Just because you want to own a home coffee or espresso machine, doesn’t necessarily mean you want to become a home barista.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting the coffee shop drink, without having to master all the ins and outs of home brewing. That’s where bean to cup machines make their grand entrance.
So what does that really mean?
Bean to cup machines are designed for optimal ease of use. Everything is done at the push of a button, no grinding, tamping, frothing or any real involvement on your part. These types of machines generally utilize two independent methods of making coffee:
Regardless of which coffee preparation you prefer, if you want consistently rich-tasting coffee, you will first need to start with quality ingredients – coffee beans and water. After that? It’s time to select the right machine.
I’ll start by outlining a few guidelines for beans and water, followed by my top picks for bean to cup coffee and then espresso machines. If you aren’t interested in the beans and water discussion, feel free to skip on ahead!
Harvested coffee beans harvested are stored in open weave sacks as solid olive green colored beans. At this stage, beans are remarkably stable, with years of shelf life in suitable storage conditions. However, as soon as the coffee beans are roasted, their shelf life reduces considerably to a matter of weeks, depending on how they are stored.
Preferably, roasted beans should always be stored in cool, dry conditions in light-proof containers. Some coffee companies distribute their roasted beans in foil packages with one way valves so you can expel any destructive gas build up. At home, you can go as far as keeping the roasted beans in their fridge or freezer; but I’m always a bit leery of doing this. Freezing temps aren’t good for beans either. I have found eliminating as much air from the bags my beans are stored in and keeping them away from hot appliances works best. I also buy smaller bags more frequently to prevent beans from going stale.
I suggest experimenting to see what suits you and your preferred beans the best, according to your personal environment. As a general rule, purchase smaller amounts of roasted beans on a regular basis from a reputable local roaster when possible. Once roasted and prior to brewing, beans are crushed in a grinder. At this point, their oils begin to oxidize and deteriorate immediately, producing bitter and unpleasant flavors within minutes, not hours. This means, grinding beans to order for any fresh coffee is an absolute must if you want the best possible taste.
This is where ‘Bean to Coffee’ machines are awesome additions to any busy household or office. They grind the beans only as you need them and the resulting coffee is always fresh and full of flavor, without bitterness.
Water is the other key ingredient for great coffee. If it is not good enough to drink directly, it will not be good enough for your coffee, despite being heated.
Quality water should be relatively tasteless, but manufacturers also don’t recommend using de-
mineralized water produced from reverse osmosis, or ultra-filtered, because the machines generally don’t have sensors to cope with such de-natured water. However, machine filters DO help reduce the amount of calcium in “hard water,” which causes calk build-up that eventually reduces machine function.
First up, we will review ‘bean to cup’ coffee makers using the direct filter system, which can accommodate brewing up to 12 cups at one time, perfect for large groups who want ready to pour coffee or individuals who enjoy a simple cup of black coffee. And we’ll start off with my favorite Cuisinart DGB-625BC Grind-and-Brew 12-Cup Automatic Coffeemaker
The Cuisinart coffee maker falls under the first category of bean to cup coffee, rather than espresso, makers. This machine, as well as the two that follow, offer a drip-style experience, which will produce a basic black coffee that can be dressed up with milk and sugar, as needed.
This model is a slim and compact coffee machine with a clean-lined exterior. It offers maximum convenience to the user, with a full range of programmability, including a daily start timer so you can literally wake up to freshly brewed coffee, hot and ready for drinking.
This machine comes with an integrated grinder that ensures the freshest possible coffee by grinding to order. It also offers a convenient “Grind Off” option if you already have a favorite ground coffee on hand that you prefer to use. I find this to be really helpful because some grocery stores stock a really limited range of whole nea coffees.
The Cusinart also offers water filtration to ensure you start with the best raw materials for your cup of coffee. This will be more important to some users than for others, depending on your local water quality, but it is a feature I like to look for when separating the great machines from the just so-so options.
I also want to highlight the pause function this machine offers, which basically allows you to pour a single cup instead of waiting for the whole 12 cups to finish brewing.
The glass 12 cup carafe (5 oz cups) is nicely designed for ergonomic use and features a handle that remains cool to touch and a drip-free pouring spout. You can also elect to brew smaller amounts of coffee, with the 1-4 cup settings, in case you need a more individualized quantity.
This machine also has a stellar 4 out of 5 star rating on Amazon with over 2,300 reviewers.
That’s a crazy number of reviews and a really great rating.
This sleek Black and Decker coffee maker with an integrated grinder is a great option for quick and easy coffee making.
This machine comes with the ability to regulate the brew strength, as well as programmable timer settings so you can have coffee brewing automatically whenever you need it most.
The brew pause button is a great feature I also highlighted on the cuisinart for allowing you to pour a single cup before the whole brew is finished.
The grinder has an eco-friendly integrated filter that removes the need for disposable and wasteful old school paper filters. It is easily washed by hand or in the top shelf of your dishwasher. I love this feature because it’s always such a pain to remember to buy filters at the store when you’re out.
The 12 cup carafe is made from Duralife strengthened glass and will also withstand top shelf dishwashing.
The clear view window allows you to see how much water remains in the easily topped up reservoir. Automatic shutoff ensures peace of mind should you get busy and forget to shut off before leaving for work.
The B+D received a very respectable 3.5/4 star rating where it is a serious steal for its price, which is about half of what it is available for in stores.
