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Equipment

Which Coffee Maker Is Right for You?

There are so many coffee makers to choose from. Here's how to find one that fits your taste, budget, space, and schedule.
By Published July 14, 2022

People ask me all the time what the best coffee maker is. My answer? It depends.

There are so many ways to make coffee, from automatic drip coffee makers to French presses, pour-over devices to espresso machines, single-serve brewers to cold-brewers—and more. Each kind of brewer makes a distinctly different cup of coffee and takes varying amounts of effort, money, time, and space.

With seemingly endless options, it can all feel a bit overwhelming. So I’ve simplified things. Read on for the coffee maker greatest hits so that you can find something that’s perfect for you.

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Buy an espresso machine if . . .

  • You love rich, intense flavor, and budget is no object.
  • You have a moderate amount of kitchen space.
  • You want to be able to not only grab a quick shot of espresso to propel you out the door but also be able to fool around doing latte art on a lazy weekend. (Bonus: You can make Affogato for dessert.)

So, which one should you buy? Pick a fully automatic model such as our winner, the Gaggia Anima, and you will push a button and have a shot in hand, freshly ground and perfectly pressure-delivered in less than 2 minutes.

If you are more of a DIY-er, pick our other favorite, the Breville Barista Express, which is semi-automatic. This model takes around 5 minutes to warm up and deliver. You have to hit grind, tamp the fresh grounds in the portafilter, and then transfer it over to the brew side. Both winners grind and brew and let you steam milk too.

Buy a French press if . . .

  • You want rich, strong, full-bodied coffee, and you like to keep things simple.
  • You don’t want to spend a lot of money.
  • You don’t want a countertop-hogging machine that has to be plugged in.
  • You have less than 10 minutes to spend on making coffee.
  • And you’d like to brew anywhere from 1 to 8 cups at a time.

So, which one should you buy? Choose our winner, the Bodum Columbia, if you like to sip your coffee over a few hours, because its stainless-steel insulated body will keep the brew warm. It’s also sturdier than typical glass-bodied French presses such as our Best Buy, the Bodum Chambord. The Chambord is about half the price of the winner, and ideal if you drink your coffee more promptly (or take it with you in an insulated travel mug) because it’s made of glass, which cools off faster than the insulated model. 

Buy a portable single-serve manual coffee maker if . . .

  • You like to make just one or two cups at a time.
  • You’re doing this while traveling or at your desk—and refuse to sacrifice great flavor just because you’re not in your home kitchen.
  • You want something inexpensive, simple to use, and incredibly compact.
  • You have a way to heat up water separately, whether it’s an electric kettle or a microwave.
  • You love a clean, concentrated cup of richly flavorful coffee that you can drink as is or dilute a bit to make an Americano. 

So, which one should you buy? The Aeropress Go Travel Coffee Press makes a truly great little cup of coffee; its lid and mug even double as a carrying case.  

Buy a cold-brew coffee maker if . . .

  • You adore smooth coffee with low acidity.
  • You like both iced and hot coffee (more on that in a second!).
  • You don’t want to spend a lot of money.
  • You have some counter space to dedicate while brewing.
  • You don’t mind prepping on the weekend for grab-and-go convenience all week long.

So, which one should you buy? Our tested favorite, the Toddy Cold Brew System, is simple to set up, and in 24 hours it makes you a glass carafe full of cold, concentrated deliciousness that you can drink for a week or more. Simply add cold water (a 50:50 ratio works well, but you do you) and pour it over ice, or add boiling water to your preferred strength for a hot morning brew; it’s ready in seconds.

Buy an automatic drip coffee maker if . . .

  • You love “regular” coffee, with its medium body and smooth flavor.
  • You don’t mind having an appliance taking up a bit of your kitchen counter.
  • You typically enjoy a cup or two in the mornings, but occasionally invite everyone over for brunch and need to brew up to 10 cups at a time.
  • You don’t mind spending a little extra money on the right machine.
  • And you’d like to have your coffee piping hot and ready to drink in under 10 minutes, mostly hands-off.

So, which one should you buy? For an impressively simple, elegant brewer that nails all the elements of great drip coffee, get the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT. Its insulated thermal carafe also keeps coffee piping hot for upwards of two hours, so if you come back for a second cup later, you’ll be happy. The only downside? It’s priced over $300 (but lasts forever).

If that’s just too much to spend, we also really liked the OXO Brew 8-cup Coffee Maker, another model with a thermal carafe at a significantly lower price. Still too much? Our Best Buy is the Zojirushi ZUTTO Coffee Maker, perfect if you only want one or two big mugs of coffee, since it brews a smaller pot. We don’t usually prefer a glass carafe (the hot plates under glass carafes will overcook your coffee), but this brewer is just right for small households where you’d drink it right away—or transfer it to your travel mug. 

Buy a pour-over coffee maker if . . .

  • You only want to make one or two cups at a time.
  • You don’t want your coffee maker to take over the entire kitchen.
  • You don’t want to spend a lot of money on the device.
  • You have a way to heat the water separately.
  • You're either a bare-bones kind of coffee drinker or you're a highly particular coffee drinker.

Here's the thing: pour-over coffee makers are perfect for both types of coffee drinkers. If you want, you can customize all the variables—accurately weigh and grind your own beans, heat the water to a specific temperature using a gooseneck kettle, and then carefully pour it over the grounds to evenly saturate them—but you can also just make a no-fuss cup of good, strong regular coffee with any medium-fine ground beans in roughly 5 minutes.

So, which one should you buy? Our favorite is the Clever Coffee Dripper, a simple cone with the option to do standard pour-over coffee (just perch it on your mug rim to prop open the valve located in its base that releases the coffee) or use the immersion method, where the water and coffee steep together before you move the device to the cup to release all the coffee at once.  

Buy a moka pot if . . .

  • You want coffee fast, and you don’t want to mess around.
  • You don’t want to spend a lot of money.
  • You’d prefer not to plug in a countertop-hogging appliance; you’d rather use the stove.
  • You demand that your coffee be strong, complex, full-bodied, and eye-opening. Moka pots use steam pressure to force hot water from a bottom chamber up through coffee grounds. That pressure isn’t high enough for true espresso extraction, but the coffee they make is fiercer (in a good way!) than anything brewed in a drip machine. 

So, which one should you buy? Our favorite is the Bialetti Stovetop Moka Express in the 3-cup size, but the same pot comes in a huge range of sizes to fit your household.