Editor's Note
  • December 14, 2018 - A previous version of this review included two other top picks, the OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System and the Behmor Brazen Plus Brew System. These models have since become unavailable, and we have removed them from our picks. Keep an eye out for further testing with new contenders in the coming months.

The Best Coffee Makers

The best coffee maker should ace a great cup right out of the box — plus be mindless to use and easy to adjust. A panel of taste testers, interviews with experts, 10 pots, and about 500 cups of coffee later, we found the two machines that make your morning routine as simple as possible.

The 2 Best Coffee Makers

Best for
Customization
OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker
OXO
A sturdy machine that allows you to tinker toward your perfect cup of coffee.
Pros
Convenient design
Impressive brew process
Cons
Less flavorful coffee
Can't customize water temperature

Why we chose it

Convenient design

The OXO On 9-Cup makes brewing simple, starting 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, how many cups you want brewed, and when you want the brewing to start. Plus, it comes with a handy auto-pause feature, which allows you to halt the stream of coffee mid-brew if you can’t wait the nine-minute brew time to taste your first cup.

Impressive brew process

The machine has wide shower heads with multiple ports through which water streams, dispersing it evenly throughout the brew baskets. 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’s also SCAA-certified, so you know that water is being heated to the right temperature and that the coffee is brewing for an optimal amount of time. It’s an impressive brew process for a relatively inexpensive machine, and one that produces a fine cup of coffee.

Points to consider

Less flavorful coffee

While the Oxo On 9-Cup didn’t produce bad-tasting coffee by any stretch, it still ranked fifth out of 10 in our taste test. This is likely because of the brew-basket and filter shape: a cone, rather than the flat bottom of other models. Flat bottoms generally allow for the grounds to be more evenly extracted and increase the coffee’s flavor. With this machine, you may have to do a little more tweaking to achieve the best brew.

Can’t customize water temperature

While the OXO has an impressive number of customization features, it lacks an important one. This machine doesn’t allow you to tinker with water temperature, so you’ll have to adjust your brew around this limitation.

Best for
No-Fuss Brewing
Bonavita BV1900TS
Bonavita
A straightforward machine that makes gorgeous coffee but lacks handy features.
Pros
Great taste
Simple design
Cons
Subpar thermal carafe
Not customizable

Why we chose it

Great taste

The Bonavita has a simple design, but it does not skimp on quality. The machine is 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 why we weren’t surprised that the coffee it makes ranked in the top three in our taste test.

Simple design

The philosophy of the Bonavita seems to be “everything you absolutely need, nothing you don’t.” The Bonavita is a simple, compact machine (about 12 inches by 12 inches) for making great coffee. That’s it. Like the OXO, it has only one button on its interface. However, unlike the OXO, 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.

Points to consider

Subpar thermal carafe

The Bonavita’s thermal carafe underperformed, with a full pot dropping from over 190 degrees F 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 dramatic compared to our other contenders.

Coffee Maker Comparison

Not customizable

There’s also no way to adjust the temperature of the water on the Bonavita or tinker with other variables. If you do want to experiment with the flavor of your coffee, it will depend entirely on the beans you buy and the size to which you grind them. While the Bonavita produces excellent-tasting coffee right out of the box, coffee aficionados may miss those extra features.

How to Find the Right Coffee Maker for You

Consider the carafe

All of 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 their exterior volume — basically, it’s easier to get your hand or dish sponge inside. On the other hand, glass pots are more fragile and have to be heated from a base plate. Those base plates run the risk of raising the temperature of the coffee, which can make coffee taste burnt.

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? However, 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.

Supplement with a good grinder

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.

Having uniform grind size throughout your brew basket makes it easier to isolate and adjust the taste of your coffee 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 Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder ($129).

Coffee Makers FAQ

Is drip coffee better than pour over or french press?

Drip-style coffee makers 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.

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.

Is freshly ground coffee better?

For the most part, yes. 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.”

What coffee should I buy?

If you’re shopping for coffee at the grocery store, “check the roast date, rather than the ‘best by’ date,” says Saadat Awan of Woodcat Coffee in Los Angeles. With mass market roasters, the “best by” date can obfuscate the window in which coffee beans are at their best: about four 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. 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.

What coffee beans should I buy?

The best coffee bean comes down to 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.

How often should I clean my coffee maker?

If you don’t clean out your coffee machine’s carafe with soap and water after each use, you’ll always end up tasting a little bit of yesterday’s now-bitter brew. Thermal carafes need to be hand-washed, but plastic components like brew baskets and lids are typically dishwasher-safe if you keep them on the top rack.

The Best Coffee Makers: Summed Up

OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker
Bonavita BV1900TS
Best for
Customization
No-fuss brewing
Price
$199.95
$112.99
Cups
9
8
Brew time
9 min
7 min
Programmable
SCAA-certified
Pre-infusion
Brew basket/filter shape
Cone
Flat