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What you didn’t know about Leather Furniture in 2021



leather furniture

What’s called “Bicast Leather” is a common furniture covering. While this composite leather looks like the real thing, it may not wear like it.

We’re concerned that retailers aren’t giving consumers enough information about this leather and its long-term durability.

What is the problem?

Leather, Chair 

There’s some great leather furniture sold here. Karen Goa thought she’d found some – a gorgeous leather chair from furniture store for $719.

She knew it was made of bicast leather when she bought the chair but didn’t know what that meant.

Once she got the chair home, she searched the web for information about bi-cast leather. That’s when she began to worry.

Karen had left the store thinking she had bought a genuine leather product.

But because we don’t have mandatory labeling of leather products, Karen wasn’t aware she had bought a chair covered in a composite material of a synthetic bonding product (usually urethane) applied to an inferior section of animal hide.

The polyurethane coating was treated to look like genuine leather.

As far as we know, bicast leather is not used on locally made furniture but is found on imported furniture from Asia and elsewhere.

It’s usually much cheaper than genuine leather, but even top-end Italian furniture can sometimes be covered with it.

Is it a problem?


We spoke to a number of leather upholstery repairers and, their unanimous verdict was that bicast was “awful stuff”.

One repairer was of the opinion the mid-section layers of hide used in bicast leather “had the strength of tissue paper”.

Unlike genuine leather, the synthetic surface of bicast leather is not porous and gets damaged by perspiration.

Unlike genuine leather, the synthetic surface of bi-cast leather is not porous and gets damaged by perspiration.

This can result in some bicast leather delaminating – the synthetic and hide layers separate, the surface cracks, and the furniture “falls apart”.

The bicast material itself can’t be repaired, so any patching must be done with genuine leather – making it difficult to match surfaces.

Often reupholstering is the only option, which can be more expensive than the original purchase.

Dr. Warren Bryson, Director of the Leather and Shoe Research Association, told us the properties of bicast leather varied from manufacturer to manufacturer and also process to process.

He believed some of the better examples would perform very well, but the only way to know for sure about a particular product was to test under laboratory conditions.

Bryson suggested mandatory testing of imported products to ensure they passed a minimum standard of durability would significantly benefit consumers.

Lack of information

furniture store

When we went to furniture stores pretending to buy leather furniture, salespeople were usually able to tell us which sofas were made of bicast leather but not much about durability.

We couldn’t find any material from retailers telling us that the “leather” covering on furniture had been stress-tested in a lab. Stores that stocked bicast leather tended to be upbeat about the product.

Where written information was available, it didn’t help. For example, one furniture store calls its various leather types names such as “Deco” or “Lawson” rather than a name that describes the type of leather.

There were no pamphlets or other material in-store that gave the proportion of the leather that was made from a hide (versus polyurethane) or indicated the expected life of the material.

Unhelpful statements

leather samples

On the back of the Deco bicast leather sample, we found a statement which we believe implied the material was more natural than it really was:

“This leather is indicative of the color only. Due to the natural characteristics of leather, slight variations in color and grain may occur.”

It’s easy to see how consumers, after reading this statement, would mistakenly believe they had bought a genuine leather product.

Bicast leather is said to be perfect in “high-wear areas”. This may be so, but without any durability test results, how can a consumer know?

Mandatory labeling needed

leather labeling

Bicast leather looks and feels like high-grade leather. Even experts find it hard to tell the difference from simply looking at and pinching the material.

Consumers are paying for what they believe will be a long-lasting product, and they need the right information from retailers to make a good choice.

So it’s essential that leather products have labeling that clearly identifies:

  • the proportion of bonding agents (if any) and leather being used
  • the part of the hide the leather is from.

Mandatory labeling would help clear up a legally grey area.

In 2001 the Commerce Commission said that representing leather look-alike products (such as bicast leather) “as ‘100% leather’, ‘genuine leather’, or as simply ‘leather’ may mislead consumers about the real nature of the product they are purchasing”.

Retailers may risk breaching the [Fair Trading Act] if they claim that bicast leather is genuine leather. We think stores should reconsider the labeling of their Deco samples if they wish to avoid the possibility of a challenge from the Commerce Commission.

