Yes, yes, Guy With a Carefully Calculated Amount of Stubble and Blinding White Sneakers: The search for the best drip coffee maker is not the same as the search for the best coffee. The best coffee, you say, is pour-over made with hand-cranked beans and a sprinkling of fairy dust. We know.
But come with us on a journey for a second. Imagine a world where you flip a button, then get in the shower and get dressed for work. You emerge from the bathroom to a kitchen filled with the sweet scent of java and a light, pleasant, gurgling noise. Your coffee is made! You can pour it into an insulated mug and be on your way, caffeine already pulsing through your veins and making your mind sharper when you sit down at your desk.
Sound appealing? If you're tired of fussing with your Chemex, keep reading for the best drip coffee makers to buy right now.
The Absolute Best Drip Coffee Maker: Technivorm Moccamaster
Technivorm’s Moccamaster is an iconic coffee maker that subsequent brands have attempted, but failed, to replicate. The Moccamaster pioneered the now ubiquitous shower head feature, and for a long time was known as the only good drip machine. While this coffee maker can’t be programmed, froth milk, or tell you the time, it does make a well-extracted brew with just the flip of a switch. We tested a glass carafe model, but a thermal, stainless steel option is also available.
The filter holder has a detachable lid that may seem unprotected, but it keeps the machine from looking bulky and contributes to its appealing industrial design. Some coffee connoisseurs appreciate the ability to open the lid during brewing to saturate the coffee to their liking, a hack that's not possible to do on other machines without disrupting the brew.
The Moccamaster is one of the more expensive machines we tested; while you could get a comparable cup of coffee from a machine that costs half as much, or added features like a programmable timer and a cold brew option on machines at the same price point, the pedigree on this unitasker is sterling. Each Moccamaster is made from recyclable materials in the Netherlands and tested before being packed and shipped. It comes with a five-year warranty, but the machines are known to last much longer and the parts can easily be replaced should something happen. The design-minded among us should note that it's available in a range of colors from red and lime green to a more classic polished silver. For those who don't intend to make it the centerpiece of an otherwise empty counter, you'll appreciate that its design makes it compact enough to fit into a tight corner.
The Best Drip Coffee Maker If You Want More Features: OXO On Barista Brain
OXO’s Barista Brain is likely what most people are looking for in a drip coffee maker. Setting it up and using it is seamless compared to the Moccamaster, where the lids to the water reservoir and filter holder don't connect to the machine. On this one, both lids are connected and can easily be flipped open and shut.
The OXO coffee maker has precise, temperature-controlled brewing—it keeps the water between 197.6–204.8° F—and it only took about five minutes to brew a full pot of coffee in the morning. At the end of brewing, like the Moccamaster, the OXO had evenly distributed hot water over the coffee grounds. (Some other ones we tested had dry spots in the grounds, which definitely led to an inferior pot of coffee.)
As for design, it has a double-walled carafe that keeps coffee warm for hours, although the opening is too narrow to fit your hand inside to clean so you’ll need a bottle brush or similar solution to clean it properly. Even then, it’s the best-looking steel carafe of all the machines we tested. The OXO also comes with a timer, for those who like to wake up to a freshly brewed pot of coffee in the morning.
The Best Drip Coffee Maker If You Like Extra-Strong Coffee: Ninja Coffee Maker with Classic and Rich Brews
This Ninja made the strongest tasting coffee of all the machines tested. You can brew at two different strengths—classic or rich—but we found that even the classic setting produced a rather full-flavored cup. The design isn’t particularly interesting, but the construction is solid. One notable feature is an easy-to-grip water reservoir that can be filled up at the sink at the exact level you want. This is something few coffee makers have—most require you to fill a coffee pot with water then fill the machine. It’s a small thing, but that’s one less step between you and your java.
How We Tested the Best Drip Coffee Makers
We used eight grams of a locally roasted coffee blend (ground in a burr grinder) per five-ounce cup of coffee. Then, we simply made a pot of coffee in each machine. The capacity of the machines ranged from 8 to 14 cups. For each drip coffee maker, we also evaluated the following factors.
Does the coffee maker properly regulate brewing temperature?
The optimal brewing temperature for flavor extraction in coffee is between 195°–205° F, according to the National Coffee Association. (If you want to go down a geeky rabbit hole of learning all about temperature and extraction, the internet has a lot to offer.)
