The truth is that all homes are full of electrical appliances, and of course, the kitchen is the room that has the most.
Without realizing it, between induction hobs, big appliances like fridges or washing machines, and the smallest ones like kitchen robots, mixers or other accessories, we add dozens and dozens of gadgets that need to be plugged into the electric current to work. Coffee machines are no exception; electric ones are by far the most popular.
However, there are countless manual coffee machines on the market. And we are not just referring to the two or three basic models that come to mind right now. The list of manual coffee machines, which do not need to be plugged into the mains, is vast and surprising. Take a look, because I’m sure you didn’t know there were so many:
- 1 Types of manual coffee machines
- 1.1 Manual Italian coffee makers
- 1.2 French coffee machines
- 1.3 Pour-over coffee machines, or drip cones
- 1.4 Neapolitan coffee makers
- 1.5 Vietnamese coffee machines
- 1.6 Siphon coffee machines, or vacuum coffee machines
- 1.7 Portable coffee machines
- 1.8 Cold Brew coffee machines
- 1.9 Manual microwave coffee makers
- 2 The accessories you need to use a manual coffee machine at home
- 3 The best manual coffee machines in 2021
- 4 But… what about the “manual” espresso machines?
- 5 Manual stainless steel coffee machines
- 6 Which are the cheapest manual coffee machines?
- 7 Advantages of manual coffee machines at home
- 8 Disadvantages of manual home coffee machines
Types of manual coffee machines
What do you think? Did you know them all? I’m sure you didn’t.
All these manual coffee machines have in common that they do not plug into the electric current, which is the main source of energy that coffee makers have to generate temperature and thus heat the water. However, each type of manual home coffee maker has its peculiarities and produces different results.
If you are wondering how a manual coffee maker works or how it is used, the answer will depend on the type of gadget in front of you. Not all machines work the same way or make the same type of coffee.
For example, manual Moka pot or Italian coffee makers still need to generate heat to create pressure, so we have to put them on the kitchen hob. For the rest, we must heat the water beforehand on our own, either in the microwave oven or through a kettle.
The type of coffee made by manual home coffee makers is also diverse. The most common are drip coffee and espresso. However, the latter has little to do with the espresso from an electric espresso machine because the pressure generated by electricity will always be much higher.
We will now briefly look at the main characteristics of each type of manual coffee maker:
Manual Italian coffee makers
Perhaps the best known all over the world. They are used to make espresso coffee, but they have to be put on the fire (gas, induction or glass-ceramic) to heat the water. Some electric ones can be plugged in, but they would not fit into this report.
There are hundreds of materials, manufacturers, sizes and models on the market. In other regions, they are known as Moka pot coffee makers.
French coffee machines
Totally manual, handcrafted, and cute. They are used to make an infusion coffee with a great aroma and intense flavour. The containers are usually made of stainless steel, aluminium (the support) or borosilicate glass.
They are cheap and are also available in a multitude of sizes (the largest being 1 litre).
Pour-over coffee machines, or drip cones
They are also called drippers and are the manual version of the electric drip coffee machines. They are not very widespread but allow the user to control very precisely the whole coffee extraction process.
Pour-over coffee machines have a learning curve and make the process of making coffee fun and satisfying. The best thing: its price and the quality of the resulting coffee. The worst: you need some additional tools or instruments to use them.
Neapolitan coffee makers
They are very similar to Italian Moka pots, but inside, the coffee is made in a very different way. They also have to be put on the stove, but this time there is no pressure for the water to go up; but rather, we turn the machine around, and the coffee is filtered downwards.
The process is slow, and the result is a very dense, tasty, intense coffee. The coffee from a Neapolitan coffee maker is usually drunk in a small cup or glass.
Vietnamese coffee machines
They are also known as Vietnamese coffee filters. This is a similar method of production to that of the piston coffee machines, but with a Vietnamese one, the coffee falls through the filter directly into the cup where we are going to drink it.