Getting the real thing

leather furniture

Tips for buying leather furniture:

Price is not always a good guide to quality but be wary if the new “leather” sofa you are looking at is much cheaper than sofas sold as “full-grain” or “top-grain” leather.

Bicast leather products usually have short warranty periods of up to 2 years compared with 5 to 10 years for genuine leather.

Don’t be fooled by grand-sounding Italian brand names or claims that the furniture was “designed in USA”. Always ask for details.

Ask your retailer where the sofa was made, which country the leather is from, what part of the hide was used, and what life expectancy it has. Get this information in writing.

Our view

We would like to see mandatory labeling of leather products and furniture.

Bicast leather products often have short warranty periods of up to 2 years. But don’t accept that you have to pay for repairs to your bi-cast leather furniture just because it’s out of warranty. Use your Consumer Guarantees Act rights and, if the retailer won’t fix it, take a case to the Disputes Tribunal.

If you have concerns about your leather furniture, take it to a leather specialist and ask them to check for early signs of damage.

Last update on 2021-02-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Home & Kitchen

The Best Wake Up Lights in 2021



best Wake Up Lights 2021

Are you a grump in the morning? Try a mood-altering, gentle wake up light


Banish beeping alarms and wake up as nature intended with our pick of the best wake up lights

The best wake-up light won’t just replace your alarm clock, but it’ll ensure you have a slower, gentler start to your day.

Dragging yourself out of bed is difficult at any time of the year. It’s definitely not aided by a startling, beeping alarm that can break the sleep cycle at the point at which your body is least ready for it.

Wake-up lights work to replicate the sunrise that would have naturally woken our ancestors. Still, year-round, it cancels out the circadian rhythm-confusing lack of morning light in winter. It carefully coaxes you into wakefulness using light and sound.

Take a look at our pick of the best and find a model that suits your sleep style (as well as your aesthetic). For more tech buys for your home, head to our technology hub page.

What is the best wake-up light?

Our favorite is the all-singing, all-dancing Lumie Bodyclock 250. Actually, it neither sings nor dances, but it is a highly customizable wake-up clock. It has a speed-controlled light with a range of 15 to 90 minutes (or anyone who really struggles to wake up).

Oh, and there’s a radio and noise options. Read down for more…


1. Lumie Bodyclock 250

Lumie Bodyclock Active 250 Wake-Up Light, Alarm Clock with FM Radio and Extra Audio Options

Best wake-up light: lights, sounds, ready for action.

This is our pick of the best wake up light you can buy



Best for: Customisation

Power type: Mains with back-up battery

Lux: 250

Reasons to buy

  • Adjustable sunrise/sunset time
  • Doubles as a bedside light

Reasons to avoid

  • Not as good-looking

Lumie are the inventors of the original wake-up light, and to our judgment, their Bodyclock is still the best. The Bodyclock Active is a certified medical device recommended by

It wakes you with a gradually brightening light whose speed you can control within a range of 15 to 90 minutes. It’s perfect for the mornings when you really need to get going and those when you can afford a little more lie-in time.

Doubling as a bedside light and nightlight, it has many features. It has a snooze function, dimmable display, FM radio, and wake-up noise options, including white noise, waves, birdsong, and a rooster call. For its seemingly endless customization options, it’s our top choice.

2. Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light

Philips SmartSleep Wake up Light Colored Sunrise and Sunset Simulation 5 Natural Sounds FM Radio Reading Lamp Tap Snooze HF352060

Best wake up light: choose nature or natter with this clock radio meets wake-up light



Best for: Gentle wake-up

Power type: Mains

Lux: 300

Reasons to buy

  • Variety of natural sounds
  • Intuitive dimming display

Reasons to avoid

  • Cannot change bulb
  • The clock light doesn’t dim

A very close second to the Lumie Bodyclock Active is the Philips SmartSleep Wake Up Light.

It’s another highly recommended and reliable option. The added distinction of looking really good on the bedside table thanks to its sleek, almost seamless design.

