For a long time, the choice of machines open to those who wanted to make real coffee at home was really limited.
Based on the machines seen in coffee bars and restaurants, the home espresso maker used ground coffee. You had to follow a set procedure:-
1. It was vital to be sure that the coffee was perfectly ground. Too coarse and the espresso was weak and did not have the crema on top. Too fine and the machine would struggle to force the water through. Additionally the grain size had to be very uniform for the best results. This frequently meant investing in an pricey burr-type coffee grinder.
2. The right quantity of coffee then had to be added to the holder and tamped down very accurately and evenly. If you didn't do this right, the water would flow through any loosely-tamped areas and give you a weak brew.
3. Hot water, at the right temperature and pressure was then forced through the coffee to give you your espresso.
4. There was commonly a steam wand to froth milk for cappuccino.
5. At the end of the day it was vital to clean the machine meticulously, as any old coffee residue would taint the next day's brew.
Nonetheless, there's no doubt that the espresso you ended up with was the best, so long as you took time to become skilled at how best to use the machine.
The procedure is eased significantly with a bean-to-cup machine. With these machines, you add coffee beans to the machine, which then measures and grind the beans for you. The measured amount of coffee is added automatically to the holder and tamped down properly for you. These machines work well, but a good one will be pretty pricey and take up a lot of room on the counter.
Against this, the advantages of a pod-based machine are obvious:-
1. The coffee comes in sealed pods, ready ground and measured out.
2. So you just put the pod into the machine - no grinding and measuring.
3. Usually with the press of a single button, the machine brews your coffee for you - measured water at the correct temperature is forced through the grounds in the pod.
4. Because the coffee is enclosed, there is no cleaning to do - just take out the old pod and throw it away.
5. You can usually buy a wide variety of different coffee pods - and not just coffee. So you can make hot chocolate or tea with the one machine.
It can be argued that the results are not in actual fact as good as from a conventional espresso maker; that may be so. You don't get properly frothed milk of course, as the foam for your cappuccino comes from a milk pod, which may not taste quite so good.
But set against the efficiency of operation, these concerns are maybe not significant. I'll bet that many espresso machines lie unused. Pod machines are trouble-free enough to be used every day. Versatility and ease-of-use - quite a combination.
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You can read more about the Bosch Tassimo pod-based coffee machines and compare them with say, the Gaggia Brera at Tern Kitchen Reviews.
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