- Our analysis shows that buying a manual machine is cheaper than buying coffees at the café.
- Convenience, environmental impact and your skill level in coffee are also factors to consider
- Our testers look at a wide range of machines – from manual to automatic to pods – to help you find the best one for you
There is no denying that we love our coffee here in Australia. In 2018, Australia’s coffee market generated over $ 8 billion in revenue, with the majority of us drinking at least one cup of coffee per week on average.
At CHOICE, we love to support our local cafes, but we know that buying coffees from your favorite barista can become an expensive habit. With many people trying to cut costs and / or now working from home, a good home espresso machine offers an increasingly attractive alternative to your daily dose of caffeine.
From cost to convenience to waste management, here are the key factors to consider before becoming your own home barista.
1. The cost for your pocket
Since a cup of coffee costs around $ 4 at a cafe, and up to $ 5 in some areas (regional and metropolitan – it’s not just cosmopolitan cafes that charge a lot of money for their coffee), you could spend over $ 1,500 a year if you have a cup of coffee a day.
And that number only increases if you sometimes squeeze in an extra brew or two, or get a muffin as well.
So, would you be better off taking that money and investing it in your own coffee maker? Let’s look at the numbers.
The cost of the machine
At CHOICE, we look at a wide range of coffee machines – automatic, semi-automatic, manual, and pod – and they range in price from $ 37 to $ 3,999.
Pod or capsule coffee machines are generally less expensive than manual espresso machines (you can buy a basic pod unit for under $ 100 or splurge up to $ 699).
But our expert taste testers agree that if you’re picky about flavor, a manual espresso machine will almost always give you the best results, like those of a barista. This is because it gives you the most control over the brewing process.
If you are picky about flavors, a manual espresso machine will almost always give you the best results, like those of a barista.
And while they’re more expensive to buy (a few hundred to a few thousand dollars), a good machine should last you about eight years.
Remember, however, that this price is not always an indicator of performance. Many cheaper models outperform the more expensive ones in our test – check out our coffee machine reviews to see if you can pick a cheap model that performs well.
We also assign each machine a Reliability and Brand Satisfaction Score, based on responses from CHOICE members, so you can rate brand performance over time for fellow coffee enthusiasts.
The cost of coffee: ground vs pods
You should also factor in the cost of pods and capsules if you have a pod or capsule machine, or ground coffee or beans if you have a manual or automatic machine. This is where your down payment will vary wildly.
While you can buy a bag of ground coffee at the supermarket for as little as $ 12 per kilogram, coffee aficionados will say the best results will come from barista beans, which could cost you around $ 50 or more per kilogram.
Depending on the size of your grind, one kilogram of beans should give you about 120 to 140 single doses of coffee or 60 to 70 double doses (based on eight grams for a single dose, 16 for a double).
You can spend less money up front on a pod or capsule coffee machine, but the pods themselves can be much more expensive.
While you may spend less money upfront on a pod or capsule coffee machine, the pods and capsules themselves can be much more expensive (not to mention the cost to the environment if you don’t recycle them. ). kilogram on average.
If you go for a more expensive manual machine that costs, say, $ 1,200, that comes down to just $ 150 per year over an eight-year lifespan. Add to that the cost of coffee for a cup a day and milk, your home espresso machine will always cost you less than a daily habit of coffee at the cafe. You should also plan for occasional maintenance and replacement of parts.
Do the math: make a coffee or buy one
We have compared the costs of coffee for a year below, based on purchasing a manual espresso machine, as it offers the most barista-like results. Keep in mind that your personal preferences (for equipment, brand of coffee, even how much milk you use) will change the costs – this is only a guide.
2. The cost to the environment
Unless you meticulously use a BYO mug every time you go to a cafe, you’re contributing to the billion take-out coffee cups Australians send to landfill each year. Each cut takes thousands of years to decompose.
