How Do Coffee Machines Work: Capsule VS Filter VS Auto VS Vending

How Do Coffee Machines Work: Capsule VS Filter VS Auto VS Vending

It’s all fair and well that we know which coffee machine fits into which space, their pro’s and con’s and what level of quality coffee you can expect from them.

But what about how the machine works? This area is often where price differences stand out the most, and what sets the machines apart in terms of suitability for a certain space.

How Does A Capsule Machine Work?

A capsule coffee machine is often the cheapest option, but re-stocking capsules can become a tricky and costly situation. The reason the machine itself is so cheap is because all it really does it pierce the capsule (manual mechanism), heat up some water from the internal tank and use the heated water under pressure to “brew” your coffee from the capsule.

The capsules themselves, on the other hand, are more costly – because the technology lies within the capsule. Breaking a coffee capsule open will often reveal five major components: The aluminium covering, the plastic basket (the actual capsule), the first plastic mesh filter, ground coffee, and the bottom plastic mesh filter.

The two mesh filters have separate purposes: The top plastic mesh, revealed as soon as you open up your capsule, helps to aerate the coffee being brewed. It allows for slightly fuller Crema. The bottom filter, sometimes plastic and sometimes a porous paper-type material, is there to prevent the ground coffee from finding it’s way into your cup. This easily explains the low cost machine price and the higher-cost capsule price.

How Does A Filter Coffee Machine Work?

The filter coffee machine has gained notoriety with being the easiest and cheapest coffee brewing method, and has stood the test of time. The reason for this is quite simple: it is the least technology-rich coffee machine, apart from the French Press.

The Filter Coffee Machine has a larger basket, into which you add your paper coffee filter and then top up with coarsely ground coffee.

The machine then heats up the water (inside an internal container) and slowly allows it to drip through the ground coffee basket. This method is a bit time consuming, but requires no other input, skill, component or technology to brew the coffee.

The cost factor may vary slightly if the machine is commercial (home use) or industrial (office use) – where either cheaper or more expensive materials are used. The coffee itself is extremely cheap and this is likely still the easiest way to supply plain coffee to a large audience.

How Does An Automatic Coffee Machine Work?

This is where complex technology comes into play in a big way. Bean to Cup or Automatic coffee machines will always carry a considerably higher price tag than most machines, especially if they carry a well known brand name, like Jura or Saeco.

The coffee itself is cheap; you use whole coffee beans, which often work out to be in-line with the costs of ground coffee.

The technology needed to grind, tamp, brew and extract Crema from your coffee is what spirals the costs of the machine upwards.

There are two types of automatic coffee machines; those which contain a milk frothing unit, and those which don’t. This is going to be your first cost influencing and added technological component.

From there on, the parts contained within the coffee machine for it to perform it’s function are as follows:

The coffee bean grinder – the majority of automatic coffee machines have adjustable grind settings. With a bit of research, you can learn to adjust your grinder to suit each type of coffee bets. Some quick tips on changing your Jura Coffee Machine grinder settings can be found here. Once the coffee has been ground, an internal mechanism will allow for the machine to tamp the ground coffee. This setting has to be precise in order for the ground coffee to be tamped correctly and allow for the perfect extraction.

Internal brew group. This is where the magic happens. The brew group varies from brand to brand. For instance, Jura Coffee Machines have an immovable brew group, which is great for eliminating the need to remove and clean it. Saeco’s, for example, have removable brew groups which require weekly cleaning. The brew group is where the coffee is actually “brewed”, and depending on the quality and materials used, may push your costs up.

Milk frothers and milk containers, as we previously mentioned, are “smart” technological pieces. Yes, it helps you make great fresh milk cappuccino’s etc., but it will undoubtedly add to your cost.

See, the major technology needed to brew quality coffee with a rich Crema is contained inside these types of machines, and the product is in it’s simplest form.

This summarises why the Automatic / Bean-to-Cup style coffee machine is far more costly, whereas the coffee itself is very cheap.

How Does A Coffee Vending Machine Work?

We are strictly speaking about non-coin operated coffee vending machines in this instance. You get two major types: the instant coffee vending machine and the whole bean coffee vending machine. They both have different operating components, so we’ll discuss both below.

How Does An Instant Coffee Vending Machine Work?

Instant coffee is NOT pre-ground coffee; this is something we must understand, so that we can understand properly how a coffee vending machine works. Instant coffee is coffee which has already been brewed, but then spray dried or freeze dried. Therefore, once it dissolves in your hot water, it is, well, instant coffee. This reduces your costs of an instant coffee vending machine greatly, because there is now no need to have a grinder, brewer, tamper and complex extraction unit.

Inside the instant coffee vending machine, you will normally find three our four main cannisters, including powdered milk, vending sugar, instant coffee and sometimes hot chocolate powder.

Teach canister is allocated a shared mixing bowl, so if, for example, you opt for a Moccachino (coffee flavoured with hot chocolate), the instant coffee will mix with the hot chocolate powder and dispense it, along with hot water, into your cup.

There are no advanced mechanisms in this machine – it is simply a combination of the ingredients from any of the four canisters to produce the drink you have selected.

The reason these machines are usually a bit pricey is due to their volume and programmability.

They are suited to cater for larger groups, and as such, will cost more. The technology is simple, but still lies in the machine as opposed to the product.

How Do Bean Coffee Vending Machines Work?

Comparing the Instant Coffee vending Machine and a Bean Coffee Vending machine side by side is nearly impossible. They perform a similar function and are both well suited to the same type of environment, but their internal workings are very different.

Bean Vending Machines normally have three internal cannisters, one noticeably larger than the others. The larger canister is to house the hot chocolate, because when making speciality drinks like Moccachino, it uses the most of this ingredient per cup.

Because your coffee product input is a whole coffee bean, we must now include a grinder, tamper and brew group. This is the main differentiating factor between the Instant VS Bean Vending coffee machines. The bean vending coffee machine also does not contain sugar in it’s internal cannisters, so this will be something that needs to be factored in.

It’s aimed more at the larger environment which wants higher-quality coffee than instant coffee, but also at an affordable price.

The technology is far more advanced in this type of coffee vending machine than the instant vending coffee machine.

Now that you know how each type of commercial coffee machine works – we would love to know what type of coffee machine you want more information on.

Leave us a comment with your suggestions, we love to hear from you!