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What is the best coffee maker?

This is a question that I’m frequently asked, but unfortunately cannot answer.

Why?

Because the best coffee maker for me is not necessarily the best coffee maker for you.

It doesn’t matter how many 5-star reviews a particular coffee maker has, everybody values something different in their coffee.

As such, everybody values something different in their coffee maker.

So before we talk about what makes a coffee maker good, we first have to talk about what makes coffee itself good.

What Makes Good Coffee?

Listen, I don’t care how good a coffee maker claims to be. If you aren’t paying attention to what actually makes coffee good, you could be using the best coffee maker in the world and it wouldn’t make any difference.

In other words, if you weren’t using a coffee maker to brew your coffee, what are the key components to making coffee taste great?

Freshly Roasted Coffee

Fresh Roasted Coffee

Most of the coffee that’s consumed in the world is not fresh. And what’s funny about this is that most of us don’t even give coffee’s freshness a second thought when we buy it.

I mean, why not?

Unless we had no choice, we wouldn’t buy food that isn’t fresh. We wouldn’t buy rotten fruit. We wouldn’t buy stale bread. So why do so many of us treat coffee differently?

It’s a bit dogmatic in the industry, but coffee is at its best when it’s consumed within a couple weeks of being roasted.

Freshly Ground Coffee

Coffee that is brewed shortly after being ground will generally taste better than coffee that has been ground hours, days, or weeks prior.

Now, I’m not saying to take my word for it without first testing this yourself, but the freshly ground coffee theory has quite possibly the biggest consensus among coffee professionals and aficionados.

So before you go looking for the best coffee maker, you may want to first start searching for the best coffee grinder first.

Properly Ground Coffee

It isn’t enough to just throw your whole bean coffee into a grinder and flip a switch, press a button, or start turning a hand crank.

Grind size DEFINITELY matters.

But as they say, size isn’t all that matters (when it comes to ground coffee). Of equal importance is the consistency of the ground coffee’s particle sizes.

If the ground coffee particles are different sizes, your coffee will have inconsistent flavor given the different rates of extraction for different particle sizes. Small/fine coffee particles are more soluble, and thus produce more flavor (good and bad) when coming into contact with water.

Coarse coffee particles require longer contact time with water to extract the same flavors (theoretically).

Burr Grinder

Water

It seems to be cited all over the place that brewed coffee is 98% water.

Now, I don’t if this is an accurate measurement or not, but I do know that at the very least, water is just as important as the coffee itself.

In fact, there have been entire books written about the role of water in coffee, such as Water for Coffee by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood & Christopher Hendon. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) also has some thorough standards for water that are outlined here, and Jim Schulman’s Insanely Long Water FAQ is also a great resource.

The bottom line is that if you aren’t using good quality water, your coffee will not taste great. Again, it doesn’t matter how great your coffee maker is.

If you aren’t at least filtering your water, you should consider it. You can also test your drinking water with a simple water testing kit to see where your water stands in relation to the SCAA’s guidelines.

Water Temperature

The temperature you brew your coffee with also plays an important role in how your brewed coffee tastes.

Now, many people are familiar with the SCAA recommended 195˚-205˚F temperature range for proper coffee extraction, but unfortunately this isn’t the most reliable reference point given the fact that different roast levels extract differently at varying temperatures.

Dark roasts tend to benefit more from the lower temperature spectrum (195˚F), while light roasts extract better at the higher end of the temperature spectrum (205˚F).

Still, others like Matt Perger, former World Champion Barista, believe that coffee should be brewed with water off-boil given the temperature loss from the kettle body (or other heating element), to the spout (or showerhead, if an auto drip coffee maker), to the ground coffee itself.

In my own experiments, I’ve noticed roughly a 10˚F drop from kettle to coffee.

So what’s my point?

My point is that temperature makes a difference, and the more control you have over it, the easier it will be to make great coffee.

Proper Filtration

Chemex Filter in a Hario V60

Chemex Filter in a Hario V60

I believe that coffee filters are easily one of the most underrated components to brewing great coffee.

Maybe it’s because coffee filters are pretty un-sexy in general, but let’s give them a little bit more credit for the role they play during the coffee brewing cycle.

The two most common types of filters are metal mesh filters and paper filters.

Paper filters filter out the most compounds from the brewed coffee and leave you with a “cleaner” cup (i.e. less oil and sediment).

Metal filters filter fewer compounds, giving coffee more “body” (perceived thickness). Some people prefer their coffee with this extra body.

