With our favourite coffee shops now being nothing more than a bittersweet memory, lockdown has turned us into a nation of reluctant baristas. Coffee-making paraphernalia is flying off the (virtual) shelves as more and more of us strive for a DIY fix of a decent flat white.
And with everything from grinders to brewing methods or even a worktop machine to choose from, coffee-making for the uninitiated can be a headache. Enter: the bean-to-cup machine.
This incredible piece of kit makes all those coffee shop creations possible at the touch of a button with little-to-no work from you – just pour in the beans and fill up the water tank. And the best bit? It will sit happily on your worktop with no need for fiddly integrated plumbing.
Starting at a few hundred pounds and going upwards of a couple of thousand, it’s fair to say that any bean-to-cup machine represents an investment.
But with no need for costly and wasteful pods, and considering the savings made on take-out lattes for the foreseeable, not to mention takeaway cups, your investment will soon start to pay for itself; just be sure to make the right choice for your needs.
Think about who will be using the machine. If it’s just you, a smaller – and less expensive – machine might suffice, whereas a household of coffee fans may be able to justify a bigger outlay on a multi-profile machine that can serve several cups at a time of memorised favourites.
Milky coffee drinkers should look at the various types of integration: some machines use standalone milk containers that can be connected to the machine or placed in the fridge, some have complicated but brilliant in-built compartments, and some have a barista-style steamer nozzle. If you don’t take milk then things are much simpler and we’d direct you to a straight espresso model.
Modern machines also increasingly have wifi compatibility, meaning you can summon your favourite latte, cappuccino or espresso from bed and it will be waiting for you downstairs – though this functionality does come at a cost.
We’ve tested a host of machines over the course of an extremely caffeinated fortnight, trying different coffee permutations, milks and beans as we went. We are completely sold on the bean to cup as a category thanks to the convenience and ability to show off the flavour and aroma of coffee beans in a way other coffee-making methods may not.
Every machine featured here is worthy of a place on your worktop, so think carefully about your space, coffee preferences, budget and tech requirements before making your choice. You’ll never look back.
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Siemens fully automatic coffee machine EQ.9 plus connect
This machine is the business and if you’re serious about your coffee, or if you’ve tried other machines before and are now ready to take the next step up in terms of kit and budget, then this is what you should be looking at. It’s the largest and heaviest of all the machines we tested and looks imposing on the worktop but doesn’t actually require huge amounts of space; just check your dimensions.
It comes assembled and is one of the most user-friendly we tried for getting started. You’re required to tell it about your water hardness – Siemens provides test strips so this is simple – and to fit the milk compartment yourself but otherwise everything is simple.
The manual for this machine is detailed but useful; we found it interesting that it instructs you to run a few espresso cycles before the crema will be at a satisfactory level. We did so and the difference between cup one and cup five was quite remarkable, with cup five being a true coffee experience.
The coffee this machine produces is equal to some of our favourite barista-made stuff. We loved the fact you can load up two types of beans, that every step of the coffee is editable and the machine intuitively remembers what you tend to prefer – right down to which beans for which type of coffee.
There are nice touches like a cup warmer, on-screen prompts for everything (cleaning etc) and it’s just so easy to operate. The wifi is confusing to set up – a feeling echoed in user reviews – but once it’s done it’s good. The app also opens up a world of coffee, allowing you to find examples from around the world and enjoy at home. A brilliantly professional home machine – if you can stump up the cash.
Buy now £1499.99, John Lewis & Partners
Krups arabica digital EA817040 bean-to-cup coffee machine
This machine required almost no set-up and was ready to go immediately. It’s one of the simpler machines we tried and doesn’t have an in-built option for milk, but in many ways we preferred the fact it uses a nozzle for manual steaming and frothing milk; it made us feel like real baristas and allows you to control the temperature and frothing. Plus, there’s no fiddly extra cleaning of milky tubing or containers.
We found the machine very self-explanatory to use and liked how easy it is to adjust to your favourite strength and temperature, which the machine is then able to remember via the memory function (we found this made the weakest coffee so you might like to amp up the strength and adjust to a finer grind).
It’s quiet, keeps the water hot for a while so no need to wait around for it to heat, and it fits under our relatively low kitchen counters the best of all the machines. Easy to clean with an auto-clean function and looks great without taking up too much space.
Buy now £499.00, Currys
Jura ENA 8 bean-to-cup coffee machine
This Swiss-made machine looks beautiful and comes in black, white, brushed silver or a bright glossy red. But it’s not just a pretty face: this machine prepares some serious coffee.
Setting up seems complicated – it requires you to measure your water hardness as a start – but really the machine talks you through it all. Its Bluetooth compatible and makes 1o fresh coffee varieties, all with programmable preferences for temperature, strength and length.
The integrated milk is housed in a removable tank that looks like a glass carafe and is easy to clean, and it produces a seriously impressive foam of perfectly creamy, super-fine bubbles for barista-level latte drinks – all before automatically rinsing itself. The coffee itself is deeply impressive too; they say their grinder has been developed to produce extra-fine grounds for maximum aroma and taste, and after becoming slightly addicted to the Jura macchiato we’d agree. It’s very quiet too.