It’s clinically proven to make getting up less of a chore with light settings, plus a bank of seven natural sounds and radio function. Whether you prefer birdsong or your local station to get you out of bed in the morning, you’re all set.

In our opinion, this is the best wake-up light for a gentle wake-up.

3. Withings Aura Connected Alarm Clock with Wake-Up Light & Sound System

Withings Aura Connected Alarm Clock with Wake-Up Light & Sound System

Best Amazon wake up light: use sleep cycle analysis and room environment tracking to enhance sleeping habits



Best for: Tracking your sleep and adjusting your environment accordingly

Power type: Mains

Lux: 300

Reasons to buy

  • Sleep enhancement backed up                  by science
  • Go to sleep and wake up                            functions

Reasons to avoid

  • Can be arduous to set up

Withings Aura Sistema Smart Sleep effectively combines a speaker, bedside lamp, and alarm clock. It also has sleep cycle analysis and room environment tracking to optimize sleep.

Its combination of scientifically designed blue light and music programs is intended to ensure users wake up energized during the best point of their sleep cycle.

In addition to helping users wake up, the Withings Aura is also designed to aid the process of falling asleep. With sleep-inducing programs and access to an unlimited choice of music with Spotify.

The best wake-up light for sleep analysis, we think.

4. Lumie Bodyclock Iris 500

Lumie Bodyclock IRIS 500 - Aromatherapy Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock by Lumie

Best wake up light with aromatherapy: a SAD wake-up lamp with a built-in aromatherapy feature



Best for: Immersive sleep experience

Power type: Mains

Lux: N/A

Reasons to buy

  • Aromatherapy feature

Reasons to avoid

  • No radio option

A unique take on the traditional Lumie wake-up light, the Lumie Bodyclock Iris 500 offers an aromatherapy option in addition to the basic features.

Capable of taking up to two diffusers, it’s now possible to wake up to a scent of your choice, in addition to a light and sound setting that suits. The best wake-up light for those who want an immersive sleep experience…

5. Philips HF3500/60 Wake-Up Light

Philips SmartSleep HF350060 Wake Up Light Therapy Alarm Clock with Sunrise Simulation

Best wake up light and alarm clock: combines the bedside lamp and alarm clock for the best of both worlds



Best for: Simple design

Power type: Mains

Lux: 200

Reasons to buy

  • Stylish minimal design
  • Adjustable for evening and morning

Reasons to avoid

  • Some found the alarm a little grating

If you’re undecided about light alarm clocks, not fussed about nature sounds, and just want a simple model that builds on a standard sound alarm, the Philips HF3500/60 is the best wake-up light for you.

It’s a handsome stand-in for a bedside light and alarm clock. Its light settings are ample and varied, with ten different light intensities to choose from and adjustable brightness for the time display.

However, there’s just one alarm setting, so if you prefer to be gently enticed into wakefulness with birdsong, it may not be for you.

One final downside that some reviewers have flagged up is that the snooze feature can be quite tricky to activate. However, if it saves us from ourselves, we suppose, then all the better…

6. Philips Hue Go White and Color Portable Smart Light Table Lamp

Best portable wake up light: a portable bedside lamp that encourages better sleep


Best for: Portability

Power type: Battery powered by charged by mains

Lux: 520

Reasons to buy

  • Portable
  • Easy to use
  • Wide range of colors

Reasons to avoid

  • Low brightness

What we love most about the Philips Hue Go light is its portability. You can easily pick it up and use it to guide you around in the dark.

This way you don’t have to turn on any powerful lights that will blast your eyes at five in the morning and properly get you out of deep sleep.

The Philips Hue Go is designed to slowly dim itself until it turns off, you can change this settings from your phone. Still, you can customize this in 15-minute intervals, with 60 minutes being the longest program.

You can obviously also leave it on indefinitely. You can use the Philips Hue Go app to customize your bedtime or morning routine, and you sync the light with other lights around your home.

The only downside is as it’s not voice-activated. You have to either use your phone to turn it off, which could interrupt your almost sleep or go old school and actually have to turn the light off manually.