Some coffee makers use cloth filters which filter somewhere between paper and metal filters, giving you both body and clarity in your brewed coffee.

There isn’t one type of filter that is better than the other, just keep in mind that the type of filter you use will have an impact on the way your coffee tastes.

I personally prefer paper filters over permanent filters.

Sufficient Brew Time

Like tea, coffee needs to interact with water for a sufficient amount of time for a great tasting cup of coffee.

Of course, the brew time is contingent on the amount of coffee being made as well as the grind size being used. But in general, drip coffee needs about 3-4 minutes for proper extraction. For espresso, the contact time is much shorter at only 20-40 seconds.

If the coffee doesn’t interact with the water for a sufficient amount of time, the resulting flavor will likely end up tasting weak and/or sour.

In contrast, if the coffee is in contact with water for too long, the resulting flavor will likely be strong and/or bitter.

To brew good coffee, you should be aware of the total brew time in order to troubleshoot for over-extraction (strong, bitter coffee) and under-extraction (weak, sour coffee).

Even Extraction

An even extraction means that the water is passing through the ground coffee as equally as possible.

It should not look like this:

Uneven Coffee Extraction

It may seem trivial, but every particle of coffee needs to make the same amount of contact with water to extract at the most consistent rate possible.

Obviously, this is a futile practice if you have uneven coffee particle sizes…but assuming you have a fantastically consistent grind, you must also have a consistent pouring pattern.

In the picture above, the coffee grounds on the left are being saturated more frequently by water and thus extracting at a higher rate.

By the time the water reaches the other side of the filter, the original coffee that was wet will have been extracted two times, three times, or really, who-knows-how-many times more than the dry coffee in the picture above.

Matt Perger describes this concept beautifully over at Barista Hustle:


“Every coffee grind is a slightly different size and shape, experiences a different flow and duration of water, and comes from a slightly different portion of the coffee bean. This means that every brew is a mixture of hundreds and thousands of individual tiny micro-extractions. Some are extracted more, some are extracted less, some sit in the middle. It’s this cacophonous mix of different extractions that all work together to make a cup of coffee. When we measure an extraction or talk about an extraction, we’re using the average of all of these micro-extractions to give us a number or general zone. Every single coffee that has ever been brewed by anyone is at least a little bit uneven. A sobering fact indeed.”

What Makes a Good Coffee Maker?

What Makes a Good Coffee Maker?

 

So now that we know some of the factors in making good coffee, what makes a good coffee maker?

Well, a good coffee maker should obviously address all of the components that are involved in making good coffee, such as:

  • An even extraction (water dispersion, flow rate)
  • Sufficient brew time
  • Proper water temperature
  • Good filtration

The other components of good coffee are quite frankly, outside of the coffee maker’s control. To recap, these components are the following:

  • Freshly (and properly) roasted coffee
  • Freshly ground coffee
  • Properly ground coffee
  • Good quality water

And this is still a simplistic way of describing how to properly brew great-tasting coffee.

Still, you can see that half of what matters isn’t even the coffee maker itself!

Here are some other important things, unrelated to brewing, that need to be considered when evaluating a coffee maker:

These are just a few of the 9 rating categories I use to review coffee makers. Let’s go into a bit more detail about each.

Ease of Use

As with most things in life, the easier to use, the better. This is especially true when you haven’t had your coffee yet.

Of course, some coffeemakers with steeper learning curves will yield results that are worth the expense of figuring things out, but I think these coffee drinkers are mostly in the minority.

You can find a comparison of my 5 favorite easy to use coffee makers here.

Durability

Look, it’s pretty much impossible to predict a coffeemaker’s lifespan. However, there is a very strong correlation between simplicity (read: limited features and electronic components) and a long lifespan.

If you want your coffee maker to last longer, KISS (keep it simple, smartypants).

You can find a comparison of my 5 favorite durable coffee makers here.

Materials

The Ratio 8 Coffee Maker

The Ratio 8 Coffee Maker

A very large number of Coffee Concierge readers come here looking for coffee makers that are completely free of plastic and/or aluminum because of alleged health risks.

While it’s pretty easy to find coffee makers that use BPA free plastics these days, it’s far more difficult to find coffee makers that don’t use any plastics, especially auto drip coffee makers.

In fact, at the time of this post there is only one auto drip coffee maker on the market that I know of that is completely free of plastics and aluminum.

The Ratio Eight.

But before you run off and buy one, be aware of the fact that is will cost you a whopping $595.

Yep, that’s the price you pay for premium materials.

