Five mistakes you could be making with your coffee machine

If your morning espresso isn’t quite up to snuff, one of these simple steps will help make your coffee even better.

Coffee machine sales skyrocketed last year as many of us stayed home during the pandemic and swapped our usual caffeine for a cup of homemade coffee. Retailer Currys PC World even reported that a coffee machine was sold out every minute in August last summer.

But, nearly a year later and three lockdowns later, if you’re struggling to get perfect espresso from your machine, the answer could be as simple as re-reading the included instructions.

Many of us, in the excitement of testing a new machine, read the manufacturer’s recommendations, missing the finer details that can help take a morning brew from bland to barista-quality.

We’ve rounded up some easy-to-miss tips from the instruction manuals of the coffee machines we’ve recently tested, to help you improve your coffee-making skills.


Head to our coffee machine buying guide and make sure you get the best coffee machine for your home.


1. Use a cold mug

Espresso temperature is a hot topic. If you’re the type of person who grabs a cold cup and puts your espresso in it as fast as you can, then hold the heat. To improve your daily brew and prevent it from cooling down too quickly, heat up your cup of coffee first.

Some coffee machines have a specially designed cup warmer, but this feature is not essential. Use the hot water created when you prime your machine, ready for the first use of the day, to heat up your cup of coffee before brewing your espresso. Or simply warm it up with hot tap water. Not only will this help improve the temperature, but it can also help improve the taste.

Tap water

2. Use tap water…

…without checking the instructions first. Although using tap water is perfectly fine in most cases, the instructions with the Krups Proof One let’s say the quality of your tap water will affect the taste, as limescale and chlorine can alter the taste of an espresso.

As boring as it may sound, a quick check of the instructions will also reveal whether or not you should use a water filter with your machine, for the best quality espresso.

the Swan retro coffee machine the instructions go so far as to advise using bottled water if your water supply is likely to create limescale.

And some bean makers have a water hardness setting, so if yours has one, make sure it’s set. To help beat problems caused by limescale buildup, regularly descale your coffee machine.


Our coffee machine reviews will tell you if descaling is a particularly time-consuming process, or if it’s quick and easy to do. So there is no excuse.


filling the filter holder with ground coffee

3. Use any old ground coffee

The fineness of the coffee grind you use can affect the flavor strength and crema of your espresso. Espresso machines generally required a finer grind of coffee than a cafetiu00e8re or filter coffee machine.

the Breville Barista Mini VCF125 The instructions state that too coarse a grind can lead to under-extraction, leading to acidic or watery espresso, while too fine a grind can lead to bitter, gritty coffee.

Avoid using ground coffee that has been old or has been open for a while, as this can also affect the quality and taste of your coffee.

Coffee beans

4. Use any old beans

Krups and Siemens warn against using oily or caramelized coffee beans in a bean to cup machine, as these can potentially damage both the grinder and your machine. Too greasy beans can also get stuck in the bean container.

Some machines warn against using green or unroasted beans, so if you prefer to use something a little different from the more common coffee beans, it may be best to use a dedicated coffee grinder which can be easier to clean.


Need a good coffee grinder? Discover it best coffee grinders of 2021and get expert advice on how to keep ground coffee fresh.


5. Not cleaning your machine’s steam pipe or milk system

A steam pipe or milk system is used to create wonderfully creamy cappuccinos or warming lattes, but be sure to spend a little extra time cleaning them after use. Most coffee machines advise cleaning and purging the milk pipe or system each time you use them, to avoid a milky residue or buildup.

If left, a buildup of sludge will affect the quality of milk froth for subsequent drinks. Some machines have an automatic cleaning program that will do this for you, while others only have a button to press to run steam or hot water through the hose.

At the very least, make sure you have a clean cloth handy to quickly wipe down the hose of your machine and run some steam through it.


Find out everything you need to know about clean your coffee machineto keep it in top condition and working longer.


Our latest coffee machine reviews

Ready to make the perfect coffee? We’ve selected three of our latest coffee machine reviews, giving you an overview of each machine.

But will these sleek kitchen gadgets make the best brew, or will you end up with a tasteless espresso or flat cappuccino?

The links below will take you to our full tests to find out before you buy.

Breville Barista Mini VCF125 coffee machine, £315

Type: Ground coffee

Breville Barista Mini VCF125

The Breville Mini is a smaller, less sophisticated version of the Breville Barista Max VCF126. There’s no built-in bean grinder, but this sleek-looking traditional coffee machine has a simple control panel and a steam nozzle for frothing milk. It features a pre-infusion system designed to gently extract all the flavor from ground coffee.

Breville says the larger 58mm machine is similar to those used in cafes, and means you’ll get better coffee thanks to improved extraction and an even flow of water through the ground coffee. This machine can prepare two cups of espresso at the same time.

Can it deliver decent coffee, quickly and easily?


Read our Breville Barista Mini review.


DeLonghi ECAM250.33TB Magnifica S Smart Coffee Machine, £450

Type: From bean to cup

Delonghi coffee bean machine

Don’t be fooled by the word Smart in the name; this coffee machine doesn’t have wi-fi connectivity – although it’s smart in that it lets you customize the grind and aroma of your drinks. It comes with an adjustable bean grinder, for the freshest brew, and has four one-touch buttons that will dispense one or two cups of espresso, a single coffee or a long coffee (lungo). It also has a manually operated steam wand for frothing milk.

It’s a big, heavy bean machine, but will you be rewarded with well-balanced espresso and smooth cappuccinos at the touch of a button?


Read our DeLonghi ECAM250.33TB Magnifica S Smartreview.


Lavazza A Modo Mio Smeg coffee machine, £199

Type: Lug

Lavazza A Modo Mio

This retro looking pod coffee maker with its shiny chrome exterior will easily spruce up your kitchen. Its simple control panel adds to the sleek look and it’s also compact, so it won’t take up much space on your counter.

There’s no steam pipe on this machine, so if you’re a fan of cappuccinos or lattes, you’ll need to purchase a dedicated milk frother to create them. This machine uses Lavazza coffee pods which are convenient, but not the cheapest or most eco-friendly way to enjoy espresso.

Is this coffee machine as easy to use as it looks and will it deliver as good an espresso as it looks?


Read our Lavazza A Modo Mio Smegreview.


All prices correct at time of publication. Prices may change.

About Jeffery L. Parker

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