Best coffee machine 2021: our complete guide for your morning brew

The best coffee machines of 2021, with top machines for under £100 as well as premium options for serious caffeine lovers, featuring Sage, Melitta, illy, Breville and Lavazza
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  • If there’s one thing you need to start your day right, it’s the best coffee machine. Fortunately, we’ve been busy testing the top coffee machines on the market from Sage, Breville, Lavazza, Smeg, Melitta, Cuisinart and more top brands to give you our complete roundup. While they can be expensive, you’ll find some of the best coffee machines cost less than £100 and even under £50 with our reviews.

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    Behind some of the cheaper coffee machines you’ll find pod and ground coffee, which can cost more but will save you the effort of grinding your own beans. Of course, there are also some excellent machines with in-built bean grinders to make your brew as fresh as possible. Then there’s the option of milk frothers, which are important for those who love a latte or cappuccino. If you’re more of an americano lover then the milk options will be less important.

    Of course if you know the specific type you want you can also take a look at the best bean to cup coffee machines and best pod coffee machines for more top picks. For the best coffee machines in 2021, keep reading.

    How we selected the best coffee machines

    ao.com black friday coffee machine deals 4

    Image credit: David Giles

    The coffee machines featured in this guide have all been tested as you would use them at home. We’ve considered the type of coffee machine – pod coffee machine, bean-to-cup coffee machine, filter coffee machines and espresso coffee machines – to cater for the varying household demands. With this comes the job of deciphering usability, maintenance, the amount of space the machine takes up, upfront costs and running costs. It’s (not) been a hard job! We like coffee as much as you probably do, maybe even a shot more.

    Keep scrolling to see which of the best coffee machines in the UK made our shortlist. The handy pricing widget underneath the products will ALWAYS display the best price, too, so you don’t need to go elsewhere to track down a good deal either.

    Best coffee machine 2021

    1. Breville barista mini coffee machine

    The best coffee machine for every coffee imaginable

    Breville Mini Barista coffee machine

    Best for: all coffees
    Type of coffee: ground
    Pressure: 15 bar
    No. of cups: up to 2

    What we like: makes a lovely coffee, easy to set-up and maintain, compact so doesn’t take up too much space
    What we don’t like: no adjustable mug height, stainless steel easier marks

    This coffee machine will help you to hone in on those barista skills which you thought you never had. It is a little faff to set up each time you want a coffee BUT it the end result is so worth it. You’ll need to add fresh water to the 2 litre reservoir tank, heat your mug with the steam wand (if you desire), froth your milk in the jug, fill up the one or two shot espresso discs and hit the button. It’ll make an americano, latte, flat white, or cappuccino but you may have to perfect those swirls on the top with the milk jug and frother.

    A point worth mentioning is that try not to fill up the shots with coffee. There will be a resistance when you go to secure the handle, and will be tempted to force it. Don’t do this. Just tip some of the coffee grounds back into the bag.

    Cleaning and maintenance is easy but will need regular attention to keep it look in tip-top condition. The stainless steel shell will need a buff-up every other day, and the drop tray emptied as and when too.

    Ideal Home rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

    2. Cuisinart Veloce

    The best coffee machine for bean-to-cup functions

    Cuisinart Veloce coffee machine review

    Best for: lovers of frothy coffee
    Type of coffee: bean
    Pressure: 15 bar
    No. of cups: up to 2

    What we like: can make milky and long coffees automatically, simple digital instructions, cleaning is easy
    What we don’t like: you need to clean the milk frother after each use

    The Cuisinart Veloce packs in a lot of value for the price, which, admittedly, is one of the highest in our guide. The digital display shows a menu of numerous coffee options, from espresso shots to cappuccinos. You can adjust the size of your drink in millilitres, the proportion of milk to coffee and the level of froth you would like if you do opt for a milky coffee. The milk dispenser is also removable, so you can keep it in the fridge between uses.

    We enjoyed being able to save custom drink preferences, which made coffee rounds seriously straightforward. The machine runs a self-cleaning cycle after every drink, which only lasts a few seconds. After making a milky drink you need to add the tube to a glass of water, where it will clean itself out after each use. This is a bit of a faff if you drink a lot of latte, but we just kept a glass of water handy in preparation.

