How to choose ... an electric coffee maker

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 June, 2006, 12:00am

How to choose ... an electric coffee maker

Although most people believe in the superiority of a hi-tech machine over a humble manual coffee maker, the machine is only effective if the person using it knows what they're doing.

What is it? There are several types of electric coffee machines. Some - mostly the percolator drip types - brew an insipid cup that is disparagingly called 'American-style'. At the other end of the scale are bright, shiny espresso machines with varying numbers of bells and whistles. The most basic espresso machines make espresso (naturally) and also have high-pressure steamers for frothing milk.

What to look for: to make good coffee with an espresso machine, the ground coffee in the holder has to be pressed to a certain density: if it's too loose, the water will run through the grounds too quickly; if pressed too tight, the water will run through too slowly. To alleviate this uncertainty, some machines are sold with 'pods' of ground coffee but you can use only the brand specific to the machine. Espresso machines also need a high amount of water pressure in order to properly 'express' the flavour of the grounds. If the pressure isn't high enough, the brew will be bitter and it won't have the crema, the lovely layer of foam on top.

What else? Most espresso machines need at least 10 minutes to heat up before being used. Percolator drip-type machines often have timers that let you set a time for the machine to start brewing, which is great if you want the coffee to be ready when you wake up.

Where to buy: Fortress (tel: 2555 5788), PanHandler (tel: 2523 1672), the kitchen equipment sections of Wing On (tel: 2852 1888), Sogo (tel: 2833 8338), Great in Pacific Place (tel: 2918 9986) and Yugamama in Causeway Bay (tel: 2576 8126).