Choosing the Best Drip Coffee Maker
Our Picks for the Best Drip Coffee Maker for 2013
Don’t have time to read this 1,000-word guide? Here’s a quick overview of our top picks.
The Bunn heats water to the ideal temperature and is built to last. At under $100, it’s a steal.
This Indie classic is beautifully designed and engineered in Germany. Although it retails for only $150, the Bonavita produces a cup on par with drip coffee makers twice the price.
Don’t let the price tag scare you away. The Mocca Master is the champion of drip coffee makers and has earned well-deserved praise from many a coffee connoisseur.
How do you buy the best drip coffee maker in 2013? As we recently noted in our guide to choosing the best French press, “best” is a relative term. When we write a guide to choosing the “best” of anything in the world of coffee, we mean the best one for you. See the bottom of this post for our best drip coffee maker picks. From high-end coffee makers to models for budget price ranges, we’ve got you covered.
Our recipe for helping you buy the drip coffee machine that best meets your needs is simple: take a short list of practical questions to consider, an even shorter list of things to avoid, add in a healthy dash of experimentation and stir.
The Best Drip Coffee Maker 2013: What to Consider
Before you begin the buying process, there are three basic questions to consider:
- How many cups of coffee would you like to make on an average morning?
- What is your budget for this purchase?
- What added features would you like?
The first two questions form the practical side of this equation. Drip coffee makers range in size from the individual to the industrial, and in price from just under $25 to well over $1000 and up. Investing in a quality piece of equipment that will last you for years is a good thing, breaking the budget on a shiny impulse buy is not.
The third question to ask when buying the best drip coffee pot is the loaded question—thinking about features turns many rational buyers into the proverbial kid in a candy store.
You may be wondering exactly how many features there could possibly be? Our scientific answer: 14.
The official Consumer Reports ratings list 14 different features for drip coffee makers: programmable settings, thermal carafes, small-batch settings, brew-strength control, pause and serve, auto-shutoff, controls on the side (a space saver for small countertops, as it allows the machine to sit sideways), longer warranties, spare carafes, self-clean cycle, water filter, carafe prewarm, built-in grinder and temperature adjustment.
It’s a lot to digest… Does the best drip coffee maker need all of them or just some?
The most common features focus on programmability and auto-shutoff. Would you like your coffee maker to turn on before you wake up and turn off when you leave? Beyond that, pare the list down to the smallest possible list of features that mean the most to you. The extra bells and whistles can be tempting, but they add to the price (as well as to the list of things that can break).
What to Avoid in a Coffee Pot
There are exactly two things to avoid when buying the best drip coffee maker: bad design and bad coffee.
Evaluating design is where the buying process becomes hands-on. Online photos will help narrow your search, but the devil is in the details.
Is it easy to pour the water in the reservoir? Can you clearly see how much water is already in there? Does it look like it will be easy to clean? Are the controls intuitive? Are the buttons easy to access? Do the parts look durable or flimsy? How big of a footprint will this take up on your counter?
Evaluating the quality of the coffee is trickier. Producing a good cup of drip coffee requires that you brew for the right amount of time at the right temperature. If you brew too quickly or at too low of a temperature, you will have a weak, under-extracted cup of coffee.
Try this quick experiment: search for drip coffee makers on Amazon, select a few products at random and see if they mention brewing temperature. Time and temperature are two mission-critical variables, but they are rarely listed on the product details sheet. The best drip coffee makers will heat up the proper temperature and make coffee in a reasonable amount of time.
The only way to really know if a coffee maker is capable of making coffee to your standards is to try it out. How else can you discover the best drip coffee maker?
Try A Coffee Maker Before You Buy
The easiest (and most social) way to try out a drip coffee machine before you buy one is to talk to your friends. What coffee makers do they use? What do they like (or not like) about their machines? Are they willing to make you a cup?
If you are buying a coffee maker at the higher end of the price range ($250 and up), consider asking if you can try out it in the store. Higher-end retailers (Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma jump immediately to mind) often have demo machines on the sales floor.
You can also experiment virtually, by researching online reviews. Reading reviews can be the next best thing to trying a particular machine for yourself, and it is a fairly painless way to discover any potential flaws that may be lurking behind the sleek packaging.
We’ve mentioned this in past buying guides, but it bears repeating: Any single review might be an anomalous rant (or rave), but if a product has any serious flaws they tend to emerge as a trend in the reviews. Look for the overall trends, and for products with enough users weighing in to take those ratings seriously. That will give you a good idea of whether or not you’ve found the best drip coffee maker.
Three Drip Coffee Makers to Consider
To take some of the guesswork out of the equation, we offer you this list of three of the best drip coffee makers to consider.
The machine can last for years. As such, we decided to focus our top choices on quality.
All three of these coffee makers have something in common. They are certified as “capable of brewing coffee to the standards set by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.” These rather exacting standards include requirements for brewing time, temperature and uniformity of extraction.
Bunn HG Home Brewer ($109.98) This coffee maker has separate phases for heating the water and for brewing. This allows for ideal brewing time and temperature control, but it does mean you will be waiting 10 minutes for your first cup. Also check out our post on the Bunn Phase Brew.
Bonavita 8 Cup Exceptional Brew Coffee Maker ($169.99) This coffee maker embodies two of our favorite words when it comes to describing high-end design: German engineered. The stainless steel thermal carafe is another attractive feature.
Technivorm Moccamaster (from $199 and up) Technivorm a name that is beginning to attract attention among coffee aficionados. We consider it among the best of the indie brands. The review at Sweet Maria’s says it best: “not well-known, but highly rated.”
Our recommendations sit comfortably in the mid to higher end of the price range for drip coffee makers (from $110 up to $299). What are your recommendations for the opposite extremes—the low-end bargains and the ultra-high price dream machines? Let us know your best drip coffee maker choices in the comments below!
Main photo: Porsche Brosseau
Content Photo: Bunn (detail photo)