You can find a comparison of my 5 favorite BPA free coffee makers here.

Cleaning Ease

Cafiza

Cafiza

Coffee makers need to be cleaned frequently. If you have a coffee maker that isn’t easy to clean, you’re less likely to clean it. And if you don’t clean your coffee maker, it will begin to stop working the way it’s meant to work. Additionally, your freshly brewed coffee will be mixed with old coffee oils and sediment, making your coffee consistently taste like crap.

You can find a comparison of my 5 favorite easy-to-clean coffee makers here.

BTW, I use a fantastic solution to clean my coffee makers called Cafiza. It gets rid of all that leftover coffee gunk.

Price

Of course, price matters less than value (price/quality), but most people have a budget in mind when shopping for a new coffee maker.

In my opinion, I think an aspiring home barista should be more frugal with what they pay for a coffee maker than what they pay for a grinder.

Yes, grinders are more important than coffee makers and espresso machines.

If you disagree, let’s hear your argument (leave a comment below).

You can browse coffee grinder reviews here.

You can find a comparison of my 5 favorite low-priced coffee makers here.

Manufacturer Origin

Made in the USA Coffee Makers

Although I don’t evaluate coffee makers based on where they were made, many coffee drinkers have their reasons (political, or otherwise) for caring about a coffee maker’s origins.

These days, the vast majority of coffee makers (and frankly, most products) are manufactured in China.

Finding a coffee maker that is made outside of China is somewhat difficult, but not impossible.

As for coffee makers that are made in the USA, good luck finding more than 5. And if you’re looking for an auto drip that’s 100% USA Made, it pretty much doesn’t exist at the time of publishing this.

Bunn makes some auto drips that are partially made in the States, but that’s not good enough for most people who value USA Made products.

The AeroPress is still your best bet for a solid, USA made coffee maker.

You should get one before Aerobie decides to move manufacturing overseas (I don’t think this will happen, but you never know).

Size/Footprint

If your kitchen is anything like mine in terms of size, the size of your coffee maker is definitely going to have an impact on what you deem to be the best coffee maker.

Regardless of your kitchen’s size, I think most people would agree that the less space their coffee maker takes up, the better.

So the coffee maker’s footprint should most definitely be considered before making a purchasing decision.

What Kind of Coffee Drinker Are You?

Everybody has different tastes.

This is stating the obvious, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s still important to figure out what kind of coffee drinker you are before looking for a coffee maker.

To me, there are two main questions that need to be answered:

  1. Do you like “clean” coffee or “full-bodied” coffee?
  2. What kind of coffee drinks do you want to make?

Clean vs. full-bodied coffee

When I refer to coffee as “clean” or “full-bodied,” I’m talking about the coffee’s thickness and overall mouthfeel.

Of course, there is a spectrum in between these two descriptions, but we’ll get into that in a minute.

Clean Coffee

Pour Over Coffee

“Clean” coffee means there is very little (if any) sludge, sediment, oils, or ground coffee in your cup.

Coffeemakers that make the “cleanest” coffee on the spectrum are siphons and drip coffee makers with thick paper filters like the Chemex and Kalita Wave.

Full-bodied Coffee

French Press

Full-bodied coffee is probably best described as coffee that has a heavier, more syrupy mouthfeel.

Coffeemakers that tend to make the most full-bodied coffee on the spectrum are the French Press, Moka Pots, and ibrik (Turkish Coffee).

None of these brewing devices use paper filters, which has a lot to do with the resulting coffee’s body.

Of course, full-bodied coffee is achievable in drip coffee makers as well, but it largely depends on brewing factors (like those mentioned above) outside of the coffeemaker itself.

What type of coffee drinks do you want to make?

When I first got into making coffee at home, I wanted to learn how to make a Cafe Mocha.

Yet I had no idea that a mocha is actually a pretty tricky drink to make that would require more than just a drip coffee maker.

So if you’re deciding on a coffee maker based on the type of coffee drink you’d like to make, it’s important to know whether the drink is coffee-based, espresso-based, or none of the above.

Coffee-based Drinks

Very few drinks on your local Starbucks’ menu are actually coffee-based drinks. Meaning, the drink is made mostly from brewed coffee.

There really aren’t many coffee-based drinks either, aside from black coffee itself.

The main distinction in coffee-based drinks comes from the brew methods that were described above. Every brew method results in different mouthfeel and can also bring out different arrays of flavor in a simple cup of brewed coffee.

