Coffeeness Reviews: Independent, Factual, Trustworthy and Opinionated Test Reports

At Coffeeness, there are only unbiased reviews, with products bought and tested independently of the manufacturers.

My Review Collection

When I started Coffeeness more than 10 years ago, my primary goal was to provide you with tips on the subject of the best coffee. Back then, the third wave was just getting started in some places, and few people had a clue about what actually makes good coffee.

Since then, we’ve all learned a lot. However, that doesn’t change the fact that with so many coffees to choose from, we’re still being taken for a ride, which makes it hard sometimes to see the coffee plantation for all of the coffee beans.

Big supermarket coffee companies like Lavazza (and others) try to sweep their value chain of horror — and poor bean quality — under the rug. That’s why to fight against this, at least in a small way, we should all buy coffee beans from small, independent roasters.

You may have noticed that my Coffeeness reviews are no longer just about the best coffee and espresso beans but now cover quite a few other categories. Though it’s still often the case that the most important category for you is the super-automatic coffee machine reviews — after all, these appliances are more popular than ever. With that, Coffeeness also gives you options among coffee product groups:

While some aspects are immediately obvious, others will make you wonder what they have to do with Coffeeness. This is my goal with this guide: to explain these aspects to you. You’ll also get a clear summary of how my team and I go about our work, what standards we apply and why we sometimes contradict the mainstream reviewer’s opinion.

A Brief Look Back — How It All Began

In a previous life, I studied politics and sociology. However, my passion for coffee won out in the end when in 2008, I launched Coffeeness. Not only had I gained quite a bit of expertise working as a barista, but in my spare time, I continued to expand my knowledge of coffee and espresso machines.

Coffeeness was a logical progression for me because there were few dedicated coffee blogs and, unfortunately, the mass coffee industry only sold crap. That part of the story hasn’t changed much, but thank goodness that you, as consumers, have ensured small, fair and transparent roasters have a chance to convert the typical Folgers drinker.

More than 10 years after the Coffeeness launch, you could almost be fooled into thinking that we now live in a utopia of coffee: people buy good coffee beans from small roasters, put love into the preparation and fork out far more for their enjoyment than before.

Unfortunately, though, this is not yet the case. That said, the number of “enlightened” people is increasing every day. To keep it that way, I will continue to keep a close eye on the quality and background of each review category. I owe that to you and myself.

The Basic Questions in Every Coffeeness Review

In general, it makes no difference to me whether I’m checking a coffee roast or conducting a juicer test. The core questions always remain the same:

  1. What quality does the manufacturer deliver according to the respective defined quality criteria?

  2. How can the product be operated, processed, etc.?

  3. How good or bad is the result?

  4. Is the price-performance ratio reasonable?

  5. Can a normal consumer do anything with this product?

  6. Is the purchase worthwhile, semi-worthwhile or should it be discouraged?

I always answer each of these questions very honestly and unambiguously, and I’ve made an enemy of many manufacturers in the process. I don’t care, though. After all, Coffeeness isn’t an advertising arm for brands but an independent and transparent platform.

That’s why I always buy my own coffee and equipment and don’t let anyone give me anything. Although it’ll never influence my opinion if a manufacturer does provide us with something, I state it clearly in the test report.

Many manufacturers have wanted to dictate conditions, but that will always be unacceptable to me. If you provide us with something, you’ll have to be prepared to accept for me to label it as crap — if that’s what I think. After all, quality (or the lack thereof) cannot be glossed over.

Speaking of, the theme of quality is the strongest thread running through all my reports — as is my hatred of marketing hype and all things industrial. Far too often, I find that manufacturers hide what is essentially just junk behind sexy slogans and big words.

In the following sections, I’ll give you an idea of what matters to me in each of the different categories. Of course, Coffeeness is a work in progress and is constantly growing, so as always, I’m really looking forward to you sending me suggestions and requests for possible reviews. You can reach me here in the comments, on YouTube, on Instagram and in our very friendly Facebook Coffee Machine group.

Coffee Beans and Espresso — Why Taste Plays Second Fiddle in the Review

Arne’s fully automatic coffee machine coffee

When I started reviewing, I was particularly annoyed by cupping reports that were mainly aimed at professionals. Technical terms were thrown around, making it impossible for a normal person to understand anything. How is the general public supposed to learn about the best coffee if things like honey processing or the difference between Arabica and Robusta are simply taken for granted?

It was just as incomprehensible to me that no one explained how an Ethiopian coffee could be distinguished from a Brazil at the first sip, for example. On top of that, there wasn’t even an explanation about the difference between coffee and espresso beans.