How easy-to-use is the machine?
Ease-of-use is a huge factor in determining the best drip coffee makers. After all, if you want to mess around with a precise, intricate brewing process, you might as well make yourself a pourover. We were looking for a machine that was easy to set up out of the box and simple to operate, but still yielded a high-quality cup of joe.
How long does the machine take to brew?
We wanted a machine that brewed coffee relatively quickly, within 5–7 minutes.
Does it have any special features?
For example, does the coffee maker have an automatic timer so you can have fresh coffee waiting for you in the morning? Is there a single-serve function? Does it have a timer?
How easy is it to clean out the drip coffee maker?
Drip coffee makers have lots of nooks and crannies and can be difficult to clean. Obviously, the easier to clean, the better.
Does it have a glass or thermal carafe? Is the carafe comfortable to hold and pour from?
The best drip coffee makers should have a carafe that keeps the coffee hot for an extended period of time. It should pour easily, without leaking or spilling. It should feel good in your hand (and maybe look nice on your counter, too).
How does the coffee taste?
Most importantly, does the coffee actually taste good? Is it bitter? How's the balance? Is the coffee nice and warm when it comes out of the coffee maker?
Other Drip Coffee Makers We Tested
The Bonavita One-Touch, brews a nice cup of coffee (and one that's most comparable to a pour-over), but there are some details that made it more awkward to use than other options. Instead of sliding the filter basket into a holder on the machine, you have to balance the filter basket on top of the thermal coffee carafe before sliding the stacked parts under the shower head. Then, after brewing is done, you have to remove the filter basket from the carafe in order to screw on the lid. Meanwhile, there's no spot to return the filter basket on the machine. None of this is what you want when you're groggy in the morning or hurrying to run out the door.
We tested two Cuisinart coffee makers. The Perfectemp brews a large quantity (14 cups) with little fanfare, but if you don't usually make that much coffee at once, experts recommend smaller batches for the best flavor. We found the Classic Thermal ($90) perfectly adequate—the coffee's flavor was weaker and less developed than our top-ranking models, but the machine is totally fine if you're looking for something to use occasionally.
Ninja’s Auto-iQ Tea and Coffee Maker ($120) has a dizzying array of options, including separate baskets for coffee and tea, a proprietary coffee and tea scoop that attaches to the machine, and a frother. The features seem like overkill and, it's worth mentioning, the water reservoir only indicates volume based on the Ninja carafe's measurements—not cups or ounces—so you're beholden to using the included measuring spoon.
The Breville Precision coffee maker had the most parts to deal with during the unboxing. It has all the added features you'd expect from a Breville, like the ability to make cold brew and to customize settings, but we didn't love the design—the filter basket is rather bulky and the lid to the water reservoir doesn't connect to the machine. Additionally, the water reservoir doesn't drain all the water, leaving about a half-ounce of liquid in the tank at the end of a cycle. This is a small quirk, but not one you expect on a $300 machine.
In the budget category, we tested the Hamilton Beach BrewStation ($40) which brews coffee in an internal reservoir and dispenses it like fountain soda. A strange feature, and not worth experimenting with given that the coffee was subpar.
For a simple, easy-to-use machine that'll brew consistently good coffee for years, get the Technivorm Moccamaster. If you want more features at a slightly less expensive price point, go with the OXO On Barista Brain. Unfortunately, none of the budget options we tested stood out for their performance, but the Ninja makes extra-strong coffee for less than $100.
Next Steps: Get the Best Coffee Beans for Your Drip Coffee Maker
Now that you've got a rundown on the best drip coffee makers, you surely want the best beans, as well. Should you go for the single-origin Rwandan coffee that promises snippets of chocolate and tangerine? Or is the organic Brazilian blend better? Do you need to know at what altitude the beans grew? Is a low-acid light roast strong enough to get you through the morning?
Like it or not, you’re going to get bombarded with options when buying coffee beans. Not every label is a guarantee of quality, but the more a producer or roaster can tell you about the coffee, the better, said Jesse Kahn, who's in charge of training center development for Counter Culture Coffee, based in Durham, N.C. Here are some of Kahn's best tips for getting the beans that will yield the best coffee.