Espresso-based Drinks

A latte is an espresso-based drink

A latte is an espresso-based drink

Espresso-based drinks are usually comprised of several ounces of espresso (highly concentrated coffee) and some variation of steamed milk.

The Mocha, for example, is an espresso-based drink with steamed chocolate milk.

Generally speaking, you’ll need an espresso machine to make an espresso-based drink. Makes sense, right?

However, you can probably get away with using Moka Pot or AeroPress coffee instead of espresso. Both coffee brewing methods yield highly concentrated coffee.

Roast Profiles

Before you buy a coffee maker, it’s good to have a sense for the kind of coffee you will be brewing, especially in terms of the roast level.

In my opinion, different roasts work best with different brew methods.

Many would disagree, but in my experience some coffee shines when brewed with a particular brew method, while the same coffee flounders with other methods.

Of course, this could have a lot to do with all of the random things at play when brewing coffee, so don’t let the roast level influence your decision too much when buying a coffee maker.

Light Roast

Light Roast Coffee

Light Roast Coffee

To me, light roasts are most suitable for manual drip coffee makers and siphons.

This is more of a personal taste preference than anything, but I think that often-times the extra sediment and oil from the coffee gets in the way of the complexities that lighter roasts are known for.

Also, because light roasts tend to require higher water temperatures for proper extraction, most auto drip coffee makers are not able to heat water sufficiently, making sour brews a re-occurring inevitability.

To address water temperature issues, the SCAA has a home brewer certification program that tests submitted auto drip coffee makers for sufficient brewing temperatures (between 195˚-205˚F).

You can learn more about the home brewer certification program and view the current list of SCAA Certified coffee makers here.

You can check out a comparison of my 5 favorite SCAA Certified coffee makers here.

Medium Roast Coffee

Medium Roast Coffee

Medium Roast

Medium roast coffee works well with just about any coffee maker in my opinion. So if you brew with medium roast coffee, I wouldn’t get caught up on deciding which brew method to use.

Dark Roast

The nuances of dark roast coffee are hardest to pick up under ideal brewing conditions.

Dark roast coffee is very easy to over-extract, so it’s important to have control of your grind size and water temperature. As long as you can get a consistent grind in the coarser range and reduce your water temperature to the lower end of the SCAA’s recommended spectrum (195˚- 205˚F), you’ll be good to go with just about any coffee maker.

Dark Roast Coffee

Dark Roast Coffee

Avoid auto drip coffee makers that are difficult to clean and/or lock in at brew temperatures above 200˚F.

Most of the SCAA Certified coffee makers are easy to clean, but very few offer water temperature customization. At the time of publishing this post, I’d only get the Brazen Plus if I primarily brewed with dark roasts.

Personally, I love brewing dark roast coffee in the AeroPress and Bialetti Moka Pot.

Types of Coffee Makers

Before purchasing a coffee maker, you have to understand that there are lot of different ways to brew coffee. I will go over each brew method below and offer my current top recommendations for each category.

AeroPress

Although the AeroPress is a coffee maker that technically shouldn’t be considered as its own brew method, it’s too difficult to not put the AeroPress in its own brew type category.

Think of the AeroPress as a fusion between French Press, espresso, and pour over.

Like French Press, the coffee is brewed through immersion and then pressed through a filter.

Unlike French Press, the coffee is clean and concentrated as a result of the paper filter and lower coffee-to-water ratio (usually 1:12 at the high end).

I still think the AeroPress is the best-value coffee maker on the planet.

You can read my full review of the AeroPress here.

You can buy the AeroPress on Amazon by clicking the link below:

Auto Drip

The Bonavita BV1900

The Bonavita BV1900

There is no shortage of auto drip coffee makers in the United States, which can make it tricky to find a good one. But in the end, an auto drip coffee maker is only as good as the coffee that it’s brewing.

In other words, if you ignore the components involved in making good coffee, it will be impossible for your auto drip coffee maker to save your coffee.

With that said, there are certainly auto drip coffee makers that outshine the competition. I personally have a preference for those that are SCAA Certified, but this doesn’t mean that the non-certified are inferior machines.

You can see a comparison of my 5 favorite auto drip coffee makers here.

Espresso

Chromatic Espresso

In my opinion, espresso is the holy grail of coffee. A good shot of espresso is easily the best way to drink coffee.

The problem with most espresso however, is that it’s very difficult to make it well.

As a result, most peoples’ first experiences with espresso are bad experiences.

A good shot of espresso should taste as delicious as it smells, and even skilled baristas fall short on their espresso-making quite frequently.

