There was a time when if you wanted to make proper espresso, cappuccino or macchiato coffee at home, the type of coffee machine offered was very limited. Based on the machines seen in coffee bars and bistros, the home espresso maker used ground coffee.
You had to follow a set procedure:-1. The coffee had to be ground to the ideal grade. Too coarse and the espresso was insipid and did not have the crema on top. Overground coffee meant that the water would not flow easily through the grounds. And for best results the coffee had to be very uniformly ground as well. This frequently meant investing in an expensive burr-type coffee grinder.2. The coffee had to be accurately measured and then correctly tamped down into the hopper. If you didn't do this perfectly, the water would run through any loosely-tamped areas and give you a insipid brew.3. Hot water, at the right temperature and pressure was then forced through the coffee to give you your espresso.4. There was as a rule a steam wand to froth milk for cappuccino.5. At the end of the day it was important to clean the machine meticulously, as any old coffee dregs would ruin the next day's brew.Nonetheless, the espresso that a traditional machine makes is brilliant, so long as the correct procedure is learned.Some of the hassle can be got around with a bean-to-cup coffee maker. You put whole beans into the machine's container. The measured amount of coffee is added automatically to the hopper and tamped down properly for you. The results from a good machine are outstanding, but you will pay a good amount, and they do take up quite a bit of room on the worktop.Against this, the advantages of a pod-based machine are apparent:-1. Ready-ground and measured coffee is supplied in convenient pods.2. So you just put the pod into the machine - no grinding and measuring.3. Press a switch and the machine does the rest - measured water at the correct temperature is forced through the grounds in the pod.4. When finished, you just discard the pod, thus removing the need for difficult cleaning.5. A wide variety of pods are available - and not just coffee. Chocolate or tea are just as easy.Traditionalists may maintain that the espresso from one of these machines is not as fine as from a traditional espresso maker, and they may have a point. These machines do not have steam wands either - they give you a kind of foamed milk from the pods, which many think does not taste so good.But set against the efficiency of operation, these issues are maybe not important. These are machines that will be used, not just tried out and then put away in the cupboard. Overall flexibility and ease-of-use - quite a combination.