Over the years, our test kitchen has evaluated thousands of products. Price often correlates with design, not performance. We’ve gone through copious rounds of testing and have identified the most important attributes in every piece of equipment, so when you go shopping you’ll know what to look for. And because our test kitchen accepts no support from product manufacturers, you can trust our ratings.
Types of Coffee Makers
- The Basics of Making Coffee
- Automatic Coffee Makers
- Smart Coffee Makers
- Manual Coffee Makers
- Cold Brew Coffee Makers
- Stovetop Coffee Makers
- Espresso Machines
- Manual Espresso Makers
- Coffee Gadgets You Shouldn't Buy
The Basics of Making Coffee
Coffee is a complex bean, containing more than 1,000 volatile flavor and aroma compounds. According to experts, the best compounds are released when brewed at temperatures between 195 and 205 degrees. Then there’s the matter of the rate of extraction. The most aromatic and best tasting compounds are generally released first, so coffee that’s brewed too slowly or at too-hot temperatures can suffer from overextraction when the more harsh and bitter flavors are released. If brewed too quickly or with water that isn't hot enough, it can suffer from underextraction where it's weak and sour-tasting. An optimum extraction rate is about 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the method. (Cold-brew methods, in which ground coffee is combined with cold or room-temperature water, take longer—at least 8 hours and up to several days.)
Automatic Coffee Makers
You can start with the best beans and the best coffee maker, but those choices won’t matter if you don’t also use the right ratio of coffee to water (several of the models we tested call for insufficient coffee—or, even worse, simply have baskets too small to hold enough ground coffee for the amount of water its tank can hold). For the ideal cup, the Specialty Coffee Association of America recommends 9 to 11 grams (about 2 tablespoons of medium-grind coffee) per 6 ounces of water.
Which Winner Is Right for You?
Many coffee drinkers will be pleased with the excellent performance of the Bonavita, but if you want to invest in the best machine money can buy, the Technivorm might be for you.
- Brewing Performance: The Technivorm is robotic, reaching the same optimal time and temperature numbers every single time you brew a pot. The Bonavita wavers in and out of the ideal temperature zone a bit more.
- Heating Element: Though its exterior parts are made from inexpensive lightweight plastic (meant to be replaceable), the Technivorm’s nervous system is built to last. Specifically, its heating element is made of expensive, highly conductive copper—a metal that can reach a higher temperature more quickly than can aluminum, which is what Bonavita (and most other coffee maker manufacturers) uses.
- Saturation of Grounds: The new Technivorm KBGT and the older Technivorm KBT each have a hold-back function that slows or stops the flow of coffee into the carafe, steeping the grounds longer. (On the old model, this function is manually controlled; on the new model, it automatically waits about 30 seconds.) The Bonavita does not have this function, though it’s equipped with a showerhead that helps saturate the grounds evenly.
- Carafe Lid: The Technivorm’s carafe features a convenient brew-through lid; the Bonavita requires you to remove the brew basket and screw on a separate lid to keep coffee hot.
- Construction: The Technivorm is hand-built in the Netherlands. The Bonavita is machine-built in China from a German design.
- Length of Warranty: Technivorm: five years; Bonavita: two years.
Smart Coffee Makers
Want to upgrade to a “smart” coffee maker with an app that lets you turn on the machine from a smartphone or tablet using Wi-Fi? Imagine the cozy comforts of brewing coffee before getting out of bed. You can also link to Amazon's Alexa devices to start the machine using voice commands and to Amazon Dash Replenishment to automatically reorder coffee. The smart coffee machine we tested encourages the coffee geek in you to customize how it operates.
Curious about smart kitchen systems and appliances? Read more about the smart kitchen trend at CES and our top 10 smart kitchen highlights at the Home and Housewares Show.
Manual Coffee Makers
The beauty of manual coffee makers is that they're inexpensive, transportable, and easy to master over time. Fans love French press coffee makers for their full-bodied brew and simple-to-use design. Coffee enthusiasts also love manual pour-over brewing devices because they let you control water temperature and steeping time—both key to a good cup. Here are some models that we've tested and recommend.
Interested in making rounder, sweeter, more complex coffee from your French press coffee maker? Learn more on how to make better French press coffee.
Cold Brew Coffee Makers
Caffeine nerds have long touted the advantages of brewing coffee with cold water. The process, which calls for steeping ground coffee in cold water for several hours (or overnight), is largely hands-off; produces a smoother, less acidic brew than does conventional hot-water extraction; and yields a strong concentrate that can be stored in the refrigerator and diluted to taste with hot or cold water (or poured over ice) to make instant hot or iced coffee.
Learn more about how cold brew stacks up against other iced coffee methods or try our recipe for Cold-Brew Coffee Concentrate.
Stovetop Coffee Makers
Italian moka pots are small, inexpensive coffee makers that 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 stronger and more complex than anything brewed in a drip machine.
Espresso machines range in price from well under $100 for basic machines to elaborate, glossy marvels that can set you back as much as $8,000—it can be a confusing process to find the best one for your investment. First and foremost, an espresso machine should make espresso as good as a barista can produce, and you should be able to customize the brew strength and size to your taste. Second, the machine must be easy to use and relatively straightforward to maintain. Brewing a drink or two should not make much of a mess, take too long, or require a discouraging amount of fuss for a busy weekday morning.
Manual Espresso Makers
Espresso is produced when high pressure forces hot water through finely ground coffee, quickly extracting the flavor. When done properly, the result is a thick, rich brew that captures the essence of the coffee bean. Although potentially not as powerful, manual makers are portable, lightweight, easy-to-use alternatives to expensive electric machines, and our favorites produce great espresso.
Coffee Gadgets You Shouldn't Buy
We gave these gadgets a fair chance to prove themselves in our testings. However, it was clear they aren't worth the time or money. We explain why you shouldn't buy them, and what tools or methods work much better for your intended purpose.
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