Best coffee maker: Five things to consider

If you can’t start your day without coffee, you’ll want to be sure you have the best coffee maker for you. There have never been more ways to make coffee, but we can help you narrow it down.

Making coffee used to be simple: you’d toss your grounds in a percolator or drip machine, let it go, and drink. But today, browsing the available coffee makers will bombard you with Aeropresses, vacuum pots, nine-bar espresso machines, precise drip makers, and French presses. Each of these gadgets has its purpose, and each is different. But there’s no need to get all of them. We’ll guide you through what they all do and which use case they excel in, and you’ll be able to get just what you need.

Things to consider when shopping for the best coffee maker

When looking for a coffee maker, it’s important to know that there isn’t one best: it’s more like a constellation of the best coffee makers, all differing based on what category they’re in. A great drip brewer isn’t better or worse than a great French press; they simply do different things and make different coffee. Plus, certain coffee machines make more cups per pot, include milk frothers, and a variety of other features. To say which is the best coffee maker all depends on how you like your cup of coffee.

What’s your favorite brewing method?

There are several different basic brewing methods. One is a drip method, in which hot water is poured through the coffee grounds, dripping as coffee out the other end. Your classic Mr. Coffee-type brewer is in this category, as is the trendy pour over. Then there’s the immersion type, in which hot water and ground coffee are mixed together for a length of time before separating the grounds—think French press and Aeropress. And finally, there’s espresso—it’s not a type of bean, but rather a technique of making coffee, done by using a great deal of pressure to force hot water through compressed coffee beans.

Another type of coffee machine that’s gained in popularity over the last several years is the pod machine. It’s hard to get much more convenient than tossing a pre-measured, sealed pod into a machine and pressing a single button. On the con side, pod coffee can be brewed at too low a temperature sometimes, and produces a fair amount of non-recyclable waste.

Best drip coffee maker: Technivorm Moccamaster 59616 KBG, 10-Cup Coffee Maker

Most Design Choices

This machine is hand-made in the Netherlands for ultimate precision. Amazon

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The Technivorm Moccamaster is a one-touch, no-fuss drip coffee maker; you can think of it as the evolution of the classic Mr. Coffee. But every single element is precise and engineered. It will pause brewing if you grab the carafe to sneak a cup; each component is handmade in the Netherlands; it has two settings to keep your brewed coffee at a precise, non-burnt temperature. It’s not cheap, but it’s the ultimate in simplicity.

Best pour-over coffee maker: CHEMEX Pour-Over Glass Coffeemaker

Common In Coffee Shops

Its materials are taken directly from the lab, with tempered borosilicate glass. Amazon

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Pourover coffee is the handmade version of drip coffee. At its core, it’s very simple: a cone-shaped filter is placed in the pour over device, ground coffee goes in the filter, and hot water is gently poured on top, allowing the coffee to drip out the bottom. It’s a great way to have total control over each cup of coffee. Chemex coffee devices are legendary for their precision and beauty and are also great for making cold beverages like iced coffee.

Best espresso machine coffee maker: Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine

Be A Mini Barista

With a built-in conical burr grinder, this product will precisely brew your beans from start to finish. Amazon

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Espresso, which requires lots and lots of pressure to force hot water through coffee grounds, is an extremely precise and tricky type of coffee to make. You have to learn about water temperature, pressure, grind size, brew time to the second, and coffee weight out to the gram. This Breville espresso machine doesn’t hide that complexity, but it’ll guide you through it, and can do certain tasks (like the timing of an espresso pull) automatically, so you don’t have to.

Best pod coffee maker: Nespresso Vertuo Next Coffee and Espresso Machine

Easy Operation

With recyclable pods and a design made from over 50% recycled material, this is as environmentally friendly as pod options get. Amazon

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If you go with a pod system, we recommend this Nespresso machine, which uses aluminum pods that can be recycled. Nespresso has tons of recycling points that you can simply take your used pods to, where the aluminum is melted down and reused. Plus, Nespresso pods are designed for espresso, and the strength of that brew masks any potential staleness that can sometimes creep into pod coffees. This all means that Nespresso tastes pretty good, all things considered.

How many cups do you want to make at once?

An important thing to know about brewing capacity is that when they say “cups,” they’re talking about the measurement unit of volume, as in your measuring cups—not as in “cups of coffee.” A standard coffee mug will probably hold about 16 fluid ounces, which is two cups; a larger to-go cup might hold 20 or 24 ounces. If you’re brewing for a large family, get a brewer that can handle at least eight cups at once.

Best 8-cup coffee maker: OXO Brew 8 Cup Coffee Maker

Keeps Your Java Hot

Easy to use, but boasts advanced features like variable temperatures and a thermal carafe. Amazon

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Drip coffee makers have come back into fashion in the coffee world lately, and are now available in a wide range of prices and feature sets. But for drip makers, we like simplicity: a one-touch, one-button method that you can slap while bleary-eyed, but that’ll make one mug or more without scorching the brew. OXO’s drip coffee maker features a showerhead design to evenly sprinkle the water over the grounds, and a double-walled carafe that’ll keep your coffee hot without burning it. There’s also a valve so that you can grab a cup before the full pot is done, without wasting any coffee.

