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Whether you’re working from home or running out the door with your travel mug gripped tightly in hand, an at-home coffee maker is a convenient way to get a high-quality cup of coffee from your kitchen. And it’s not just about time: Whether you spend $350 or less than $200 on your coffee maker, caffeinating at home is good for your wallet, too. Mattress company Amerisleep conducted a 2020 study that found women spend more than $2,327 at coffee shops annually while men spend nearly $2,000.
But what kind of coffee maker will fit your needs and which are the best ones out there? We spoke to coffee experts about the different types of coffee makers available — from automatic drip coffee makers to programmable coffee makers — and how best to shop for them, plus highlighted their recommendations for great coffee makers to add to your kitchen. We also explored the more non-traditional methods of coffee-making for those of us who prefer a simple shot of espresso or indulging in the art of the French press.
Best coffee makers
Since we don’t test coffee makers ourselves, we rely on expert guidance and our previous reporting about how to shop for them. The experts we spoke to recommended each of the following highly rated coffee makers — all of the automatic and programmable brewers feature thermal carafes and a certification from the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCA).
Best automatic coffee makers and brewers
This brewer from Breville features a thermal carafe, along with a “gold cup” preset mode that automatically adjusts the water temperature and brew times to meet the standards set by the SCA. When the carafe is not in place, the steep-and-release valve automatically holds the water in contact with the coffee to brew a small cup.
Bonavita’s automatic coffee maker uses a thermal carafe and can brew 8 cups' worth of coffee in about six minutes, according to the brand. The Bonavita brewer “does a great job retaining a steady temperature during the entire brew cycle [and] its shower head evenly distributes coffee on the whole bed of coffee grounds,” said Marco Suarez, co-owner of Methodical Coffee, who noted it’s also offered at a “very budget-friendly” price. The carafe lid, filter basket and showerhead are also all dishwasher-safe for easy clean-up.
This Cuisinart Coffee Brewer is meant to mimic the pour-over approach in an easy-to-use machine, according to the brand. It does this by pre-wetting the grounds, allowing the coffee flavors to “bloom.” You can choose between mild, medium and bold flavor strengths and hot or extra hot temperature control. The coffee maker also has a self-clean feature and can be programmed up to 24 hours in advance.
This automatic drip coffee maker is on the pricey side, but it has all of the expert-recommended features: proper brew temperature, sustained brewing temperature and a thermal carafe (a glass carafe version of the Moccamaster is also available). According to the brand, it sports a 9-hole spray arm that evenly disperses water over the entire grind, and the copper lining along the spray arm helps to keep the water temperature consistent. With the press of a button, the Technivorm Moccamaster can brew 40 ounces in under six minutes, Technivorm says. Jessica Easto, author of “Craft Coffee: A Manual,” uses one of these brewers in her own home and approves of anything from the Moccamaster line.
This automatic drip-brewer from kitchen-favorite brand OXO features a double-wall carafe that ensures your coffee stays hot for longer and the compounds that give your coffee the flavor you love don’t get destroyed on the hot plate, Easto explained. If you’re brewing a cup just for yourself, there is a single-serve function that makes enough for just one mug. The OXO model also features an intuitive LED interface that not only indicates the status of your brew but the freshness of the coffee as well.
Jessica Rodriguez, certifications program manager of the nonprofit SCA, recommended this smart coffee maker, which can brew up to 10 cups and features Wi-Fi connectivity to use with the SmartHQ app, Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Easto pointed out this brewer’s carbon water filter feature, which “saves you the step of using a Brita [filter].” This coffee maker from GE’s Café Appliances equips an auto brew feature that can brew your coffee at your preferred time. It also lets you adjust the brew strength (Gold, Light, Medium and Bold) and temperature anywhere between 185 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the brand.
Rodriguez also recommended the Ninja brand, which has several coffee makers certified by the SCA. This option from the brand lets you brew multiple sizes, including a single-cup, half carafe or full 10-cup carafe. You can also choose between five custom brew styles: Classic, Rich, Over Ice, Cold Brew or Specialty. If you’re looking to make iced coffee, the Over Ice function brews at a low temperature in 10 to 15 minutes, according to the brand. It also features a thermal carafe and a fold-away milk frother that the brand says can be used to froth both hot and cold milk.