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Last update on 2021-02-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Home & Kitchen

Smart bedroom gadgets: 7 best smart tech buys to help you sleep better



best smart bedroom

Looking for smart bedroom gadgets? Filling your home with some of the best smart home techs can make your day-to-day routine easier and more efficient.

Still, while there are lots of smart tech options for the living room, kitchen, and general home, we don’t often think about how smart home tech can enhance the bedroom.

From smart alarm clocks to sleep trackers, there are many smart home tools designed to help you climb into bed at night, monitor your sleep, and then wake up in the morning.

What on earth, other than lighting, can be usefully smart in a bedroom? Well, there are all sorts of gadgets that will make life easier… and also help you sleep better, too.

We’ve picked out 8 smart bedroom gadgets we think can be genuinely useful, rather than just gimmicky.

1. Best smart alarm clock: Amazon Echo Spot

Echo Dot (3rd Gen) bundle with Amazon Smart Plug

When it comes to our pick of the best smart bedroom gadgets, first up is an alarm clock.

The Amazon Echo Spot isn’t your old-fashioned alarm clock but one of the most recent additions to the Amazon Echo speaker lineup. It’ll sit flawlessly on your bedside table, ready to wake you up in the morning. But what makes it so special?

Voice activation

Complete with voice activation, it’s now possible to use your voice to ask Alexa to set your alarms in the morning (see our Amazon Alexa review for more info) – and perhaps more importantly, snoozing the alarm too.

Handy display screen

The Amazon Echo dot also offers a bright, clear 2.5-inch display that gives you the time as well as handy messages and the weather for today. The benefit of this? You can plan your outfit and journey to work appropriately. 


In addition to fulfilling the role of a more traditional alarm clock, this model also allows users to play music or audiobooks while going to sleep, plus it has all of the other Amazon Alexa functionality of other smart speakers too.

You could order a pizza using your voice directly from your bed with the Domino’s app, or you could connect this up, so it can control other smart gadgets around your home.

That means if you have Philips Hue lighting in your bedroom, you can easily snuggle up in bed and use your voice to turn them off when you’re ready to get to sleep.

A choice of 100 different alarms

You can’t currently use music to wake up in the morning with the Echo Spot – something we hope Amazon will sort in the future – but you can set up to 100 different alarms, so it’s nice and easy to have this set-up on your bedside to wake you at different times on the weekend to your average workday.

To compare all your options, browse our pick of the best alarm clocks currently available. Then, browse the rest of the Amazon Echo range on Amazon.

2. Best smart lightbulb kit: Philips Hue Starter Kit

Philips Hue 2-Pack Premium Smart Light Starter Kit, 16 million colors, for most lamps & overhead lights

Smart lightbulbs are perfect for *ahem* setting the mood in the bedroom, and, in our opinion, it doesn’t get better than the Philips Hue Starter Kit. 

Adjust warmth and brightness to suit your mood

The two white bulbs – which come as part of the starter kit – can be set to any warmth level and any brightness between ‘hygge’ and ‘interrogation room’ (slightly less appealing) for maximum versatility. At the same time, the hub allows you to connect and customize a further 48 lights.

Smart connectivity

As with all Philips Hue products, the app shines just as brightly as the bulbs, letting you set your lights to do things like turn on when you step through the door after work. 

Smart system compatibility

It is compatible with several voice assistants, including Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Nest, and many more.

3. Best bedroom fan: Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link

Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link HP02 Wi-Fi Enabled Air Purifier

Sleeping at night in the boiling heat is unbearable for most people, which is why we’d recommend a fan as another of our top smart bedroom gadgets. Don’t just buy any fan, though – this Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link connects to your phone, so you can control it without having to leave your bed.

Smart connectivity

Thanks to smart connectivity, it’s possible to turn your fan on via your smartphone and arrive at a perfectly chilled home. The perfect remedy to a sticky commute, we think.

Heat and cool your room

This model can also be used to heat up your room during the cold season, so you don’t have to worry about 

Air purifier

Perhaps the best feature of this product, though, is that it’s also an air purifier, and it will intelligently remove 99.97 percent of allergens and pollutants in your home’s air.

That means if you have hay-fever or asthma, you can monitor the air quality and be sure there’s a comfortable environment before you get home.

