The Best Coffee Maker
Convenient caffeine without sacrificing flavor
Even the best coffee makers aren’t a go-to for coffee connoisseurs. There are five things that affect a cup of coffee: the beans themselves, grind size, water quality, water temperature, and how the coffee is brewed. Drip coffee makers take two of those things (water temperature and brewing) totally out of your control. Our goal was to find some that could ace a great cup right out of the box — plus be mindless to use and easy to adjust. Ten coffee makers, a panel of taste testers, three interviews with experts, and about 50 pots of coffee later, we found our answers.
A smart machine that's easy to look at and easier to use, plus makes delicious coffee right out of the box. It features programmable brew times, single-dial controls, and a removable water reservoir that doubles as a kettle. Want to experiment with different water temps and see how it affects extraction? This machine makes it easy. The downsides: It's the most expensive machine we tested, and the slowest to brew a full pot.
$100 cheaper than the larger version, but with coffee that’s not quite as good.
The best coffee we tasted, with the most control over how it’s made — but not as easy to use.
A small, simple machine that lacks some convenience, but means a mean cup of coffee.
Our top picks. From left to right: The Bonavita BV1900TS, OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System, OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker, and the Behmor Brazen Plus Customizable Temperature Control Brew System.
Our top pick is the OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System. It’s a large machine – both in footprint and in capacity — but it earned the second highest scores in our taste test, and is sleek both to look at and to operate. Convenient features like programmable auto-brewing, a removable water reservoir that doubles as a kettle, and a spigot that stops the brew mid-stream if you remove the carafe make this machine feel high tech without being high maintenance. For those who want to be a little more hands-on with the brewing process, its single-button dial also lets you adjust the boiling temperature of the water, giving you more access to experiment with extraction and flavor.
But if its 12-cup capacity or $300 price tag seems like overkill to you, here are three other recommendations that came out on top in our tests.
When it comes to features, our top pick’s little sister, the OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker, looks and feels much the same: a single-button dial, programmable start times — even a timer that lets you know how old the coffee is after it’s been brewed is identical. On this version, the water reservoir isn’t detachable, but it brews coffee significantly faster than the 12-cupper’s 14 minutes(!) and is $100 cheaper. It’s a great machine that didn’t earn our top spot simply because the coffee it makes didn’t perform quite as well as the other three top picks in our taste tests, and it doesn’t let you tinker with water temperature and extraction the way the larger machine does.
If tinkering is what you’re most excited about, we recommend the Behmor Brazen Plus Customizable Temperature Control Brew System. This is a drip machine that takes its job seriously. It performed the very best in our out-of-the-box taste testing, but still gives you the opportunity to play around with different variables, from boiling temperature to pre-infusion times. At around $200, it’s on-par with the OXO 9-Cup price-wise, but is definitely not as nice to look at or use, with a tall, bulbous body, squat carafe, and an eight-button programmable interface that reminded us of a digital alarm clock.
If all you’re looking for is a gorgeous cup of coffee and no fuss, we strongly recommend the Bonavita BV1900TS. It’s the smallest machine of our top picks and, at $180, the cheapest. Even better, it ranked in the top three out of 10 during our taste tests. It’s also the most simple and straightforward: one button you click to start brewing, and that’s it. You can’t program brew times, you can’t play around with water temperature, and it even lacks some convenient touches like a brew basket that attaches to the machine (when you’re done brewing, you have to place the brew basket on a plate or in the sink before it makes a total mess). But it’s by far the fastest machine out of our top picks, brewing up a full eight-cup pot in under six minutes. It’s a straight-forward, high-end coffee maker that leaves little to complain about.
How We Found the Best Coffee Maker
In our quest to find the best, we pitted 10 highly regarded coffee makers against each other. These are the machines that regularly make it on best-of lists, earn accolades, and/or are recommendations from the coffee experts we talked to over the course of this review. We aimed for multi-cup carafes — no single serves — and drip machines only. (We didn’t want to muddy the results with French press, pour-over, or espresso. Those are for other reviews.)
It’s quite a mix. The cheapest, the Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Programmable, retails for around $25 and is a top-three machine on Consumer Reports. The Technivorm Moccamaster, on the other hand, rings up at close to $300 and, while endorsed by two of our experts, has mixed reviews elsewhere.
The 10 Coffee Makers We Tested
Behmor Brazen Plus Customizable Temperature Control Brew System*†‡
Bonavita BV1900TS 8-Cup Stainless Steel Carafe Brewer*‡
Bunn BTX-B Velocity Brew 10-Cup Thermal Coffee Brewer
Cuisinart PerfecTemp DCC-2800†
Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Programmable†
KitchenAid Pour Over Coffee Brewer*†‡
Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 10-Cup Coffee Brewer with Thermal Carafe*
Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew†‡
OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker*†‡
OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System*†‡
*SCAA Certified: A Specialty Coffee Association of America certification indicates the machine can heat water to a temperature between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit and ensures that hot water will be in contact with coffee grounds for no less than four and no greater than eight minutes. It’s a solid confirmation of quality. But according to Joseph Rivera, a research coffee scientist at coffeechemistry.com, not every manufacturer chooses to submit their coffee makers for SCAA certification, and there are definitely great drip coffee makers out there without its stamp of approval. Six of the 10 coffee makers we tested are SCAA-certified — including all four of our top picks.
†Programmable Brew Time: Conventional wisdom frowns at grinding beans early and programming a pot to brew later. The aromatic compounds in coffee beans start to oxidize as quickly as 15 minutes after grinding, which causes coffee to start losing aroma and flavor. But Michael Ebert, senior consultant at Firedancer Coffee Consultants, LLC, assured us that, given the trade-offs for convenience, “grinding the night before will still make a great coffee — just not as great as it could be.” Seven of the 10 pots we tested are programmable, including three of our top picks (all but the Bonavita).
‡Pre-Infusing: Pre-infusing is a technique where the dry coffee grounds are initially saturated with hot water, allowing a “bloom” of carbon dioxide to escape. This 45-second(ish) process puts hot water into contact with more surface area around each ground throughout the brewing process, as it’s no longer competing with the escaping gas bubbles. It can improve the quality of the final product, since this more uniform contact creates a more even extraction. It’s a feature that six of the 10 pots we tested incorporated into their designs — as well as all four of our top picks.
At their cores, all drip coffee makers function more or less the same way. A reservoir of water is heated then poured onto some coffee grounds, where it steeps and then filters out as coffee. Pretty simple.
But the machine is just one part of the equation when it comes to a great cup of coffee. Nikki Miller, manager of Cafe Grumpy in New York City, told us it’s only responsible for three things:
- Heating the water to the optimal range of 195 to 205 degrees
- Distributing that water evenly over the coffee grounds
- Allowing the grounds to brew for between four and eight minutes
Water that is too cold or a brew time that is too short will under-extract the coffee: the oils and other flavor compounds from the grounds won’t dissolve, making coffee that is thin, weak, or even sour. Over-extraction, on the other hand, can leave coffee burnt-tasting or bitter.
But there are other variables that have a major impact on taste, including the quality of the bean, the size of the grind, and the flavor of the water.
If a machine can hit its three requirements, Miller says, you’ll be able to make your ideal cup of coffee by adjusting any of the other variables.
That advice led us down a multi-pronged path to find the best coffee maker.
First, we needed to confirm which machines could meet our three requirements.
Easy enough with a thermometer and a stopwatch, or an SCAA certification.
Next, a taste test.
Like we said, the process of coaxing the best coffee from any coffee pot will likely take some tinkering of bean type, grind size, and water. But the coffee maker that makes great coffee right out of the box will require fewer experiments to land on that perfect cup.
The problem: Taste is subjective. Are you a “dark, strong, and bold” traditionalist or a contemporary connoisseur more interested in the subtler notes?
With that in mind, we gathered a group of coffee drinkers for a blind taste test of our 10 machines. Their palates ranged from baristas and professionals in the food and beverage industry, to friends who claim, “I usually take my coffee with milk … and a ton of sugar.” It was important to us that we have a broad range of tastes.
We ground the same medium-roast Mexican bean to each coffee maker’s suggested grind size using a Mr. Coffee blade grinder. (Each manufacturer suggests a grind size that will work best with its machine’s water distribution.) Then, using the SCAA’s suggested ratio of 60 grams of coffee ground to 1 liter of water, we started brewing.
Our testers were asked to rate the coffee on a scale of 1-10 according to their own personal preference. They also used the SCAA flavor wheel as a guide to describe the flavor and aroma of each cup.
This testing was designed to highlight the difference in how each machine extracted its coffee grounds. Remember, extraction is tied to water temperature, how long the grounds had to steep, and how evenly that water is distributed in the brew basket. (Depending on how the machine distributes the water and the shape of the basket, any particular ground may or may not receive the same amount of time in contact with water — thus any individual grind may be over-extracted, under-extracted, or just right.) Properly extracted grounds would have a balance of notes and aromas, from slight hints of acid to a pleasant amount of bitterness.
Then, we wanted to check out usability.
At the end of the day — or, rather, the very beginning — drip coffee makers are the most efficient way to make large quantities of coffee. And since most machines are fundamentally the same, we explored each one for nice-to-have touches that set it apart from the rest, from intuitive interfaces to programmable brew times.
For us, the best coffee maker is the one that lets you make coffee the way you want, as easily as possible. It’s simple to set up and mindless to use. If that coffee maker is also well-crafted and beautiful to look at, all the better.
Our Picks for the Best Coffee Maker
OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System A beautiful machine with intuitive controls that makes great coffee right out of the box. The only downsides: It's quite large and the slowest to brew of all our top picks.
The OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System is sleek to look at, streamlined to use, and tied for second in our out-of-the-box taste test. If you want to make a great pot of coffee without having to sweat the details, this is a great option. If you want the freedom to tinker around and experiment with extraction, it’s even better.
The OXO On 12-Cup feels high-tech without being high maintenance. It’s beautifully constructed, with silicone gaskets, a stainless steel carafe, and sturdy-feeling plastic. But let’s go ahead and get its biggest downside right out there in the open. Of the 10 machines we tested, it took the longest to brew eight cups of coffee — nearly 15 minutes. It heats its entire reservoir of water to temperature before a drop touches the grounds, and if you’re jonesing for a full pot to start off your day, that wait is going to feel like a lifetime. This was particularly noticeable considering four of the machines we tested brewed the same amount of coffee in less than half that time. The Bunn BTX-B Velocity Brew could do it in three minutes flat.
At 14.5 inches long and nearly 16 inches tall, it’s also quite large. But hear us out.
Right: Our top pick, the OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing system. If 12 cups is overkill, we also recommend its little sister, the OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker (left), which brews faster and is $100 less. We just didn’t love its coffee quite as much in our taste test, and it doesn’t give you the option to adjust the water temp.
The simplicity starts with its design: a single button with a scrolling dial underneath an LED interface. That button is the only one on the entire machine. With it, you set the time, set the water temperature, set how many cups you want brewed, and when you want the brewing to start. It takes a second to get the hang of it, but we were impressed with how intuitive it is — a stark contrast to a machine like the Moccamaster KBT 10-Cup Coffee Brewer, which had so many extra pieces, it required constant consultation of the instruction manual.
Once you start brewing, it makes a really, really good pot of coffee. Our taste test revealed the OXO On 12-Cup coffee was “dark and strong” and appealed to the more traditionalist coffee palates. The great flavor comes from the brewing process. The OXO machines have wide shower heads with multiple ports through which water streams, dispersing it evenly throughout the brew basket. Lots of other coffee makers spout water through just one hole, or through shower heads with a smaller radius, which can increase the chances of uneven extraction.
It also automatically pre-infuses the coffee, allowing the grounds to vent their CO2 and “bloom.” Remember, only half of the machines we tested had this feature, and it proved to pay off in our taste tests. The four machines we recommend all pre-infuse. Only one coffee maker without it, the Hamilton Beach, performed well at all in our taste tests — but that guy was so cheap and flimsy, part of the brew basket broke during our testing. Sorry, Hamilton Beach.
The OXO is SCAA-certified, so we knew going in that it would heat water to the right temperature range and let coffee brew for the right amount of time. But what really sold us on the OXO was how its scrolling dial made even that customizable. Assuming you want to bring the extraction down a touch for lighter, subtler coffee, you can lower the water temperature with a twist of the dial. Likewise, if you want a slightly more robust aroma from your brew, you can increase the water’s temp the same way.
That water is heated in a detachable reservoir that doubles as a kettle. This is a unique feature for a coffee maker, but one we ended up appreciating, especially for households with a mix of tea lovers and instant-oatmeal eaters alongside coffee drinkers. Fill the kettle up, lock it in place, and scroll the dial to the amount of coffee you want brewed. The machine is designed so that, even if you have more water in the kettle than you need, it will brew only the amount you specify. The one thing you actually have to measure with the OXO On 12-Cup is the grounds. Do that right, and it’s pretty much impossible to screw it up.
Once your coffee’s ready to go, a “freshness” timer starts on the LED display, so you know exactly how long your coffee has been sitting, preventing you from pouring any cups of stale coffee. Pouring is easy, too — no fiddly lids with levers or buttons that can trap stale brew. Just a clean, even stream.
Once coffee is brewed, a timer starts to show how long it’s been sitting in the carafe. Coffee starts losing its flavor after 30 minutes. Most experts (and the OXO manual) say it’s not really worth drinking after an hour.
Let’s circle back to that extra-long brew time. There are two factors that didn’t make it an automatic “no” for us. The first is that the OXO On 12-Cup is programmable. Like our experts say, grinding coffee in advance isn’t going to make the most perfect cup of coffee. But the fact that you can program the machine’s “wake-up time” to start brewing and have coffee ready when you are takes the sting out of the wait.
The next is the machine’s auto-pause. If you remove the carafe before your full pot is done brewing, the flow will stop until the carafe goes back in. It’s not a perfect system. There are a few inevitable drips that add an extra step to clean-up, and if the water is held up in the brew basket for too long, it increases the chance of over-extraction. But if you want a great first cup to sip on while the rest of your pot is brewing, you’ll get it in a much more satisfying time frame.
One last downside: a $300 price tag. Yowch. Even for a great machine, that’s going to be an inevitable deal breaker for some — which is why we also have three other recommendations.
Three Other Coffee Makers to Consider
OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker A similar yet slightly smaller version of our top pick, though we weren't as blown away by the coffee it brews.
This coffee maker is excellent. How could it not be? Its SCAA-certified, and the technology is practically identical to the 12-Cup brewing system. Lots of what we love about the 12-Cup, from its single-dial programmability to its auto-pause brewing to its multi-port shower head, is pretty much the same. Plus, it brews eight cups in a much swifter nine minutes, and is $100 cheaper.
There are two reasons it didn’t quite win our top spot. The coffee it brews didn’t wow us as much as the 12-Cup. This is likely because the of the brew-basket and filter shape: a cone, rather than the flat bottom of the larger machine.
It’s not that cone filters won’t make a great cup of coffee — the OXO On 9-Cup still ranked fifth out of 10 in our taste test. But flat bottoms generally allow for the grounds to be more evenly extracted and increase the coffee’s flavor. (It’s no coincidence our other three recommendations have flat-bottom brew baskets). You may have to do a little more tweaking to get this coffee maker’s brew to the best it can be, and that’s the other reason we like the 12-cupper more. This smaller version doesn’t let you tinker with water temperature.
One last thing: The 9-Cup is still quite large. It’s about the same size as the 12-Cup OXO, although no handle on the reservoir makes it seem a bit more compact. If you lack counter space or have particularly low-hanging cabinets, both OXO coffee makers are going to be out of place. (In that case, we heartily recommend the Bonavita 1900TS.)
Behmor Brazen Plus Customizable Temperature Control Brew System The winner of our out-of-the-box taste test. It's a machine that takes drip coffee seriously, but isn't as elegant to use.
If you want to experiment with your drip coffee and really dial in on making it as good as possible, the Behmor Brazen Plus Customizable Temperature Control Brew System (around $200) is your machine.
It scored the highest in our out-of-the-box taste test, brewing coffee our tasters described as “light” with subtle notes of blueberry, citrus, cherry, tobacco, and hazelnut. The machine simply brews great coffee, and it takes its job seriously. If you’re interested in playing around with the flavor and extraction of your roast, the Behmor Brazen gives you more access to more variables. You can adjust water temperature, play with pre-infusion times (15 seconds to four minutes) — it even has you enter your altitude to better determine water’s boiling point, and calibrate its internal thermometer during setup.
That said, it’s not as elegant to use as the OXO machines. (Nor is it as nice to look at. One tester described its tall, bulbous body and squat carafe as “UFO-like.”) Take its eight-button controls, for example, which you use to toggle among brew modes, scroll up and down within the menu, and engage a manual brewing feature. Programming it to start brewing at a certain time was about as intuitive as setting an alarm on a clock radio — easy enough, but more technical than sleek. OXO definitely feels like the future; Behmor is more, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
It’s a little clunkier in practice too. Small things, like a water reservoir lid that had to be completely removed and set aside to fill, as opposed to flipping up on a hinge, felt like oversights. Even the $30 Hamilton Beach brewer could do that. We also noticed its brew basket was drippier (read: messier) when we were tossing out old grounds.
It brews eight cups two minutes faster than the OXO 12-Cup and three minutes slower than the OXO 9-Cup — and we should note that the Behmor maxes out at just eight cups.
Bonavita BV1900TS The most straight-forward of our top picks. It makes gorgeous coffee, but lacks some features like auto brew times and adjustable water temps.
The Bonavita is a simple, compact machine (about 12 inches x 12 inches) for only $180, and it makes coffee that ranked in the top three in our taste test. Its philosophy seems to be “everything you absolutely need, nothing you don’t.” That means it’s SCAA-certified for water temperature and brew times, boasts pre-infusion capabilities, and has a flat-bottom filter basket that extracts grounds evenly. That’s it.
Like the OXO machines, it has only one button on its interface. Unlike the OXO machines, that button does only one thing: start the brewing process. If you hold it down until it blinks, you’ll activate the pre-infusion; otherwise a simple click gets it going. Brewing a full pot of eight cups took us about seven minutes, by far the fastest of any of our top picks — which is a good thing, considering you can’t program it to start brewing before you wake up.
One downside: The Bonavita’s thermal carafe performed the worst of all our top picks, with a full pot dropping from over 190 degrees down to mid-170s in an hour. All thermal carafes have some sort of heat loss over time, but the Bonavita’s 16-degree drop was the most dramatic of our top picks.
All the machines we tested came with either insulated carafes or glass pots with built-in warmers. Both have pros and cons. Glass pots are typically easier to clean because they tend to have wider mouths, and the lack of internal insulation means that glass pots will have a greater interior volume relative to its exterior volume — basically, it’s easier to get your hand or dish sponge into a glass pot. On the other hand, glass pots are more fragile and have to be heated from a base plate. In our tests, those base plates could even raise the temperature of the coffee, like with the CuisinArt, which can make coffee taste burnt.
There’s also no way to adjust the temperature of the water on the Bonavita, or tinker with any of the other variables some of our other top picks gave access to. And that’s the other downside to this excellent machine: What you get is what you get, and if you do want to experiment with the flavor of your coffee, it will depend entirely on the beans you buy and the size you grind them to. Good thing the coffee it brews right out of the box is so dang good.
How to Make Great Drip Coffee
Be prepared to tinker — at least a little.