    Cleaning is made easy by the on-screen instructions which guide you through the whole process. The digital display may be less charming than some of the other best bean-to-cup coffee machines on the market, but it really does make life a whole lot easier.

    Ideal Home rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

    Read our full Cuisinart Veloce coffee machine review

    3. Illy Iperespresso Y3.3

    Best compact pod machine

    best coffee machine

    Best for: quality coffee
    Type of coffee: pod
    Pressure: n/a
    No. of cups: 1

    What we like: super compact design, high quality coffee, great range of colors
    What we don’t like: basic functions

    The illy Iperespresso Y3.3 comes courtesy of some serious espresso masters. We found that the pods with this machine yielded a rich brew, whether we opted for long americanos or short espressos. There is a fold-out shelf to brew espressos, and simply place your mug under the dispenser for anything taller. Of course, you do lose the option of making lattes or flat whites when you’re working with such a compact machine, but what it does it does very well.

    We’re partial to the blue, but there’s also a striking red or subtle white option, so matching the Iperespresso to your kitchen will not be a problem. Cleaning is easy too, thanks to automatic descaling, but we did note that the drip tray cannot be removed, which means it’s a little fiddly to clean on the regular.

    Compact kitchens will benefit from the Y3.3’s narrow dimensions. It’s only 10cm wide, which is seriously teeny, but the cord is one metre in length meaning it can be placed just about anywhere on your countertops.

    Ideal Home rating 4 out of 5 stars

    4. Smeg DCF02

    Best filter coffee machine

    Smeg filter coffee machine

    Best for: making a really good filter coffee
    Type of coffee: ground
    Pressure: n/a
    No. of cups: up to 10

    What we like: excellent filter, feels really sturdy, available in six (lovely) colours
    What we don’t like: bulky ‘small’ design, a little tricky to fill up the water tank

    We fell in love with this filter coffee machine from Smeg the moment we saw it. It’s a very neat, simple design which is available in a suite of colours so it can be bought to match your kitchen decor. On the subject of design, however, it is a little bulky and can take up a fair amount of space in a small kitchen. It’s also a little tricky to fill up the water tank but there are ways round that, such as pulling the coffee machine away from the wall and from underneath the wall units. Not ideal but it solves for the problem – for us it did, anyway.

    It uses filter coffee to make a quick and easy fresh brew for up to ten. If there’s less than ten of you then you can simply use less water, or just more coffee. A keep warm plate will unsurprisingly keep the coffee warm for you, too, but not for much longer than a couple of hours. Oh and another thing to note is to NOT turn off the machine at the plug after each use because all settings will be cleared. It’ll mean that you’ll need to run through the set-up process again, and no-one has time for that.

    Ideal Home rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

    5. Sage by Heston Blumenthal Barista Express

    Best bean to cup coffee machine

    Sage by Heston Blumenthal Barista Express

    Best for: home baristas
    Type of coffee: beans
    Pressure: 15 bar
    No. of cups: 10

    What we like: a fully customisable brew
    What we don’t like: it could be overwhelming for some

    We love that the Sage by Heston Blumenthal Barista Express coffee machine can grind your beans, brew them, and even steam the milk for lattes and cappuccinos. Everything from the grind coarseness to the volume can be adjusted manually for that shot of espresso, just how you like it, and the pressure gauge shows you the optimum levels to aim for when brewing.

    The Sage by Heston Blumenthal Barista Express isn’t a cheap option, but compared to some of the other options on the market it’s a good middle ground between value and quality. Cleaning it easy enough and needs to be done every month or so using the included insert for the portafilter and tablets. A word of warning though, be sure to empty the tray before it gets too full or it will get messy!

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

    6. Lavazza A Modo Mio Tiny

    Best pod coffee machine for small spaces

    Lavazza Tiny pod coffee machine

    Best for: space saving
    Type of coffee: pod
    Pressure: 15 bar
    No. of cups: 1

    What we like: easy to use, mega good value
    What we don’t like: limited to just Espresso and tiny cups

    Small kitchen? Short on space? This pod coffee machine from Lavazza will fit in nicely. It’s in the name – ‘Tiny’ – so won’t take up much space, yet will make a statement not only on how it looks but also because it’ll make a punchy coffee. The entire range of Lavazza A Modo Mio pods are compatible with the Lavazza Tiny which means that you can opt for a selection of espressos when ever you want them. The good thing here is that the pods are made with an innovative, compostable biopolymer, which means that they’ll naturally biodegrade.

