Expert bean to cup reviews…
Do you want incredible coffee made from freshly ground beans at home, but don’t want the hassle of having to grind your own beans either manually or in a separate coffee grinder? Then you need a bean to cup coffee machine my friend. Here we pick out 5 of the best machines on the market right now in our opinion and tell you the pros and cons of each.
The best bean to cup coffee machines – quick summary
You can read our full reviews of each machine below, but here is our quick summary table:
|Brand||Product Name||Approx. Price||Learn More|
|De’Longhi||Magnifica ESAM4200||£289||Check price »|
|Krups||EA817840||£469||Check price »|
|De’Longhi||ECAM44.660.B Eletta||£499.03||Check price »|
|Krups||Evidence EA893D40||£699||Check price »|
|Melitta||Melitta Aroma FreshGrind||£117||Check price »|
What is a bean to cup coffee machine?
The name pretty much says it all. With a bean-to-cup machine, you choose your own whole roast beans, add them to a hopper within the machine and the machine does the rest – grinding the beans, tamping them, heating the water to the right temperature and pouring into the cup. More expensive machines will include an automatic milk frother, whereas some of the cheaper models will just provide a wand, requiring you to heat and froth the milk manually.
Bean to cup machines give you access to the huge variety of coffee beans and can undoubtedly make consistently great quality coffee but the main advantage of bean to cup machines is the convenience. If quality is your biggest priority ahead of convenience then you may be better off purchasing a standard espresso machine which is a lot more manual and requires a fair bit of learning and practice, but arguably produces better quality coffee.
If you want some more detail on the features we looked for here, you can find these beneath the article – otherwise let’s get right into it. Here are five of our favourite bean to cup coffee machines from all price ranges.
Plenty of features and great tasting coffee at around the £250 mark. Perhaps not the most user friendly – particularly the operating instructions – but at this price it’s hard to find fault with this machine.
The reason we have selected this De’Longhi machine as our overall pick is that it includes all of the features that you’d look for at a very reasonable price. Checking in at around the £250 mark the Magnifica includes a built-in burr grinder, built in stainless steel milk frothing arm, a warm plate to pre-heat your cup and most importantly delivered a great tasting coffee with a fantastic crema.
On the negative side, we found that the machine wasn’t particularly straightforward to use and we’d definitely recommend reading the manual before diving in with twisting knobs and pressing buttons. The instructions aren’t particularly clear and took a bit of head-scratching and re-reading to fully understand, but after a bit of time and some trial and error we were able to make perfect coffee every time. Another note is that if you are using the built-in steamer to froth your milk then you will need to give the unit time to cool down before making another cup. This wasn’t a problem for us but we could see that this could be a minor annoyance for some.
We now take a little step up in price. At around the £450 mark this Krups EA817840 (catchy name!) is nearly double the price of a couple of the cheaper units we reviewed, but it is a quality bit of kit and many will feel totally justified shelling out a bit more. Firstly a few things we love. The bean hopper and the water tank are both fairly large meaning you can make up to 10 coffees before refilling. Despite that fact, this unit is really nice and compact. It also comes in a choice of three colours – black, silver and carbon – with the carbon in particular looking pretty snazzy, although I imagine it could be a bit too decorative for some. And unlike the two models previously discussed, the Krups is very intuitive and simple to use with clear instructions.
It was a little bit noisy in operation and at the end of the day, the coffee, while tasting great, didn’t taste any better than the coffee produced by the models already discussed. So is it worth the extra cash? If you like the look and the extra features described then yes quite possibly.
Milk frother could be better as it doesn’t get particularly hot – but made up for by plenty of really useful features such as the programmable drink memory function and automatic rinse and descale programmes. Quality unit but not cheap.