Of course, you can learn the ropes yourself, but it’s likely going to take a huge investment of time and money before you’re able to make anything half-decent. It will also require a certain type of espresso machine: the semi-automatic.

So if you’re serious about espresso, skip straight to the semi-automatic section below.

I’d also highly recommend ChefSteps’ free video series on making espresso.

Manual Espresso

Me, pulling a manual shot of espresso with MyPressi Twist

Manual espresso makers are not as common as they used to be, but they can still make authentic espresso like a semi-automatic.

The key distinction is that it’s a more involved process, in that pulling the shot generally requires the user to pull a lever and apply the necessary pressure themselves.

It’s certainly possible to pull great shots with a manual espresso maker, however, temperature control is often compromised as a result of using one of these machines. Additionally, if you’re not careful the pressure build-up can send the machine’s lever flying back into your face.

Black eyes galore!

Automatic Espresso

Nespresso Automatic Espresso Machine

Nespresso makes the most popular automatic espresso machines

Automatic espresso makers do not require the home barista to do anything but add the coffee and water to his machine.

Nespresso makes the most well-known automatic espresso makers on the market.

You add a capsule of coffee to the unit, press a button, and the automatic espresso machine will spit out something that doesn’t even come close to a delicious shot of espresso.

These machines are best-suited for those who want a convenient shot of caffeine, but don’t care so much about quality.

Now, I should say that many people who drink “espresso” from automatic machines like Nespresso do enjoy the taste of the shots. If you’re one of these people, then by all means go for it.

All I’m saying is that this isn’t the freshest nor the most authentic way to make espresso, especially because the coffee being used is not freshly ground.

Semi-Automatic Espresso

Semi-automatic espresso machine

Semi-automatic espresso machine

If you are determined to learn to pull great shots of espresso, you’ll want to invest in a semi-automatic espresso machine.

Semi-automatic espresso makers will heat your water and dispense it at high pressure through your compacted, finely ground coffee, but they will not steam your milk or grind your coffee for you.

In other words, you will mostly be responsible for preparing your espresso-based drinks.

Since you will be responsible for grinding your own coffee and tamping it, it’s important to choose a burr grinder that will be able to reliably grind your coffee to very fine particle sizes.

Your grinder will be your most important espresso tool, even more important than the espresso machine itself.

The most affordable home grinders I’ve found that can be used for authentic espresso are the Baratza Virtuoso, Breville Smart Grinder Pro, or Rancilio Rocky.

Baratza also has a new line of coffee grinders (Sette) coming out soon that will hopefully be suitable for home espresso as well.

Super-Automatic Espresso

Super-Automatic Espresso

DeLonghi Super-Automatic

On the surface, super-automatic espresso machines are appealing because they can grind your coffee, tamp it, pull the shot, steam the milk, and more.

Super-automatic machines are basically robotic baristas. You can get your daily latte fix without having to wait in line at your local coffee shop.

The main issue with super-automatics however, is that there are a lot of moving parts. As such, they can easily malfunction if not properly maintained.

This is especially true with their built-in grinders, which tend to be very difficult to clean.

Another major issue is that super-automatics cannot replace a skilled barista who understands what parameters to adjust.

In other words, if something tastes off about the resulting drink, the super-automatic will not know, nor will it know what to do to correct the poorly-made drink.

Finally, super-automatics are super-expensive. Usually twice the price of semi-automatic machines.

French Press

Bodum Double Wall Glasses

French Press is often cited as the best brew method for somebody who is just getting started with brewing their own coffee, because the French Press is easy to use and gives the user a sense for brewed coffee in one of its purest states.

Many well-known baristas actually prefer to use the French Press over standard “cupping” when evaluating coffee.

The French Press also requires no filters, since it has a built-in metal mesh filter attached to the end of a plunger.

There are some glaring downsides to the French Press though…

For one, a French Press is pretty tricky to clean because of the compressed ground coffee at the bottom of the carafe. You have to scoop it out with a spoon which, in my opinion, can be pretty cumbersome when compared to simply dumping a paper filter full of ground coffee (drip coffee) into your compost or trash.

There has also been some research that has shown how French Press coffee makers do not filter Cafestrol, a coffee compound responsible for hiking up bad cholesterol.

Of course, in moderation I wouldn’t say that either of these are deal breakers to using the French Press brew method.

Moka Pot

Bialetti Moka Pot

Bialetti Moka Pot

Moka coffee is the coffee brew method of choice in Cuba and Italy (well, after espresso).

Like espresso, the coffee is concentrated. Unlike espresso, the coffee isn’t extracted with nearly as much water pressure.

