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Coffee is delicious and a requirement for being an awake, functioning, human being. However it’s also cruelly difficult to make a really good cup, and going to a barista isn’t always feasible. See: lockdowns, $6 cups of coffee, being too grumpy before breakfast. Coffee capsules are popular, but you also end up with a lot of waste or the onus of recycling.

The best option, of course, is to get a fancy espresso machine and learn how to make the perfect cup like a barista, but that takes a long time and a lot of trial and error. Plus, if you could do that, you wouldn’t have been considering coffee capsules in the first place. The second-best option is learning to use a plunger to make coffee, though that can be challenging to make enough just for one, and then there’s the whole milk situation.

Instant coffee is not an option.

Automatic coffee machines don’t have to be expensive, but the DeLonghi PrimaDonna Soul is and it’s glorious.

My preferred solution, which will actually make much, much better coffee than capsules, is to get an automatic coffee machine. These machines have all the convenience of capsules without the horrifying environmental toll, plus the quality and flavour of using your own barista-style espresso machine, without requiring you to do more than press a button.

What you do is pour beans into the machine, and then when you press on the picture of your preferred coffee order. It will grind the correct amount of beans, apply water and then add milk (or not, your call).

These machines used to be limited to people who could afford $2000+ for coffee fanciness, but they now start around $500 and head up into the stratosphere from there.

I use a DeLonghi PrimaDonna Soul ($2499) and, frankly, I’m in love. The machine allows for five different profiles, and for many, many personalised coffee recipes so everyone can be as picky as they want with their order. The milk isn’t quite as silky as it could get on a barista steam wand, but I’ve also never accidentally burned it because I was staring into space, so it’s a worthy trade-off.

My favourite thing about automatic coffee machines is that you’re not locked into any one brand of coffee, and you’re not at the mercy of corporate overlords who could take away the only good decaf flavour at random. You’re free to go around small roasters in your local area until you find your preferred bean, and your conscience is clear of the hundreds of little capsules you were sending to landfill.

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Alice is a freelance journalist, producer and presenter.

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