Best manual coffee makers and brewers
The Melitta Pour-Over Coffee Brewer is a set for those who are ready to try pour-over brewing at home. It comes with a 6-cup carafe, a pour-over cylinder, a coffee scoop and five coffee filters. Although you may need to invest in a special kettle to regulate your water temperature, this is one of the more affordable options on this list for the serious coffee home brewer. The brand makes another set with a thermal carafe to keep coffee warm.
The Chemex has always been a solid choice for crafting pour-over coffee. The brand suggests buying their filters, which they say are 20-30 percent thicker than the standard kind. The wood collar and leather tie serve as an insulated handle and can be removed to place the glass in the dishwasher for easy clean-up.
Easto counts the Hario V60 among her favorite pour-over coffee brewers for consistent results at an entry-level price point. The silicone band is cool to the touch for easy handling and can be removed for cleaning. The coffee decanter comes with the glass pot, dripper and a 40-count of filters. Hario recommends pouring the water quickly for a delicate body or slowly for a heavier flavor.
How to shop for the best coffee maker
So which type of brewer is right for you? According to the experts we consulted, you should first consider how much time you realistically have to make coffee. “Choose according to your routine so your brewer will not end up gathering dust,” said Kaleena Teoh, director of education at Coffee Project NY's Academy. “You can also have more than one brewer — automatic or manual — and switch back and forth depending on your mood and availability.”
When choosing a coffee maker, Easto recommended consulting those certified by the SCA Certified Home Brewer Program, which tests a range of home brewers on a variety of requirements like coffee volume, brewing temperature, extraction and brewing time. Rodriguez told us some of the most important features that she recommends readers look for in a coffee maker include:
- Capacity: This deals with how many cups of coffee you can make in one brew. “If you're going to be the only one drinking coffee, you don't necessarily need a full 12-cup coffee maker,” said Rodriguez, adding to be mindful of how much coffee you might end up pouring down the drain.
- Brewing temperature: Rodriguez also noted that temperature can affect the taste and overall quality of your coffee. “Good brewers are able to maintain the ideal temperature of 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit,” she explained.
- Brewing time: The brew time of your coffee machine will affect the flavor of your coffee. For standard coffee makers at maximum capacity, the minimum SCA requirement is more than 4 minutes and less than 8 minutes of water contact with the coffee grounds. Brew time can be an important consideration for people who typically take their coffees on-the-go and don’t have a programmable coffee maker to brew at a certain time.
- Carafe: Rodriguez also noted the type of carafe — either glass or thermal — on automatic and programmable coffee makers can be important for the quality of your coffee. A glass carafe is the most common type and fits on a warming plate, while a thermal carafe is usually made of double-wall insulated stainless steel and can maintain the heat without an outside heating element.
Rodriguez noted that choosing between glass and thermal carafes depends on personal preference: Glass carafes are typically the less expensive option if you don’t mind a warming plate and thermal carafes will be more effective at retaining the heat of brewed coffee. The experts we spoke to said they prefer a thermal carafe to best maintain the quality and taste of the coffee.
“Yummy flavor compounds are quickly destroyed over a hot plate,” Easto said. “To retain the taste of larger batches of coffee, it's better to never let the coffee cool in the first place.”
How do you make a good cup of coffee?
A good cup of coffee from a home coffee brewer should be “flavorful, of the proper strength and non-astringent, or dry on the tongue,” said Scott Rao, a coffee consultant and author of “The Coffee Roasters Companion.”
“You may be surprised, but I would recommend investing more in a quality grinder than a brewer,” he said. “A great brewer can’t fix a bad quality grind.”
Rao argued there are four descending qualities that “impact the quality of the final cup.”
- The quality of the raw coffee beans
- Their roast quality
- The coffee beans' grind quality
- And, finally, the coffee maker's brew quality
“As for coffee beans, like any food product, there is a range of quality out there,” said Easto, adding that they directly impact your coffee even if you have the best coffee maker. “Since coffee is only made of two ingredients (coffee and water), the ‘quality in’ is directly related to the ‘quality out.’”
