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There are a lot of ways to get your morning caffeine fix: espresso machine, pour-over, French press, moka pot, stove-top percolator — the methods go on and on. Then there’s the classic coffee maker. Turns out, even the pickiest people (by which I mean coffee-industry people) often have one at home for standard, set-it-and-forget-it brewing. But not all coffee makers are created equal, so I talked to a bunch of baristas, roasters, and coffee-shop owners about their preferred models — the ones they themselves rely on for a solid, fuss-free cup (or two, or three).
What we’re looking for
This is a straightforward point, of course, but the capacity of a given coffee maker should be a factor in whether or not you choose it for your own setup. Most on this list brew up to eight or ten cups, with one slightly bigger at 12 cups, one smaller at four cups, and one with the notable feature of being able to brew a single cup at a time (helpful if the day-to-day coffee consumption in your household varies).
While not quite as large as most espresso machines, coffee makers take up a considerable amount of counter space — certainly enough that it’s an important aspect to consider when buying one. I’ve noted the dimensions of each.
Most coffee makers on this list brew into a stainless-steel thermal carafe, which keeps your coffee warm for a few hours without reheating it from below. This method is generally preferred by the pros since it doesn’t lead to burnt-tasting coffee. Two models we’ve noted, however, don’t do this, and two are for iced coffee.
Best overall coffee maker
Capacity: 8 cups | Size: 12. 4” x 6. 8” x 12. 2” | Temperature hold: Thermal carafe
Most of the experts mentioned the Bonavita Connoisseur. One key reason is the machine’s ability to brew at the proper temperature. According to Ken Nye, owner of Ninth Street Espresso, few coffee makers “consistently bring water to that 198–202 degree range,” which he calls the “broadly agreed-upon standard.” As Nye explains, the Connoisseur also “maintains that temp throughout the brewing process.”
The Connoisseur also creates a very smooth brew due to its flat-bottomed basket (where the grounds go) and shower-like spout, both of which ensure consistent water distribution and extraction. The flat-bottomed basket “spreads the grounds out evenly,” says George Howell, owner and founder of George Howell Coffee.
Connie Blumhardt, founder and publisher of Roast Magazine, points out that it is programmable, “a great option for coffee lovers who want to brew at the touch of a button without sacrificing quality,” she says. In my own testing of the Bonavita, I’ve become a total convert for this very reason — so much so that I stashed my stove-top percolator (more on that still-endorsed pick below) to make permanent room for this machine on my counter. I simply measure grounds and pour water into their respective chambers the night before so that, in the morning, all I have to do is click the “on” button; even when making a full pot, it brews in minutes. And when I go back for my second (or third) cup a few hours later, the insulated stainless-steel carafe has kept the coffee plenty warm without heating from below and making it taste burnt.
This model might not be as full-featured as some of the other options on this list — or on the market in general — but the experts recommend it over all others due to its approachable price point, ease of use, and most of all, its reliability. “It’s consistent from start to finish,” Howell says.
Best less expensive coffee maker
Capcity: 12 cups | Size: 8.6” x 12.9” x 13.5” | Temperature hold: Reheated from underneath
Jamie McCormick, co-owner of the East Village coffee shop Abraço, tells us he prefers to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to coffee machines. “People make a big to-do over a lot of nothing” when it comes to brewing equipment, he says. He thinks a plain old Mr. Coffee is a first-rate choice for any “amateur coffee roaster who wants to flatter their grounds.” As an amateur coffee roaster myself, I can agree. I used the Mr. Coffee machine before switching to a stovetop percolator (more on that below) to save counter space and was never disappointed. Since it doesn’t have a high-tech mechanism for distributing the water evenly like some of the other models on this list, McCormick does offer one key tip: Open the machine up while it’s brewing and “stir the grounds to make sure they all get hydrated.”
Best small-scale coffee maker
Capcity: 8 cups | Size: 9” x 14.8” x 16.1” | Temperature hold: Thermal carafe
This model comes highly recommended by Noah McKeown, a general manager at Go Get Em Tiger in Los Angeles. “The real selling point for me is that it has a valve hole in the lid for the coffee to brew directly into the carafe,” he says. “It traps heat and aromatics better, and it’s safer because the liquid doesn’t splash out.” Beyond that, there’s an insert that allows you to brew one to four cups of coffee instead of five to eight, and another that allows you to brew only one. The settings for those smaller amounts are slightly different so that it pulses out less water at a time and there’s a bit more agitation when it hits the ground beans. “It’s almost like making a pour-over but in your automatic coffee maker,” McKeown says. For recipe developer and cookbook author Samah Dada, having such a range is a huge plus. “In the morning I’ll brew a larger pot but then in the afternoon, when I need to chill a bit on caffeine and only want a cup, I’ll use that setting,” she says. The maker has a pedestal you can flip up so your mug sits closer to where the coffee comes out to avoid splashing.
Best stove-top coffee maker
Capacity: 12 cups | Size: 8.86” x 7.28” x 10.83” | Temperature hold: Reheated from underneath via stovetop
This is the coffee maker I used at home for years (and grew up with) before switching to the Bonavita — and I love it. Even though I use the Bonavita more frequently now, I still think this is the perfect option for someone who doesn’t want or have room for a dedicated machine sitting on their counter at all times. It’s made entirely from stainless steel (save for a handle on one side and a little glass knob at the top), and using it is simple. You fill the main chamber with water (there are lines inside that tell you how many cups you’re adding), and then scoop your coffee grounds into a filter cup, no paper required. The filter cup slides neatly on top of a thin pole inside the main chamber, followed by a perforated disk on top, and then you seal it shut with a tight-fitting lid. The brew time, first over medium-high heat, then over a slightly lower flame, is little more than ten minutes. Alison Carroll, founder of Wonder Valley, shares my enthusiasm for the percolator. For her, the analog process evokes a sense of nostalgia and eliminates the need for electronics in the morning, which she appreciates. “It requires a bit of patience and attention to watch the color change through the sight glass, but it makes a damn fine cup of coffee,” she says.
The vessel is exceedingly easy to clean (whether you’re handwashing or throwing the pieces in the dishwasher), and — though you have to keep your eye on it — is about as unfussy as it gets when it comes to actual coffee preparation (no standing there with a teakettle pouring an even stream of water over grounds). Bonus: You can brew a big batch of tea in it, too.
Best high-end coffee maker
Capcity: 10 cups | Size: 12.3” x 6.5” x 14” | Temperature hold: Reheated from underneath or thermal carafe
The Technivorm Moccamaster was the second most-recommended coffee maker. It’s pricey, but the experts who use it say that it’s worth the premium if you’re interested in investing in the best equipment out there. Like the Bonavita Connoisseur, the Moccamaster has stable temperature control and even brewing. Suyog Mody, founder of Driftaway Coffee, explains that while the “brewing mechanics” are similar to those used in less-expensive drip coffee makers, the Moccamaster “is made with better parts and solid construction. I’ve been using it daily for the past three-plus years with zero issues,” he says. “It’s just no fuss. And honestly, it looks good on the kitchen counter.” While the design is certainly appealing and the construction quality means it should last for a long time, the experts wouldn’t endorse this coffee maker if it didn’t also make a quality drink. “I taste coffee from all types of brewers, and this one gives a consistently better cup,” says Jim Munson, founder and president of Brooklyn Roasting Company. Ally Walsh, co-founder of Los Angeles’s Canyon Coffee, agrees, noting how smooth the brew comes out every time.
Jerad Morrison, co-founder and co-CEO of Sightglass in San Francisco, is also a fan of the Technivorm, but prefers a slightly different model. His favorite has all the same attributes, but instead of dispensing your coffee into a glass carafe on top of a burner plate, it goes into a stainless-steel thermal one (just like the Connoisseur). “It keeps coffee plenty hot for several hours,” he says, “without changing the flavor or making it taste burnt.” This thermal-carafe model only comes in neutral colors, but the glass has a few muted shades to choose from (at Food52) and some brights on the Technivorm website.
Best coffee maker with built-in grinder
Capacity: 10 cups | Size: 9.75” x 9.5” x 15.5” | Temperature hold: Thermal carafe
The reason to invest in this machine is clear from the name: It comes with a built-in burr grinder. Yes, it’s on the spendier end, but grinders are quite pricey on their own — not to mention they take up additional space in your kitchen. Beyond the convenience, “the Capresso drip yields the cleanest-tasting cup,” says Kat Odell, author of Day Drinking. Finally, it boasts that thermal carafe that many of the experts prefer over a hot plate.
Best coffee maker that also makes espresso
Capacity: 10 cups | Size: 12” x 8.75” x 15.04” | Temperature hold: Reheated from underneath
If you want a single-unit coffee maker that can do it all, this Ninja fits the bill. It comes recommended by Strategist writer Arielle Avila, who regularly uses the classic brew method (for a carafe of coffee) as well as the “specialty” setting, which turns out a thick coffee concentrate similar to espresso and used in the same manner for milk-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. The machine also has the capability of making iced coffee. Other bonuses include the attached milk frother and a kickstand that pops out of the side should you want to fill a single mug instead of a big carafe.
Best cold-brew coffee maker
Capacity: 4 cups | Size: 9.5” x 9.53” x 14.7” | Temperature hold: Cold
Cold-brew makers are not exactly plug-in electric coffee makers, but they’re important nonetheless, especially for any iced-coffee-year-round people. This one is a favorite of Dennis Ngo, chef and co-owner of Brooklyn restaurant Di An Di. “I got hooked on the smoothness and low acidity of cold-brewed coffee,” says Ngo. “It lets me tinker with different beans and concentrations, and produces enough cold brew to last me two weeks at a time. It also stacks for storage, which is an absolute requirement for my tiny New York apartment.”
Best compact cold-brew coffee maker
Capacity: 8 cups | Size: 4.3” x 4.3” x 12.2” | Temperature hold: Cold
If you want to get even more compact, the folks at Brooklyn’s Parlor Coffee endorse this Hario jug that can brew and then live in your refrigerator — which, though smaller overall, actually holds more coffee. “I like the simple design and function,” says communications director Stephanie Dana (something we’ve heard time and time again about Hario’s products). “It’s also multifunctional — I use mine for cold-brewing tea or even decanting a bottle of wine.”
Some more coffee makers we’ve written about
• Arielle Avila, Strategist writer
• Connie Blumhardt, founder and publisher of Roast Magazine
• Alison Carroll, founder of Wonder Valley
• Samah Dada, recipe developer and cookbook author
• Stephanie Dana, communications director at Parlor Coffee
• George Howell, owner and founder of George Howell Coffee
• Jamie McCormick, co-owner of Abraço
• Noah McKeown, general manager at Go Get Em Tiger
• Jerad Morrison, co-founder and co-CEO of Sightglass Coffee
• Jim Munson, founder and president of Brooklyn Roasting Company
• Dennis Ngo, chef and co-owner of Di an Di
• Ken Nye, owner of Ninth Street Espresso
• Kat Odell, author of Day Drinking
• Ally Walsh, co-founder of Canyon Coffee
Additional reporting by Nikita Richardson and David Notis.
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