Over the years, coffee and tech have enjoyed somewhat of a strange love-in. While tea drinkers wax lyrical about gimmick teapots and the merits of loose leaf vs. bag, coffee has been blazing a technology-fueled trail.
When it comes to smarts, coffee is streaks ahead. And thatâs never been truer than in the home. You can even purchase a kitchen aid slash keg for cold-brewed nitrogen coffee. Looks safe doesnât it? Some things are best left to the barista.
For everything else thereâs smart coffee machines because gone are the days of Nespresso â with its groundbreaking capsule system and silver fox Clooney mascot â monopolising the market. Nowadays everybody is in the coffee machine game and theyâre increasingly getting a smart makeover â even Alexa and Google Assistant are getting a look-in.
Weâve gone hands-on with a host of brands, picking from a range of sizes and styles, for varying budgets and needs, to find the best match for the smart home dweller. Hereâs our pick of the coffee-brewing bunch. But firstâŠ
Why buy a smart coffee machine?
By all accounts thereâs not a great argument to get smart with your hot drinking habits if youâre not a coffee aficionado. If you take it instant with a splash of milk and two sugars youâre wasting your time as a machine will only seem like a lot of extra work.
That said, a smart coffee machine goes well beyond making a cup from the comfort of your bed. In fact, if youâre hoping to find a machine that connects to Alexa or Google Home youâre out of luck. Virtual assistant integration isnât something any of the top brands currently provide and the Smarter Coffee Machine, which featured compatibility with both assistants, has unfortunately been discontinued (we were told by its UK supplier that the machine is currently unavailable âgloballyâ).
But wipe away the macchiato tears. Unlike a smart lighting or heating system thatâs been rigged up to optimise a householdâs routine, when it comes to coffee, remote function (typically via a branded mobile app) is the tip of the (ice-coffee) iceberg.
Itâs the hidden smart elements that excel here, rendering each one of the machines below a caffeine addictâs dream.
Tested: The best smart coffee makers
Francis Francis E&C BT Bluetooth Illy Y5
The Y5 capsule machine combines top-notch tech with an outstanding reputation for perfect brewing, all squeezed into a svelte and minimalist piece of kit. Thatâs something of a matter of pride for Francis Francis: making machines that bleed cool. But unlike the X1 model, designed in 1995 by Italian architect Luca Trazzi, the Y5 has a modern vibe. Itâs neat and sleek with a water tank thatâs conveniently positioned at the front, along with a touch-sensitive interface thatâs as responsive as it sounds and easy to understand. Both elevate the basic black plastic body, as do the strategic pops of chrome.
On the coffee front, as youâd expect from Italian brand Illy, whether you make an espresso-style or filter-style cup, both deliver high-quality, deep-flavoured brews (not always the case with capsules). It does pump a tad slow, expected with the 15 bar water pressure, but each serving will have you whispering "bellissimo".
The smart elements here are distinguished by the My Illy Espresso app, making it a smartphone-operable machine. Itâs as easy as ABC to set up too; simply pair the app with the machine via Bluetooth and you can request a coffee whenever you feel like it, as long as itâs in standby mode and not switched off.
Thatâs not the best bit, however. Once set up, the app lets you customise the âlengthâ or water volume of either drink, so you can get the exact cup size each time (it comes programmed with a 55ml and a 240ml drink). You can also pre-programme a time for the machine to switch on, so that itâs ready to start brewing the minute you wake up. Lastly, when the machine runs dry, the app will send you an alert to let you know itâs time to reorder new Illy capsules and, when registered, itâs Amazon Dash Replenishment-enabled too.
- Can order capsules via app
- Customizable drink âlengthâ
- Illy-standard espresso
- Only two types of coffee
- App is full of clutter
- Slow brew
Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart
A behemoth of bean-to-cup coffee machines (with a ground, albeit superfluous option, to boot) Melittaâs smart effort showcases tech at every turn, from bean sensors to an outstanding app. Just be warned that it's hefty â it almost required two of us to lift it out the box.
The dual bean hopper, for light and dark roasts, has you covered if you like to play pick & mix with your beans. Meanwhile, thank to an infrared sensor, the TS will notify you once either hopper is empty and then automatically run a dry cycle so past beans donât taint future flavours (ideal for switching from caffeinated to decaff at night).