I go on about all of this in each of my reviews and try to provide background on the most important facts. While I don’t always go into detail, when it comes to special blends or varieties, you’re guaranteed clarity. The following factors always play an equally important role in every espresso and coffee review:

  1. General classification: bean, origin, variety, price, preparation recommendation, etc.

  2. Bean appearance: uniformity, intactness, color, surface structure

  3. Odor: description of the most important and noticeable aspects

  4. Taste & acidity: mildness vs boldness, overtness and singularity

  5. Body & mouthfeel: fullness, dryness on the tongue (astringency), texture, punchiness, etc.

  6. Finish: lingering qualities after drinking

As you can see, taste is just one violin in a whole orchestra — and it’s certainly not the conductor. This makes sense. After all, taste is a highly subjective matter, and everyone interprets flavors differently.

That’s why I sometimes resort to extravagant figures of speech and adventurous comparisons, just to give you an idea of what I feel when tasting. Taken as a whole, this gives you a basic indication of what you can and can’t expect from any particular coffee.

In addition, I also always ask three important questions that are relevant to all coffee and espresso bean reviews:

  1. How transparent is the manufacturer?

  2. What preparation method did I choose to test and what are the parameters?

  3. To whom do I recommend this coffee, and which preparation method highlights its best qualities?

Only when I’ve answered all these questions do I allow myself to pass judgment on the price-performance ratio. Why? Because a high-priced coffee is simply expensive if it’s all marketing and no substance.

That said, the same price can seem affordable if you’re dealing with a sensational roast, a rigorously transparent manufacturing and sourcing process and a brilliant result in the cup. So, the rule of thumb “more expensive is better” doesn’t apply at all, especially in the coffee bean world.

Espresso Machine — My Love, Your Hesitation

I’m going to be completely honest here: if it were up to me, each of you would have a portafilter machine instead of a super-automatic espresso machine at home. However, I can understand that most of you don’t dare to use the somewhat complicated professional machines.

With a super-automatic machine (often referred to as a “bean-to-cup” machine in the UK), you only have to press a button. A portafilter is something completely different, as you have to have in-depth knowledge of what makes a good espresso, really get to know the machine, buy a dedicated coffee grinder and, and, and — you get where I’m going with this.

Espresso machines test with entry-level and mid-range machines

Still, those who make the effort will be rewarded not only with a “real espresso” (compared to the super-automatic espresso) but also with the quintessence of many trendy coffee drinks — from a flat white to a black eye.

I’m also convinced that increased experience with a portafilter machine is the fastest way to become more of a coffee expert. That’s because once you’ve got to grips with things like the grind, brewing temperature, pressure and so on, making coffee with a pour-over dripper is just child’s play.

It’s also an unfortunate fact that true professional quality — which you should be able to demand from a portafilter machine — comes at a high price. After all, it’s hard to convince people to part with that much money, and that’s why a new coffee machine category is beginning to emerge.

Enter the automatic espresso machine, which resides somewhere between an espresso machine and a super-automatic. As the Breville Oracle Touch (branded as the Sage Oracle Touch in the UK) shows, that can work out quite nicely. Nevertheless, for me, there are two completely different models that should belong in the eternal list of best portafilter machines:

Here are a few more models that are also definitely worth checking out:

Although I’ve neglected this category a bit lately, I guarantee you that will change again very soon. So, which quality criteria are the deciding factors here? I mainly focus on the following questions:

  1. How easy is the portafilter to set up and use?

  2. How good are the factory settings for espresso, and how close can I get to my ideal result?

  3. Does the machine implement any special ideas?

  4. What is the price-performance ratio?

  5. How much knowledge is required of the user?

Again, I could babble on and on about thermoblocks or single- and multi-circuits every time, and yet again, no one would be interested. A more important consideration is whether or not you’ll be rewarded for your ambitions when you switch from a super-automatic espresso machine to a portafilter.

Coffee Grinder Review — You Can’t Do Without It

A coffee grinder with Arne

Of all my reviews, the coffee grinder category is one of my secret favorites because without a good coffee grinder, there can be no good coffee! The precision and fineness of the grind determine how even and clean the extraction is and whether all possible flavors are teased out in a particular brewing method.

For these reasons, I always examine a super-automatic espresso machine’s grinder first. Though a standalone coffee grinder is indispensable for all portafilter users, and manual preparation methods.

Basically, the choices are almost endless when it comes to manual and electric models, and my teammates and I have plenty of examples of both in the kitchen — for good reason. We use high-end manual coffee grinders like the Commandante when traveling, trying out small batches and reviewing coffee beans.

Electric grinders such as the benchmark-setting Baratza Sette 270W or the Eureka Mignon coffee do the daily — ba dum tss — grinding.

The Comandante coffee grinder with Arne

On top of that, some coffee grinders are more suitable than others when trying to achieve the finest espresso grind. So, you could very well end up using a different grinder for your espresso beans than for your coffee beans. Even if you don’t want to go that far, an (electric) coffee grinder is an indispensable investment in the long run because freshly ground coffee is the only true coffee.

