Staff, Courtesy of OXO
The coffee maker remains one of the most popular and easiest ways to brew a morning cup (or two or three). But, like many appliances, they’re getting smart, and some can have your brew ready and waiting when you wake up. With the advancements come even more decisions to make when you want to buy a new one. To help you find the best machine for your needs, we got in touch with Peter Giuliano, the Chief Research Officer for the Specialty Coffee Association. Read on for his buying and brewing tips, followed by our reviews of the best coffee makers.
How to Choose the Right Coffee Maker
“It’s very challenging to tell whether a coffee maker will work properly just by its appearance or price,” says Giuliano. He suggests that the best way to guarantee whether one you’re considering is of quality is by checking for a Specialty Coffee Association certification. The SCA puts coffee brewers through a number of tests to gauge their ability to make the tastiest java. Passing all of them earns a coffee maker an SCA Golden Cup Standard, which guarantees you a few things out of that model:
- Coffee-to-water ratio: The recommended coffee-to-water ratio is 55 grams of coffee grounds per every liter of water, plus or minus 10 percent depending on your preference.
- Coffee preparation temperature: The water temperature, at the point of contact with coffee, will fall around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take 5 degrees, which ensures the water is hot enough to extract the most flavor out of the grounds without burning them and imparting the coffee with a bitter taste.
- Grind/particle size distribution: This should parallel the time of coffee-to-water contact, meaning one to four minutes for a fine grind, four to six for a medium grind, and six to eight for a coarse grind.
How to Make the Best Coffee
“The first tip is the most obvious: Use good coffee, and use enough,” says Giuliano. “A coffee maker isn’t magic and can’t improve coffee’s basic quality. So simply buying good, fresh coffee and using enough is key.” Be sure to refer to the coffee-to-water ratio above for the optimal amount. Keeping your coffee maker clean is also imperative—you should wash it out at least once a month using vinegar or coffee maker cleaner and wipe it down inside and out. “Finally, use good-quality water,” says Giuliano. “Hard, mineral-heavy water will make bad coffee but will also create scale deposits on the parts of the brewer that heat the water, which leads to worse coffee.” Filling it with filtered or bottled water and cleaning it regularly can help with this.
How We Chose the Best Coffee Makers
To find the best options among the many coffee makers, we pored over the list of tested and approved models by the SCA. We then took into account price, brewing methods, size, and durability. Finally, we consulted more than 12,000 reviews, written by people who’ve bought these models, on sites like Amazon and Walmart to settle on these six.
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Breville Precision Brewer Glass Coffee Maker
$279.95 (29% off)
Though it looks pretty basic, this Breville model actually has six useful pre-sets—Gold, Fast, Strong, Iced, Cold Brew, and My Brew—that can help you make whatever coffee you’re craving. My Brew allows you to personalize settings like bloom time, brew temperature, and flow rate to suit your preferences. And the Precisions uses a Thermo Coil Heating System, which basically means that, compared to the more common aluminum systems, there’s less of a chance your water will take on unwanted flavors.
Bonavita Connoisseur 8-Cup One-Touch Coffee Maker
If you want coffee quickly in the morning (and without having to do too much thinking), this Bonavita can get your cup ready in six minutes. Press one button, and its shower-head internal design will evenly saturate the coffee grounds. Then keep an ear open for the alert to tell you when the coffee’s done.
If you have a household of fickle coffee drinkers, you may often end up dumping leftovers or fighting for a cup. This coffee maker allows you to make anywhere from two to nine cups, and you can even set it the night before so that the brew is ready to drink when you wake up. And if you want to get yours before the rest of the family, use the pause and pour button so you can dispense a cup for yourself and then resume brewing.
Ninja Hot & Cold 10-Cup Coffee Maker
Don’t take the “coffee” in the name to mean that this versatile Ninja can’t make other drinks. It can concoct everything from your morning brew to mid-day matcha to late afternoon iced tea, in quantities from a single cup to a full carafe. And since it can make both coffee and tea, it has separate baskets for each ensuring that your flavors won’t mix. Bonus points for the tuck-away frothing arm.
Cuisinart PurePrecision 8-Cup Pour-Over Coffee Brewer
$134.99 (25% off)
This coffee maker is easy to use, sleek, and can make enough for a family. It has settings for temperature and flavor strength—mild, medium, and bold. The system pre-wets the grounds to allow them to bloom before brewing, drawing out some additional flavor without extra effort from you.
Yes, this coffee maker is expensive. But it’s also one of the most highly rated by experts and customers. It’s super easy to use, with a one-button brewing system, and features a thermal carafe, which helps keep your coffee warmer for longer. The brew time is quick—only four to six minutes. And the Moccamaster can make 40 ounces of coffee at a time. If you are worried about longevity, with that steep price comes a five-year warranty.
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