With the growth of coffee chains on the high street, many of us now have a better appreciation of what a good cup of coffee really is.
It is the time of year that we do more entertaining at home so what better than to serve guests a fantastic coffee when they visit.
Coffee machines also make great gifts – but what do you need to know?
Most coffee makers can be classed in 4 main groups of machine.
Filter coffee makers
Pod system machines
Espresso pump machines
Bean to cup machines
A simple way of making large volumes of coffee. They are available in different cup volumes and are very easy to use. Hot water drips slowly through ground coffee infusing a pot or jug. The machine boils the water and the jugs are often insulated to keep the coffee warm and there is usually a hot plate also to keep the drink at the correct temperature.
Further options are permanent filter or paper holders. Paper holding machines can be more convenient as you discard the paper filter at the end of its use. Permanent holders need thorough cleaning but can offer a more cost effective option.
Paper filters are widely available form most supermarkets.
Programmable filter coffee machines are also available including a timer feature.
Pod System and Espresso Pump Machines
Work on the same principal of boiling water and steam in a chamber. The water is then forced through the coffee, with the steam being used to heat or froth milk.
The base coffee made in each case is known as espresso and is rich and more concentrated than filter coffee. Espresso can be drunk as an espresso coffee or milk can be added in various forms to create cappuccino and latté.
Pod system machines – such as Nespresso or Starbucks Verismo use pods which contain blended, roasted, ground, coffee, hermetically sealed in capsules that stay fresh for up to 9 months. Pods can be bought by mail order, online or from selected store. This is an easy way to make coffee and offers a consistent taste each time.
For cappuccino and latte, a milk frother or heater is required. Manual devices are available, however some pod machines offer a milk frother either as an integral part of the machine or as an accessory
Espresso pump machines are usually a little more expensive than pod machines.
Pump machines have a separate tank and a boiler that is thermostatically controlled and should feature a “Thermoblock” system which regulates the water temperature.
Ground coffee is placed in the coffee holder and pressed or tamped down. It is important that the coffee is ground for use in espresso machines and that the coffee is compressed to allow the water to be forced through the coffee creating the ideal flavour.
Most espresso machines also take selected pods to use instead of loose coffee, and many come with space to warm cups on the top of the machine making use of the heat produced.
The water pressure and temperature is all important – an espresso pump machine should create water pressure of no less than 11 bar up to 19 bar. Water temperature needs to be between 85 and 92 degrees. Thermoblock systems help control this.
Once in the cup check out the “crema.” This is the pure coffee extract you find on the top of the espresso. It should smell rich and remind you of the smell you get at the counter of a good coffee bar. The most intense part of the espresso is the top couple of centimetres, a little like the head on a glass of beer.
Once in your cup you can decide how to drink your coffee.
Espresso – just how it comes out of the machine – maybe with a little sugar
Cappuccino: 1/3 espresso, 1/3 hot milk, 1/3 frothed milk
Latte: with added hot milk. Normally ratio is 1:6 espresso to
Macchiato: espresso with a little touch of milk
Americano: hot water with a dash of espresso.
For cappuccino or latte, you can use the steam head on the espresso machine to heat and froth the milk.
Take a steel jug (this helps transfer the heat) and fill half way up. Any milk can be used whatever the fat content, as it is the protein in the milk that creates the froth not the fat.
Place the steam wand in the milk and turn on the steam. This will heat the milk. If you require froth keep the wand in the milk a little longer moving it up to the surface of the milk – but keep the wand in the milk or this will blow the milk out of the jug.
Tap the jug on a hard surface to remove bubbles and pour the milk into your glass, cup or mug. For a frothy cappuccino the froth can be spooned out.
Gives you fresh coffee at the touch of a button.
These are a fully automatic machine and as such are toward the top end of the price scale.
Coffee beans are added to the hopper and the coffee is then ground. Milk and water are added to the tanks in the machine.
Once you select an option from one of the many settings on the machine your drink is dispensed.
A simple and clean way to get the coffee of your choice.
There are many choices and products on the market to help you achieve the perfect coffee at home. Aldiss now sell a range of coffee machines and are happy to talk you through them at their Fakenham and Norwich stores.