Best single-cup coffee maker: Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker, Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Brewer

Space-Conscious

Super small and simple, this machine is also compatible with the reusable filter. Amazon

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Keurig is everywhere; it’s hard to beat for accessibility, ease, and the sheer amount of different pods that are out there. This particular brewer is Keurig’s smallest; you’ll have to add water before each brew, but the quality of coffee isn’t lower than larger machines, and we think the size and price of this device are real strengths.

Do you want to froth your milk?

Many coffee makers now include some sort of milk frothing feature. Frothed milk is a key ingredient of some of the most popular espresso-based drinks, including cappuccino, latte, and macchiato; these drinks are sort of like cocktails, in that they only include a few ingredients, and can’t really be made without all of them.

You can purchase a separate milk frother for around $10, but the key benefit with an included one on your coffee maker is that it’ll also be capable of manipulating milk in a bunch of other ways, the most important of which is steamed milk, another key ingredient—and there’s no need to heat up the milk since the coffee machine has that capability. Really, a milk frothing capability is essential for those who want to make espresso-based drinks, but if you’re just looking for a classic cup of coffee? No need to spend more.

Best coffee maker with a built-in milk frother: Mr. Coffee Espresso and Cappuccino Maker

Give Yourself More Drink Options

This unit’s attached milk frother and steamer is perfect for lattes. Amazon

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Milk frothers and steamers come attached to most home espresso makers. This Mr. Coffee maker advertises 15 bars of pressure—that’s the measurement for how much force is used to press hot water through coffee to make espresso—and the attached milk frother/steamer is perfect for at-home cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos.

Do looks matter to you?

Coffee makers are no longer necessarily ugly; there’s a wide range of beautiful designs out there, from minimalist mid-century to retrofuturistic tech to so utterly practical they look like they belong in a lab. Coffee makers also come in a wide range of sizes, which should be a major factor in your purchase. Do you have a couple of square feet of counter space to devote to an espresso machine? If not, opt for something else; small machines just don’t have enough power to make good espresso.

Best coffee maker for design: ESPRO P7 Double Walled Stainless Steel Insulated Coffee French Press

Beautifully Minimal

A unique two-level filter removes excess coffee grounds. Amazon

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We’ve highlighted some other beautiful coffee makers, so let’s talk about the Espro P7, a more unusual choice. It’s a French press, so you make coffee with the immersion method: mix hot water and ground coffee together, then press the filter down, removing the grounds so you can simply pour out the coffee. The French press is a brilliant design, but many don’t like it due to the presence of finely ground coffee dregs that inevitably end up in the cup. The Espro, though, has a two-filter system to take out even the finest of dregs—it’s French press coffee without the silt.

Best coffee maker brands to know

There are lots of different brands that make coffee makers, some of which specialize in the category and some that do all kinds of other things. This doesn’t matter so much; good coffee can come from anywhere. But if you want a brand that you know has worked in coffee for a while, perfecting its wares, take a look at these few, each known for making some of the best coffee maker designs on the market.

Breville

Breville is an Australian kitchen appliance company and makes almost uniformly high-quality, moderately priced stuff. They’re never too out there in terms of design, these days leaning on a motif of aluminum and black plastic, but sometimes that doesn’t matter so much. Breville’s home espresso machines are extremely well-reviewed and available at a variety of price points.

OXO

OXO was originally known as OXO Good Grips, founded in 1990 by a man who wanted kitchen tools that his wife, who suffered from arthritis, could operate. From that feel-good story, the company has branched out into all sorts of kitchen and household tools, with a cheerful, chunky aesthetic. OXO makes some of the best drip coffee machines on the market; start there if that’s what you’re looking for.

Nespresso

A portmanteau of its parent company (Nestle) and what it makes (espresso), Nespresso is a Swiss company that pioneered the pod-based espresso system—and still does it better than anyone else. We recommend their products if you decide to go with a pod system, owing to their flavor and, especially, the fact that Nespresso pods have long been recyclable.

Best budget coffee maker: What you get for under $50

There’s no shortage of great products for under $50 out there, as long as you know what to get—and what you should get is an immersion system. You’ll also need a kettle for these (or, in some cases, nothing more than a pot to boil water), but in effect, immersion systems require nothing more than a vessel and a filter. Our favorite is the Aeropress, a small plastic machine that makes a single cup of strong, rich coffee. Best of all, the Aeropress minimizes cleanup: you simply point it at a garbage can and press the compacted puck out.

The bottom line on the best coffee makers

Coffee is complicated if you dive deeply into it, but the thing is, you don’t really have to. If you want to get a kitchen scale, obsess over burr shapes, and relentlessly experiment, that’s fine! But you can also, at any price point, snag yourself a coffee machine that’s super easy and rewarding to use. Whether that’s a $30 travel Aeropress, a $150 drip machine, or a $1,000 home espresso setup, you can make great coffee at any price point and degree of effort.