Drip Coffee Maker Considerations
The top performers in our review are Cuisinart Extreme Brew, the Gold Award winner; Bonavita 8-Cup, the Silver Award winner; and Braun BrewSense, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top 10 products.
Many would not even consider facing a weekday morning without a hot cup of coffee in hand. There are lots of ways to get that "cup of ambition," as Dolly Parton called it in her song "9 to 5." A trip to Starbucks or another neighborhood café is delicious and convenient, but it is an expensive option. Most would rather come up with an economical way to make coffee at home that still tastes good.
The options for home brewing are numerous and wide-ranging in the level of effort they require of the user. You can go as far as grinding coffee beans by hand each morning, or you can just insert a plastic pod into a machine for one pre-measured cup. For our comparison we chose to focus on the pretty basic drip coffee makers that have been a part of kitchens for years.
These machines are designed to make your morning cup of joe quickly and with very little effort on your part, requiring minimal thought after the first couple days of use. Our top units stand out for making great-tasting coffee quickly – and for a relatively small initial investment. For more information about coffee in general, check out our articles about coffee makers so you can determine which is the best one for you.
Coffee Makers: What Else to Consider
Automatic drip coffee makers have evolved in several different ways over the years that can lead to better flavor and aroma from the resulting beverage, including presoak functions and internal showerheads that distribute water more evenly over coffee grounds for better extraction. We looked for units that incorporate innovative features that help you make your drip coffee better, but there is often room for other coffee making tools, even in the same kitchen, especially if you love coffee.
While you may like the speed and ease of an automatic drip unit during the week, it might still be nice to have other options available when you have more time, including percolators, French presses, espresso machines or coffee makers that also grind the beans. This site presents a diverse group of the best coffee machines that employ an automatic drip-brewing process to produce 8-14 cups. However, there are enough options even in that narrow category to warrant careful consideration before you pick out your next machine.
Drip Coffee Maker: A Buyer's Guide
To pick the best home coffee maker for your kitchen, it is smart to focus on the basic design features and capabilities that will brew just the right coffee for your palate, and then consider the extra features. It's also smart to examine the length of the warranty and the availability of customer service.
If you live alone and drink a cup of coffee every now and then, a 12-cup coffee maker might be too large – that is, until you host a dinner party. You have many options to consider, including such things as a brew pause function, which provides the ability to sneak a cup during the brewing process. A product with a water filter makes better-tasting coffee and reduces scale buildup.
There are pros and cons to both permanent and paper filters. Permanent filters save you money since you don't have to keep buying the paper variety, which is also better for the environment. However, it is easier to get rid of the coffee grounds with the disposable paper liners. Also, permanent filters can retain some of the coffee oils unless these are cleaned constantly, which can lend an off taste to the coffee.
Convenience & Safety
Once you have decided on the basic features you want, it is smart to examine features of convenience and safety next. Many top-rated coffee makers offer an automatic shut-off function that protects your home if you rush off to the carpool and forget to flip the off button. It is handy to have a coffee maker that alerts you when the brewing is done, lets you see how much water the device contains, and includes a programmable clock so you can set everything up the night before and awake to the fragrance of fresh coffee.
Warranty & Support
Most manufacturers in our coffee maker reviews provide telephone and email support. The warranty periods for automatic drip coffee makers range from one to five years, which is quite a range, so be aware of the warranty period as you make your selection.
Coffee Makers: How We Tested, What We Found
To begin our testing, we assembled each coffee maker and made note of how easy the process is for each unit. We made several batches of coffee with each machine and timed them for speed. Fast brew times are generally associated with better flavor. The National Coffee Association recommends water be in contact with coffee grounds for approximately five minutes when using drip systems like the ones we are evaluating. Too much or too little time can negatively impact flavor.
Making hot coffee and keeping it hot is the top job of any drip coffee maker, so we measured coffee temperatures just after brewing and again after the coffee had been sitting awhile, to see how good each carafe is at keeping it hot for the late-risers in your household.
We made notes about how easy each coffee maker was to use throughout the testing process. We fully expected to be able to make coffee easily with each machine right out of the box. Coffee makers scored lower when they were harder to assemble, program and use.
We assembled a group of coffee connoisseurs and prepared the same coffee, according to manufacturers' instructions, with each unit in our coffee maker reviews. Our respondents rated coffee quality and we averaged those scores to come up with an overall rating.
We also noted the dimensions of each coffee maker to get an idea of how much counter space you have to give up for each unit. This is less important if you have a lot of countertop real estate, but we gave some scoring credit to compact machines.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison either on loan from the companies or through retail purchase. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Our Verdict and Recommendations
After extensive testing, the Cuisinart Extreme Brew came out on top with its fast brewing times, hot holding temperatures and long list of convenient features. We were able to get taste-tester-approved coffee quickly, and that will make it a great fit for busy mornings in any home.
The Bonavita 8-Cup is a sophisticated unit that uses a showerhead design to distribute water evenly over the coffee grounds. There are fewer bells and whistles with this machine, but it has the fastest brewing times of any in our comparison.
Rounding out the top three is the Braun BrewSense, which offers a compact design and a long list of features, including coffee strength selection and an LCD display. It tied for the best coffee quality score in our taste test.
Whether you are a coffee connoisseur or someone who just needs plenty of hot java and needs it fast, there is an automatic drip coffee maker on the market for you. Check out the different varieties in our reviews and you can end up with the best coffee maker you have ever owned.
Contributing Reviewer: Linda Thomson