We cannot live without electrical appliances, dozens of gadgets plugged into the mains to work. Coffee machines are no exception; electric coffee machines are the most popular.
However, there are many manual coffee machines on the market, those that do not need electricity to operate. In addition to producing delicious coffees, they are considered eco-friendly, as they only need hot water to extract the coffee (some don’t even need that).
Types of manual coffee machines
This list shows you the main types of manual coffee machines. I am referring to those coffee machines that do not need to be connected to the mains to work:
- Moka pot
- French press
- Siphon or Vacuum coffee makers
- Neapolitan coffee makers
- Portable coffee makers
- Cold brew coffee makers
- Vietnamese coffee makers
- Pour-Over coffee makers
As we have said before, all these coffee machines have in common that they are not connected to the mains to heat and move the water. However, each type of manual coffee maker has its peculiarities, producing different results, as they do not all work similarly.
For example, Moka pots need to generate heat to evaporate the water in the boiler to create pressure and extract the coffee. This heat will be generated by a heat source such as a cooker burner.
In the case of pour-over coffee makers, we need to heat water poured over the ground coffee, which will be extracted by gravity. Something similar happens with French presses, although, in this case, the extraction takes place by immersion.
Moka pots are one of the most popular types of coffee pots in the world. They prepare a full-bodied and full-flavoured coffee, which, without being an espresso, is very similar to an espresso.
This coffee maker needs a nearby heat source to heat the water inside the boiler. An infinite number of brands, models, and sizes are on the market.
French presses brew coffee by the infusion method, producing a coffee with a great aroma and intense flavour. The structure of the French press is usually made of stainless steel or aluminium (the support) and borosilicate glass (the container).
These coffee machines are inexpensive and available in many sizes and models (the largest is 1 litre).
Pour-over coffee maker
Also called drippers, they are the manual version of electric drip coffee machines. They are becoming increasingly popular because they allow the user to precisely control the coffee extraction process.
Pour-over coffee makers have a learning curve and make making coffee fun and satisfying. The best thing is the price and the quality of the resulting coffee. The worst is that some additional tools are needed to use them.
Neapolitan coffee makers
They are very similar to Moka pots, but the coffee is made in a very different way. They also have to be put on the stove, but this time the water is not heated to create pressure, but the pot is turned upside down, and the coffee is filtered downwards.
The slow process results in a full-bodied, tasty and intense coffee. A Neapolitan coffee machine usually drinks coffee in a small cup or glass.
Vietnamese coffee machines
They are also known as Vietnamese coffee filters. This is a method of coffee extraction similar to French coffee presses, but with a Vietnamese coffee filter, the coffee falls through the filter directly into the cup where you drink it.
- Bluelover Vietnamese-style Stainless Steel Coffee Drip Pot Filter
- Thang Long Vietnamese Coffee Filter Maker Press
Siphon coffee makers
These coffee machines generate heat using an alcohol burner that heats the water to a very low temperature until a vacuum effect is produced, which gives the machine its name.
With a siphon coffee maker, making coffee becomes a ritual. The coffee is pure and clean, as it never comes into contact with metallic elements during brewing.
On the downside, they are somewhat expensive and a bit fragile, as they are mostly made of glass, so they need to be handled with care.
Portable coffee machines
These are usually hand-operated pressure coffee machines, although some do need electricity and take it from the 12v plug of the cigarette lighter in the vehicle. We refer in this section to those that are completely manual (you must heat the water beforehand to use them). The coffee is espresso, and many of them allow ESE pods or even Nespresso capsules.
Cold Brew coffee makers
Coffee brewed cold (or at room temperature) with a cold-brew coffee maker takes many hours to be ready. The result, of course, is a coffee that has nothing to do with the other methods we have seen so far.
Manual microwave coffee makers
These are containers or gadgets specially designed for making coffee inside the microwave (in other words, not heating a coffee already made, but brewing it right there), microwave coffee makers.
They work similarly to Moka pots; as the water is heated and pressure is generated, the coffee rises upwards.
Related: How to make coffee in the microwave?