To some extent, the moka pot brews a lot like a percolator and siphon, where water is boiled in a base chamber before rising through a chamber with ground coffee.

Moka coffee is said to be the most affordable way to get something reminiscent of espresso without using an actual espresso machine. Interestingly, I’ve found that the coffee a moka pot produces often has wood flavor notes.

Some moka benefits:

  • Doesn’t require electricity
  • Easy to clean
  • Portable
  • Durable
  • Affordable

Downsides:

  • Aluminum body
  • Long brew times (~10 minutes)
  • High-maintenance (no setting and forgetting)

Percolator

Coffee Percolator

The percolator is kind of like the old school auto drip coffee maker. It’s definitely not a brew method that’s as popular as it used to be, but there are still plenty of percolator loyalists out there.

The key distinction between a percolator and a moka pot is that the grounds basket for the coffee is not separated from the water reservoir. This means that when the hot water is dispensed over the ground coffee, the brewed coffee ends up mixing with the un-brewed water.

In other words, most of the coffee is getting brewed twice, if not three or four times.

This is why percolator coffee is notoriously “strong” (read: bitter), and has been completely outcast by the specialty coffee world.

Pour Over

Chemex Pour Over

Pour Over with the Chemex

Aside from espresso, pour over coffee is the most popular way of brewing coffee in the specialty coffee scene.

The key difference between a manual pour over and an auto drip is that a human controls the distribution of water over the ground coffee, not a machine.

The benefit of doing a pour over is that there is more control of how the grounds are wet, and thus, how the coffee is extracted.

Pour over is also generally for making one cup of coffee at a time, which ensures optimal freshness in the resulting cup of coffee. It isn’t ideal for large batches of coffee that are meant to sit for hours at a time.

Siphon

Siphon/vacuum coffee is perhaps the fanciest way to make coffee.

It involves an all-glass brewer that has 2 round chambers that are separated by a filter. Kind of like an hourglass, but instead of sand passing between chambers, you have water and coffee.

Siphons are known for the “clean” coffee they make, which makes it an especially good brew method for light roasts.

The major downside of siphons is that they are high maintenance, very difficult to clean, and fragile given their glass bodies.

Coffee Siphon

Coffee Siphon

Those who brew with a siphon on a regular basis are certainly in the minority, but the coffee that a siphon can produce may be worth the extra time involved in making it.

My Picks

By now, you hopefully have a better understanding about what makes a coffee maker “good”, and more importantly, you have an idea about which direction you’d like to go in regarding the type of brewer that’s best for you.

Still, you may still be overwhelmed by all of the choices out there and simply want some recommendations.

This is the section for you.

So, why should you listen to me?

I think it’s almost always better to take advice from the many over the few. Although I’m only one person, my opinions on the best coffee making equipment are also shaped beyond my personal experiences.

I pay attention to what other coffee enthusiasts are using and recommend and weigh these in to my own personal experiences.

I also own and have reviewed a lot of equipment, brewing thousands of cups of coffee across devices. I’d like to think I know a thing or two about what separates the good from the bad.

In the end, my goal is to help you make better coffee at home. To me, it doesn’t matter what you use to get there.

Best Single Serve Coffee Maker

Best Single Serve Coffee Maker

I know that most people think of a single cup coffee maker as something automatic, but in my opinion, the best single serve coffee makers are manual.

So sorry to disappoint you here, but the AeroPress is the best single serve coffee maker I’ve ever used.

Here are just some of the reasons:

  • Small footprint
  • Low cost
  • Durable
  • Easy to clean
  • USA Made
  • Great coffee
  • Versatile/can be used in multiple ways
  • Easy to use

The downsides:

  • It’s made of plastic (BPA free)

As you can see, the pros outweigh the cons by far. To this day, if I had to keep any coffee maker in my kitchen, the AeroPress would be the one.

Best Grind and Brew Coffee Maker

I don’t recommend grind-and-brew coffee makers (i.e. auto drip coffee makers with built-in grinders) because the grinders themselves are very difficult to clean, which could lead to malfunction over time.

If you don’t want a large grinder taking up space, consider a small, efficient hand grinder like the Lido 2 or Lido 3. Both will grind nearly as fast as an electric grinder and take up less than half the space.

Otherwise, I’d recommend a separate electric grinder like the Breville Smart Grinder Pro or Baratza Virtuoso.

If you must have a grind and brew coffee maker, the Breville YouBrew seems to be the consensus choice.

