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Coffee Maker and Espresso Machine Buying Guide

Before you brew, take a look at our coffee maker buying guide to find the right coffee machine for you.
Coffee Maker Buying Guide
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Coffee Maker Buying Guide

Getting Started: Identifying Different Types of Coffee Machines

There are multiple types of coffee makers, cappuccino makers, and espresso machines available on the market that provide great tasting, quality coffee drinks. The style you choose will depend on your taste in beans, your preferred grind, how frequently you make coffee, how many people you need to serve, and how much your budget will allow.
Note: If you purchase and grind your own whole beans, read through our Coffee Grinder Buying Guide to make sure you have the proper grinder.

Types of Coffee Makers

Coffee Makers

A drip coffee maker is considered to be one of the most popular styles throughout the world. These coffee makers heat water that is ultimately transferred over coffee grounds resting in a filter. The coffee then drips through the filter and into a carafe. Drip coffee makers are generally:
Drip Coffee Makers
  • Reliable
  • Affordable
  • Efficient
  • Able to brew between 10 to 12 cups of coffee at a time


Stemming from the verb percolate, which means "to filter," percolators push boiling water through coffee grounds, using higher temperatures than other coffee makers. By continuously filtering and reheating the brew through the grounds, percolators extract oils to produce robust flavors. If you like your coffee hot, then the percolator is the perfect coffee machine for you. Percolators:
  • Make a very hot cup of coffee
  • Brew fairly quickly
  • Are generally electric or made for a stovetop

Single-Serve Brewers

The single-serve brewers are great for those who drink minimal amounts of coffee or simply want one cup of coffee at a time. Their smaller size is perfect for a quick and easy cleanup, and because they only brew one cup at a time, you'll have coffee in mere seconds.
Single-serve brewers are designed to work with a coffee pod or prepackaged cup. Hot water filters from the brewer through the pod, so you can brew coffee with the simple push of a button. Coffee pods or cups are designed to fit inside these particular machines, so you must buy these specific pods. Single-Serve Brewers are:
Single-Serve Brewers
  • Easy to use
  • Low maintenance
  • Perfect for offices or dorm rooms
  • Able to brew a wide variety of flavors

French Press Coffee Makers

The easiest of all brewing systems, the French press combines coarsely ground beans and fresh boiling water. A French press uses a plunger to press the filter down and separate the grounds from the actual coffee extract. This method retains essential oils in the brew for the purest flavor. So for all of the coffee aficionados who enjoy a robust flavor, the French press is a must. A French press:
French Press Coffee Makers
  • Is easy to use
  • Requires no electricity
  • Delivers great, quality coffee

Cold Brew Coffee Makers

Cold brew coffee makers extract flavor from ground beans, usually overnight or even up to 24 hours. Cold brew coffee makers:
Cold Brew Coffee Makers
  • Offer toned down acidity
  • Produce coffee that is generally less bitter
  • Allow coffee drinkers to enjoy a chilled beverage

Types of Espresso Makers

Manual Espresso Machines

Manual espresso machines are the most difficult to use, but they make excellent coffee. These were actually the first authentic espresso machines on the market and they are still used in many coffee shops. You have to fill a portafilter handle, tamp down the coffee, brush off any loose coffee grounds and lock the handle into the filter holder. After that, you pull the handle on top of the machine. It may sound simple, but if you pull the handle too fast or too slow the coffee won't taste good. If taken too fast your coffee will taste very acidic and if you pull the handle too slowly, usually the coffee will taste bitter. If your coffee grounds are too fine or too coarse, it will result in a weak-tasting brew. If you are the type of person that is not afraid of the challenge, you should consider this type of espresso machine. Manual espresso machines:
Manual Espresso Machines
  • Require ground beans
  • Are slightly complex to operate
  • Make great espresso when operated correctly