That’s why I address the following questions in the reviews:

  1. How many grind levels or grind settings are there?

  2. How evenly can it be ground?

  3. How finely can it be ground, and is it suitable for espresso?

  4. Does it make noise or produce exhaust?

  5. How can the grinder be cleaned?

  6. For whom is the coffee grinder suitable?

  7. Is the price-performance ratio reasonable?

The Baratza Encore coffee grinder in use

Speaking of which, as entry-level options go, both the Porlex Tall hand coffee grinder and the Baratza Encore still set the standard. However, let’s not overlook the Breville Smart Grinder Pro, either. My point being: the price tags on these grinders are a clear indication of the least amount that you’ll need to invest in this category.

Coffee Makers With and Without Grinders — Fuel for the Melitta Crowd

The Moccamaster Coffee Machine with Arne

I can’t help it: even though there are numerous manufacturers vying for your attention in the world of coffee machines, Melitta is still the epitome of the filter coffee machine for me. This is also due to the fact that the German manufacturer consistently delivers quality — even in the mid-range price bracket.

The large selection of machines is probably also due to the fact that good ole filter coffee is absolutely in fashion again. Plus, not everyone wants to deal with the intricacies of preparing apour-over, which is likely why the trusty filter machine is still needed.

However, a more developed understanding of quality is also gaining ground here, which you can see very clearly in some of the latest functions. For example, many new machines are designed to ensure that the water hits the coffee grounds as gently as possible, using a showerhead design with a pulsing flow.

In the past, a plastic coffee maker costing $20 was the ultimate in quality, but today, more and more kitchens are equipped with coffee makers costing $70 or more. A good example of this is the Ninja CE251 Programmable Brewer.

Still, one problem has yet to be solved: good coffee from filter coffee machines is simply not feasible with pre-ground coffee beans. So, if you’re serious about coffee quality, you either have to keep an extra coffee grinder on hand or rely on an emerging category of machines.

Coffee machines with built-in grinders are just taking off, and they’re supposed to solve the problem of having two separate devices while accommodating the lazy coffee user at the same time — similar to fully automatic machines.

Their advantage is that they can do exactly what fully automatic machines cannot: prepare simple filter coffee in large quantities.

The Krups Coffee Maker with Grinder with Arne

Unfortunately, my coffee machine reviews in this category show that there’s still a lot of room for improvement. In many cases, the grinder seems poorly calibrated, the grind quality isn’t always optimal and the noise level is way too high. For what you get in terms of performance, these machines are often just too expensive.

That said, I’m confident that better things are on the way, simply because the combination of grinder and machine is such a sensible idea. The basic evaluation criteria for the reviews in both categories are also inevitably the same:

  1. How easy is the coffee grinder to operate?

  2. How smooth is the extraction?

  3. At what temperature does the coffee reach the pot?

  4. What special functions for more aroma, etc. are available?

  5. How long does the machine take to brew coffee?

  6. How can the machine be cleaned?

  7. Is the price-performance ratio reasonable?

Even though I try not to make sweeping judgments, I at least have the impression that coffee machines with thermos jugs are superior to those with glass carafes. The eternal exception to this rule, of course, is the Moccamaster, which for me, is the best coffee machine in the world. It makes coffee that is practically on par with a pour-over dripper.

Milk Frother — Beware of a Milk Moustache!

The milk frother

With the return of the pour-over dripper and the espresso maker’s small renaissance, the question naturally arises of how to turn a simple coffee or moka pot espresso into a Latte or a variation of the Cappuccino. Though the most compact and affordable solution is a milk frother, before I extensively studied and tested this class of equipment, I was always skeptical. I wondered: how is a little induction and heat supposed to make good milk froth?

After all, it actually needs water vapor molecules to break up the milk structure. That said, having now had numerous models under my microscope, I’ve become a secret fan of frothers.

Of course, there are total failures here as well, but Miroco isn’t one, as it consistently delivers good quality. One of the best milk frothers for me, though, is still the Breville BMF600XL — at least for now.

While it comes closest to creating my idea of perfect microfoam, it is particularly compact and is only mid-range in terms of price compared to the others I’ve reviewed. It is also a bit tiny, although that shouldn’t be a problem in small households. When it comes to milk frothers, I always ask the following questions:

  1. How easy is it to operate?

  2. How loud does it get?

  3. How much milk can it froth at once?

  4. What (additional) functions does it have?

  5. What’s the temperature of the finished milk?

  6. How thoroughly and easily can it be cleaned?

  7. Is the price-performance ratio reasonable?

That last question is perhaps the most important. While there are excellent devices with a low price tag, there are also excellent devices that justify spending more. So, it’s pretty important to be clear about the amount of milk foam you’ll actually need. After all, higher foam-creating capacity usually means a pricier and more expansive frother.

Finished milk foam from a test in mustache glasses

That said, while most milk frothers deliver a pretty great price-performance ratio, I would totally spend more than $100 again for a bigger and better model. Then again, I would probably have to have a large family and an unconditional love for milk foam to justify it, though.

Now it’s your turn: Which review category is still criminally underrepresented at Coffeeness? Where would you like to see more precision or more details? Which devices have you always wanted to see in my test kitchen? Leave me a comment!

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