Since the advent of the electric home coffee maker in the 1950s, humans have been finding ways to perfect this craft. As the quality of the devices has increased, so have our expectations of what home-brewed coffee can potentially be. While some view the beverage as a means to get caffeine into our bloodstream for better alertness and focus, others approach coffee from a near-scientific point of view. No matter the case, coffee is an ingrained aspect of most of our lives and daily routines.
Compared to espresso machines, pour-over coffee makers are typically cheaper, but they also don’t need to be as complex. Because making drip coffee is more streamlined, it’s also made the average drinker complacent with flavor inconsistency and inefficiency, to the point where many don’t even realize that it’s possible to achieve better coffee with better machines. To help you decipher between the good and bad, we’ve compiled a guide to the best coffee makers available.
What To Look For
A Lot Of Variety
When it comes to coffee machines, it may be daunting to try and decipher between the good and the bad. After all, many of us grew up with cheap coffee machines in our homes and wouldn’t know where to start when picking out a new one. While the criteria can be virtually endless, these are some of the most important things to factor in when shopping around.
Size The need for coffee doesn’t discriminate. However, not everybody has the same space on their countertops. From hand-held, unibody drip cones that you can store away in a drawer when finished to a larger machine with a considerable footprint, devices to brew coffee have quite the size range — and we’re not even talking about the 2-foot-wide espresso makers here. It’s important to find the machine that fits your current household needs.
Capacity The size of the pot matters, but bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better for some coffee machines. While some perform well at single- or double-cup quantities, their quality can dwindle as they get towards the upper ranges of 10 or 12 cups. Unless you’re the only drinker in your house (and don’t plan to have any company), try to find a device that retains consistency no matter how much or how little you make.
Speed The Specialty Coffee Association only certifies the best of the best in terms of coffee makers. In terms of speed, it’s well aware of the value of not taking too long to brew coffee. However, there are standards for how quickly a machine brews as well. Depending on the grind fineness, brew times typically should be accomplished in no fewer than 1 minute for fine grounds and up to 8 minutes for coarser grounds. Any less or more and you run the risk of under-extracting or over-extracting, respectively, resulting in either weak or bitter coffee.
Temperature Control If you’re the type of person who likes to brew a bunch of coffee and drink it throughout your morning, you’ll want to look for a machine that won’t fluctuate in temperature the longer it stays in the cup. Stainless steel pots are really good at holding the heat after brewing without requiring a hot plate. Likewise, glass carafes require you to leave the hotplate on, which can increase the temperature over time and burn your coffee.
Reliability This goes without saying, but a coffee machine that’s infamous for its short lifespan is about as useful as no coffee machine at all. While even the most expertly-crafted devices break down from time to time, you want to give yourself the best chance to not be stranded at 6 a.m. with nothing to help you perk up.
Mr. Coffee Easy Measure 12 Cup Programmable Maker
For those who just want their daily caffeine fix with a machine that still makes really good coffee and has some fun features, pick up Mr. Coffee’s Easy Measure. Compared to the brand’s entry-level machines, this programmable 12-cup version is equipped with a lot more bells and whistles, including two-step water filtration, a color-coded measuring system, and a “brew later” option. It’s important to note that a low-budget Mr. Coffee machine is always good to have in the cupboard as a backup option, at the very least, in the rare case that your primary device breaks down.
Back in 2014, Nespresso made one of the most impressive coffee makers in the world with its VertuoPlus line. Unlike most pod machines, this device has an array of cup size options, from espresso all the way up to an 18oz carafe brew, offering upwards of 40 craft blends in total. The machine works by reading the unique barcode underneath each of the proprietary pods to determine how much water to infuse. Afterward, the pod is spun around at 7,000rpm to mix the grounds and press the water through. Even the larger 8oz cups feature a thick layer of delicious foam on top. Nespresso has changed the game once again with its VertuoPlus, allowing users to have delicious, cafe-style coffee with the convenience of a pod machine.
