What’s the difference between a coffee maker and an espresso coffee machine?

1 Dec 2021


Both transform vibrant coffee beans into an irresistible drink but what’s the difference between a coffee maker and an espresso machine?

Despite what our name might indicate, at Hotel Chocolat, we’re passionate about more than just chocolate — we’re also coffee lovers! From light and frothy lattes to strong and flavourful espressos, who can resist the call of a good coffee?

Coffee machines bring the best of the coffee shop right to your home. All of that cosy warmth and delicious coffee aroma, without even having to leave your house. But with so many coffee-making options to choose from, it can be hard to figure out which machine will make the perfect cuppa for you.

When it comes to coffee machines, two of the most popular choices are the drip coffee maker and the espresso coffee machine. We’ve talked about these two champions of home coffee before, but if you’re interested in a more in-depth comparison between the two, we’ve put together this quick guide to help you out.

Person in pink hoodie drinking coffee in their kitchen

How does a drip coffee maker work?

Also known as a filter coffee machine, the drip coffee maker is the old faithful that many of us know and adore worldwide.

Using a drip coffee maker is easy as pie! All you have to do is place a filter in the correct compartment and add cold water to the reservoir. Then, add the perfect amount of ground coffee and press a button to start the machine.

From the outside, it’s almost like magic, but there’s a lot going on inside the machine — and importantly, it’s this inside process that really makes the difference when it comes to the taste of the coffee.

Once the water is in the reservoir, it flows through a series of tubes towards the heating element, which heats the water and keeps your coffee warm. Once boiled, the water flows up through a tube and drips over the coffee grounds. As the water filters through the grinds, it extracts that irresistible coffee flavour into a jug.

How does an espresso coffee machine work?

Espresso coffee machines come in several different types — steam-driven and piston-driven, manual or automatic, but they all essentially do the same thing: force pressurised hot water through ground coffee and a filter. The pistons move the water at a high-pressure, then the boiler brings that water almost to a boil. After this, the water moves through the portafilter (short for “portable filter”) and voilà! Your espresso is finished and ready to drink.

The espresso that this machine makes is stronger and richer than your standard coffee but can be combined with milk or water to create a variety of scrumptious drinks. Some machines have a steaming wand so you can whip up luscious latte milk in minutes.

If you go for a more professional manual espresso coffee machine, you may need a bit of practice with weighing out your ground coffee and getting the optimum extraction rate.

Close up of espressos on an espresso machine

What kind of drinks can you make with a coffee pod machine?

If espresso is your thing, you might also want to consider a coffee pod machine. These work in a similar way to espresso machines — pressurised hot water filters through coffee grounds. However, coffee pod machines use disposable pods of coffee instead of loose coffee grounds. The benefit of this is that the coffee is already measured out for you — for the perfect cup, every time.

You simply pop a ready-prepared pod of ground coffee into the chamber, press the button, and let the machine work its magic.

Almost all café-style coffees, including lattes, cortados and mochas, use an espresso base. As such a coffee pod machine is ideal for getting that flawless starting point. Some coffee pod machines also have a steaming wand so you can add hot milk to your espresso. And, depending on the brand you go for, you may find some coffee pods with added ingredients such as milk powder, so you can get your latte at the touch of a button.

Alternatively, you can get barista-grade lattes, flat whites, and mochas by using the Velvetiser to whip, stir and heat your milk into a cloud-like texture.

Coffee maker vs espresso coffee machine: which should you go for?

So now we know the difference between the way these two machines work their magic, but which one deserves a place in your kitchen? Here are some things to consider.


Filter coffee machines tend to be cheaper, although that comes at the cost of limited functions and weaker coffee.


With its richer flavour and stronger kick, the coffee from an espresso maker is closer to what you’d get from a coffee shop.


If you’re a fan of lattes or cappuccinos, filter coffee may not be strong enough to do the job. Additionally, many espresso machines come with a steamer for frothing milk, which allows for a greater number of different drinks.


A manual espresso machine gives you ultimate control over your coffee if you want to alter the extraction. While pod machines guarantee that you get the same quality coffee you love every single time. Each one has the ideal portion of coffee — ground, weighed and tamped to perfection.

Layered cappuccino in a glass


One downside of coffee pod machines is that they produce a lot of waste, and the pods can’t always be recycled. At Hotel Chocolat, we understand the importance of sustainability, so our coffee pods are fully recyclable.

Our Podster coffee machine also comes with a complimentary Podcycler so you can clean, crush and stack your used pods and pop them straight in the household recycling. No mess, no fuss.

All in all, when it comes to quality and versatility, you can’t go wrong with an espresso coffee machine. If price is your most important factor and you’re just looking for a quick and simple brew in the morning, then a drip coffee maker could be the best choice. And for the same great cuppa every time, our personal favourite option is the trusty coffee pod machine.

For those with a serious dedication to quality coffee, our Podster is a great choice for making barista-grade coffee in the comfort of your home. Pair with our ethically grown sourced Rabot Estate Coffee for that ultimate coffee fix.