Built-in Coffee Machines: What You Need To Know
If you are a coffee junkie like my husband, there is an optional piece of kitchen equipment you may want to consider for your new home or kitchen remodel: a built-in (or integrated) coffee machine.
My husband is a German, and likes his coffee strong and often. So when we were planning our kitchen remodel back in 2011, he started looking into built-in coffee machines. Being a good Irish girl from Massachusetts, I grew up drinking tea with milk, so I wasn’t sold on the necessity of the purchase. But, my husband persisted – making a case for how important his morning (and afternoon and sometimes evening coffee) was to him.
We also had a huge Italian automatic espresso/cappuccino machine he had purchased in Germany and lovingly transported back to the States that took up about half the real estate on my counter tops. So in truth, I wasn’t too reluctant to give in, giddy with the idea that I would regain some much-needed counter space. And I have to say, even though I don’t use it for myself, it has been a great addition to the kitchen for guests and entertaining.
Who is a good candidate for a built-in coffee machine?
First, you need to like a stronger, espresso-based coffee. These machines push pressurized hot water over compacted grounds to brew the coffee and this produces a different intensity and flavor than a conventional drip machine (that pours hot water over the grinds and lets gravity do the rest). If you are OK with a stronger, full-bodied coffee, then an integrated machine would be a good choice.
Secondly, you need to be someone who values convenience over full control of the brewing process (while still enjoying a high-quality coffee). If you are a professional barista and want incremental control over every step of the brewing process, an automatic machine might not be for you.
Finally, you have to drink a lot of coffee to justify the investment!
Once you have decided on adding a built-in or integrated machine to your kitchen, we found there are two basic questions to ask yourself to narrow down your choices:
- Do you want the unit plumbed or not?
- Do you want a fully automatic machine that dispenses the frothed milk at the press of a button or are you OK having a frothing arm and foaming your milk as a second step?
Most of the integrated machines today offer these features as standard:
- Whole bean coffee grinder
- Ability to use a second ground coffee as well
- Dual heads to brew two coffees or espressos at once
- Ability to program your favorite drinks so they are ready at the touch of a button
- Ability to adjust the strength of the coffee and level of grind
- Ability to control amount of coffee used
- Ability to control water temperature
- Separate frothing arm
- Automatic cleaning
The bottom line
Ultimately, we decided if we were going to invest in a unit, we would go for one that was plumbed and created coffee drinks with milk at the touch of a button. We opted for the Miele 24” Built-in Whole Coffee Bean System and we added a warming drawer for cups and plates beneath the unit.
After having the machine in daily service for five years now, we can confidently report that it is reliable and generally very easy to maintain. The machine rinses and cleans itself after every use and my husband does a deep clean once a month with the descaling tablets that come with the machine (you can buy more online). The milk frother has its own tubing and does have to be cleaned separately.
I must confess that a couple of years ago we added a separate milk frother to our counter top. Not because the integrated Miele frother doesn’t produce excellent results, but because my husband felt cleaning the milk can and tubing each day wasn’t worth the hassle for one individual coffee. The separate frother we purchased can be thrown right into the dishwasher after each use which fits our busy life better. That being said, we do definitely use the integrated milk frother from the Miele machine when we have more than a couple of people having coffee and for parties.
Built-In Coffee Machines: the list
When we were looking back in 2011, there weren’t as many options on the market as there are now – and choice is always a good thing! These days, most higher-end appliance brands are offering a built-in coffee unit similar to the Miele.
If you are a serious coffee drinker and like the convenience of being able to brew a high quality cup of coffee in your own home, a built-in coffee machine may be your next splurge. My husband will tell you its improved his quality of life, so I guess enough said!
*The Miele model linked above is the next generation unit that replaced our model which was discontinued. We purchased all of our kitchen appliances through AJ Madison and had a terrific experience.
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