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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

15 Models Considered
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1 Experts Interviewed
126 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best programmable coffee makers

Last Updated August 2019

If you are a coffee fan, you know that even the smell of your favorite grind brewing can be enough to lift you up and drive you out the door in the morning. With a programmable coffee maker, that can be the first scent to reach you the moment you wake up.

With a programmable coffee maker, you can program your coffee brew time up to 24 hours in advance. This is obviously great for the morning rush or for anytime you want a pot to be ready and waiting for you.

There are hundreds of quality programmable coffee maker options available that offer a wide range of feature sets. If you are in the market for a product that will simplify your mornings, this guide will introduce you to some of the capabilities you should be searching for. We’ll also alert  you to price ranges and other factors you should consider before buying a programmable coffee maker.

Some programmable coffee makers feature a removable water reservoir, which can be easy to both fill and clean.

Key considerations

The first thing you should ask yourself before you purchase a programmable coffee maker is what you’re looking for in the following categories.

Appearance and design

As this appliance will be a central focus on your kitchen counter or other location, appearance is important. Some manufacturers go the extra mile by offering machines that visually stand out from the pack. Any machine you are considering should be durable and long-lasting. Pay special attention to any reported design issues, such as leaking.

Capacity

The capacity of a programmable coffee maker — how much coffee it can produce in one brewing — varies a bit from machine to machine. The standard capacity for programmable coffee makers of this type is 12 cups, although some pots offer less.

If you love coffee or are brewing it for a large family or group, buy the largest-capacity machine you can. If you also brew smaller amounts — either single servings or partial pots — check whether a machine you are considering can easily do this as well. Some offer special single-serving capabilities or one-button brewing for partial pots.

Stylish and user-friendly

This option by Bunn is easy to use and brews a consistently great cup of coffee at the right temperature every time. It features a stylish design and a shatter-resistant carafe, although the 10-cup capacity may not be enough for some households.

Programmability

While you won’t need an advanced degree to program these appliances, some are considerably easier to set up and use. How long will it take you to program your coffee maker to brew a pot? Can the machine be programmed to run at the same time each day? Find out the answer to these questions as you look at particular products. Also, check how far in advance you can set the programmable coffee maker to brew. The standard here is 24 hours.

Brand name

Buying a brand name programmable coffee maker can be beneficial. A reputable brand will normally have a fairly comprehensive warranty and is more likely to be there for you if you encounter problems or have questions. They also tend to offer more quality assurances.

EXPERT TIP

A fine- or medium-grind coffee is recommended for use in an auto drip coffee maker.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

LCD screen and controls

The majority of programmable coffee makers use an LCD screen to keep track of time, to aid in programming, and to provide information. That LCD screen should be large and bright enough to easily read.

Controls vary depending on the machine’s capabilities and can include buttons or knobs to set the time and programmed time, change the brew temperature and strength, brew the coffee, and more. All buttons and dials should be clearly labeled for ease of use.

Warming pad

Used with glass carafes, the warming pad keeps coffee hot after it has been brewed. There are some important questions to ask here about a potential purchase. Does it shut off after a certain time? Is there any way to regulate the temperature of the pad?

Try for a pad with an automatic shutoff (two hours is common). The ability to set the pad temperature allows you to align the machine more closely with how you consume coffee and to prevent brewed coffee from “burning” too quickly.

Certification, such as the kind offered by groups like the Specialty Coffee Association, can be a benchmark of quality in a programmable coffee maker and help narrow down your choices.

Reservoir

The tank where you add the water pre-brew should be easy to fill without splashing, and it should not leak. If it is constructed from plastic, it should be BPA-free. A water level indicator will help you meet the best water-to-grounds ratio. While not standard, some reservoirs can also be removed for filling or cleaning.

Carafe

The carafe is the pot the coffee brews into. The majority are made of glass, although you can find metal carafes with some searching. A decent carafe should be shatterproof (if glass) and pour without dripping. Water level indicators are standard here, so you can easily tell how much coffee you will be brewing.

Filters

For holding coffee grounds, there are two different types of filters: paper and reusable. Paper is more common, although some machines will ship with a reusable filter made from nylon, metal, or some other material. You can often separately purchase a reusable filter for your type of coffee machine, should you prefer something more environmentally conscious.