The point of getting a great machine is that it takes the fuss out of your coffee making — if you’re going to fiddle around so much, why not just get a Chemex? But our refrain throughout this entire review has been that a coffee maker is only one part of the good-cup equation. Some methodical experimentation could reveal a whole world of taste you never knew you could achieve.
For our taste tests, we used an inexpensive blade grinder to grind our beans – that’s what the average home coffee brewer uses. But blade grinders aren’t super reliable, and, Miller explained, consistent grind size is the number one variable outside of your coffee maker that you can control to affect the quality of your coffee.
For example, if your coffee tastes a bit salty or sour, the grounds are under-extracted, which can be remedied by a finer grind. But what if only some of your grounds are too coarse, and others are too fine – and maybe some are just right? Having uniform grind size throughout your brew basket makes it easier to isolate and adjust this variable in order to get the level of extraction you want. The only way to achieve that is with a burr grinder. Miller — as well as a handful of our other experts — recommends the Barazata Encore Coffee Grinder ($129).
Use filtered water.
Water quality also plays a massive role in the way your coffee tastes. As we discovered in our review of the best water filters, water isn’t tasteless. Total dissolved solids (TDS) are what give “good tasting” water its sweetness — in fact, the SCAA recommends water with 150 milligrams per liter of TDS to brew coffee. (Want to check your water? A TDS reader is only about 15 bucks.)
The other nice thing about filtered water: less mineral content flowing through your machine will lead to less mineral buildup and extend the life of your coffee maker.
Pick a good coffee bean.
Drip-style coffee makers already have a bit of a flavor handicap when compared with other brewing methods, like pour-over and French press, which give coffee drinkers ultimate control over every aspect of the brewing (and therefore extraction) process. This makes it even more important to select a high-quality coffee bean for your at-home drip coffee maker. To learn more, we spoke with Saadat Awan at Woodcat Coffee in Los Angeles.
The flavor of any bean is defined by three main variables: The varietal (type of bean), the style of roast, and the freshness of the roast. It’s always better to get freshly roasted beans, so if you have access to a local roaster that regularly makes small batches, that’s going to be your best resource.
If you’re shopping for coffee at the grocery store, “check the roast date, rather than the ‘best by’ date,” says Awan. With mass market roasters, the “best by” date can obfuscate the window in which coffee beans are at their best: about 4 days after roasting, when some, but not all, of the carbon dioxide has escaped from the beans. (Too much carbon dioxide captured within beans tends to create uneven extraction, as the gas escapes — this is what pre-infusing tries to counter. Conversely, too little carbon dioxide in the bean can lead to a loss of flavor.)
Whole bean coffee that you grind yourself is preferable to pre-ground, too. The bean’s exterior traps and protects all of the delicate, volatile, and water-soluble oils that give coffee its flavor. As soon as you break the protective shell, it’s easy for the flavor to get contaminated, and much of the aroma escapes as soon as the oils are exposed to air.
From there, it’s up to your personal preference. Arabica beans have a higher acidity, with notes of fruit and berries. Robusta beans are darker and richer, with more caffeine. Different levels of roasts — light, medium, dark — determine how much of the beans’ oils will break through the surface of the bean, which also affects acidity, flavor, and caffeine levels. “Get to know your local coffee expert,” recommends Awan. Nothing beats a conversation with a barista or local coffee roaster who can help you try different beans and roasts, and to experiment with those variables in real time. Finding your favorite is all part of the fun.
And don’t forget to clean up.
It’s obvious, but easy to forget: If you don’t clean out your coffee machine’s carafe after each use with soap and water, you’ll always end up tasting a little bit of yesterday’s now-bitter brew. Thermal carafes need to be hand-washed, but all the plastic components of our top picks — brew baskets, lids, etc. — are dishwasher-safe if you keep them on the top rack.
Our Top Pick
OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System A smart machine that's easy to look at and easier to use. It features programmable brew times, single-dial controls, and a removable water reservoir that doubles as a kettle. Want to experiment with different water temps and see how it affects extraction? This machine makes it easy.