    Keeping the machine clean is pretty straight forward. You’ll just need to run a cycle WITHOUT a pod inserted to flush out the system. It would also be worth just wiping it down with a damp cloth to remove any finger marks or coffee spills.

    Ideal Home rating 4 out of 5 stars

    7. Melitta Barista TS Smart coffee machine

    Best smart coffee machine

    MELITTA Caffeo Barista TS F85/0-101 Smart Bean to Cup Coffee Machine

    Best for: smart features
    Type of coffee: beans
    Pressure: 15 bar
    No. of cups: 10

    What we like: we LOVE the smart features, it makes a good coffee
    What we don’t like: a little hefty for small kitchens

    This coffee machine does it all. It’s a super smart choice in more ways than one; from the grinding of the beans to the frothing of the milk, which can all be controlled on your smartphone. Yep we know. Impressive stuff.

    Making an espressos or cappuccino is spot on, as you’d hope – but there are actually 21 coffee recipes you can create. The onboard milk frother is super easy to use and effective, too, plus it self-cleans, which is ALWAYS a win for us. And – if you’re into grinding your own coffee beans – then you’ll be happy to know that the integrated grinder is quiet when operating; that said, there’s the option, as with most models of this type, to use pre-ground coffee, too.

    Usability-wise, we’re overwhelmed (in a good way) by the smartness. You just need to download the app, which allows you to control the coffee machine from your smartphone. Your favourite coffee choices can be saved so you’ll always get the cup you want, and there are some useful tips on getting the best from your coffee machine, too. More on those coffee choices: this machine has the My Coffee Memory function which has the ability to save the coffee preferences of up to eight people, and four pre-programmed classic specialities: espresso, cafe creme, cappuccino and latte macchiato. It’ll even just give you hot water, too, should anyone dare to ask for tea instead.

    Ideal Home rating 5 out of 5 stars

    8. Morphy Richards Verve Pour Over Coffee Machine

    Best coffee machine for value

    MORPHY RICHARDS 163005 Verve Pour Over Filter Coffee Machine

    Best for: value
    Type of coffee: ground
    Pressure: n/a
    No. of cups: up to 12

    What we like: makes a good coffee, easy to set up, affordable
    What we don’t like: hot plate doesn’t stay on for long, clock is difficult to read in low light

    A filter coffee machine offers excellent value for money; the coffee grounds can be bought from the supermarket and the machine itself can be picked up for circa £50. And this coffee machine from Morphy Richards is no exception.

    We love how full-flavoured the coffee is. This is all down to the pour over shower head and cupcake filters which evenly disperses water over the coffee grounds to release all those lovely rich flavours and aromas. It’s also super easy to use with a coffee strength selector and programmable timer. This means that you’ll also have total control over exactly how you want your coffee. Have guests coming over post-lockdown? You can pop a brew on for 12 with this coffee machine. Anything less and you’ve over calculated how much coffee you’ll need then you’re going to have to drink-up (or pour it away) if you want a warm coffee because the hotplate won’t keep it long for much longer than 20 minutes.

    9. Nescafe Dolce Gusto Genio Plus

    Best coffee machine for cold brews

    nescafe dolce gusto pod coffee machine

    Best for: cold brews
    Type of coffee: pod
    Pressure: 15 bar
    No. of cups: 1

    What we like: easy to set up and use, suitable for use with cups and mugs
    What we don’t like: pods are NOT recyclable in household waste

    If you like to use a pod coffee machine, and like cold drinks then, this coffee machine from Nespresso ticks all the right boxes. It’s so versatile. As with many pod coffee machines you have access to a pantry-full of variety of drinks, too. During testing it was all these things which really impressed us, along with just how compact it is which was a relief for our reviewer who has very limited workspace.