Buy now £975.00, John Lewis & Partners
Melitta purista series 300 fully automatic limited edition coffee machine
Gratifyingly, this swanky-looking limited edition Melitta comes already set up: all you need to do is rinse the water container, fill and add your beans. It’s coffee-only, so no messing about with milk here, leaving you to focus on making great coffee – and it does.
Melitta has been a go-to coffee expert brand for more than 100 years and this state-of-the-art machine utilises all its expertise, from considering how your water hardness affects the coffee to how the pump is designed to flow more slowly (and quietly) through the ground coffee, to achieve a better extraction and therefore a better flavour.
The grinder is extremely quiet, so good for early mornings in shared households, coffee preferences of strength and length can be saved and it can prepare two identical cups simultaneously for convenience. The service function means cleaning and descaling are simply at the touch of a button. Only 2,016 of these black and gold beauties have been made, so grab one quick if you’re keen.
Buy now £355.00, Currys PC World
Cuisinart veloce coffee machine
This compact Cuisinart offers a good value option for those looking for a machine with integrated milk functions to make fuss-free cappuccino and lattes. The machine itself looks complicated to set up: it isn’t. The milk container is separate (so no need to attach if you drink it black) and attaches easily via a tube.
The container can be placed in the fridge, or there’s a removable ice pack that will keep milk cool for daily use in the machine. We got to grips with it all in minutes and were soon serving up delicious coffees from the pre-set menu options – and by selecting our own ratios of strength, length, temperature and milk proportions from the touch-screen display, it will remember up to four drinks for you.
The coffees were rich and fragrant, the milk perfectly velvety (plant milk results vary of course) and there’s an option to use pre-ground coffee should you prefer (useful for the odd decaf without emptying your usual beans). Cleaning otherwise is simple, with the machine running cleaning cycles every time it is switched on and after any milky drinks. Deeper cleans are occasional and the screen will talk you through the process using pictures.
Space-wise, this model fitted well under our low cupboards, but any lower may mean filling the hopper with beans could be awkward. A good family-friendly option without breaking the bank.
Buy now £600.00, Cuisinart
De’Longhi dinamica plus
De’Longhi has a number of bean-to-cup machines to choose from; we liked this model, which is slim and sleek and encompasses much of the technology of pricier machines. There is an optional integrated milk system that is easy to attach and allows you to keep the milk container in the fridge should you wish. Setting up the whole machine couldn’t be simpler; we had it up and running in minutes and the picture-led touch screen is child’s play.
Coffee profiles can be easily adjusted, and the machine remembers your last saved preferences and has various profiles. We found the grinding on this machine to be so effective and fine that each coffee was bursting with aroma, flavour and strength – we even had to dial it down a tad. We loved the fact that this machine will make a large pot of coffee, and the milk foam produced was noticeably creamier than some others.
Cleaning-wise, the milk is taken care of with automatic flushing and any manual cleaning is self-explanatory. There’s a handy Coffee Link app, and there’s a lot of help online should you need talking through any of the finer details. A hardworking, quiet and effective machine that makes deliciously fresh and tasty coffee.
Buy now £700.00, De’Longhi
DeLonghi Prima Donna Soul
The Prima Donna Soul bean to cup machine is brand new from espresso experts DeLonghi and very much deserves a place on this list. It’s easy to set up, coming fully assembled and only requiring you to add in the milk tank, should you wish. And why wouldn’t you, when it boasts their new LatteCrema system – an automatic milk frothing jug that gives perfect foam density, creaminess and temperature – that is also self-cleaning, making this coffee machine a very tempting proposition. They’ve also stepped up the tech when it comes to the beans: the machine automatically adjusts grind size and brew length for different beans in order to best bring out their character and aroma best. Start by simply selecting your choice of beverage from the 19 pre-sets (including ‘mug to go’, coffee pot, ‘over ice’) on the touch screen that even the biggest technophobe can navigate. The result is really, really good, fresh, strong coffee that captures the flavour of the coffee and delivers a top-quality crema – better even than the brilliant Miele crema. As a bonus, it is Bluetooth equipped, so you can access all sorts of barista-worthy extras and control your machine from your bed. The downsides of this machine are that it is very large – deep, wide and tall – and not the quietest that we tested. The upsides: a lot of tech and really fabulous fuss-free coffee for half the price of similarly equipped models.
Buy now £1199.99, John Lewis
Beko CEG5311X bean to cup coffee machine stainless steel
This stainless steel bargain of a machine from Beko is one of our new favourites. It is small – well, narrow – sleek, and sturdier than other budget-friendly bean-to-cups giving a good quality, robust feel. Set up is sorted, so all you need to do is fill the tank and away you go. Choose from mild or strong espresso and add water as you wish. The hot water tap also doubles as a milk steamer, which is moderately powerful and will do the trick for a latte or two. The machine is quiet and quick to grind, and the brewing method gives a good, rich coffee that makes a very decent espresso. If you like your coffee super strong, this won’t be the machine for you though. Other handy points: the spout is height adjustable, you can set the machine to remember how much water you like, and the self-cleaning function makes maintenance a doddle. A great value basic bean to cup.
