What is a bean to cup coffee machine?

8th July 2009

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The term ‘bean to cup’ coffee machine is used to differentiate coffee machines that use fresh beans from those that use pre-prepared coffee ‘pods’ or sachets as the coffee goes directly from the bean to the cup in one place.

The phrase ‘bean to cup’ is also used to refer to the process that takes coffee from the freshly picked coffee berry, right through the roasting process and finally to the hot beverage.

Bean to cup coffee machines are a revolutionary piece of equipment that dramatically speed up the coffee making process. These machines produce a consistent quality of drink compared to espresso machines which produce coffee of varying quality depending on the barista. Bean to cup coffee machines were first developed in order to standardise coffee-making, ensuring every customer enjoyed coffee of the same quality and there were no discrepancies from one cup to the next.

Bean to cup coffee machines are filled with whole freshly roasted beans in order to create a clean, aromatic taste. Often coffee produced from machines that use ‘pods’ of coffee have a slightly synthetic taste as the ingredients used are not fresh and are frequently vacuum packed.

The bean to cup coffee machine eliminates the need for any grinding of coffee beans or boiling of water by hand as is necessary with an espresso machine. The coffee machine is plumbed into a fixed water supply by a qualified technician.

The roasted beans are poured straight from the bag into a hopper (usually located at the top of the machine) and the machine grinds them as required, adds water, milk and generates a ‘crema layer’ (a thin sheet of froth that sits on the surface of the coffee). However, it should be noted that the coffee produced will only ever be as good as the beans used - poor quality beans will create poor-quality coffee so it’s worth investing in the best possible raw materials.

Unlike other coffee machines, bean to cup coffee machines have the added benefit of being designed to add the milk to the coffee as well, from a reservoir located within the machine.  This saves time and ensures speedy and consistent service as opposed to steaming the milk by hand using an espresso machine.

Many of these bean to cup coffee machines offer the user more than just coffee. Along with various types of coffee (espresso, cappuccino, latté) some can also make hot chocolate and deliver hot water for teas and other hot drinks. More technologically advanced bean to cup coffee makers also offer customers a choice of bean. Many machines also come with multifunction buttons that can be programmed to the user’s specific requirements (to add more milk or a double shot of espresso, for example).

Bean to cup coffee machines can be found in a wide variety of places including restaurants, cafes, office cafeterias, hospital waiting areas and, more recently, homes as the idea of gourmet coffee has spread.

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