Ninja Specialty CM-401
You don’t need a multi-thousand-dollar espresso machine to make specialty brews such as lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos. Ninja’s Specialty CM-401 is one of the most flexible machines available, with a 4oz “Specialty Brew” option, six cup size options, an iced coffee setting, and a brew timer. There’s also a fold-away milk frother for more versatility and a 40oz removable water reservoir to make filling and cleaning much easier. This all-in-one brewer is an amazing value for the price and doesn’t take up a lot of space considering its capabilities.
Although it may not be a household name in the States, Japan-based Zojirushi makes some of the best kitchen appliances around. Thoughtfully designed and built, its 10-cup coffee maker features a stainless steel carafe that retains heat for hours, a decisive 200-degree brewing temperature, a stainless steel wire filter, and a convenient feature that adjusts the fill lines for iced coffee to achieve an optimal water-to-coffee ratio. What’s more, the removable reservoir is on the side instead of the back, which helps users who have shallower countertops.
Bonavita Connoisseur 8-Cup
Receiving Golden Cup certification from the SCA for its optimal 6-minute brew time and consistent brewing temperature, the Bonavita Connoisseur is also preferred by many coffee lovers for its fair price point. Equipped with a stainless steel carafe, this machine takes up minimal countertop space with its economic layout. The flat-bottomed basket is perfect for spreading out the grounds and the showerhead spout distributes the water evenly. There’s also an optional bloom mode that pre-infuses the grounds with water to better enhance the coffee’s flavor.
OXO 8-Cup Coffee Maker
Arguably the best mid-range machine you can find, OXO’s 8-Cup Coffee Maker is another SCA-certified brewer. Programmable for hassle-free morning joe, this machine does very well with both smaller- and larger-sized batches, with the capability to swap out the carafe for your personal mug. Built with BetterBrew technology for temperature consistency and optimization, the OXO also comes equipped with a stainless steel carafe that keeps your coffee warm for hours, precluding the need for a hot plate. Moreover, the sleek silhouette takes up minimal countertop space.
Breville Precision Brewer Thermal
While industry-favorite Breville has several machines that could easily be in contention for this guide, the company’s Precision Brewer gets the nod for its versatility and efficient use of vertical space. Where most drip coffee machines start to waver in quality the more coffee you make, this device can handle up to a whopping 60oz without losing any flavor precision. Built to handle either cone or flat-bottomed filters, the Precision Brewer allows you to tailor the presets — including bloom time, temperature, and flavor — to your own liking.
Technivorm Moccamaster KBGV Select
While most machines might fluctuate in flavor depending on how big of a batch you make, the Technivorm Moccamaster KBGV Select allows you to flip a switch whether you’re making half a pot or a full pot. This then adjusts the temperature and flow rate to accommodate your selection, as opposed to many other machines that won’t necessarily adjust to the water level you’ve provided. The result is a fuller cup of coffee, and one with a maximized flavor potential. Technivorm has been a long-time juggernaut in the industry for a reason, and this is its flagship machine.
Ratio Six Coffee Maker
Designed for temperature retention and consistency, the Ratio Six is equipped with a rubber “heat shield” gasket between the basket and the steel carafe so no heat is lost in the brewing process. SCA-certified, this high-end bloom-and-brew machine also features a wide stainless steel shower head for extra-even saturation to simulate a barista’s pour-over and comes with a 5-year warranty. Likewise, the reservoir’s water lines are accurate to within 1oz and only 10% of the water is lost over the course of the brewing process (absorbed into the grounds themselves).
Spinn Coffee Maker
If you’re into futuristic tech and expertly-curated coffee (and have a big budget), look no further than Spinn. What started as a Kickstarter campaign is now one of the most coveted machines on the market, simply for how unique and performative it is. The device begins with the app, where you can order roasts from hundreds of different brands. Once you put in the coffee, the app informs the machine of the precise way to brew that specific blend using an algorithm based on specs delivered by the coffee roasters themselves. The unit comes with a built-in grinder and a water filtration reservoir and uses a similar spinning process as the Nespresso VertuoPlus.
The 11 Best Espresso Machines to Buy
If a smaller, more concentrated cup of coffee is more your style, then check out our guide to the best espresso machines to buy for your home.