We have all spent more time in our kitchens over the past year. But there is one product, even more than banana bread, that has really taken off in popularity: coffee.
Lakeland, the kitchenware shop, in its annual trends report says that the coffee machine rose from sixth most popular kitchen gadget in 2018 to the No 1 spot last year.
Sales of coffee machines were up 22 per cent at John Lewis last year, as more and more consumers tried to recreate cafe cappuccinos and flat whites at home, with Lakeland saying there is no sign of the trend slowing down.
Sales of coffee machines and accessories are up 92 per cent in the first two months of this year compared with 2020, according to Lakeland. Customer ambassador Wendy Miranda says: ‘Customers are looking to create the coffee shop experience at home.’
Harry Wallop gives verdict on the best machines to buy in the UK, for under £50 – including Wacaco minipresso (pictured)
The best machines, however, can be astronomically expensive, with some costing as much as £3,600. These are the cafe-style espresso machines, which grind the beans, use a ‘wand’ to create hot, frothy milk and apply huge amounts of pressure to squeeze out a perfect shot. Even a simple Nespresso machine, which uses coffee pods, costs £179.
Andrea Otte, head of coffee at Caravan, one of the country’s leading coffee roasters, which supplies restaurants including Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, says: ‘We’ve seen a surge in people taking home brewing seriously. But most people don’t want to go all out and buy a coffee grinder or a goose-necked kettle [where the spout comes out from the bottom, allowing you to pour water more precisely].’
Many are opting for simple bits of kit that need nothing more than a standard kettle and a bag of ground coffee to make a delicious cup.
Some are attempts to improve on the French press, or plunger-style coffee pot, which can produce large quantities of perfectly decent filter coffee but often with quite a bit of grit at the bottom of the mug.
Others use pressure to force more flavour out of the ground coffee, in a similar way to an espresso machine.
Even drip coffee, the staple of 1960s American diners, has come back into fashion.
‘Drip coffee can be delicious. But it needs to be fresh and hot,’ says Otte. ‘It’s the heating pad the coffee pot sometimes sits on to keep the coffee warm that’s the problem. It keeps the coffee cooking, producing lots of rancid flavours.’
She says she is a big fan of an Aeropress, which many coffee experts favour. ‘It’s easy to wash up, and my flatmates can’t break it,’ she laughs. ‘There’s really no need to spend lots of money to make a great cup of coffee at home.’
So, for those on a budget, which is the best coffee kit under £50 to buy?
Bright as a button
Wacaco minipresso, £50, selfridges.com
Smaller than a bottle of beer, this could slip into most kitchen drawers.
But its elegance hides the fact it’s tricky to put together.
Once you have done so, it produces a pretty amazing cup of espresso. You use a button on the side to build up pressure before releasing the liquid.
But the largest cup is a mere 70ml. You will need separate attachments if you want to transform your machine into making bigger brews or if you want to use Nespresso- style capsules rather than ground coffee. 4/5
Great on the go
Morphy Richards Coffee On The Go, £24.99, argos.co.uk
Harry said Morphy Richards Coffee On The Go (pictured) is ideal for those who hate leaving the house without a coffee in their hand
This is not the most elegant bit of kit and few people will want yet another machine on their kitchen counter.
But for this price, it is very effective — delivering 300ml of perfectly decent, if quite weak, coffee quickly.
It is, in effect, a slimmed-down version of those old-fashioned office drip coffee machines.
This delivers a filter coffee straight into an insulated takeaway mug (included with the kit) in just a couple of minutes.
Ideal for those who hate leaving the house without a coffee in their hand. 3.5/5
A pour choice
Kalita Wave Dripper, £25, caravan coffee roasters.co.uk
Harry said Kalita Wave Dripper (pictured) is easy to use, but the coffee can come out quite bitter and thin
This Japanese device is ultra simple and claims that its ‘flat-bottom coffee bed geometry’ ensures the perfect cup. But I am not convinced. Yes, it is easy to use. You slowly pour hot water from the kettle onto the coffee. But the coffee can come out quite bitter and thin if you don’t add enough coffee, or overly-strong and looking like Bisto gravy if you put in too much. 2/5
Take the plunge
Aeropress brew kit, £35, caravancoffeeroasters.co.uk
Harry said Aeropress brew kit (pictured) is very clever and works like a supersized high-pressure syringe
The Aeropress has a cult following despite it looking like something used to inseminate a cow rather than make a nice cup of coffee. It is very clever and works like a supersized high-pressure syringe.
You add coffee, a filter paper and hot water. The coffee brews for all of ten seconds or so, before you plunge down to produce smooth, high-quality coffee — either espresso-style or filter (depending on how much water you add). It is a piece of magic.
Even better, you don’t need to put in the dishwasher; a simple rinse under the tap is enough.
If you want to buy just the Aeropress, it costs £27.50, however, Caravan sells one alongside a bag of high-quality coffee beans, and 350 filters, for £35. 5/5
Barista & Co Twist Press, £29.99, lakeland.co.uk
Harry said he would use Barista & Co Twist Press (pictured) daily, if it was easier to put together
I found this a menace to get to grips with, despite its apparent simplicity and promise that I’d get perfect coffee in 60 seconds. Once I had worked out how to use it, however, it was pretty amazing, managing to create huge amounts of pressure to extract maximum flavour out of the coffee.
You squeeze two handles, as if they were a pair of pliers, to push air through the hot water and coffee. The end result was very smooth.
If this was easier to put together and master, I’d use it every day. 4.5/5
Foam sweet foam
Lakeland Milk Frother, £49.99. lakeland.co.uk
Harry said Lakeland Milk Frother (pictured) is perfect for those who say an at-home flat white is a must
Milk frothers are remarkably expensive. That’s because they heat as well as aerate the milk.
This, under £50, produces remarkably thick and smooth frothed milk and can create both cappuccino-style clouds and the less aerated latte-style froth.
It’s not small — about the same size as a small kettle. If an at-home flat white is a must, however, this is the machine for you. 4/5
Cheap & cheerful
Aerolatte, £10.99, currys.co.uk
Harry said Aerolatte (pictured) is effective for the price, but the problem is that you need to heat the milk first
There are few coffee accessories, except a mug, that are cheaper than the Aerolatte.
The problem is that you need to heat the milk first, and there’s no way you can pretend the finished milk is as thick and silky as the stuff created by a proper cappuccino frother.
Still, for the price, it is effective. And the batteries are included. 2.5/5