Opt for whole coffee beans.
First things first: Buy whole beans. Grinding coffee right before you brew is the key to a great cup, said Kahn (except if you screw up the brewing part, but that’s another story). If ground coffee is your only option, have it ground for you when you buy it. It’s all about freshness.
Buy directly from the roaster whenever possible.
There’s no shortage of coffee at the supermarket, but it’ll be up to you suss out the quality from the swill. When you buy directly from a roaster, you get knowledgeable staff and tasting opportunities. The coffee is probably fresher, too.
Just say no to coffee bins.
Air, light, heat and moisture—all are bad when it comes to coffee. So don’t buy from scoop-your-own bins, Kahn said. Instead, look for coffee in tightly sealed packages. Many have nifty built-in valves that release the coffee's natural gases without letting in air.
Check the roast date.
Pay attention to the roast date, which ideally should be marked on the bag, and buy as close to the date as possible. The flavor flattens out quickly once you open it. “Coffee that’s of high quality, that’s been processed well and is relatively fresh compared to when it was harvested, that coffee should taste really good within the first 30 days of when it was roasted,” Kahn said. Beans from a roaster might have been roasted that same week. At the grocery store, roast dates of two or three months out are more likely.
Note the roast level and country of origin.
Roast levels are based on how long and at what temperature the beans are roasted. There’s a prevailing theory that dark roasts mask lesser-quality coffee. Ultimately, the darker the roast, the smokier the flavor, which might or might not be your cup of, uh, tea. “When you roast, you’re eliminating moisture and caramelizing some of the sugars inherent in the coffee,” Kahn said.
There are dozens of coffee varieties from all over the world, and they’re all going to taste different. That’s the simplest way to think about where a coffee is from and how much it matters. While Kahn said you can make some generalizations about the flavors of coffees from various regions, there are so many other factors at play. “The altitude, the soil composition, the rainfall, all the things that go into the piece of land where the coffee grows,” he said.
But bean type does matter and of the two main species, arabica and robusta, arabica is generally considered to be much higher quality, Kahn said. If you’re buying specialty coffee and not the instant supermarket blend, you can bet those are arabica beans.
Notes on origin and fair-trade
Single-origin means the coffee comes from one place, but it’s a pretty watered down phrase, Kahn said. Large roasters might denote a coffee from Ethiopia as single-origin. The phrase is more meaningful if a specific farm or co-op is listed.
The USDA certified organic label refers to coffee grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. "Fair trade” is a third-party certification that advocates for fair wages and humane conditions for coffee farmers. “Direct trade” pushes that further by directly linking roasters and farmers.
If the processing method is listed on the label, that's a good sign.
What we call coffee beans are the green seeds inside the fruits of the coffee tree. How the beans are processed plays a part in flavor and quality, said Kahn. If you see the processing method listed on a label, take that as a good sign.
In the wet or washed process, which is most common, the fruit is run through a machine to separate the pulp from the beans, which are then fermented in water so the rest of the gunk comes off and the beans can be dried. Fermentation can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Changes in flavor occur during this period "in the same way that kimchi fermented for two months tastes different than two weeks,” Kahn said.
In the dry process, the fruit is set out to dry naturally before being pulped to get at the beans, which imparts a “very distinct, fruity flavor,” he said.
Coffee beans grown at high altitude are also generally a good sign.
You might see altitude listed on the label. Stifle the eye roll, because there is something to it.
Coffee tends to grow better at certain elevations. The higher up it is, the wider the swings in temperature from day to night, the longer a coffee plant takes to ripen—and the more time it has to draw nutrients from the soil and develop flavor, Kahn said.
That doesn’t mean all high-altitude coffees are superior, or that you’ll like how they taste, but it’s another positive detail about whoever is producing your coffee.
Store your beans in an airtight container that's not exposed to light.
At home, keep your coffee in an airtight, opaque container out of light. It’s fine to keep it in the bag, but seal it up as tight as possible. If you use a separate container, make sure to wipe it dry before refilling it. There's no need to store your coffee in the freezer. Moisture will eventually creep in and ruin the flavor, Kahn said. Besides, you need to drink that coffee, not stockpile it. Provided you know how to brew it, go forth and brew while it's fresh and at its best.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious