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Shopping Guide for Best Coffee Makers

From that first cup in the morning to your after-dinner espresso, there's nothing quite like a good cup of coffee. Some people prefer to leave it to the professionals — particularly specialty drinks — but you can make an excellent cup of joe at home, as long as you have a good coffee maker.

At BestReviews, we're here to help you make informed purchasing decisions. We've carefully tested a range of coffee makers in our labs, analyzed data, checked in with existing customers, and consulted our coffee expert, Francois.

The result: a case of the jitters from testing all that coffee, and a fair and thorough review that will aid you in picking out the perfect coffee maker to fit your individual needs.

We'd also like to note that we never accept free samples from manufacturers, so you can trust that our reviews remain completely unbiased.

Take a look at our buying guide, below, to learn more about comparing and contrasting coffee makers. Or, if you’re ready to start shopping, check out our recommendations in the product matrix, above. You'll be satisfying your caffeine craving before you know it!

Types of Coffee Makers

The first thing to decide is what type of coffee maker is right for you. Let's examine the most common varieties.

Types of coffee makers

Drip Coffee Makers

A drip coffee maker brews a standard cup of black coffee by mixing ground coffee with hot water, then dripping it through a filter.

Pros:

  • Drip coffee makers can make large quantities of coffee at a time.

  • You can find decent drip coffee makers for a relatively low cost, particularly when compared to the cost of espresso machines.

  • Drip coffee makers are convenient and easy to use.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Hamilton Beach Single Serve and Full Pot Coffee Maker

Brewing Options

The Hamilton Beach is a standard drip coffee maker with a twist. With the flip of a big switch on the front, you can either brew a carafe of coffee or a single serving right into your mug. There are separate brew baskets for these options. And, for those who want it, the single-serve basket includes a removable insert that can hold those flat, disk-style coffee pods. This dual-brew system is an attractive proposition for those who prefer to make a single cup most days but also want the option of brewing larger batches for weekends or when company comes over.

Cons:

  • If you make a large pot of drip coffee and keep it warm on the hotplate, it will scorch and turn bitter.

  • You don't always get the best flavor from a drip coffee maker.

DID YOU KNOW?

Drip coffee makers offer some of the largest quantities produced in a single brewing session.

Types of coffee makers

Espresso Makers

Espresso makers work by forcing pressurized water — heated to near boiling point — through densely packed ground coffee, to get a small, intensely-flavored shot of joe.

Pros:

  • You can drink your espresso straight or use it to make drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos, or even iced coffees and frappuccinos.

  • Espresso makers can produce extremely tasty coffee.

  • You can usually customize the strength of your brew.

Francois
Expert Consultant

Born and raised in Paris, the land of unapologetic butter, Francois has spent the last 20 years shaping the American culinary world behind the scenes. He was a buyer at Williams-Sonoma, built the Food Network online store, managed product assortments for Rachael Ray's site, started two meal delivery businesses and runs a successful baking blog. When he's not baking a cake or eating his way through Europe, Francois enjoys sharing cooking skills with cooks of all levels. Rules he lives by: "Use real butter" and "Nothing beats a sharp knife."


Francois  |  Kitchen Expert

Cons:

  • A good espresso machine can be fairly costly.

  • It can take some time and practice to perfect making specialty drinks.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Cuisinart Perfect Temp 14-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker

Capacity and Technology

Though fairly pricey, the Cuisinart DCC-3200 makes you feel spoiled with its luxurious 14-cup brew volume (the largest tested here), reusable gold-tone coffee filter, and charcoal water filter system. By numbers, the Cuisinart’s maximum brewing temperature got quite close to the golden zone prescribed by the SCAA. By taste, the Cuisinart took second place by a very thin margin.

Types of coffee makers

Single Serving Coffee Makers

Single serving coffee makers use pods or K-Cups of ground coffee (and sometimes milk powder or flavorings) to produce a varied range of drinks.

Pros:

  • Single serving coffee makers are extremely convenient and easy to use.

  • If you live alone, or are the only coffee-drinker at home, single-serving machines mean you won't make more coffee than you need.

  • You can buy pods that produce cappuccinos, lattes, flavored coffees, tea, hot chocolate, and more.

DID YOU KNOW?

A coffee maker that uses K-Cups opens the door to a wide variety of coffee flavors, and you can often reuse K-Cups packed with your own blends.

Cons:

  • Using a plastic pod for each serving of coffee isn't environmentally friendly.

  • While some models let you make your own pods by adding your choice of ground coffee, many only let you use their choices of coffee, so your selection is limited.

  • Coffee connoisseurs tend to criticize the flavor and quality of coffee from pods.

EXPERT TIP

Avoid using distilled water or mineral water in your coffee maker. The former can leach ions from the metals in your coffee machine, causing them to degrade over time, and the latter can cause a buildup of limescale and other mineral deposits.


Staff  | BestReviews
Types of coffee makers

Manual Coffee Makers

Although we're not focusing on them in this guide, you can find a range of inexpensive manual coffee makers on the market. 

Sure, they involve more work from the user, but they can still produce a good cup of coffee, and there's no need to have electricity to use them either. They can be life-savers on a camping trip.