Even a skilled brewer can’t fix bad beans. Coffee is graded on a scale of 100 — and specialty coffee beans, which she suggested you buy, must score an 80 or above on a quality scale set forth by the SCA.
The level of roast, on the other hand, comes down to personal preference. “With darker roasts, you are tasting more of the process of roasting coffee — those dark, smoky flavors associated with cooking,” she explained. But you may be trading strength of flavor for complexity.
Easto said that “lighter” roast profiles actually “allow the unique flavors of the bean itself to shine.” Choosing a lighter roast could open up your cup with a larger variety of flavors, which she said can range from “fruit flavors to nutty flavors to chocolate flavors,” commonly served at craft coffee shops.
“Don’t pigeonhole yourself,” Easto suggested, recommending you try new roasts and flavors. “After a while, you’ll get to know what you like.”
Types of coffee makers
Coffee makers come in many shapes and sizes, and they equip several features to customize your coffee making experience. They also vary widely in price, starting at less than $20 for a basic automatic brewer to upwards of $300 for a smart and programmable coffee maker. Generally, there are four main types of coffee makers that experts mentioned: automatic, single-cup, programmable and manual.
- Automatic drip coffee makers are one of the most common types seen in households: They drain heated water onto a bed of coffee grounds, which then drips through a coffee filter into a carafe below.
- Single-cup coffee makers let you brew a single cup at a time — typically in seconds — using pods or reusable filter baskets.
- Programmable coffee makers are drip coffee makers that equip several smart features like scheduling your brew or customizing brew strength.
- Manual coffee makers give you a more personalized brewing experience by requiring you to physically steep or pour water over your coffee grounds.
Automatic drip coffee makers
Automatic drip coffee makers heat water and disperse it evenly across a basket of coffee grounds. They’re automated, meaning you can brew your coffee at the touch of a button, and include a coffee pot — or carafe — that coffee drips into. While this simpler brewer option doesn’t include smart or programmable options, it can be great for brewing several cups of coffee at a time and especially useful “for people who love entertaining and want to offer a cup of coffee to their guests to end the night,” said Suarez.
Single-cup coffee makers
Single-cup coffee makers brew one cup of coffee using a pod or filter basket of coffee grounds (reusable or otherwise). These are typically most convenient and good for “single-cup drinkers new to coffee that might be intimidated by manual brewing,” said Suarez. He noted that the limited coffee options and overall wastefulness of pods can be a downside to these brewers, but added there are several reusable options on the market that can be more sustainable.
Since the brewing time is so quick, these machines usually have a hard time reaching the appropriate brew temperature that’s essential for a good extraction, as Rodriguez previously told us in our guide to single-serve coffee makers. That means the coffee typically tastes weaker compared to other types of coffee makers.
Programmable coffee makers
Programmable coffee makers are a type of automatic drip coffee maker with several smart features, including the ability to schedule your brew to start at a certain time and customize its strength and quality.
Manual coffee makers
Manual coffee makers, the widest-ranging of the group, include several types. Some manual coffee makers require you to steep and then strain your coffee grounds, while others rely on a vertical system that mimics a drip coffee maker but requires you to pour the hot water over the coffee grounds yourself.
“If you’re someone who enjoys the process of making your own cup and being able to control different variables to personalize your coffee profile, a manual brewer might be a better choice,” Teoh said. “It’s usually a little cheaper on the price tag too.”
When it comes to manual brewing, there are a few different styles to choose from. One popular style is the pour-over, which gives you more of a hands-on experience. “Most pour-over devices are shaped like cones, which are set over a cup or carafe,” explained Easto. “You add a filter and the coffee, and then pour water over it — hence the name.”
According to Easto, pour-over devices “require a bit more technique and … work best with special kettles, but there are tons to choose from at a bunch of different price points.” If you enjoy the ceremony and ritual of making coffee, a pour-over brewer might be your best choice.
People who drink both coffee and tea will be more familiar with the full immersion style. “Full immersion divisions let the coffee steep in the water for the whole brew cycle, like tea,” Easto explained, adding that the most popular example is the French press. “It's super easy and you don't really need special equipment to use it, so I always recommend it to people trying to dip their toe into manual coffee,” she said.