4. Best smart scales: Withings Body scale

Withings Body+ - Smart Body Composition Wi-Fi Digital Scale with smartphone app

While you may not need smart scales to monitor your weight, they can help you to track your overall health and can make the whole process of weigh-in day a little easier. This is why they’re another of our top smart bedroom tech ideas.

Our top pick is the Withings Body Scale, here’s why:

Connect to Withings Health Mate

This handy smart scale cleverly connects to the Withings Health Mate app, which stores your weight and other data, making tracking progress easier and more efficient. 

Multiple users

It’s even possible to introduce your whole family to the scales, as this smart scale is equipped to work out who is standing on them each time, plus the little display will then show you your weight, the trend of your weight (whether it’s gone up or down) as well as your BMI (and then it’ll show what the weather will be like today).


You can buy more expensive scales in the Withings range and other choices from Fitbit and Garmin. Still, we don’t think the extra features are particularly useful enough to get, so we’d recommend sticking with the Withings Body.

5. Best smart bedside table: Brightech Owen Side Table

Brightech Owen - End Table with Lamp for Living Rooms, Wireless Charging Station & USB Ports Built in - Wood Nightstand : Side Table & LED Reading Light Attached for Bedrooms - Mid Century Modern

If you have any gadgets that charge wirelessly, you should consider picking up an Brightech Owen Bedside Table. It will help you limit the number of wires scattered over your bedside at night. Here’s everything you need to know about it:

Qi wireless charging tech

Phones such as the iPhone 12, iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy S21, and many more come with built-in compatible Qi wireless charging tech, meaning you can just place your phone down on the plus symbol on the top of the table. It’ll start pumping up the battery without you having to plug it in.

If your phone doesn’t support Qi, some major models have wireless charging cases that you can use.

Attractive solution

Plus, it’s an attractive-looking bedside table that offers lots of space and is sure to fit in with your décor if you have other wooden furniture.

Factors worth considering

The technology isn’t particularly quick yet, but when you’re charging overnight, and you don’t have to physically plug your phone into a cable, it feels like you’re living in the future.

6. Best sleep tracker: Withings Sleep

Withings Sleep - Sleep Tracking Pad Under The Mattress with Sleep Cycle Analysis

If you own a fitness tracker or smartwatch, you can usually use these devices to track the quality of your sleep. 

But, if you don’t want an annoying gadget strapped to your wrist while you toss and turn, you can always opt for a different type of sleep tracker. Perfect for those interested in optimizing sleep, it’s another of our top smart bedroom tech ideas: Withings Sleep. Here’s everything you need to know about it:

Uninterrupted sleep tracking

Designed with a long thin pad that plugs into the wall for power and then slides underneath your mattress where you’d normally place your chest at night, this sleep tracker will monitor you throughout the night without disturbing your sleep.

As long as you sleep on top of it, the Nokia Sleep will be able to track your night’s quality, including your heart rate throughout, when you’ve been in different levels of sleep (like REM or deep sleep), as well as how much you’ve been snoring.

Smart connectivity

All of that data is then pinged through Wi-Fi to your phone, and you’ll then be able to break down your night’s sleep within the Withings Health Mate app that’s available for Android and iOS phones.

It only works for one person in your bed, but being able to track your stats without an annoying fitness tracker on your wrist is a big benefit for some.

7. Best smart baby monitor: Arlo Baby Monitor

Arlo Baby Monitor | Smart Wi-Fi Baby Camera with Table:Wall Stand

An essential for parents, or parents to be, the Arlo Baby Monitor is the best smart baby monitor currently available. Here’s everything you need to know about it: 

Get notifications straight to your smartphone

When shopping for a baby monitor, safety is paramount. A step-up from simply being able to see or hear your baby, this model sends notifications directly to your smartphone if it registers motion or changes in sound or temperature.

Night mode

Thanks to handy, built-in, near-invisible infrared LEDs, you can see your baby clearly in the dark, meaning you won’t have to worry about poor picture quality as soon as the sun goes down.

Additional features

In addition to the standard features described above, this model also offers a multi-colored night light option, a music player, temperature display, humidity display, and VOC air sensors.

All of which can help soothe you downstairs, and some of which will soothe your little one back to sleep.

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Last update on 2021-02-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Home & Kitchen

Best Espresso Machine 2021: For taste-packed shots every time



best Espresso Machine

Our best espresso machine selection will help you give your kitchen its very own dedicated coffee corner

Love your morning caffeine hit strong and authentic? You’ll need a proper espresso machine…

The best espresso machine can transform your mornings. Not many things beat the smell of fresh coffee in the morning, except maybe the taste of a smooth shot of espresso or a cappuccino just how you like it. Especially when it’s coming from the best espresso machine you can buy.

Whether it’s part of a pre-commute morning routine or you’re reluctantly heading back upstairs to commence the working day in your home office, having the facilities to make your own great espresso at home will perk up your morning routine.

So, why not start your morning with a drink brewed in the very best espresso machine you can buy for your home?

Not a big fan of espresso? Find our pick of the very best coffee machines of all types. If you’re looking for a bargain, the best cheap coffee machine sales are right here.


1. Nespresso Creatista Uno by Breville

Nespresso Creatista Uno by Breville, Black Sesame

The best espresso machine



Best for: Overall quality

Reservoir: 50 oz

Bar: 19

Grinder: No

Reasons to buy

  • Easy to use
  • Quiet
  • Perfect Coffee

Reasons to avoid

  • Cost of pods

The Breville Nespresso Creatista Uno capsule coffee machine takes the top spot on our list of best espresso machines for good reason: it makes really tasty coffee, it’s really easy to use and clean, and it’s a smart addition to your worktops. 

What’s it good at?

The crema this machine produces is really good. And it dispenses espresso fast (in just 25 seconds). Perfect if you’re impatient for that first shot of the day. It’s easy to use, too – and we like that.

What do we like about it?

It’s not limited to espressos: there’s an automatic steam wand with a choice of three milk temperatures and frothing levels – not something you’d normally see on a capsule coffee machine. Plus, the steam wand purges itself after use so cleaning it isn’t an issue.

The adjustable settings mean you can control coffee volume (there are three cup sizes) and milk texture, too. Simply adjust the coffee machine to suit, and it’ll produce your perfect cup every time.

This espresso machine has a high pressure (19 bar) pump, but it is quiet when working. There’s an energy-saving auto shut-off feature (after nine minutes), too.

What else? 

The 50 oz water tank removes easily, which makes cleaning and refilling a breeze, and the metal milk jug is dishwasher-safe. Always a bonus. There’s also an indicator that tells you when the coffee machine needs descaling (a fast, easy job). 

What don’t we like?

The cost of pods – and the waste issue around them. That said, Nespresso does run a pod recycling scheme.

2. Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine

Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine

The best espresso machine for the coffee enthusiast



Best for: Barista style

Reservoir: 67 oz

Bar: 15

Grinder: Yes

Reasons to buy

  • Soaks the coffee to release maximum flavour
  • High pressure steam output

Reasons to avoid

  • Takes a while to master

The Breville Barista Express is a must-buy for real espresso aficionados – and it looks the part, too.

What’s it good at?

In a word: espresso. The consistency of the brew really is excellent, and the integrated coffee grinder means that you get the freshest possible quality. Those users who appreciate fresh tasting coffee rate it very highly, and actually enjoy getting to know all the different settings. 

What do we like about it?

Heston Blumenthal is a chef renowned for his wacky recipes, so it’s no surprise that his coffee machine is just as out there, with its ability to grind beans to your preferred consistency, apply just the right amount of pressure for a smooth espresso and steam milk to the perfect level of frothiness. Espresso enthusiasts will love the fact that it has 18 different grind settings. 

The other great thing about this machine is its classic style. Despite its advanced features, it’s very traditional in appearance, with a clean, stainless steel exterior that’ll look great against the backdrop of any kitchen. 

What else?

This espresso machine is for those who take their coffee seriously; for those who love a quick cup on the go, it will be too fussy. 

What don’t we like?

Users report that the Breville can get a while to get going the first time round, and that you really need a full water tank to have the best quality espresso. The machine also requires regular maintenance (about every four weeks), so you’ll need to be prepared for that.