Semi-automatics are similar to the manual espresso machines. You fill the portafilter with ground coffee, but instead of using your arm power, the machine uses a pump to create the pressure. The pump is very consistent in its delivery, so your espresso should taste great every time. Most semi-automatics have a frothing feature on the side, so you can froth or steam your own milk for cappuccinos or lattes. These machines have a tank in the back to hold your water, but they do not store your coffee grounds. Semi-automatics:
  • Are very consistent
  • Often have frothing features
  • Hold your water in a reservoir
  • Require you to refill with grounds for each cup


Super-automatic espresso machines allow you to store coffee directly in the unit. They also freshly grind your beans upon each use. Just be sure to use dry beans. Oily beans will clog the grinder. Super-automatics will grind a pre-measured dose of espresso beans and extract a specific amount of coffee. The used coffee grounds are then placed into an internal bin. Super-automatics:
  • Tend to be big and take up lots of counter space
  • Are extremely consistent
  • Are designed for speed and convenience
  • Require little preparation
  • Are easy to operate quickly

Built-in Coffee Machines

Built-in coffee machines are similar to super-automatics except that they are built into a kitchen cabinet. Brewers use built-ins for espresso, regular coffee, frothed or steamed milk and instant hot water. Built-ins also grind your beans with each brew. When it comes to water, some built-in espresso machines come with the water tank that needs to be refilled, but others can connect to your water line. In this case, you don't ever have to refill the water tank. Built-Ins:
Built-In Coffee Systems & Machines
  • Offer a consistent brew
  • Allow you to make many types of drinks
  • Connect to your plumbing for easy, quick use



When it comes to capacity, it all boils down to how much coffee you need.
  • How big is your family?
  • Do you prefer a single-serve coffee maker that offers variety with each brew?
  • How much effort do you want to spend making coffee?
When thinking about capacity, it's also important to consider variety and the type of coffee you enjoy.

Power Options

Many coffee makers and espresso machines offer handy power options, such as auto shut-offs and timers.
  • Auto Shut-off - Consider a machine with an auto shut-off feature if you tend to forget to turn off your appliances. There are also machines available that stay hot from one to three hours, which is great to have when hosting a party.
  • Programmable Settings - Certain coffee makers allow you to schedule your brew. A timer will ensure that your coffee will be hot and fresh exactly when you need it to be.

Built-In Grinders

If you enjoy freshly ground beans, you need a built-in grinder. Built-in grinders make your drink taste fresher. However, if you choose a model without a built-in grinder, you can always buy one separately.
Angled View of Coffee Maker

Appearance and Finishes

Some machines offer a compartment that stores the cord on the inside to keep your counter looking neat. To add a modern style, consider a coffee maker or espresso maker in a chrome or stainless-steel finish. You can also go for a bold red color to brighten up your kitchen counter. No matter your taste, most brands have several finish and color options.

Water Filtration

Remember that the quality of the water is just as important as the quality of the coffee. Purchase a coffee maker or espresso machine with a water filter and it will remove chlorine, strange odors and other bad tastes.


Certain models can now tell you when it is time to clean your coffee maker. Some even have self-cleaning cycles that remove calcification from the carafe. Keeping your coffee maker clean will extend its life.


Coffee makers and espresso machines have displays to keep you informed of any needed maintenance. For example, it can tell you when the water tank is empty, when you need to empty the grounds bin, when to clean and decalcify the machine, etc. Don't leave anything to chance. Grab a model with a display to know exactly what your coffee maker needs.

Steamers and Frothers

If you enjoy steamed milk in your coffee or a frothy cappuccino, you need a steamer or frother. Most espresso makers have these built-in, but many brands offer separate standing frothers as well.
All super-automatics have a frothing feature for cappuccinos or lattes. Some super-automatics have an automatic frothing feature, which lets you mix coffee and milk at the same time with the push of a button.


Each coffee maker and espresso machine brand offers different warranty options, typically all including at least a minimum one year warranty. Additionally, some high-end models will offer a two- or three-year limited warranty that covers defects as well.


No matter your tastes, there's a coffee maker out there for you. After you determine your specific coffee needs, you'll be able to make an informed decision. Visit Abt to make your coffee dreams come true!