Best Coffee Maker Reviews 2016 – Your Buyer’s Guide
As an avid coffee enthusiast, I know how difficult it can be to find the best coffee maker. With so many different varieties and styles it can often be confusing to find the one that’s right for you. Especially if you’re new to the coffee game. That’s exactly why I’ve designed this site to guide you through the process and hopefully help you make a decision on what to buy.
Since becoming a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur over 20 years ago and working as a barista, I’ve lost track of how many coffee makers I’ve used over the years. I can safely say I’ve developed a (perfectly healthy, I promise) obsession for the things. As such I see myself as somewhat of an authority on coffee makers and know exactly what to look for when it comes to making a purchase.
For those who run on a tight schedule, or if reading an extensive guide isn’t your cup of coffee, I’ve put together a concise comparison chart below. This includes what I think is the best coffee maker for each type on the market today and compares features, price and a few more details. However, I would recommend reading on for more information and checking out my more in-depth best coffee maker reviews.
8, 17, 23, 36 or 44oz.
How to Choose a Coffee Maker
There are several things you should probably consider if you want to find the best coffee maker for you. Personal preference does factor into it when it comes to things like cost and time, but understanding the key differences and features is also a must, in my opinion.
Like with most things, you really get what you pay for when it comes to coffee makers. In general the lower the price the lower the quality. Higher end models usually last much longer and include fancier features than the simpler, cheaper options. If you want the absolute best coffee maker, you will have to splash out a little. Decide for yourself how much you’re willing to spend on a maker and choose the best one in your price range. If you really don’t have a lot to spend, a decent drip machine or French press often works out cheaper than buying an espresso machine or single cup maker.
If you have a small kitchen or want to keep your coffee maker in a specific place, you’ll probably want to consider the size. Always check the product dimensions as the pictures sometimes don’t accurately demonstrate how large the machines are.
Some coffee makers have a standard strength and others give you the option to change the setting. You’ll want to check for this feature, particularly if you’re somebody who is particular about the taste and strength of your cup.
Undoubtedly, a good espresso machine is the best way to produce a high-intensity strong coffee, whereas for those who prefer something a little milder an auto-drip coffee maker or single-cup will do the job more effectively.
Time efficiency is something you should consider. Some coffee makers take longer to brew than others. If you don’t have much time to spend making coffee during your morning routine, it’s always wise to go for a speedier brewer.
Ease of cleaning is also a factor which comes under efficiency. Some models I’ve owned in the past have been a nightmare to clean and others couldn’t be simpler. If this is a concern, always check to see whether the coffee maker you’re considering comes with easily detachable parts, and if you use a dishwasher make sure the components are dishwasher safe. A lot of modern coffee makers come with a “clean me” warning light or similar so you always know when to clean. Others need to be monitored by you and some you’ll even have to clean after every usage.
The durability of a particular coffee maker is often tied in with the price. Generally speaking, most coffee makers will last quite a long time but a higher end piece of kit will always outperform the cheaper ones.
If you’re the only person who will be using your new coffee maker, it’s probably best to go for one with a smaller cup capacity. See my Best Single Serve Coffee Maker guide for more information. On the flip side, there are some that can brew up to 14 cups.
What Affects Coffee Flavor?
There are many factors that affect the taste of your coffee, and the type of maker you buy or own can definitely make all the difference. Of course, there is no “right way” of how coffee should taste or how it should be brewed – its really down to your personal taste.
The coarseness of the grind is one of the most important factors when it comes to coffee flavor. The finer the ground is, the more surface area available and more intense flavors can be brought out during filtration. On the flip side, a coarser grind leaves less surface area and thus the taste tends to be less strong.
Espresso is known for its strength and espresso machines usually grind the coffee finer than an auto-drip or a single-serve machine, although many come with an adjustable grinder so you can select the coarseness of the grind. You’ll want to experiment with different consistencies to know which one suits you best.
Temperature of the water can influence the solubility – extraction with boiling hot water is sure to produce a stronger and more bitter flavor and absorb more compounds than ice cold water. Depending on how you like your coffee, it’s best to find the optimum temperature of your water. Luckily for you, many modern coffee makers come with a temperature setting to make this very convenient.
Coffee to Water Ratio
Too low a ratio will result in a very weak cup of coffee. Too high results in a coffee that is too strong and overpowering. It’s really about finding the sweet spot that’s to your personal taste. Extraction method and the type of coffee maker you use can affect the ideal coffee to water ratio.
