1. Manual espresso machines
Pros: Best-tasting coffee; flexibility | Cons: Time-consuming; messy
If you want the flexibility to create anything from espresso to ristretto to cappuccino, a manual espresso machine similar to what you find in coffee shops is the best choice. The downside is that you'll need to learn to manually grind and tamp the coffee, steam your own milk to perfection, clean the machine and repeat the process for every cup, but the added control makes it possible to get the absolute best from every variety of coffee.
2. Bean-to-cup machines
Pros: Easy to use; great coffee | Cons: Expensive; daily cleaning is tedious
If manual espresso sounds like a too much work but you still crave the freedom of using coffee beans, a bean-to-cup machine is the right choice as it grinds and pours coffee automatically. Simply pop water and coffee beans in the machine, and you can get a shot of coffee at the press of a button – and without cleaning the machine between every single shot. Spend more and machines include integrated milk frothers that do the work of heating the milk to exactly the right temperature for you, providing a cappuccino or white coffee at the press of a button. The results are rarely quite as good as manual machines though, and prices start at around £400 for a quality machine.
3. Pod or capsule machines
Pros: Quick, consistent results; mess-free | Cons: Coffee pods are expensive
These cost more per coffee than the other types of machine here, but the benefit is simplicity – and you can pick up a basic machine for under £100. Each pod or capsule contains the perfect amount of coffee, so you simply buy the type with the strength and flavour you like best and pop it in the machine. For no-hassle, no-mess coffee that tastes consistently good every single time, they're really hard to beat. Some machines even add built-in milk frothing so you can get a latte or cappuccino at the touch of a button. The downside is that you can't pick and choose the best coffee beans, and the results don't taste as good as manual espresso or bean-to-cup machines.
4. Filter coffee machines
Pros: Cheap, quick, easy | Cons: Versatility
If you just want plain and simple coffee to fill a mug, or want to be able to make enough coffee for several people at once, a filter coffee machine is a great choice. These generally require you to use ground coffee (although a few do have integrated grinders), but they're a good bet for making simple, unfussy black coffee.