Breville’s Grind Control machine has taken bean to cup coffee making a step further by not only integrating grinding of the roasted beans immediately before brewing, but also offering 6 grind settings, to give you complete control over the size of the grinds and adjust the actual amount for each brew.
I love this feature, which is reminiscent of the features of some of their espresso machines, because it allows you the option to adjust each cup exactly to your taste and preferred bean.
The grinder is a conical burr style, which is the very best option available. If you have a favorite pre-ground bean, the Breville also has a setting for that in case you wish to bypass their grinding system for max flexibility.
This machine also gives you the option to choose to brew any number of cups between one and 12 servings. With a 7 1⁄2” space between the filter to the drip tray there is no problem fitting a tall travel mug directly under the dispenser. A common complaint with other bean to cup machines is that there isn’t enough clearance or even the option for brewing directly into taller cups and I love that Breville took this seriously.
An easily read LCD screen provides constant feedback regarding water level, coffee strength selection via grind size and volume of gridns per cup and brewing time. Other selected settings include time for auto-start, and pre-brew temperature so the machine is ready before you are.
The Breville also received a solid 3.5/4 star rating.
For serious coffee lovers who prefer Italian-style coffees from espresso shots – like ristretti, cappuccinos, lattes, and americanos, these are the machines for you. This system relies on built-in pressurized extraction systems to produce individual shots of espresso.
This Italian De’Longhi machine has a fully programmable menu using simple push buttons and rotary dials that make adjusting variables and brew preferences super easy. Every change is literally at your fingertips from grind coarseness to coffee strength preference to cup size.
The top-quality, fully-adjustable and integrated conical burr grinder makes for quiet operation that will help you ease into your day.
Like every true barista, this machine only grinds immediately before the extraction to keep the beans’ oils in peak, fresh condition. For a smoother, milder taste and best machine operation, De’Longhi recommend medium roast beans that show less oil on the beans rather than heavily roasted beans that can gum up super-auto machines like this one.
If you’re a latte or capp lover, this machine handles the heating and aeration for frothing all on its own with a unique patented “Cappuccino System”. It is literally as easy as placing the special milk container under the machine nozzle and the Magnifica does the rest. No technique required.
Another feature worth highlighting is the ‘Rapid Cappuccino System’ which maintains constant temperature so you can instantly brew another cup right after the first. No more waiting for the machine to heat up after each use and reach optimum temperatures.
Other noteworthy features include a cup warmer and a removable drip tray.
This machine is well-loved on amazon with an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars and almost 700 user reviews.
The Gaggia super automatic machine will basically be your daily espresso butler.
It starts by ensuring excellent water quality by incorporating a Mavea four-stage water filter that removes impurities as well as problematic scale build up from excess calcium.
The Brera also incorporates a pre-infusion feature to rapidly heat up to optimum temps prior to extraction, which means maximum aroma extraction and flavor in every cup.
I also really like that this machine is eco friendly, requiring low energy operation and has an integrated stand-by mode that kicks in after one hour.
Not having to worry about forgetting to turn the machine off is really helpful, especially as you rush out the door for work. The Brera is also smart enough to remind you when it needs maintenance and cleaning so maintenance is pretty much no-hassle.
The Brera also has a frothing wand for cappuccinos and lattes.
The review rating on Amazon is a solid 4 out of 5 stars.
Gaggia’s Accademia is the top of the line “bean to cup” espresso system from Gaggia. It features a sleek and distinctive Italian design with stainless steel fittings and some of the best construction techniques available.
If aesthetics are important to you, in my opinion, this is one of the best looking super-automatic machines available. I’m really impressed by the clean lines, arrangement of selection options and positioning of the frothing system and milk carafe.
It also has a bright, easy to operate display panel with ridiculously simple one-touch push button controls that deliver perfectly made coffee of your choice. There are 7 options available to choose from – “espresso, caffe, caffe lungo, cappuccino, latte, latte macchiato and hot water”.
The hot water dispenser is also great and makes it possible to have an Americano or even enjoy a quick cup of tea.
I also really like the streamlined milk carafe that is easily detachable and can be kept topped up in the fridge until needed, so the milk is always fresh and doesn’t need to be poured into a pitcher every time you want to enjoy a latte or cappuccino.
After operation, the machine self-purges to ensure the whole system is kept clean before the next coffee. This does require more water than some other comparable machines, which is caught in the easily emptied drip trays, but any barista would do the same with a manual machine.
The Accademia also has a ceramic bean grinder (the very best available), with grind coarseness settings so you can customize for the type of coffee you are using.
Amazon loves this machine with an average user rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
Choosing the best ‘bean to cup’ machine really starts with first deciding whether you prefer a filtered coffee or an espresso system. All of the above machines were chosen for this list due to their top marks in durability, quality of the brew they produce and of course, the ease of use.
Any of these contenders will provide an easy, straight-forward brewing experience at home.
Chatting about coffee is my passion! Leave me a question in the comments, I answer each and every one and would love to get to know you better.
I am a die-hard espresso fan. I love every form of the drink from straight espresso shots to lattes and cappuccinos. I currently use a Breville BES870XL Barista, it is an awesome machine. BUT, my dream machine is definitely an Italian Quickmill Andreja. Those bad boys make badass espresso. I love answering your questions, leave a comment or question below!