Best Value Coffee Maker

Best Value Coffee Maker

The best value coffee maker is…

wait for it…

the AeroPress!

But let’s be fair here and offer a suggestion for auto drip lovers as well.

To me, it’s the Brazen Plus for its endless number of features and SCAA Certification.

You can read my full review of the AeroPress here.

You can read my full review of the Brazen Plus here.

Easiest to Clean Coffee Maker

Easiest to Clean Coffee Maker

The Hario V60 is my favorite of the easy-to-clean manual drip coffee makers. All you need to do is dump your used filter and give the V60 a rinse and you’re done.

The easiest-to-clean auto drip, and also one of my all-time favorites is the Bonavita BV1900.

With its removable filter basket and showerhead, you couldn’t ask for an easier clean-up from your auto drip coffee maker.

Best Small Coffee Maker

It depends on your preferred brew method, but generally your best bets are either a French Press, AeroPress, or small pour over dripper like a Melitta, Hario V60, or Kalita Wave.

Auto drip coffee makers and espresso machines are generally quite big, but there are some good small models.

The Zojirushi Zutto would be my choice for a small auto drip coffee maker.

For espresso, I’d choose the Gaggia 14101 given its relatively small footprint: 14-1/4 by 8 by 9-1/2 inches

Best Coffee Maker for Camping

Best Coffee Maker for Camping

I’ve tried several coffee makers while camping, and my favorites would have to be the AeroPress and the Bialetti moka pot.

The Moka Pot may be a slight favorite here because you can just plop it over a propane stove and 10 minutes later you will have enough concentrate to make multiple cups of coffee for those who are camping with you.

If however, you are camping solo, the AeroPress is the better option because of how lightweight it is.

You can boil your water in a pot and easily add it to your AeroPress for a quick, clean cup of coffee.

If you want coffee with more body through your AeroPress, you can buy a permanent filter like this one.

Best Portable Coffee Maker

Best Portable Coffee Maker

The AeroPress is not only the best portable coffee maker in existence, it’s also the best coffee maker for all purposes, depending on who you ask.

Here are just a few reasons:

  • Small and lightweight
  • Durable plastic…won’t break in your bag or if you drop it off the Cliffs of Moher
  • Easy clean-up
  • No electricity required

Of course, some would argue that the AeroPress is not the best portable coffee maker if you’re trying to make more than one cup of coffee at a time.

I’d counter with the fact that as long as you have enough ground coffee and water for multiple cups, making one cup of coffee after the other takes no more than 2 extra minutes per cup.

If this is too much of a hassle for you, maybe you should stick to instant coffee when you’re traveling.

I’m serious.

I hear Sudden Coffee is making some good instant coffee.

Best Auto Drip Coffee Maker

Best Auto Drip Coffee Maker

To date, the best auto drip coffee maker I’ve used is the Brazen Plus.

The Bonavita BV1900 and OXO On Barista Brain are close seconds, simply because they are more limited in terms of their features. However, if bells and whistles aren’t important to you and you just want a good pot of coffee, both of these coffee makers are fantastic options.

I should also mention that I don’t think the additional features the Brazen Plus boasts are trivial by any means.

I believe that every coffee maker should give you control over the water temperature and have an option for calibrating the boiling point depending on the altitude of where you live.

Different roasts should be brewed at different temperatures, there is no one-size-fits-all temperature, so I’m a little bit surprised that the Brazen Plus is one of the only coffee makers that actually takes these things into account.

So to me, these extra features are worth it.

You can read my full review of the Brazen Plus here.

Best Pour Over Coffee Maker

Best Pour Over Coffee Maker

It’s tough to choose my favorite pour over coffee maker because I feel that most of them are only as good as the person who is brewing the coffee. Therefore, differences in coffee quality between varying pour over coffee makers is somewhat negligible.

If I had to choose, my favorite pour over coffee maker is probably the Hario V60, but I can’t say that there is a particular reason for this aside from the fact that I tend to brew better coffee with this brewer than I do with any of the other pour over coffee makers out there, including the Chemex and Kalita Wave.

However, if you’re paying attention to what makes coffee good, you’ll get great results with something as inexpensive as the Melitta Ready-Set-Joe.

You can read my review of the Hario V60 here.

Best Large Batch Coffee Maker

Best Large Batch Coffee Maker

I believe that Technivorm makes the best home coffee maker for large batches of coffee.

SCAA Certified, and with models as large as 15 cups, Technivorm is a very good option if you need to make larger batches of coffee.