Buy now £279.00, AO
Sage the Barista Pro SES878
Having worked in a coffee shop ourselves, we were thrilled to find this Sage number lives up to its barista tagline: it is essentially a smaller version of the real coffee shop deal. It comes completely set up – a huge bonus – so all you need to do is fit the water filter in the tank, fill the hopper with beans and away you go. Grind your beans according to your preference into the filter-basket, press the coffee down using the tamper and insert into the group head (all much easier than it sounds). Select the size and temperature of your espresso shot(s), which is also programmable and let the machine do its thing. Add hot water from the machine according to your requirements, or manually steam and froth milk using the steam attachment. This machine provided the most authentic coffee shop cappuccino we’ve come across and we loved it for it; but if you’re looking for an automatic coffee machine this is not it.
Buy now £699.99, John Lewis
Miele CM7750 Coffee Select Countertop
Everything we’ve every tried from Miele has been a pleasure and this bean to cup machine is no different. An absolute breeze to set up – all you’re required to do is add the milk container, if that’s your thing, and fill the water and bean containers. The display talks you through any set up (really just setting the water hardness and saving any preferences you’d like) and you’re ready to go. We were impressed with both the quietness of the grinding and the automatic spout height functionality which senses the height of your cup – a nice touch. With three different bean containers allowing you to select your favourite roast for different drinks and the ability to save multiple drinks within several profiles, this is a great piece of kit. As each of the bean containers need to be filled for the machine to work, this is best suited for a household of multiple coffee drinkers – otherwise that all-important coffee bean aroma risks being lost. The milk is stored in a removable stainless steel container connected by a pipe and has an automatic rinsing programme; the rest of the machine has is simple to clean with removable sections for emptying and various foolproof cleaning and descaling programmes. This machine also has wifi connect technology for integration into a smart home network. A word of warning: it is huge and needs a lot of space for ventilation so do check your measurements.
Buy now £2199.00, Miele
What to know before you buy a bean-to-cup coffee machine
What is a bean-to-cup coffee machine?
It grinds whole coffee beans on demand to produce a range of espresso-based drinks at the touch of a button. Grinding on demand allows the maximum flavour, aroma and freshness of the bean to be preserved, resulting in a superior cup of coffee that showcases the crema of the coffee – the natural “creamy” textured layer – sometimes lost in pod-based coffee machines or in manual brewing. Some of the more advanced bean-to-cup machines allow you to save your personal coffee preferences and can even be controlled via apps or your own home tech networks.
How do they work?
Most bean-to-cup machines feature an in-built hopper and burr to grind whole coffee beans finely (though the grind is generally adjustable), which hot water is then pumped through at pressure to deliver a freshly brewed shot of espresso. Some machines also have milk components inbuilt or as an add on, which may heat, steam and froth milk automatically for cappuccino, latte, macchiato or other drinks, while others require you to prepare any milk yourself.
What features to look for?
Consider how many of your household will use the machine; is it worth paying extra for multi-cup functionality, or multi-profile coffee memory, for example. Consider space – some machines require a certain amount of breathing room so may not be suitable for small kitchens or underneath low cupboards. What type of coffee do you tend to drink? If you’ll be consuming a few milky coffees a day then make sure the machine you’re considering has a milk storage solution you are happy with and that the cleaning required seems doable. If you rarely drink coffee with milk, you may find it makes financial sense to stick to a pure coffee machine.
Are bean-to-cup coffee machines easy to clean?
âYes and no. Each machine is different so do research using online videos and tutorials for any you have your eye on. Pure coffee machines are very easy to clean, requiring you to manually clear the coffee grinds from a removable panel, empty the drip tray and usually run a descaling or cleaning programme when prompted. Machines comprising milk pipes, tanks and steamers mean some more manual cleaning is required and more often, though some machines do have automatic programmes for this too.
How should you store beans to keep them fresh?
Coffee beans lose their freshness quickly. Buy them in appropriate quantities and keep them in an airtight container to preserve maximum aroma. Add the least amount of beans required to your machine before each use to prevent oils evaporating and to allow you the full enjoyment of the beans.
The verdict: Bean-to-cup coffee machines
If you can afford it, and you have the space, get the Siemens machine which produces the most professional and delicious coffee while still being automatic and is incredibly easy to use. If space – and the bank manager – isn’t on your side but you’d still like a cappuccino at the push of a button then we’d plump for the Cuisinart or the fab DeLonghi Prima Donna Soul which make good in-between choices. If you don’t mind the manual element, we’d plump for the Sage Barista Pro time and time again. Alternatively, the Beko model is ridiculously good value, particularly if you’re not always a milky coffee drinker.