Cappuccino Machines Buying Guide
A delicious creamy cappuccino can be a quintessential element during a person’s morning. This Italian beverage was introduced to the world in the late 1930s and has become a household name in every café around the world.
The high-end coffee shop boom in the 1990s and the growth of Starbucks helped cappuccino become ever popular in North America. Before that, it was a common feature among cafés & even households in Europe & Australia.
Cappuccino machines are versatile machines as they can make most drinks one would find in a bar, therefore a useful item to have on your kitchen counter.
The key to obtaining a great taste lies in the machine’s ability to produce quality espresso or crema.
Some folks prefer hot milk and foamed milk added to their coffees and machines can help heat milk.
There are many great coffee & cappuccino machine brands out there today. As the demand for better beverages rises, the product quality is also bound to improve.
Different brands use different methods to achieve their desired end product which is the best tasting cappuccino; period.
Making cappuccino is an art and during our testing and selection process, we evaluated which machines help facilitate the creation of this beverage.
In order to provide you with an accurate review of each product, we took into consideration some important criteria.
To make sure to include only the best cappuccino machines on the market today, we used the following evaluation criteria.
Performance – This is related to the taste produced, the power drawn & the features involved.
Build Quality – Quality of the parts and durability.
Ease of Use – The ability to perform core functions and use the machine without too much fuss.
Everyday care – Make sure it is easy to care for and maintain in time the machine.
Practicality in a lot of ways is everything especially during mornings when you don’t have the time to play around and you need to get to your workplace in a timely manner. A good machine ticks off all of the above criteria and more. Now let’s delve into each section.
The performance aspect of any cappuccino machine is the most important criteria according to us.
This represents the core functionality of what you are after and has several elements to it. First up, is the taste. The ability of the machine to extract every ounce of flavor and essence from the grind or pods is vital.
As we mentioned earlier, different brands adopt different methods and in earlier years steam driven machines dominated the market with steam being used to extract the espresso needed for the cappuccino by force.
Over time, this has proved to be quite ineffective when compared to the pump driven machines.
The pump driven machines include the semi-automatic and automatic variants and these are the type of machines you will find on our list. This is primarily down to the fact that they can quickly and easily reach the required brewing temperature of 190 to 196 Fahrenheits. Some folks prefer it as high as 200 and pump based machines do tend to cater to that.
Italian pod based machines tend to have a slightly lower temperature due to different preferences; lower temperatures are ideal when making a delicious cappuccino.
During our tests, we also considered which machines have the highest brewing pressure. Our ideal cappuccino machine should be able to exert at least 15 atm or bars of pressure. A lower number usually indicates that there is an undesirable change in flavor.
We also tested the ability of the machine to produce espresso cream or froth the milk, not just once but over an extended period of time. A few machines on our list also have the ability to mix and match and even produce two cups of cappuccinos at the same time which is a sought after trait.
Normally, performance is determined by the quality of parts. Aesthetically, machines tend to vary & this is primarily reflected by the price of the machine. A stainless steel or premium finish is much desired as it can enrich the appearance of any counter top.
Heat resistance & temperature maintenance is important which is why we need the machine to be made of good material. The machine can get extremely hot considering the temperatures reached are about 200 degrees Fahrenheits. A high-quality machine will insulate the heat very well so that you are not in any discomfort during the cappuccino making process.
There are many parts to an espresso machine; the porta filter, the water tank, the milk container, etc. Some machines do offer accessories like a steamer cup, tampers & more and these are great additions.
The tamper quality for instance is very important to help you get an even layer of coffee. Any variances and the extraction process loses its efficiency. The inclusion of a grinder is awesome to have. If you are not into espresso pods and grinding beans yourself, then you can save a lot of space on the counter.
A coffee machine with a grinder can eliminate the need for a separate device altogether. Having said that, the quality of the grinder is also important as the beans have to be ground fine but not ultra-fine. That’s why the Jura Giga 5 which we touched on earlier is special. It includes a lot of these positive elements and so much more.
The variety among these features is massive when considering things. We have weighed up this kind of factors & more to identify machines with strong build characteristics.
Ease of Use
This has a direct correlation with the build quality as the design needs to be customer friendly. Fully automated & semi-automated systems need to have less interaction time than a steam based system for instance. The ease of use has also to do with the removability of parts. The gist includes:
- Positioning & accessibility of parts
- Types of input allowed
Having removable milk containers & water tanks can be handy especially when preserving the excess milk and during refilling.
Ease of installation is another thing to consider. All machines on the list provide detailed instructions on how to setup and operate your cappuccino machine. Some even provide setup videos which are very valuable and expedite the process of assembling one.
In regard to the automation process, the ability to program your machine to your exact specification was taken into consideration. Having many preprogrammed drink options is great and this pertains to the DeLonghi & Breville.