3. Jura A1 Super Automatic Coffee Machine

Jura A1 Super Automatic Coffee Machine, 1, Piano Black

The best modern espresso machine



Best for: Modern

Reservoir: 37 oz

Bar: 15

Grinder: Yes

Reasons to buy

  • Minimalist frontage
  • Programme 3 cup sizes

Reasons to avoid

  • Smallest capacity

The Jura A1 Super Automatic Coffee Machine is a slimline one-cup machine that delivers quality coffee – from espresso to ristretto – fast. 

What’s it good at?

Its capacity to freshly grind coffee certainly gives it an edge over many other similar espresso machines. And, you can pre-set three cups and two coffee strengths via the simple operating panel – strong for the morning and perhaps a weaker one for coffees at the end of a meal. 

What do we like about it?

Putting the coffee quality aside for a minute, we love the streamlined looks of this espresso machine – it’s pretty compact in size, too, so it shouldn’t take up too much room in your kitchen, perfect if you’re squeezed for space. 

There’s an automatic energy saving mode with programmable switch-off, too, which means the machine is energy-efficient (even if you’re not).

Let’s talk science: Jura has worked on perfecting the cutting angle inside the grinding cone so that users can get that a delicious coffee aroma in half the grinding time. 

What else?

There’s the Claris water filter which ensures the coffee delivered is as tasty as it can be. The filter works to protect the machine against limescale, too, so maintenance is easier. 

What don’t we like?

There is no steaming arm, so it lacks the theatrics of other espresso machines in our list. It also has a small capacity, so expect to refill frequently. 

4. De’Longhi PrimaDonna Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machine

DeLonghi ECAM 550.65.SB PrimaDonna Class bean-to-cup machine black

Best automatic espresso machine



Best for: Automatic

Reservoir: 43 oz

Bar: 15

Grinder: Yes

Reasons to buy

  • Sleek, stylish and compact
  • Automatic milk steaming
  • Versatile
  • Can make any type of coffee

Reasons to avoid

  • Tank capacity is on the smaller side
  • Very expensive

The De’Longhi PrimaDonna Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machine not only makes a great espresso but cappuccino and latte, too. It’s not cheap but it’s worth a look.

What’s it good at?

Making a latte, cappuccino or macchiato is easy as pressing a button, and you still benefit from the perfectly frothed milk and smooth shot of espresso that espresso coffee machines are renowned for.

What do we like about it?

This espresso machine is a hardworking all-rounder, able to make everything from an espresso to a cappuccino – and even a hot chocolate. Users love how customisable its performance is: tinkle around with the different settings, and it will give you a cup of coffee just the way you like it. 

This espresso coffee machine also blends the convenience of the capsule coffee machine with the authenticity of a bean to cup. The machine can either grind coffee beans or you can choose a pre-ground blend of your choice. We like that.

What else?

With its stainless steel and black exterior, it’s smart, streamlined and will certainly look the part taking pride of place in your kitchen. 

What don’t we like?

Some users remark that the default espresso setting produces coffee that’s not very hot, but this can be counterbalanced by warming up your milk before adding it to your coffee.

Other than that, the obvious point to think about is the price; however, given the sophistication of this machine, it’s still on the affordable side, as many similar machines come with a price tag of over $2,000. 

5. SMEG Coffee Espresso Machine

Smeg 1950's Retro Style 10 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker Machine (Stainless Steel)

The best retro-look espresso machine



Best for: Retro look

Reservoir: 53 oz

Bar: 15

Grinder: No

Reasons to buy

  • A range of colours available
  • Slim
  • Perfect for smaller kitchens

Reasons to avoid

  • No grinder

The SMEG Coffee Espresso Machine isn’t all about good, retro looks – it makes great espresso, and cappuccino lovers will like it, too.

What’s it good at?

Milky coffees – the milk frother on this machine is truly great, creating perfectly smooth milk foam in a matter of seconds. Perfection for cappuccino lovers. 

What do we like about it?

What people – and the team – really love about this espresso machine is its simplicity; it’s easy to use and comes without too many component parts, so it’s easy to clean, too. 

