Capsule v Manual v Fully Automatic: Which Coffee Machine is Best?

The past few years have seen the coffee machine market come under the spell of the capsule brands — Nespresso, Lavazza, myriad supermarket options — so much so that we sometimes forget the tremendous options available to consumers. From the experiential joy of the manual machine to the luxurious convenience of the fully automatic, the choice of coffee machine is still very much a battle of formats, not just of pod-compatibility.

In 2014, just over 400,000 coffee machines were sold in a market that is now worth $137 million. Just under three-quarters of all machines sold were capsule machines, with manual the second most popular, followed by fully automatics.

We spoke to leading players from the three main types of consumer coffee machines to find out which is best…

Capsule/Portioned/Pod Machines (74 per cent of all units sold in 2014)

Convenience and variety

“We’re continuing to see, both here and abroad, a contemporary change in living environments,” said John Ciaglia, commercial manager of Nespresso Australia. “With increasing house prices and a reduction in living space, we’ve seen a growth in inner-city apartment living. This trend has influenced the shift towards a more transient lifestyle, meaning people are looking for appliances that are more compact and versatile.”

“What we also continuing to see in Australia is the nation’s growing appreciation for high-quality coffee, and as this trend strengthens, so to does the market for at-home portioned coffee machines. The popularity of the coffee machine as a must-have home appliance continues to grow as more consumers recognise they don’t need to leave the house to enjoy a high quality coffee at their convenience. With 7 machine ranges and 23 varieties of the Grand Cru coffee, Nespresso offers something for every taste and preference.”

Manual/Solo Traditional (19 per cent of all units sold in 2014)

Save money and bust myths

“Manual machines are vital in enabling consumers to attain the style of coffee they like in the comfort and convenience of the home,” said Tim Anderson from longtime hands-on proponent Sunbeam. “Manual machines allow coffee drinkers the opportunity to experiment with different quality Australian roasts, which has a dual benefit: it supports local industry and also ensures that the freshest ingredients are used which makes the best espresso.

“Capsule machines continue to resonate with consumers who are trading up from their instant coffee ritual. As they continue on this coffee discovery journey, the manual machine becomes the next step as their need for café quality coffee and being able to control the coffee making experience becomes more important. It also opens up a world of fresh coffee, freshly roasted in Australia and freshly ground in your home to help deliver the perfect espresso. Even using this fresh coffee, a manual espresso machines is still cheaper to run on a comparative per cup basis, so consumers can create a true espresso at a lower cost.

“There is a misconception that manual machines are difficult and timely to use. This is definitely a myth. Manual machines currently on the market are easier to use today than ever before.”

Fully Automatic (8 per cent of all units sold in 2014)

Personalisable and environmentally friendly

With an automatic coffee machine, consumers can choose from the virtually unlimited selection of fresh coffee beans available, according to individual taste,” said head of sales George Liakatos, from Swiss brand Jura. “Our machines are built to get the best out of each blend and roast.

“A real one-touch product, automatic machines prepare the full range of coffees from latte macchiato to ristretto at the touch of a button and without you having to move the cup. It truly replicates the café experience in the comfort of your own home.

“A common mistake amongst consumers is that an automatic coffee machine cannot be personalised. We’ve been trialing and testing new technologies that allow consumers to individualise the bean-to-cup end result. The variable brewing unit on our machines allows users to prepare coffee in accordance with individual preferences.

For the environmentally conscious, Liakatos also claimed that, “When comparing capsuled versus automatic coffee systems, a Jura coffee machine produced considerably less waste from 1-kilogram of coffee than a single-portion system.

Caught In The Middle

Atypically for this category, De’Longhi has found itself marketing all three formats: it’s the market leader in fully automatics, one of two Nespresso machine partners (the other is Breville) and an emerging force in manual machines. Understandably, Helen Finlayson from De’Longhi said there was a place for all formats in the market.

“Identifying where the customer is positioned on their coffee journey is key to matching them with the correct coffee machine to suit their needs,” Finlayson said. “As consumers develop their taste for coffee, we can see the progression from the convenience of capsules and pods, to manual espresso machines offering a little more of a hands on experiences, to supreme customisation with fully automatic machines. De’Longhi has a product solution for consumers at any step of their journey.”

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