Getting to Know Your Bean-to-Cup Machine
For many coffee-lovers around the world, the bean-to-cup machine is an absolute necessity in everyday life, bringing convenience, ease and speed to each daily treat of delicious, freshly brewed coffee and espresso shot. It’s no surprise that bean-to-cup machines are so desired, rivalling the more traditional espresso makers in popularity and offering a level of variety and personalisation that is perhaps not as present in other coffee brewing methods, such as cafetiere or percolators.
At Coffee-Direct, we stock a wide range of quality bean-to-cup machines, including Italian made and designed Gaggia machines and sleek, stylish Slimissimo machines, available in a great choice of models and colours.
What is a Bean-to-Cup Machine?
A bean-to-cup machine takes care of every step in the coffee-making process, from grinding the beans to the perfect coarseness, to brewing and pouring, and many will include a steam wand or pannarello for creating wonderful, velvety froth and steamed milk.
These clever machines will often provide a variety of settings and customisable options that allow at-home baristas to perfect their skills and produce the perfect beverages time and time again with ease.
While bean-to-cup machines are the go-to brewing method for many coffee drinkers, and much-loved for their convenience, ease, speed and versatility, there are a few helpful pointers that would be useful for any bean-to-cup user who wishes to get the most from their machine.
Quality Coffee Beans
You can buy the most expensive and innovative bean-to-cup machine on the market, but if you don’t use quality, fresh coffee beans then you will be left with a low quality, bland coffee.
Using freshly roasted whole beans is an absolute must, so it’s imperative that you avoid stale beans. At Coffee-Direct, we roast our coffee beans to order, ensuring a freshness in every bag that will deliver delicious, full-flavoured and aromatic coffees. We even pack our beans in one-way valve, foil fresh bags and include the date of roasting on each bag.
Just as important as using quality beans is using clean, fresh and odour-free water in your bean-to-cup machine.
Water is undeniably a vital part in a cup of coffee, making up around 90 per cent of the cup volume of an espresso, so it would be unwise not to treat the water in your machine with the same care shown for your beans.
Water does the work of extracting the flavours and aromas from ground coffee beans during the preparation of each drink, and the hardness and mineral content of the water used can significantly affect this extraction process.
You can of course use bottled water for your bean-to-cup machine, but your tap water should generally be more than suitable. There are even some general rules that you can follow to get the most from the water type in your area:
- If you live in an area of soft to moderately hard water, use tap water, but filtered to improve the taste
- If you live in an area of moderate to very hard water, bottled water is often recommended to get the best out of your coffees, but it is always worth trying your tap water first.
When we talk about the “strength” of a coffee, we are not talking about the caffeine content of a particular bean. Rather we are referring to the ratio of coffee to water; a “stronger” coffee will have a higher percentage of dissolved ground coffee in the water, and vice versa for a “weaker” coffee.
Many bean-to-cup machines will allow you to adjust the settings for water ratio or volume, so that you can customise and create the perfect coffee time and time again, across any bean variety that you choose.
Another variable that will affect the extraction time, and the overall flavour and aromas of your coffee, is the grind setting. Many bean-to-cup machines will offer a range of grind settings for you to perfect your beverage.
In coffee extraction, the coarseness of a ground bean dictates the length of the extraction period of your espresso shot; the finer the ground coffee is, the more surface area is exposed and the longer the extraction time is, while coarser grinds allow less exposure, resulting in a shorter extraction time.
Ideally, you will want an espresso shot from a bean-to-cup machine to be thick with a good amount of crema. If your espresso shot is lacking in flavour and crema, it likely means that your grind setting is too coarse, and likewise if the shot is coming out very slowly and yielding little volume, the ground coffee is likely too fine.
Maintaining a clean and fully functional bean-to-cup machine is integral to delivering great coffees consistently. A number of bean-to-cup machines include self-cleaning options and indicators that make the user aware when a certain section or component needs to be cleaned or serviced.
However, it’s a good idea to maintain a regular manual cleaning schedule, particularly to avoid the build-up of limescale, which can damage parts of the machine, as well as old coffee grounds and other impurities from water, all of which can have a negative effect on the taste of your otherwise perfect coffee.
Many bean-to-cup machines have removable parts, designed so that you can easily remove them for regular cleaning. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with your machine’s user manual and learn how to best maintain it, and enjoy delicious, freshly brewed coffees for many years to come!