We also value the customization on hand in machines like the Giga 5. This enables one to learn the art of making a cappuccion and fine tune it to their taste and preferences.
When it comes to coffee beans, we have taken into consideration even the types of pods or beans the machine requires you to use. Nespresso pods can be easy to find but can cost you a more than just regular coffee beans. If machines are not restricted to a brand of the pod or a brand of bean and allow customization, then this is an ideal choice machine.
The ease of use ties in well with everyday care. A cappuccino machine is not something you use every day but is to be cleaned at least once in a month or so. Most machines require cleaning almost every day at least on the drip tray. Some machines are much smarter and help enormously with the incorporated cleaning functions.
The ease in removing parts is just one aspect involved in everyday care. You don’t want to deal with a machine where you have to remove a few pins or pieces to reach the water tank. We selected machines that have frequently used components in very accessible locations. A machine that can tell you when to clean and also clean a vast majority of components in an automated manner is a top choice.
The drip tray is something that requires attention after every use. Similarly, for automated machines, the base of the filters and the feeding tubes need to be kept clean without any dried coffee sediments.
To extend the life & efficiency of the products on this list, one must be able to maintain it. By maintenance, we also mean the ability of the manufacturer to provide spares, compatibility of the spares and clear instructions for service especially after the warranty expires.
Q: What other things can a cappuccino machine make?
Other than cappuccinos, most machines make great espresso as a double shot of espresso is the heart & soul of the cappuccino itself. Lattes, regular coffee & iced beverages are othertypes of beverages that you can make. For pod based machines, you can make just about anything as long as you find the flavor you want.
Q: What are the necessary accessories for a cappuccino maker?
This depends on the level of automation but assuming you opt for a simplistic model, a tamper, portafilter, single & double shot filters, a milk pitcher, a cleaning brush or other equipment and a knock box. These are the essentials at least.
Absolutely. Most machines on the market allow you to just get hot water for your everyday use. Some highly automated ones might not have this feature due to the functioning of various integrated processes.
Q: What milk is best for cappuccinos and does it all work with the machines?
Skimmed and whole milk are ideal choices for getting the best froth. Milk that has 1 or 2% of fat are next in line. Some folks like soy milk which does have protein essential for creating froth but the froth does not hold up for very long. In rare cases, some machines do not recommend soy milk, but most do.
Q: How can I get the best-frothed milk?
A key point to note is that using cold and fresh milk will give you good froth. Typically milk lasts for about 12-15 days. Colder milk taken right out of the fridge is well suited for the process. The proteins in the milk are what facilitates the creation of the bubbles and froth so if you do decide to use organic or lactose-free options the process will not work as the protein content is depleted. To avoid the formation of bacteria try not to utilize already steamed milk.
Q: What do automatic machines do exactly?
The super automatic machines like the Jura will determine how many beans are required, grind them and then extract the shots needed for the cappuccino directly into your cup. The milk is also frothed by the machine to give you a sumptuous cappuccino. It’s important to note that even some fully automated machines leave the frothing process to the individual by providing a steam wand.
Q: How long does it typically take to extract 2 to 3 ounces of the double shot required for the cappuccinos?
Typically the sweet spot is between 25 & 30 seconds.
Q: Why am I unable to get an even flavor despite an excellent frothing?
Frothing requires the use of cold milk but also the bubbles play a big role in getting the perfect creamy product. Stop the frothing mid-way if the bubbles are too big and stir a bit so that they become small. The temperature of the end product after frothing should be about 60 degrees C.
These scenarios almost always boil down to debris being present in the water lines or the valve. This can be cleaned easily though.
Q: What is the best way to clean the valve?
In cases where the valve is clogged, you simply clear any debris or leftovers with a toothpick. Additionally, if you like your machine to be squeaky clean at all times, you can use a white vinegar which is great for cleaning just about any kitchen appliance. Run the vinegar through the machine followed by water, and it should free up your valve for regular use.
Q: What is the common cause of leaks in these machines?
When your cappuccino machine starts to leak or drip water, it usually points a gasket coming loose at some point. In these scenarios, you have to contact the company to obtain a replacement gasket. In rare cases, build quality issues resulting in misalignment of parts can also cause leaks.
Q: The list includes a wide range of price points for different devices, what will be a good fit for me?
The quality of the machines require determine what you must opt for. An easy way to go about it is if you prefer the perfect cup of cappuccino in different sizes at least once or twice a day; if yes, then opt for the higher end models like the Jura. If you are just starting out or are an occasional drinker but still see the value in an investment, then opt for an entry level option like the Ninja or Mr. Coffee. If you have passed the beginner stage and are looking for some level of automation, then the DeLonghi or the Breville will be worth the investment.