How many of us spend $100+/month at Starbucks? The majority of Americans adults drink coffee on a daily basis and keep the profits of coffee stores like Starbucks going strong. Those that like Cappuccinos, Lattes, Macchiatos, and Americanos may have trouble brewing their own at home, but everyone else that likes traditional coffee can easily make their own at home using a coffee maker. Coffee makers brew coffee using different methods including press, drip, vacuum, espresso, and stove top. Drip coffee makers are by far and away the most common styles you will find in homes across America. Automatic drip coffee makers have been around since the 1970's and they are the easiest to use and very efficient at making a cup of coffee within minutes. You just put in water and some coffee grounds and let the machine do the rest. Vacuum style coffee makers are slightly different in that hot water is "forced" through a pod of coffee grounds and the end process of 1 cup of coffee (no more). The top brands of coffee makers are Braun, Zojirushi, Cuisinart, Melitta, Capresso, DeLonghi, Keurig, Black & Decker, Krups, Back to Basics, Hamilton Beach, Mr. Coffee, and Bunn-O-Matic. Expect to spend at least $30 and upwards of $100 for the better coffee makers.
When choosing your coffee maker, the first thing you need to consider is how much coffee you will be drinking and whether a single-cup maker will provide what you need. The Keurig B40 Elite Gourmet Single-Cup Home-Brewing System or the Black & Decker DCM18S Brew 'n Go Personal Coffeemaker with Travel Mug are two reasonably priced single-cup coffee makers that great reviews but aren't for everyone. Even if you only drink 1 cup a day, these small capacity coffee makers may be insufficient if you have friends or family over. There are several 4-cup models available and then the larger size 10 to 12 cup coffee makers which are not that much more expensive. The Cuisinart DCC-1200 ($65) makes 12 cups of coffee and the stainless steel finish looks great in modern kitchens. Many of the elecric coffee makers have heating pads that keep the coffee warm and this is a great feature to have if you need to cater to people getting up at different hours in your household. The newer thermal carafes made of stainless steel keep coffee warm up to 4 hours and the coffee won't lose it's flavor or taste burnt. Some models offer built-in grinders for the ultimate in freshness, although coffee drinkers often say it's better to keep the grinder separate from the maker in case one breaks. Perhaps the ultimate feature on any coffee maker are those with timers that brew the cup of coffee and have it waiting for you when you wake up in the mornings. These programmable units are not much more than even the most basic models and are well worth it. You just need to remember to add the water and coffee grounds the night before. There are literally dozens of sites on the Internet that provide expert and owner reviews like Coffeegeek.com, Epinions, Wholelottalove.com, Singleservecoffee.com, and Amazon.com. Some of the more official head to head comparisons are done by Consumer Reports (CR), Cook's Illustrated, The Wall Street Journal, Good Housekeeping and Real Simple. There are some clear winners and losers amongst the dozens of coffee makers on the market, but we found that even the least expensive models rated almost as high as the more expensive machines. One question that came up more often than most was - Will premium coffee grounds produce a lackluster flavor in cheaper coffee makers? It seems that some people are under the impression that a coffee maker will "ruin" the flavor of their favorite coffee grounds and from what we could find that is simly not true. As long as you keep your coffee maker somewhat clean each batch of coffee should come out tasting unique. See some of the top picks below.
Best Coffee Maker:
RECOMMENDED - The Cuisinart DCC-1200 12-Cup Brew Central Coffeemaker ($65) is not only one of the most popular coffee makers but it also makes some great coffee. The Brewcentral Coffee Maker is black with stainless steel finish in a retro style. You can brew up to 12 cups (5 oz) with this machine and it features a 24 hour clock/timer for wake-up coffee. There is a programmable shut-off switch, charcoal water filter, decalcification indicator, and a heat-adjustable warming plate. Comes with a 3 year warranty against defects the Gold Tone filter gives you maximum flavor over and over again. Reviews were almost all positive except for the last few on Amazon.com that mention a potential issue with the carafe leaking on some models. This appears to be a recent complaint from some owners, so until we know that this problem is recurring and more widespread, we will continue to recommend this particular product as it has a great reputation and history.
Budget Coffee Maker:
Even if you are price sensitive and want to spend closer to $30, then the Braun KF590 Impressions Digital 10-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker ($29.99) is a solid choice for a 10-cup coffee maker. It comes in black and features a built-in Brita water filter that the manufacturer claims will "improve flavor" and prevent calcification. Many owners say the swing out filter basket with an automatic release make for easy filling and cleaning. The carafe has an open handle and an anti-slip grip. Several people say the KF590 is "good for the money" and a "simple coffee maker" that makes great coffee. You can find it online at Amazon for the cheapest price.
Single Cup Coffee Maker:
RECOMMENDED - For those of us that only need a single cup of coffee every day, there's no need to buy a larger capacity unit. The Keurig B40 Elite Gourmet Single-Cup Home-Brewing System ($100) is a wonderful selection. Makes gourmet coffee or tea and used K-Cups so there is minimal clean up and no grinding. The drip tray is removable and the water reservoir is removable as well. There are 2 brew-size options and a 2 hour automatic shut-off. Some owners say the price is a bit steep for a single-cup coffee maker and they do have a point given you can get something similar for about $40 from other manufacturers. We still recommend this model for it's overall high praise and great coffee. Available on Amazon.
Luxury Coffee Maker:
The people of the Netherlands are accustomed to some great coffees and you can join them if you purchase a Technivorm Clubline KB741 ($225) electric coffee maker. It brews coffee at 200 degrees Fahrenheit each time and the flavors are top rated. Sam Gugino (Wine Spectator) is someone who recommends this unit. The KB741 is well know for its efficiency and simplicity. The performance is SCAA certified and the no-scratch aluminum housing will keep the Technivorm looking new. For a complete rundown of all the luxury features go to http://www.wholelattelove.com/Technivorm/technivorm_kb741.cfm.
The Wall Street Journal did an article on thermal carafes and the Capresso MT500 ($179) received some positive feedback. The stainless steel carafe will keep your coffee warm for up to 4 hours and the unit has a digital clock and timer. The brew pause function lets you serve while the pot is brewing. Owners like the sleek design and wonderful tasting coffee the MT500 produces. Although the unit is pricey, most owners say it's worth the price. Another option is the much less expensive Braun Impressions KF600 ($77) that makes 10 cups of coffee and is considered a "budget" or "value" buy in this category. The thermal carafe KF600 coffee maker is available online at Target or Amazon and in many department stores kitchen appliance section. The Braun coffee maker features a Gold screen coffee filter, automatic switch off, open handle, easy pouring, water level indicator, drip-stop/pause feature, a Brita water filter. Available on Theessential.com.