    To prepare for its first use, just a couple of system rinse-throughs were required. And then to make a drink it was just a case of opting for a pod, filling the 0.8 litre water tank and selecting the correct setting. It’s worth looking at the instructions on the pod packets so you get the correct temperature settings and strength, as they all differ slightly. For example, if you’re expecting a milkshake but end up with a hot chocolate although it’s not exactly the end of the world but it may just be something which you simple do not fancy at that time.

    There’s not too much cleaning and maintenance required on this coffee machine, although you may want to wipe it down every other day or so. After a couple of heavy months you’ll noticed that the automatic descaling alert will light up on the hood. Some descaling solution will need to be bought for £5.80 (for 2 bottles) at Dolce Gusto and instructions will need to be followed, but that’s all there is to it. Just a couple of things to note about the pods, however: they are NOT recyclable with your household waste and just be careful handling them after making a hot drink because they can be very warm.

    Ideal Home rating 4 out of 5 stars

    10. Russell Hobbs Brew & Go 22630

    Best coffee machine for on-the-go

     Russell Hobbs 22630 Brew and Go Filter Coffee Machine and Mug

    Best for: travelling
    Type of coffee: ground
    Pressure: n/a
    No. of cups: one

    What we like: it has a programmable timer, comes with a travel mug
    What we don’t like: only suitable for single use

    If you still want to enjoy a fresh filter coffee as you’re going about your days outdoors then this option from Russell Hobbs is worth considering. Sure, there’s reusable coffee cups which can quickly make you a coffee using the instant coffee granules and then there’s your local coffee house BUT this way you can save some money, and have it just as you walk out the door.

    Things to note is that it features a handy 24-hour programmable timer so you can schedule when you want your coffee ready for you to pick up. And it comes with a travel mug which, by the way, is not insulated so getting a sleeve for it would make sense.

    11. Sage The Barista Pro SES878BSS coffee machine

    Best high-end bean to cup

    SAGE The Barista Pro SES878BSS Espresso Coffee Machine

    Best for: making a coffee from scratch
    Type of coffee: beans
    Pressure: 15 bar
    No. of cups: 10

    What we like: super quick to heat up, easy to use, impressive steam wand
    What we don’t like: if stainless steel is not for you

    As you can probably tell, we are BIG fans of coffee so we’re easily impressed when we find a machine which can grind, brew and make a delicious brew. This is a pretty expensive coffee machine – we give you that – but if you are a regular punter down at the local coffee house then you’ll soon earn your money back with one of these. You’ll also have coffee on tap which is a welcomed relief with all that working from home and home schooling the majority of us have been doing for the past year-or-so.

    The burr grinder will work its magic on coffee beans of your choice which can be adjusted, if needed. It’ll heat up in about three seconds so you won’t be waiting long for your next caffeine-fix. And that steam wand is simply FAB which will see you flex those evolving barista skills. Just one thing to note: the stainless steel version of this coffee machine will mark easily, although (technically) it’s brushed.

    How we test coffee machines

    It’s a tough job but someone has to do it, right? We like to get hands-on experience with as many products as we can before featuring in our buyer’s guide, and if we get to drink the rewards – even better! We understand that there’s A LOT of choice out there when finding the best coffee machine and, really, the only way to find out which one will be the most suitable for your lifestyle is to test one out for size. This is not always possible though, we get that, so luckily that’s where we can help…

    Whenever we hear of a new coffee machine or we want to find out more about an already popular option, we call them in. We go for testing the pod coffee machines, espresso coffee machines, filter coffee machines or bean to cup coffee machines for a number of weeks (or months) to get a better understanding about how they work. Sometimes we can even keep the coffee machine on review, meaning that we’ll continue to use it and update you as we go. All the important factors such as ease of use, cleaning and maintenance and cost to run are all considered. We even take into account other user reviews we see on retailer and brand websites so no stone is left unturned when reporting back to you.

    What is the best coffee machine?

    To recap, our favourite coffee machine for 2021 is the Breville barista mini coffee machine. It’s relatively inexpensive and gives you the opportunity to practice making all sorts of coffees. Our reviewer even made a few hot chocolates with the steam wand. The machine doesn’t take up too much space on the kitchen side, either, plus it’s easy to keep clean so long as you keep on top of it.

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