The TS also has the best app on this list. Itâs streamlined and user-friendly with configuration covering drink length (to the nearest 5ml), strength, temperature and number of espresso shots, with alterations easily saved as a customised recipe in the My Coffee tab (on top of the 21 recipes already loaded in).
All of this can be done on the touchscreen but the appâs interactive sliders, which are clean and responsive, made tweaking drinks on the fly as addictive as Tinder circa 2015. Aside from requesting origin and syrup shots we honestly found it easier than asking for a custom coffee in a coffeehouse; itâs that well designed.
The touchscreen also has some nice additions, from telling you when you need to refill the hopper to the orderly loading bar to denote drink wait time. Also, the TS can dispense two drinks simultaneously, whether thatâs a flat white or a latte macchiato; the IntenseAroma mode, which alters the brewing process to deliver a richer tasting espresso, is perfect for those people who just want a great tasting coffee without all the faff; and the milk foam bolt-on is simple to attach.
- Self-cleansing grinder
- Authentic crema for espressos
- Plethora of coffee choices
- Milk carafe is a tad fiddly
- Eight customisable profiles feels excessive
The Miele â a bean-to-cup coffee machine (with ground as an option) â shares many of the same features as the Melitta, especially in terms of build and finish with both machines visually near identical. Where it comes into its own is with upkeep with a (patented) AutoDescale feature, which automatically dispenses a cleaning tablet to prevent limescale build-up every day at a user-programmed time. This is an absolute godsend, especially when you consider that one solo cartridge will last up to a year and areas with hard water recommend descaling every two months. Thatâs some saving on the elbow grease. Yes, the Miele is a huge investment but itâs one that should last.
Nearly all CM7 models can be operated via a mobile device with the Miele@mobile app, which lets you programme settings (including on and off times), control up to ten user profiles for extreme customisation, "order" a coffee from anywhere in your home, or shop for coffee beans and descaling tablets.
Mieleâs interface is full of clutter and itâs not always obvious to see what buttons youâre meant to push. Once youâve worked it out the options include coffee strength and water temp as well as volume, but it never feels as nifty as Melittaâs design. Itâs a similar story with the touchscreen on the actual machine itself, with confusing icons. By comparison, Melittaâs effort is a doddle.
Away from the app the Miele has further smart elements up its sleeve. The CupSensor, which recognises the height of a mug or cup on the drip tray and positions the spout accordingly to the ideal height, not only prevents splash back but also means that youâre getting a really bronzed and gleaming crema in that espresso cup your auntie bought you for Christmas last year. As such, when combined with good beans the Miele goes toe-to-toe with the Illy for espresso quality.
The sensor also means that you can fit a pot under the spout for large servings of coffee or tea (though thereâs no temperature setting for the tea beyond 80ÂșC or 90ÂșC, which is a shame because green and white teas should be brewed at 70ÂșC). A light in the spout also keeps things illuminated.
The âOneTouch for Twoâ function, to make two cups of coffee simultaneously, would be more impressive if it wasnât for the speed of the standard dispensing. You could literally bosh out a dinner party order in a matter of minutes with this thing. Thatâs impressive.
As a truly professional machine the coffee is a bit of let down. The flat white was exceptional with silky, frosting-thick foam, but the default lukewarm temp lacks the finesse of a barista-bought cup. The milk dispensing is also noisy, especially the cleansing jet of water that results in quite the mess.
- 20 types of coffee and tea
- Smart spout
- Costs nearly 2k
- Icons are hard to read
- Solo bean hopper
Also check outâŠ
Customisable temperature, pre-soak time and altitude, along with Alexa voice control, makes the Behmor a formidable coffee machine. The app lets you create multiple profiles, while Amazon Dash Replenishment will ensure you never run out of beans. And should you ever not want to bother with the app, just hit the quick-start button on the front â or give Alexa your order. Good for precision.
Nespresso Expert Espresso
Get your Bluetooth bean brew on with Nespresso's personalised coffees in the accompanying smartphone app. You can also use the app to schedule brew times, brew remotely, and replenish your depleting capsules. As for the machine itself, you've got three temperature settings, four sizes and a 30-second heat-up time.
Philips Saeco GranBaristo Avanti
One of the pricier machines on our list, the Avanti is about as hi-tech as your coffee can get. The app offers a wealth of customisations for your brew, also giving you a heads-up when it's time to change the water filter or give the machine a descaling. Did we mention the integrated frother? Phwoar.