Best Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Best Cold Brew Coffee Maker

 

I think that cold brew coffee makers are a bit of a gimmick if I’m being completely honest here.

I own and occasionally use the Bruer to make cold brew concentrate, but I can’t say that the slow drip cold brew method is definitively better than the full immersion cold brew method. If you don’t know what I mean by this, I encourage you to check out my cold brew coffee guide here.

If I were to buy a cold brew coffee maker today, it would probably be the Filtron.

It’s basically a large bucket with a felt pad for filtration. Very simple, and frankly all you need to make cold brew coffee concentrate.

To boot, it’s also one of the few coffee makers that is actually manufactured in the USA.

You can buy the Filtron on Amazon here.

Best Manual Espresso Machine

I haven’t tried it myself yet, but the ROK Presso and La Pavoni are perhaps the most widely used manual espresso makers on the market right now.

Both have the looks and the capability of pulling great shots, but the downsides are hard to ignore, as you will still pay a hefty price and have virtually no control over your water temperature.

There is also a far steeper learning curve with a manual espresso maker like this than there is with a semi-automatic espresso machine.

If you’re willing to really understand all of the nuances of espresso shots, then one of these two machines might be for you. Otherwise, it’s probably best to go the semi-automatic route.

I’d also be remiss to mention that I pull my espresso shots with a manual espresso maker, the MyPressi Twist. It is no longer made, but you can still find them on eBay every once in awhile.

Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine

I still haven’t purchased a semi-automatic espresso maker, but there are several brands that seem to garner the most attention for their dependability in their respective price ranges.

Gaggia makes what are perhaps the best starter machines at very reasonable prices.

Breville also makes some very nice entry-level semi-automatic espresso machines, but they tend to be at a higher pricing tier.

Finally, you have prosumer models from excellent brands like La Marzocco, Rocket, and Crossland that are best-suited for those who are looking to perfect their espresso craft.

Best French Press Coffee Maker

It’s kind of silly to rank French Press coffee makers because they are all so similar that brewing differences are pretty much negligible.

However, I do believe that the materials used in making a French Press are important, particularly as it relates to heat retention.

Stainless steel will hold water temperature closest to the initial brew temperature, while glass will lose heat the quickest. Plastic falls in between the two, but has the downside of being, well, plastic.

Since maintaining brew temperature is important not only for proper extraction, but also for sufficiently hot coffee, I recommend a stainless steel french press like the Espro French Press or SterlingPro, which are both made from stainless steel.

If you’re on a tighter budget or don’t care for stainless steel, any Bodum glass french press will do just fine.

What’s the best coffee maker for you?

I’ve covered a lot of ground here, so let’s quickly recap what I believe is the best way for you to find the “best coffee maker” for your wants and needs.

1. Know what coffee you already like.

If you know how you like your coffee in terms of taste and mouthfeel, you’ll have a much easier time finding a coffee maker.

Once you know what you like, choose a brew method that corresponds with your taste preferences.

2. Know what’s involved in making good coffee. Hint: it isn’t just the coffee maker.

Your coffee maker is a very small part of the equation when it comes to making great coffee.

Understand that using a burr grinder and grinding your beans fresh before brewing are just a few of the things you can do to significantly improve your coffee.

3. Don’t over-analyze

It’s not worth agonizing over all of the details that separate one coffee maker from the next, because the tools you use will only get you so far.

At the end of the day, you can always return your coffee maker if it isn’t doing it for you.

Share your favorite coffee maker

So now that you’ve read about what I believe are the best coffee makers, I’d love to hear about your favorites.

Leave a comment below telling me:

  1. Your favorite coffee maker
  2. Why?

Sources

  1. Benji Walklet, Coffee Experiment: Comparing a 1-Hour-Later Grind to a Fresh Grind, The Coffee Concierge
  2. Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood & Christopher Hendon, Water for Coffee
  3. Specialty Coffee Association of America, Water for Brewing Standards
  4. Jim Schulman, Jim Schulman’s Insanely Long Water FAQ
  5. Matt Perger, Matt Perger Talks about Brewing in WOC 2015, Anthony Nguyen
  6. Benji Walklet, How Does Water Temperature Change During the Brew Cycle?, The Coffee Concierge
  7. Matt Perger, The Most Important Thing About Brewing Coffee, Barista Hustle
  8. Ratio Eight (Plastic-free Auto Drip Coffeemaker)
  9. Baylor College of Medicine, How Coffee Raises Cholesterol, Science Daily
  10. Charles Babinski & Scott Callender, Espresso YouTube Series, ChefSteps