Another step up in price now to the £500 mark. For this sort of money you’d be expecting high quality and great features and the Eletta doesn’t disappoint. One of our favourite features was the drink memory function. Simply experiment to find out how you like your coffee and then save the coffee and milk proportions to the memory and voila – consistent coffee perfection every time. All of this information is shown on the built-in LCD display which is bright and easy to read and navigate. Another really nice feature is the automatic cleaning and descaling programmes. These flush water through the machine to keep it in tip-top condition and makes what could be a bit of a chore a relatively straightforward task. The unit also features a detachable milk carafe meaning you can fill it once and then just detach and keep in the fridge if you don’t use all of the milk. A simple thing, but very handy and a really nice touch.
On the downside, the milk frother was a little disappointing as it only heats the milk to a maximum 55 degrees Celsius – which won’t be hot enough for many people – and at the relatively high price any small issues such as this will be off-putting for some.
(Update – since publishing the price of this unit has come down to approximately £699). Now we get into the Premier League of bean to cup coffee machines. This Krups evidence will set you back nearly £1,000 – although you can get it around £50 cheaper if you choose the black model as opposed to the metal unit shown (having said that, there is a chrome version that is £50 more expensive!). That’s a fair chunk of money but for your dosh you get a compact and elegant machine busting with features. These include 15 ‘one touch’ drinks for really simple operation, and each of these drinks is fully customisable via the OLED display. You can fit two latte cups under the dispenser at once to save time and if you love getting your geek on, it even comes with a Bluetooth connected app where you can store your favourite drinks and even brew up remotely so you can make a hot coffee before you get out of bed. Personally, I can’t see this feature being that useful, but each to their own.
For me, this is all a bit overkill and one of the cheaper models on this page will suffice just as well when it comes to making great coffee – but there’s no denying that it is a great machine. It’s just very expensive. Check out our full review of the Krups Evidence here
There was a time when ‘bean to cup’ was a term reserved only for hefty magic boxes to churn out 1001 different coffees.
With drip-filter making a comeback retro-units like these are back in demand, but now with the added bean hopper and burr grinder to help meet the demands of single origin quaffing drinkers. Drip grind and brews like this come in a little cheaper than the espresso bean to cups, which require expensive pumps. Drip is cheaper as because, now at least, gravity is free. This Melitta piece comes in at a very good price and does everything you need and more.
One drawback is the grind setting, which is fairly limited – allowing you only the option of three different coarseness settings. However, the medium and coarse ones work especially well for this kind of coffee. The units greatest strength is undoubtedly its programmability. A timer function lets you kick things off while you are still in bed so you can wake up to freshly brewed coffee each morning.
It can take a little while to get going – so programmability really is its strongest hand.
You will probably be able to find a space for it thanks to its modest dimensions (30.2 x 31.2 x 51.5cm). Its inoffensive black and chrome finish will meanwhile fit in anywhere although admittedly this piece is not easy enough on the eye to be a kitchen centrepiece.
Features to look for in a bean to cup machine?
If this is your first bean-to-cup coffee machine then you’ll need to know what features to look out for:
Water tank capacity
Simply put, how much water can the machine hold in its reservoir. If you pick a model with a small water tank capacity and drink a lot of coffee, then you may find that you are forever filling the tank which could get quite tedious quite quickly.
Bean hopper capacity
As with the water tank, how many beans can the machine hold? A large bean hopper will prevent you from having to top up the hopper over and over again.
A particular bugbear of mine is having cluttered work surfaces in my kitchen. Too many or too large appliances cut down on work surface space meaning meal preparation can be a royal pain. If you have a large kitchen then size probably won’t make a great deal of difference to you, but if your space is a bit more limited then you may want to look out for a more compact model. Be warned, that as a general rule of thumb, compact machines tend to be a little more expensive.
Some bean to cup machines have automatic drinks settings and buttons, usually programmable, meaning you can make your drink exactly how you like it every time. These features may be absent from some of the cheaper machines so you may need to spend a little more if you want these features.
Milk steamer and frother
The majority of bean to cup machines will include an integrated milk steamer and frother, but some of the cheaper models will provide a separate wand frother. Possibly not an issue for some, but it’s a bit more work and if you are going to be making lots of cappuccinos or lattes then you will certainly be better off getting a model with a frother built-in.