Not every kitchen has all the space in the world, so this small, yet perfectly formed coffee espresso machine will fit in perfectly, and especially well if retro gadgetry is a theme in your household. 

There is variety of colours to choose from, including black, cream, red and pastel blue. If you’re after a retro look, this is the best espresso machine you can buy.

What else?

There is no grinder, so you’ll need to buy pre-ground coffee. Reviewers suggest buying coarser ground coffee for this one, as the water may pass straight through finer ground coffee. 

What don’t we like?

Some users have pointed out that while the machine itself is quite lightweight, the portafilter (the bit that holds the coffee) is heavy, so you may need to hand stabilise the machine while you’re using it. 

6. Gaggia Naviglio Coffee Machine

Gaggia Naviglio Milk One-Touch Cappuccino and Espresso Machine, Black, 17.3

Best quick espresso machine



Best for: Black coffee

Reservoir: 2 cups

Bar: 15

Grinder: Yes

Reasons to buy

  • Includes a grinder and steamer
  • Completely black in colour
  • Small and unobtrusive

Reasons to avoid

  • ABS plastic, rather                                   than stainless steel
  • Quite loud
  • No water filter

The bean to cup Gaggia Naviglio Coffee Machine is a versatile buy – at an affordable price.

What’s it good at? 

In a word: espresso. Reviewers consistently rate this machine very highly for its ability to make a perfect quick cup of the blackest espresso. 

What do we like about it?

There are five settings so you can achieve a pretty perfect blend by adjusting the grind and using the front coffee strength guide. 

The espresso is delivered at a perfect temperature and with a thick, oily crema on top – and the flavour’s good. Okay, it’s not the BEST on our list, but at this price, you get good quality.

Long coffees are just as good and if you want your coffee longer, you can override the default setting, or use the hot water button to deliver water through the steamer wand instead.

As an ideal all-rounder, with steamer and grinder, we think it’s good value – and with a much friendlier price tag than the Sage. 

What else?

If you’re looking for a way to make a quick and efficient coffee in the morning, it boasts a quick heat boiler and many of its elements are dishwasher proof, too.  

What don’t we like?

Unlike the Smeg machine above, the Gaggia is not so great at making milky coffees, with users reporting that the steamer performance is underwhelming.

Buying Guide for the Best Espresso Machine

Espresso Machine

What is the best espresso machine?

Buying a barista style coffee twice a day from your local coffee shop will cost around $3 a pop and so at least $30 every working week. That means even the most expensive espresso machine on our list will pay for itself in less than a year. Most users want their espresso machine to produce consistently great coffee, to be easy to use and clean, and not cost the earth. The Nespresso Creatista Uno delivers on all counts, and is our best espresso machine. 


Otherwise known as a water tank, the reservoir on an espresso machine doesn’t necessarily need to be large; its size should depend on how many people will be using the machine and how often.


Essentially the amount of pressure used to push water through the coffee grounds/beans; the higher the number, the higher the pressure. The best espresso is said to be produced at 9 bars.

Does it have a grinder?

Important if you’re wanting to use coffee beans, however a grinder will more often than not bump up the price up of a coffee machine.


Available in all shapes and sizes, from the sleek and modern to the traditional and slightly wacky, there’s always the option to choose a machine that fits in your space and is in sync with your existing decor. 


Expensive espresso coffee machines may have a grinder incorporated into their design, with De’Longhi and Breville by Heston Blumenthal giving you the option to grind your coffee beans to your preferred consistency. 

Less expensive espresso machines may lack the capability to grind coffee beans, but there’s a diverse market of pre-ground coffee from around the world to tap into.

So, in no way are you compromising on that first sip satisfaction just by investing in the slightly less expensive but ever-so retro Smeg espresso machine that features on our list, for example.


Espresso, Machine

Espresso machines are definitely an excellent investment for anyone who wants to enjoy the taste of a well-made coffee in a fast and hassle-free way. However, the choice of this device must be made carefully, especially if you are oriented towards an expensive one, which is why we recommend that you carefully review the information we have presented to you.

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Last update on 2021-02-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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