Siphon coffee machines, or vacuum coffee machines
They can also be found as Cona coffee machines. They generate heat, but through an alcohol burner, without an electric socket. The water is heated to a very low temperature, and a vacuum effect is produced, which gives the machine its name.
With a siphon coffee maker, coffee making becomes a ritual again and a process to be pampered. The coffee with them is pure and clean, as it is never in contact with any metallic element during its elaboration.
In the chapter on disadvantages, they are somewhat expensive and a little fragile: they must be handled with care – only for coffee gourmets!
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 on your own beforehand to use them). The coffee is espresso, and many of them allow the use of ESE pods or even Nespresso capsules.
Cold Brew coffee machines
With a cold brew coffee maker, the coffee is brewed cold or at room temperature, so that the process takes several hours. The result, of course, is a coffee that has nothing to do with the rest. Very, very mild.
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 in a similar way to Italian coffee machines, as the water is heated and pressure is generated, and the coffee rises upwards. In this article, you can learn more about them: How to make coffee in the microwave?
As an observation, piston coffee machines, such as those of the La Pavoni brand, are not included in this list. They are also quite manual in that the user is responsible for opening and closing the water flow with a crank to make the espresso…but they still need an electric current to heat the water (not to generate the pressure).
The accessories you need to use 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 make the coffee. They are not as “comfortable”, so to speak, as electric ones. 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 a 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, 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.
The best manual coffee machines in 2021
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 responsibility 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 classifying 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 whole coffee maker.
The Chemex manual coffee maker is available in various sizes and is a true icon of coffee culture worldwide.
This is a manual pressure coffee machine, 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 the need for an outlet nearby.
We change our registration and go to the Italian coffee machines. As you know, there are hundreds of them on the market, but if we are talking about the best manual coffee machines of 2021, we have to stick with the prestigious Alessi 9090: for quality, design and durability. Not because of the price: it is quite expensive.
If you’re interested in buying a manual Pour Over coffee maker or drip cone, your two best choices are this Kalita Wave or the Hario V60. The Kalita Wave is available in two sizes (1-2 cups, or 3-4 cups) and three different finishes: stainless steel, ceramic and glass. In our review below, you will find a complete manual on how to make coffee with your Kalita Wave.
1- Litre Silberthal French press
There are many models and manufacturers of piston coffee machines on the market, but if we have to choose one type, we would certainly go for the French stainless steel press machines. Among all of them, we choose this one from the German firm Silberthal, with a capacity of 1 litre and excellent manufacture.
But… what about the “manual” espresso machines?
Manual espresso machines are called that way as opposed to super-automatic ones because the user has to stop the water flow manually. With automatic machines, on the other hand, the user only has to worry about selecting a type of drink, and the machine automatically knows how long the brewing should last.
However, manual espresso machines are still electric, as they need to be plugged into the mains to operate and generate heat and pressure. For example, if someone is looking for a “manual espresso and cappuccino machine“, they want an Oster Prima Latte. Nothing like the ones we are dealing with here.
This is why we do not include manual arm coffee makers on this page.
Manual stainless steel coffee machines
When we look for a manual stainless steel coffee machine, we have to specify very well what kind of machine we are talking about because not all of them are made of this material.
We will begin talking about the Italian ones, or Moka pots, which are usually made of stainless steel or aluminium. Of course, the stainless steel ones are of higher quality, and more are sought after. Most people looking to buy a manual stainless steel coffee maker are looking for one of this type. With the Neapolitan ones, although they are less known, something similar happens. Here are some examples:
Among the other types of manual coffee machines, we can find stainless steel housings in the plunger coffee machines, pour-over coffee machines, and Vietnamese type. The other types are not made of this material, except for some trims or loose parts.
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 Italian and Neapolitan aluminium coffee machines, 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 there are particular brands or models which, because of their design or prestige, cost more than average.
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 of 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 are one of those who 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.