Of course, brewing coffee at home means you’re more likely to use a reusable mug or mug. If you use it every day, that’s at least 365 on-the-go cups that you save from landfill each year. You can even use the soil in your compost (just mix it with organic garden waste first, as it is too acidic on its own).
If you use one cup every day, that’s at least 365 take-out cups that you save in the trash per year
Using a pod machine can be much more problematic when it comes to waste. While convenient, used pods cannot be put in municipal recycling bins – their small size means they fall into recycling equipment.
The alternative is to bring them or post them to specially designated collection points (as Nespresso offers), but that depends entirely on the drinker’s time and dedication to the cause. According to this formidable ABC report As of 2019, Nespresso revealed that 71% of its pods are currently not recycled.
Fortunately, there is a growing line of compostable and refillable pods on the market that aim to reduce so much single-use waste.
Some might say that having coffee to go is the ultimate convenience – you don’t have to spend time buying beans, grinding them at home, honing your skills, or cleaning a machine. Everything is made with pleasure for you by a smiling barista.
Another benefit of coffee cafe is the social factor: sharing your coffee experience with a friend or colleague. Even the ritual of the morning walk to pick up your white dish can often be a highlight of your day.
Others will say it’s much more convenient to just walk to your kitchen to make a coffee – you don’t even have to put on proper clothes or leave the house! Also, if you work from home, it is easier to dodge and make a cup of tea between video chats or phone calls.
4. Your skill level
Of course, a lot of the home vs. coffee comparison hinges on your learning how to brew coffee that rivals the one you bought. For this reason, CHOICE coffee machine expert Chantelle Dart says buying a coffee machine that is right for your skill level, as well as what you are going to use it for, is essential.
“Some people spend thousands of dollars on a coffee machine, but there’s no point if you don’t really know how to use it, or if you don’t use it enough to justify the money you spent on it. that “, explains Chantalle. .
Whatever machine you buy, it’s worth taking the time to learn how to use it correctly – from buying the right type of coffee grinder and good quality coffee to the correct tamping of the coffee. , to the milk foam and to obtain a perfect pouring. Fortunately, there are many great online coffee tutorials for you to learn.
Baristas charge $ 4-5 a cup for a reason – it’s because they’re (usually) specially trained and use the best beans. If you can’t replicate this at home, you might find yourself returning to the cafe and your coffee machine becoming a benchtop relic.
Some people spend thousands of dollars on a coffee machine, but it’s no good if you don’t really know how to use it
CHOICE coffee expert Chantelle Dart
Chantelle says: “Our tests have shown that the type of coffee machine you use really makes all the difference. Our blind tasting tests show that, even using the same type of coffee, the results are surprisingly different from machine to machine.
“The ease of use and the skill of the person using it also have an impact, especially when it comes to manual or semi-automatic espresso machines. The results will really depend on the skill of the person using it. use it because you have a lot of control over the process. ”
When we look at coffee machines, we rate things like ease of use, the way they perform tasks like foaming milk and getting a constant temperature, and the taste of the coffee that result.
How to use a manual espresso machine
5. Being able to experiment and brew your coffee the way you like it
Making your own coffee at home means you’re not bound by the brand of coffee sold at your local cafe, and you can experiment with many different blends to find the one you really like.
You can also avoid this embarrassing situation when your favorite barista isn’t registered and someone else is making inferior coffee (that’s four or five dollars down the drain!)
Can you use regular pre-ground coffee in an espresso machine?
Chantelle says yes, but you’ll get better results with ground coffee specifically for use in an espresso machine, either by yourself or by a barista (rather than pre-ground coffee from the supermarket).
“Using freshly ground beans to brew your coffee on an automatic, semi-automatic or manual machine will produce coffee that is closer in flavor and quality to coffee brewed by a barista in a cafe,” she says.
Your grinder will also make the difference: “You will get better results with a coffee grinder with burrs (flat or conical), as opposed to a blade grinder, like a blender. This allows for greater precision and consistency with your grind. ”
Still don’t know what we’re talking about? We break all of these terms down in our article on how to buy the best coffee grinder.