Today’s coffee makers do far more than brew a pot of joe. Some grind beans, others froth milk for specialty drinks such as lattes and macchiatos, and a few even brew iced coffee. CR’s extensive lab tests—and our reviews of top models, here—can help you zero in on the machine that’s right for your kitchen.
And new features aren’t the only improvements we’ve seen lately. “Over the past few years, coffee makers have also gotten faster at brewing,” says Ginny Lui, the CR test engineer who oversees the coffee maker lab.
Top 5 Coffee Makers
- QuickTouch Programming - Easily program the 24-hour auto brew feature so you can wake up to a fresh...
- Digital Controls with Rubberized Feel - Large, rubberized buttons give you full control of the...
- State-of-the-art technology to ensure hotter coffee without sacrificing flavor or quality
- Brew strength control allows you to select regular or bold coffee flavor
- Two ways to brew: brew a full pot using your favorite grounds on the carafe side, or make a cup for...
- Single-serve: brew with K-Cup* pods or without. Pod holder and single-serve grounds basket are...
- Thermal Flavor Extraction brews the perfect cup of coffee, every time, from first cup to full...
- XL Showerhead
- On/off indicator light lets you know when your coffee maker is on or off
- Grab-A-Cup Auto Pause stops cycle if you need a cup before brewing is finished
How we selected finalists to test
The massive home brewing industry includes several substantial subcategories like single-cup coffee makers, percolators, French press coffee makers and drip coffee makers. To narrow down the focus and ensure we were able to test thoroughly, we opted to specifically test the most popular drip coffee makers. We also wanted to take cost, ease of use and coffee amount into consideration.
Drip coffee makers are the most common household appliances for brewing coffee at home. Consisting of a reservoir, a heating element, a showerhead, a container for grounds and a tube connecting the heating element to the reservoir, they have a relatively simple composition. This simplicity makes them easy to use, durable and capable of quenching the thirst for an entire office of coffee drinkers, or just one java lover at home.
Taste: Taste is obviously subjective, but you should take your preferences into consideration. Are you ok with a cup of joe from a fast food joint or do you prefer going to a coffee shop? Can you distinguish burnt, nutty or fruity coffee? Do you prefer bitter? All of this comes into play when choosing which coffee maker to purchase. The beans you select play a large role in determining the taste of the coffee, but don’t underestimate the machine. Some are constructed to brew for speed, others for temperature and some are intended to brew to the SCAA Golden Standard.
Carafe Size (or cup capacity): If you are brewing at home, you may not need a 14 cup carafe, but this could very well be a requirement for an office.
Footprint: If you live in a studio or have a small kitchenette in your office, you may not be willing to dedicate a large amount of space to your coffee machine. So, you will want to consider space when purchasing.
Height: If you plan to put your coffee maker on your kitchen countertop, be sure to measure the height available in your space. Many of the coffee makers we tested required additional space above them to allow room for pouring water into the reservoir.
Ease of Use: A well-designed coffee maker will have a comfortable carafe handle, be easy to pour and easy to fill. It should also be fairly intuitive to use and simple to clean. There shouldn’t be any pools of water around the machine after pouring.
Brew Time: Not everyone will mind if their coffee takes 20 minutes to brew, but some want it to be ready in minutes after they wake up. This is also an important factor if you want a machine that meets SCAA standards. They mandate that water should only be in contact with the coffee grounds for six to eight minutes. If it is taking longer, the flavor will be impacted which can result in a bitter cup of coffee.
Price: There is a huge range in cost for coffee makers. The cheapest machine we tested was the Hamilton Beach coming in around $57.69. On the other end, the Moccamaster cost close to $300.95.
How we tested
We used a combination of qualitative and quantitative tests to determine the best coffee maker. First, we noted practical concerns like temperature, brew time and cup capacity that came up frequently in product reviews. Then we also called on the team to provide insight into usability and taste.
We invited eight colleagues to use and taste the six coffee makers and provide feedback over the course of one day. The following day we asked eight different colleagues to participate in a blind taste test and took our own notes on usability. This called for several rounds of testing and resulted in a very hyper work environment. Our goal was to test the coffee makers against SCAA standards to see how they matched up.