For many of us, the day starts with a steaming cup of coffee. Whether you’re looking for a caffeine boost or simply enjoy the taste, it’s a helping hand to keep fatigue at bay on the morning commute.
Last year’s lockdowns meant many of us sought to recreate barista-quality coffees at home. And those craving their usual order of a flat white or americano may have invested in a piece of kit to help them along.
Whether you’re upgrading your grinder or purchasing a bean-to-cup machine, there are plenty of products out there to help you rustle up your favourite brew. And for coffee fanatics, there are also a wealth of independent brands, subscription boxes and reusable cups to enjoy.
In honour of International Coffee Day – which takes place annually on 1 October – we’ve rounded up everything you need to mark the occasion and celebrate a good cup of Joe.
From cold-brew makers and French presses to subscription services and eco-friendly capsules, stay caffeinated this Coffee Day and beyond.
The best coffee grinder
Fine-tune the perfect espresso with a coffee grinder. With the right one, you’ll be able to enjoy the full flavour of the coffee, because much of the aroma and taste lies in the essential oils of the bean.
When the beans are ground, the oils are released, resulting in a more rounded coffee experience, but these oils evaporate very quickly after grinding and can result in a bitter-tasting, sub-par cup of coffee – so it makes sense to keep things fresh and just grind what you need.
Coming out on top in our guide to coffee grinders was the Wilfa WSCG-2 silver electrical burr coffee grinder (£100, Whittard.co.uk). Aimed at people who want to tackle different grinds for different purposes, our reviewer said this is a great addition to any kitchen. “Fairly sleek and unobtrusive... the Wilfa offers five different grind settings, and also has a handy, simple list of corresponding methods of brewing, meaning you simply pick something like ‘french press’ or ‘filter’ without having to consult a manual,” they said.
We thought that “given its hi-tech capabilities, sleek appearance and ease of use, it’s one for people who want to invest a bit more in their grinder and offers great bang for its buck”.
The best cold-brew coffee maker
For a chilled caffeine fix, a cold-brew coffee maker is a must-have.
As you’ll find in our guide to cold-brew coffee machines, unlike iced coffee, which is hot coffee poured over ice, there is no heat applied during the cold brew method. Instead, freshly ground coffee is left to infuse in the water for anything from eight to 24 hours. As such, it’s a brew method that will require a little forward planning.
We found using filtered water really made a difference to the finished brew, allowing the nuanced flavours of the ground beans to shine through. You should find that cold brew is a lot smoother and less acidic than an iced coffee.
This Hario cold brew bottle (£30, Whittard.co.uk) takes the hard work out of the preparation for you without using electricity or batteries and the resulting beverage can also be drunk on the go.
The compact design has a built-in filter for infusing your coffee, and a secure rubber lid that keeps it fresh. Hario recommends pouring cold water over grounds, giving it all a little shake and leaving it in the fridge for at least eight hours. The clever design means you can leave the filter in while you pour without any sediment getting into your drink.
If you’re looking to make an iced coffee, however, we’d suggest using a blender to mix together your ice, syrup flavouring, milk and black coffee. An affordable option that was rated highly by us is the Tefal infiny mix tritan blender BL91HD40 (£164.99, Amazon.co.uk) that had some of the highest performance specs for its price point. “Its 1.75l capacity is sufficient to blend big batches in one go, and the 1,600W motor is up there with the most powerful you can get,” said our reviewer.
The best coffee machine
An efficient coffee machine is a piece of kit that will do all the hard work for you at the press of a button, all you need to do is pour in the beans and fill up the water tank.
The Siemens fully automatic coffee machine EQ.9 plus connect (£1,399, Johnlewis.com) is a hefty investment but it impressed us for producing coffee on par with our favourite barista-made stuff in our IndyBest round-up of the best bean-to-cup coffee machines.
We loved the fact you can load up two types of beans, that every step of the coffee is editable and the machine remembers what you tend to prefer – right down to which beans for which type of coffee.
There are nice touches like a cup warmer, on-screen prompts and it’s easy to operate. The wifi is confusing to set up – a feeling echoed in user reviews – but once it’s done it’s good. The app also opens up a world of coffee, allowing you to find examples from around the world to enjoy at home. It’s a brilliantly professional home machine, if you can stump up the cash.
If you’re looking for something that’s more budget-friendly, try the Krups arabica digital EA817040 bean-to-cup coffee machine (£429, Currys.co.uk).
