Cuisinart has included just about every feature you might want. Brews quickly and has great water filtration. Fully programmable.
Carafe is a bit awkward to fill.
Extremely convenient for individuals. Accepts pods with any type of ground coffee.
Not ideal for large coffee batches. Difficult to diagnose and repair problems due to closed design.
Plenty of useful features. Multiple brewing options: carafe, single cup, pod.
Occasional consumer complaints about durability.
Inexpensive. Numerous helpful features. Pleasant taste.
Water has been known to overheat. LCD display is not backlit.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
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.
Take a look at our buying guide to learn more about comparing and contrasting coffee makers. Or, if you’re ready to start shopping, check out our recommendations. You'll be satisfying your caffeine craving before you know it.
The first thing to decide is what type of coffee maker is right for you. Let's examine the most common varieties.
A drip coffee maker brews a standard cup of black coffee by mixing ground coffee with hot water, then dripping it through a filter.
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.
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.
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."
Avoid using distilled or mineral water in your coffee maker. The former can leach ions from the metals in your machine, causing them to degrade over time. The latter can cause a buildup of limescale and other mineral deposits.
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 over time.
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.
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.
A good espresso machine can be fairly costly.
It can take some time and practice to perfect making specialty drinks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Drip coffee makers offer some of the largest quantities produced in a single brewing session.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Do not buy a coffee/espresso combo machine. They usually lack the power to generate the pressure needed to make a proper espresso.
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 much more budget-friendly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
These cost from $50 to $150. These include models with thermal carafes, programmable settings, and lots of other bells and whistles.
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.
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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