While not standard, some programmable coffee makers also include a charcoal water filter for removing impurities from water during the brewing process.

Programmable coffee maker prices

Programmable coffee makers start around $30 and can run up to $150 or more. You will find the majority of these machines priced in the $50 to $100 range. At a higher price point, you will find more advanced features: brew temperature controls, dedicated single-serve ports, and better build quality are common. Extras such as disposable paper coffee filters and charcoal water filters can add to the overall cost over time.

Also check what kind of a warranty — if any — the manufacturer offers to be aware of how long your coffee maker is protected.

EXPERT TIP

Paper coffee filters have been shown to reduce cholesterol-raising chemicals in coffee, making them an arguably healthier choice than reusable filters.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • If you are a coffee drinker who just can’t wait for a brew cycle to end completely, be sure that the machine you buy has a way to pause the brewing so you can grab a cup mid-cycle.
  • Clean your coffee maker upon receiving it, and run a couple of cycles of water through it to remove any residual manufacturing “plastic” smell or taste.
  • The safest programmable coffee maker is one that offers an automatic shutoff of the heating pad after a specific period of time.
  • If you are a tea drinker, search for a programmable coffee maker that includes a filter for brewing tea.
  • These machines vary considerably in the signal they produce — from no sound to a loud one — when a pot is done, when the heating pad turns off, etc.
  • For the ultimate in reusable coffee filter durability, search for one that is 24 carat gold-plated. While more expensive ($30 to $40) than non-gold reusable filters, they will hold up for years.
  • For the freshest pot of coffee first thing in the morning, narrow your choices down to those programmable coffee makers that can also grind your beans.
  • With some programmable coffee machines, you can set the temperature of the brewing water manually. Most experts agree that the optimum temperature is between 195°F and 205°F.

No-frills affordability

This inexpensive programmable coffee maker from Magic Chef is stocked with features you’d expect in a more expensive model, such as an automatic shutoff and a “pause and serve” function. This option also ships with a reusable filter and a coffee scoop.

Other products we considered

This is one kitchen appliance niche that is rich in quality options. For example, the Cuisinart Grind & Brew Automatic Coffeemaker features a 12-cup capacity and a charcoal filter, but its ability to grind beans just prior to brewing is what we really love. The Hamilton Beach Programmable Coffee Maker offers front access and a variety of brew settings, all at an affordable price. Also from Hamilton Beach is their 2-Way Brewer, which gives you two ways to brew coffee: in a 12-cup carafe or in a single serving travel mug.

Some coffee makers incorporate a sensor that can alert you when the coffee maker needs to be cleaned.

FAQ

Q. Which is better to use: a glass carafe or a metal carafe?
A.
While this will largely depend on how you use your coffee maker and when you drink coffee throughout the day, here are a few pros and cons for each type.

The most common type of carafe is glass. With glass, the coffee is usually brewed into the carafe, which is then kept warm on a warming pad. Glass is best if you drink a pot of coffee fairly quickly, as the warming pad can continue to “cook” the coffee, resulting in a burnt taste. Another negative: glass can shatter easily.

With a metal carafe, the coffee is brewed into the carafe, which then keeps it hot. There is no heating pad involved. Metal carafes are best if you slowly go through a pot of coffee. On the downside, metal can be heavier, more expensive, and leave you no visible way to tell how much coffee remains. Some also feel that metal is less elegant than glass.

Q. How should I clean my coffee maker?
A.
Your best bet is to use a product that is specifically designed to descale and clean coffee makers. To use, simply follow the directions on the package. You can also run a 50/50 water/white vinegar solution through your machine followed by a couple of cycles of plain water to remove any lingering vinegar traces.

Q. Is it better to use paper coffee filters or reusable ones?
A.
Some feel paper coffee filters provide the best cup of coffee, while others rave over reusable filters. It may largely depend on your own preference, but there are some pluses and minuses to each choice.

While convenient, paper filters are a constant expense that can add up over time, and you are adding to your local landfill each time you use one. Reusable filters, while expensive up front, will incur no further cost. They are also easy to use and less wasteful.

The team that worked on this review
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer
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