This machine required almost no set up and was ready to go immediately. It’s one of the simpler models we tried and doesn’t have an in-built option for milk, but in many ways we preferred the fact it uses a nozzle for manual steaming and frothing; it made us feel like real baristas and allowed us to control the temperature and frothing. Plus, there’s no fiddly cleaning.
The machine is very self-explanatory and we liked how easy it is to adjust to your favourite strength and temperature, which the machine is then able to remember via the memory function (we found this made the weakest coffee, so you might like to amp up the strength and adjust to a finer grind).
It’s quiet, keeps the water hot for a while – so no need to wait around – and it fits under our relatively low kitchen counters.
The best cafetiere
French press, or cafetiere, designs have evolved over the years. They’re an easy way to make consistently delicious coffee, easily and without lots of expensive equipment.
“It’s a 900ml capacity jug,” they said, but the real selling point is that “the double-walled construction is thermally insulated, which gives us a good three mug-fulls of hot coffee over the course of the morning – or serves several people, whichever you prefer”.
The best espresso machine
A shot of espresso is the perfect pick-me-up for early risers or those suffering from a mid-afternoon slump. If you’re desiring one at home, an espresso machine can deliver barista-quality coffee without the faff, and allows you to cut back on using disposable cups.
Our favourite is the Gaggia classic (£430, Selfridges.com) which coffee lovers will instantly recognise as a classic machine from one of the best brands out there, and a consumer favourite for three decades.
“The Italian designed and made machine looks super sleek and stylish, and it comes in several colours to fit any kitchen,” said our tester. They also praised it as “exceptionally well made and robust enough to see you through years of daily use.”
“Operation is straightforward and intuitive, with only three light-up buttons on the front and the steam wand control dial on the side, so we weren’t overwhelmed with too many complicated options.” They also recommended it for those who enjoy coffee with milk, as the professional steam wand with two outlets (instead of the standard one) makes outstandingly silky foam.
The best coffee subscription service
Never run low on your favourite coffee beans again while supporting independent businesses by treating yourself to a subscription service. Many on the market allow you to select your favourite bean profiles, grind and frequency and have them delivered straight to your doorstep.
We would suggest trying the Apostle coffee subscription (£8.95, Apostlecofee.com), which is letterbox friendly and comes in completely compostable packaging.
Beyond the great coffee, there are environmental benefits, too. Every subscriber receives a starter pack with a refillable Apostle jar, and a certificate detailing the endangered tree that has been planted just for you. Over its lifetime, your native broadleaf tree will absorb around a ton of CO2 emissions, or about 10 per cent of your annual carbon footprint.
“There are just three super tasty coffees to choose from – a Columbian espresso with notes of caramel, cocoa and walnuts, decaf, or our favourite, the single-origin from Peru with notes of Nutella (yes, really!), apple and plum,” said our reviewer.
Best eco-friendly coffee capsules and pods
A massive 350 million coffee capsules are thrown away every year – and that’s just in the UK alone. Our favourite eco-alternative option is the Colonna Coffee nuguo honey gesha, 20 pods (£22, Colonnacoffee.com), founded by one of the UK’s leading coffee experts, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood.
Colonna’s compostable capsules include single-origin coffees from Ethiopia, Brazil and Colombia, and our reviewer especially enjoyed the limited-edition nuguo honey gesha lungo coffee from Panama. Praising the options for every palette, they said the “capsule shop reaps the benefits of [Maxwell’s] knowledge of the world’s best coffee.”
The best reusable coffee cup
Using a reusable coffee cup is the easiest way to cut down on your single-use plastic pollution, and is more important than ever as especially as a recent report from the Environmental Audit Committee last year stated that the UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year, and less than one per cent of those are recycled.
There’s plenty of options to choose from too, from folding cups to travel cafetieres that will keep your drink piping hot. It’s ideal for when you’re standing in line at the supermarket, or for during your morning commute.
Coming out on top of our guide to the best reusable cups was the Circular&Co reusable coffee cup, 12oz (£12.95, Circularandco.com). They’re made from single-use paper cups with the brand collecting waste from UK centres and processing it to make the cups at its factory in Cornwall – all without an air mile in sight.
“This cup is totally leak proof because it features a lid that, when pushed, clicks open and closed,” said our reviewer. “We took it with us in a bag on a walk and our coffee was still hot after about an hour, and not a drop was spilled.”
For the latest discounts on coffee machines and other food offers, try the below links:
Smeg has launched its first-ever bean-to-cup coffee machine, and we were one of the first to try it
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