Useful accessories when using a manual coffee machine at home
One of the key aspects you should consider before buying a manual coffee maker is that you will often need the help of other tools or accessories to prepare coffee. This is a summary of the most common ones:
- Coffee beans of the best possible quality. In manual coffee machines, the process is much more artisanal, and if you use poor-quality coffee, it will be much more noticeable in the result.
- A kettle, to be able to use hot water as the coffee maker is not able to heat it by itself.
- A coffee grinder is essential for grinding the bean on the spot and enjoying freshly ground coffee.
- A milk frother if you want to make yourself a cappuccino or latte.
- Russell Hobbs 20460 Quiet Boil Kettle
- Bodum 11160-01UK-3 Bistro Electric Blade Grinder
- Lavazza A Modo Mio Milk Easy Frother
The best manual coffee machines in 2023
Are you wondering which is the best manual coffee maker on the market? The answer is given not so much by the quality of the coffee (since being manual, the user is large to blame and responsible for the result) but by the materials, the robustness and the support offered by the manufacturer.
We mix all this with some criteria of popularity in the sales rankings, and the result, if we had to highlight five models as the best manual coffee makers in the world, would be the following:
It has a powerful signature behind it that supports it, with all kinds of gadgets, complements and accessories for your Chemex coffee machine. It is a coffee maker with its style, although the closest thing would be to classify it as a Pour Over or manual drip coffee maker.
However, it has certain peculiarities, such as the fact that it uses its filters and that the coffee falls into its flask, which is integrated into the coffee maker.
The Chemex manual coffee maker is available in various sizes and is a true icon of coffee culture worldwide.
This manual-pressure coffee maker is a precursor of today’s popular portable coffee machines. It has been on the market since 2006 and, like Chemex, is much more popular in North America than in Europe.
The Aeropress manual coffee maker comes with a complete set of accessories, all exclusive to its brand. It is one of the best alternatives for enjoying a real espresso without needing an outlet nearby.
As you know, hundreds of Moka pots are on the market. Still, if we are talking about the best manual coffee makers of 2023, we have to stick with the prestigious Alessi 9090 for quality, design and durability. Not because of the price: it is quite expensive.
The Kalita Wave is available in two sizes (1-2 cups or 3-4 cups) and three different finishes: stainless steel, ceramic and glass.
1-Litre Silberthal French press
There are many models and manufacturers of french presses on the market. Still, if we have to choose one type, we would certainly go for the German firm Silberthal, with a capacity of 1 litre and excellent manufacture.
Which are the cheapest manual coffee machines?
If we go into the question of price, although we have already said that most manual coffee machines are very economical, it is clear that some types are cheaper than others.
On average, the cheapest manual coffee machines are the drip cones (or pour-over), the most basic versions of which can be found for less than 10 pounds, and then a group consisting of the Mokas and Neapolitan aluminium coffee makers, the Vietnamese and the French presses with the plastic support. These can be found in the 10-15 pounds range. Of course, size also plays a role: larger coffee machines will always be more expensive.
Here are some examples:
Of course, as with everything, there are exceptions, and particular brands or models cost more than average because of their design or prestige.
Advantages of manual coffee machines at home
Buying a manual coffee maker for your home has many advantages, but unfortunately, few consumers are aware of them. We will try to summarise the most important ones here so that you know which manual coffee maker to buy:
- They are usually simpler and much cheaper (as they do not have electric technology), so you can easily buy a set of several coffee machines in various sizes or features for little money.
- Generally, and always depending on your skill, the coffee you make with a manual coffee maker is high-quality, clean, pure and with many nuances.
- The user can control with absolute precision the entire coffee brewing process and to influence the final result of the coffee by varying certain parameters, quantities, times, etc.
Disadvantages of manual home coffee machines
- Using them requires a certain learning curve. If you don’t want to complicate your life and are just looking for a quick coffee, perhaps the manual coffee machines are not for you.
- You often need the help of other instruments and accessories to make the most of them.
- You have to use quality coffee beans with them, and if possible, freshly ground at home. Forget about the infamous cheap supermarket coffee.