Best bean-to-cup coffee machines 2021
Bean-to-cup coffee machines can be extremely expensive. Choosing the wrong machine could mean you're left hundreds of pounds out of pocket and have to put up with watery coffee.
Our independent lab tests have shown that not all of them live up to their high prices. Make sure you invest in the best by choosing one of our top picks, we also reveal the bean-to-cup coffee machines to avoid at all cost.
Which bean-to-cup coffee machines are the best?
In the tables below, we've selected some of the best rated bean-to-cup machines from our rigorous coffee machine tests, which include a blind coffee taste test by our tasting panel.
Good bean-to-cup machines should be easy and quiet to use, and produce rich, smooth and tasty brews.
Our independent tests included a range of popular models, from espresso-only bean-to-cup machines, to models that can make cappuccinos, flat whites and macchiatos at the touch of a button.
Last updated: April 2021
Which bean-to-cup coffee machines are the worst?
When a bean-to-cup machine works well, you end up with fresh and delicious espressos at the touch of a button.
However, choose the wrong model and you could end up with a fiddly machine that produces weak and watery espressos. With prices ranging from £250 to more than £1,500, make sure you check the models to avoid below before you buy.
Which features should you look for in a bean-to-cup coffee machine?
If you decide to take the plunge and splash out on a bean-to-cup coffee machine, here are five features to consider.
1. Auto milk-frothing and cleaning
Most bean-to-cup machines have a built-in steam pipe to froth milk so you can also make milky coffees, such as lattés or cappuccinos, as well as espresso.
Cheaper bean-to-cup machines tend to come with a steam wand for frothing milk. You’ll need to measure out and froth the milk manually, then add it to your coffee.
Pricier models will automate the milk measuring and frothing process for you, sucking the milk into the machine and dispensing froth directly into your drink.
Many also have an auto-clean feature, saving you the fiddly (and sometimes unpleasant) job of cleaning the milk pipes.
2. Dual bean hopper
This allows you to have two types of coffee bean on the go at once.
It’s ideal if you prefer caffeinated in the morning and decaf in the evening, or even if you just like to have the choice of different types.
Otherwise you’ll need to clean out the bean hopper if you want to switch coffees before one lot of beans runs out.
If you like the convenience of ground coffee every now and then, some bean-to-cup models have a separate compartment so you can use ground coffee too.
3. Colour touchscreen
Many bean-to-cup coffee machines include digital displays and automatic settings to speed up the coffee-making process.
On some models you can control your settings via a colour touchscreen. These make it quick and easy to select your chosen hot drink, usually from an extensive menu.
They can also be useful for diagnosing potential issues, as well as guiding you through how to clean and descale the machine correctly – this is an important step to ensure your machine continues to churn out tasty coffees and doesn’t get jammed up.
4. Save preferences
Premium models will allow you to save multiple user profiles and customise your favourite coffee options, so you’ll never have to remind them that you like your morning espresso extra-strong again.
This saves you the hassle of manually inputting custom orders every time you offer to make a round of drinks, which is particularly useful if you’re making coffee for friends or family.
5. Control via smartphone
Connecting your coffee machine to your smartphone means you can get reminders and troubleshooting for cleaning and descaling your machine.
You can also use some apps to set up user profiles to make it easier to quickly call up your favourite drink, without having to cycle through lots of menu options.
Are expensive bean-to-cup coffee machines worth it?
The upfront cost of bean-to-cup coffee machines can be anything from a few hundred to several thousand pounds but our tests show that paying out more doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll get better coffee. We've previously uncovered bean-to-cup coffee machine that have been so poor we had to issue our first in years.
Average upfront cost of coffee machines compared
The average bean-to-cup model costs around £800 upfront, but our top scoring bean-to-cup coffee machines start from around the £200 price mark, so you don’t have to spend a small fortune to get the best coffee at home. We recommend you look closely at the features you really want the most in our before choosing.
The main advantage of bean-to-cup machines is that you'll be using freshly ground beans each time and have a lot more control over the customisation of your morning brew. If adjusting the strength, grind and temperature of your drink is important to you, you’ll be wise to invest in a one of our Best Buy bean-to-cup coffee machines.
On top of the price of the machine, you’ll also want to consider things such as running costs as these can affect how much you spend over time. Even the very cheapest of our can cost more in the long run and will not have all the extra features of a bean-to-cup machine.
How much does it cost to run a bean-to-cup coffee machine?
There’s no denying that bean-to-cup coffee machines can be more expensive upfront than other types of machine. On average, bean-to-cup machines cost more than three times as much as ground coffee machines, and almost six times as much as the average pod machine.
But the initial upfront cost, doesn’t tell the whole story, though, as pod coffee machines tend to be more expensive per drink, somewhat due to the ongoing cost of the pods you have to buy. You can also be tied into buying a specific brand of pod – limiting your drink options. Over time, bean-to-cup machines can actually work out cheaper as buying beans is a cheaper way, per cup, to enjoy an espresso.
Based on drinking two espressos a day over the course of five years, plus the upfront cost of the cheapest relevant Best Buy coffee machine, the animated graphic shows that bean-to-cup models can actually work out a lot cheaper in the long run.
How does Which? test bean-to-cup coffee machines?
You'd expect every coffee machine, even a basic one, to make a good coffee. But our tests have uncovered machines that don't.
That's why we judge the appearance, aroma and taste of the coffee that each machine makes in a blind taste test. These tests have revealed coffee makers that make weak, watery coffee that lacks flavour. Only the very finest will make the grade to become a Best Buy.
You also don't want a machine that's a total pain to use and clean. We put each machine through tough tests that look at every aspect of using the machine, including filling it, removing the drip tray and water tank, adjusting settings, and cleaning it after each use.