? If you're confident handling a coffee machine and know a thing or two about coffee, you'll most likely prefer a machine that gives you control over the process – it means you can make your coffee exactly the way you like it and you're likely to get a better-tasting coffee than on an automatic or pod machine.
What Bea says about her perfect match:
"My partner bought me a Breville Barista Express as a gift, and initially I was a bit snobby about home machines because I didn't think you could get the same quality of coffee.
"But now I actually prefer my home coffees because I can adjust the temperature, strength, and so on and make iced or hot coffees. It's very customisable and so much cheaper than cafe coffee at the moment.
"I'd say we spend about $12 a week on milk and coffee beans for a minimum of 10 coffees.
"Honestly, there's nothing I don't love about it, other than the fact that you have to change the filter, but I'd say that's pretty standard and I'm just forgetful."
Kate: Busy working parent
Working five days a week while parenting two primary school-aged children, CHOICE consumer data advocate Kate keeps many balls in the air, especially when her husband is away for work and she's flying solo. So caffeine is important – but so is time. Kate needs a strong coffee in the mornings, stat, but she wants it to taste good too.
Why? If you're short on time but taste is important, a pod machine just isn't going to cut it and a manual machine takes too long. Enter the automatic machine. It combines the appealing aspects of both types of machines: coffee at the press of a button, but made with freshly-ground beans of your choice.
What Kate says about her perfect match:
"I have a Jura S8 that I use at least once a day – more on weekends or when we have guests. I love that I can get coffee quickly while half asleep first thing in the morning, and I love that it has custom settings for my favourite coffees. I've taught my kids to use it and they made me coffee every day when I was in Covid isolation, so it's really easy to use.
"The only thing is that it feels like it constantly needs some kind of maintenance – it's always beeping and flashing warnings about cleaning, filters or water change. And the branded products for maintenance are quite pricey.
"I've got a pod machine I use for travel and I'd say the convenience is similar but the Jura gives much better-tasting coffee!"
Adrian: Coffee geek extraordinaire
A test officer in the CHOICE small appliances lab, Adrian literally knows coffee machines inside out: it's his job to put all the espresso machines CHOICE tests through their paces. Along the way he's developed a love for all things coffee and likes to nerd out over each step of the espresso-making process.
Why? If you're serious about coffee, you'll want as much control over your machine as possible – that way you can ensure every single variable is fine-tuned to make the best coffee. A manual machine is a must-have for coffee purists, but it isn't for the faint-hearted, as you're in charge of everything that happens, which means there's no-one to blame but yourself if you churn out a terrible brew.
What Adrian says about his perfect match:
"What I love most is the taste. It's up there with what I get at my favourite cafes and I sometimes even get worse coffees from a cafe compared to at home. It's fun making different drinks and trying different recipes, and testing out different beans. It's also nice to support local roasters and cafes by buying beans from them.
"It can sometimes be annoying, especially with a manual hand grinder to have to grind the beans right after waking up. And if you're not careful it creates a mess – it's pretty much a given you'll need to wipe coffee grounds and water off the bench after using it.
"Learning to use the machine can take time and be frustrating as you feel like you're wasting coffee, but once you learn how to make a good espresso it really becomes second nature. Overall it's more work but you get a much better coffee out of it."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.