Popular examples include the French press and the Aeropress.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

BUNN 10-Cup Home Coffee Brewer

Size and Ready Time

For better and worse, the BUNN is a unique product. It’s huge, standing 13 inches tall and extending 11 inches from the wall. It needs this extra room because it essentially manages two reservoirs of water: one that you introduce just before brewing and one that’s kept constantly hot and ready to brew. Having hot water ready to go at a moment’s notice gives the BUNN the superpower to brew a full 10-cup pot of coffee in four minutes. The other coffee makers tested here took an average of 10 minutes to brew the same volume.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Coffee Maker

Considerations

Number of Cups

Think about how many cups you need your coffee maker to produce in one round of coffee production. If you're the only person in your household drinking coffee, a single serving machine or a coffee maker that produces just a few cups would be ideal. On the other hand, if you have a large family of coffee-drinkers or you often entertain, look for a model that can make a larger amount of cups in one go.

For multi-cup models, our coffee expert Francois advises, "'Stop as you pour' is a great feature. The machine stops the flow of coffee when the carafe is removed, allowing you to pour a cup before the whole thing is done brewing."

To keep your coffee warm for an extended time, use a coffee maker with a thermal carafe, rather than a glass carafe with a hotplate. Coffee sitting on a hotplate continues to “cook,” and will eventually turn bitter.
Considerations

Brew Strength Control

Some coffee makers give you little input over how your coffee turns out, whereas other let you fine-tune your cup of joe with brew strength control.

Consider whether you're fussy about how your coffee turns out, or whether you're happy to drink it however it comes. If you're particular about your java, opt for a model that allows you to control the brew strength.

DID YOU KNOW?

When manufacturers list how many cups their coffee maker produces, they're referring to 8 oz cups. However, average mug size is 12 to 16 oz, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

Considerations

Timer

Imagine waking up to a freshly brewed pot of coffee ready to drink. If you choose a coffee machine with a built-in timer, this could be your reality every day.

This feature is perfect if you don't function well before that first cup, or if you're in a hurry to get out of the house in the morning.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Hamilton Beach Single Serve and Full Pot Coffee Maker

Taste and Usability

Adding up features such as the dual-brew system, reusable single-cup filter, programmability, brew strength control, and pod-compatibility, we awarded the Hamilton Beach the highest feature rating of the pack. Plus, during testing, we noted that the coffee maker reached a peak brew temperature of 192 degrees F. This was in the ballpark of the 197.6-degree ideal.

Considerations

Built-in Grinder

A bean-to-cup coffee maker includes a built-in grinder, that grinds up the right amount of beans each time, without you having to put in any extra effort.

While we agree that freshly ground coffee tastes best, you could achieve the same result with a cheap coffee grinder. Machines with built-in grinders tend to be pricey, so we'd only recommend them if you have a large budget and want to your coffee making experience to be as hands-off as possible.

A built-in grinder can be a nice option if you’re willing to pay for a premium machine, but buying an inexpensive grinder separately can be a much more budget-friendly route.

Staff
BestReviews
Considerations

Drink Choice

If you take your coffee black — maybe with a bit of cream when you're feeling fancy — then a basic drip coffee maker is all you need. However, if you crave espresso or specialty drinks like cappuccinos or lattes, then consider an espresso machine with a steamer arm for heating and frothing milk.

Single serving machines also offer pods with a huge range of drink choices, ready at the press of a button. This is a great choice if you like fancy coffees, but don't want to go to the trouble of making them from scratch.

EXPERT TIP

If choosing a single serve machine, pick a model that offers a make-your-own pod so you can pick the coffee you use. Otherwise, you will get stuck with that brand’s selection of brews.


Staff  | BestReviews
Considerations

Carafe

Some coffee makers come with a thermal carafe to keep drinks warm, as an alternative to a basic glass carafe.

Here's what Francois had to say on the subject: "If you need to keep coffee hot for a few hours, go for a model with a thermal carafe. Even though models with glass carafes have a heating plate, this ends up making the coffee more and more bitter as time goes on."

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Cuisinart Perfect Temp 14-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker

Compatibility

Because the Cuisinart is so close to winning out in taste — but far less fickle in terms of its water filter and brew temperature — we find it a more compelling choice overall if money is not a top consideration. Plus, with the Cuisinart's extra carafe volume, BPA-free plastic construction, cleaning mode, carafe temperature adjustment, and reusable permanent filter, it's just a more thoughtful product.

Price

A decent coffee maker needn't cost an arm and a leg, but it is worth a bit of an investment, especially if you're a regular coffee-drinker.

Price

Basic Drip Coffee Makers

These start around $20 or $30. Most of these inexpensive models don't hold a candle to higher-end brands, but you can find a few diamonds in the rough.

EXPERT TIP

Do not buy a coffee/espresso combo machine. They usually lack the power to generate the pressure needed to make a proper espresso.


Francois  | Kitchen Expert
Price

Midrange and High-end Drip Coffee Makers

These cost from $50 to $150. These include models with thermal carafes, programmable settings, and lots of other bells and whistles.

Price

Single-serving, Pod-style Coffee Makers

Expect to pay between $50 and $125 for these models. Cheaper models generally offer less control over factors such as cup size, and may not let you customize your own pods.

Which do you prefer, coffee crystals or filtered brew? If you prefer the latter, we don’t blame you. Filtered coffee is derived from fresh beans, and most people agree that its taste can’t be replicated by instant crystals.
Price

Espresso Makers

These cost between about $40 and $350 for home-grade machines (professional models can run into the thousands), but you're unlikely to get a model that makes a great espresso for much less than $100.

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