With drip filters, the temperature of the water is usually quite high which means that a lower coffee to water ratio is needed. Conversely, French presses which use fast acting plungers need a higher ratio to ensure the brew isn’t too weak. Most good espresso machines keep a water temperature of around 206F and the water volume can usually be changed.
Coffee beans come in many different varieties – factors such as plant species and the country it was grown in can greatly affect the flavor. Another thing to consider is whether the bean is darker or lightly roasted as this can contribute to the strength and taste of the final product.
Types of Coffee Maker
Auto Drip Coffee Maker
A drip coffee maker (also known as an automatic drip or auto-drip) is probably the most used style in American homes today – although single cup makers are rising in popularity. Much of the time when people talk about coffee makers, this is what they’re referring to. Drip brewers today work pretty swiftly, with an average brewing process time of just 1-2 minutes. Read my article about The Best Drip Coffee Maker for more information.
How They Work
These machines use a drip brew system which heats up water in a water reservoir and then pours it onto coffee grounds which are in a filter. The water seeps through the coffee, collecting the flavor and then passes through the filter into a glass or thermal carafe. Most good drip coffee machines have a heater plate to keep the coffee hot for extended amounts of time.
Easy and convenient
Can brew up to 14 cups
No temperature regulation
Filters need to be changed
Not designed for single cup
Single Serve Coffee Maker
Single serve coffee makers (or single cup coffee makers) allow you to brew one cup of coffee very quickly and easily. The market leader for these machines is Keurig and they can generally be used with “K-Cup” style pods which come in a plethora of varieties. Read my article about the Best Single Serve Coffee Makers for more information.
How they work
Single cup machines usually have a water tank that allows a specified volume and temperature to go through a coffee pod (a small pod containing the right amount of coffee for one cup and includes a filter.) They utilize a tiny needle to pump the pressurized water through the coffee. They are definitely the best coffee maker on the market today in terms of convenience and time efficiency.
Very easy to use and clean
Super fast – can brew in under a minute
Widest range of coffee types
Includes temperature control
Can brew hot or cold
Coffee pods can get expensive
Only brews one cup at a time
Flavor might not be as strong as other makers
Aptly named, it should be no surprise that espresso machines are designed to produce espresso. For the uninitiated, this means highly concentrated and super strong coffee drank as a “shot” in a tiny cup. There are a few different types of espresso machine: manual espresso, semi-automatic espresso, automatic espresso and super-automatic espresso.
They are definitely the coffee maker with the biggest depth of features. More expensive models can be very complicated and can take some time to really understand and master. However, if you take coffee seriously there’s a good chance this is the best coffee maker for you. If you want to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes, I suggest you read more about espresso machines. Read my article about The Best Espresso Machines here.
How they Work
Espresso machines work by pushing very hot, pressurized water through fine roasted coffee grounds. They push steam through the coffee rather than dripping water through and are also useful for making gourmet coffees such as the latte and the cappuccino.
Produces strong and flavorful coffee
Huge array of features and settings
Home barista experience
Usually more expensive
Not as time efficient
A French Press is a manual, more traditional coffee press that has been used all over the world for almost a century. They are known for producing a rich, strong flavor and are highly durable. They are definitely the best coffee maker for campers or people who are frequently on the move, as they don’t require electricity to function. To find out more about the French Press, click here.
How they work
The French Press is the simplest style of coffee maker. Ground coffee is poured into the (usually glass or stainless steel) pot and then hot water is added. The water is gently stirred and the lid is applied. When the coffee is fully infused, a plunger is used to separate the grounds from the freshly brewed coffee.
Strong and rich flavor
Easy to use and clean
Portable and durable
Manual and not programmable
Less separation of grounds/brew
Making Your Decision
I have tried to outline the major features and differences in this article and give you an idea on the best coffee maker – but in the end it still comes down to personal preference. If you still require further information, I have more specific guides for each kind of coffee maker on my website. It really depends on your own personal criteria for buying. If you really don’t want to spend a lot of money on a coffee maker, buying a good medium priced auto drip machine is usually the best value for money. On the contrary, if budget isn’t really a concern it’s well worth it to invest in an expensive machine. They have the highest quality parts, last longer and produce the best tasting coffee in general.
Here are some links to my other articles in which I go into a little more detail about each type of coffee machine. If you’re someone who likes to do a lot of in-depth research, they will hopefully be a lot of help to you before you make a purchase.