Recently, some friends of mine tried to give away their super automatic espresso machine to one of their friends. Note that I said “give away,” as in for free. Believe it or not, they still didn’t get any takers for their espresso machine. One common response they heard from their friends was that they already had a French press, a manual pour-over filter or—blech!—a K-cup machine. An even more common response was “But we already have a coffee maker!”
Table of Contents
- How Does a Coffee Maker Work?
- Original Sins of Coffee Maker Technology
- What Should I Pay Attention to The Carafe: Thermos or Glass? How the Brewing Stage Works“Aroma” Features(Automatic) Coffee QualityConvenience FactorsTechnical FactorsCleaningCoffee Makers with Timers
- An Overview of the Test Winners Old Classics and Perennial WinnersCoffee Makers with TimersVery High CapacityInexpensive Coffee MakersCoffee Makers Under $125Coffee Makers Over $125Overall Test WinnersThe “Anti-Winners” – Steer Clear!
- Coffee Makers Vs. Manual Filters
- Coffee Maker Tips Optimize the Raw MaterialsOptimize the Brewing ProcessOptimize the Coffee TemperatureUsing Drip Coffee to Make Coffee Drinks with Milk
- Decalcifying and Cleaning Coffee Makers Which Cleaner Cleaning Glass and Insulated Carafes
- Replacement Parts
- Stiftung Warentest
- Or Automatic Espresso Machine?
- Guidance about Coffee Makers
Out of all the ways that you can make coffee these days, there’s one device that’s somehow managed to get a worse reputation than the rest: a drip coffee maker with a paper filter. Yet at the same time, many people love their coffee makers and swear by them. And that’s true regardless of age, income level or other differences that one might expect to find among coffee aficionados.
Truth be told, even the most inexperienced coffee drinker knows that these machines can only make an average cup of coffee at best. There’s just too many ways for things to go wrong, and too many compromises made along the way, that the machines usually just aren’t that great.
However, it seems that these very compromises are exactly what many people consider to be the Ultimate Coffee Experience. As long as the coffee’s hot, as long as it’s automatic, and as long as there’s lots of it, many consumers don’t seem to care about the other details. And—of course—as long as they can keep filling up their coffee makers with bags of coffee from the supermarket, they (unfortunately) feel that they don’t have anything to complain about.
Perhaps a touch of nostalgia can explain the dominance of coffee makers. After all, even I can fall into the nostalgia trap when I hear a coffee maker percolating away, making memories bubble to my mind as I recall drinking coffee with mom, dad and the whole rest of the clan.
Could it be that maybe—just maybe—coffee makers aren’t actually as bad as their reputation? And could it be that—God help me—they can make coffee that’s actually better than mediocre?
Be that as it may, even coffee experts can’t completely avoid talking about these humble machines, especially since so many of you have asked about our recommendations for good coffee makers.
But is that even a thing? A “good coffee maker”? Are there any models out there that are able to overcome their technical limitations and somehow make tasty coffee? And if so, how do they do it?
These questions, as well as many others, played a starring role in my 2018 Coffee Maker Tests and Reviews. And yes, I was positively surprised by the results of some of these machines. There were even some that I’d consider firing up if I had guests sitting around my coffee table.
I also have to admit that yes, all this testing changed by view of coffee makers and called into question my previous assumptions about their poor reputation.
However, one of my previous opinions remains steadfast: coffee makers are an easy compromise for lazy people. Now, don’t get me wrong: I like being lazy. Just not with coffee. Therefore, the underlying question throughout this whole buyers’ guide is:
Which of these models can actually push us to look beyond supermarket coffee and automatic functions, so that we can try out something new (and good)? Let’s find out.
How Does a Coffee Maker Work?
If a science institution as illustrious as the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization can pose the question “How does a coffee maker work?” then we can be sure that the underlying principles guiding these cheap plastic machines is actually a bit more spectacular than you might expect at first glance.
It’s certainly exciting, and even a bit surprising.
Every coffee maker uses the same basic concept. It starts by heating up water below, and then pushes the hot water and steam up through a narrow tube. There’s also a one-way valve to ensure that the hot water only goes in one direction. Once the water is at the top of the machine, gravity does the rest of the work. The hot water seeps through the ground coffee in a paper filter, and eventually drips down into the carafe in the form of coffee.
In other words, the water always goes from the bottom to the top, with the exception of the Philips HD 5407/60 Café Gourmet. That machine takes out a step by putting the water tank above the filter. Later on, we’ll take a closer look at why that’s actually a pretty good idea.
It’s really cool that this machine does all the work without any kind of pump, even though many of us might think that a pump would be an indispensable feature here.
The only thing that a coffee maker needs to work is pressure, which it gets by quickly heating cold water. That’s why you can get a cheap plastic model for about ten bucks, because the most “expensive” parts are the heating coil and the carafe.
What about that typical “coffee maker noise” that you can likely call to mind? Well, what you hear is simply a result of the chorus that ensues as, bit by bit, the coil heats up the water, the water rises, the valve opens and closes, and the water drips into the ground coffee.
At first, that “bit by bit” part might lure us into thinking that this leads to a gentle or exact coffee making process. After all, when we use a manual filter and pour the water by hand, we’re sure to give the hot water a chance to spread throughout the filter before we pour in more.
However, simply by using a coffee maker, we have to make some sacrifices. And that’s true in more than one way.
The Original Sins of Coffee Maker Technology
The first problem with coffee makers is that they use pressure. Just think about it: if you use a manual filter, you don’t use a spray bottle to shoot the hot water onto the coffee filter. Yet that’s essentially what many coffee makers do.
A coffee maker spews hot water all over the ground coffee, as if it had been told something shocking while taking a sip of…well, coffee. This “spitting” action means some areas get wetter than others, which in turn means that the extraction isn’t as uniform as it would be if it were poured carefully by hand.
What’s more, the water isn’t heated uniformly, but instead in little bursts. That’s not good because it’s important to maintain a consistent temperature when brewing.
Just because of that, the Philips HD 5407/60 Café Gourmet gets a lot of the basics right: it boils the water completely before it starts brewing.
A third problem with coffee makers is that the water temperature isn’t consistent within the machine or over time. In order to have enough water vapor to build up pressure, we need to heat it to just about the boiling point—212 degrees Fahrenheit, or 100 degrees Celsius. However, the optimal temperature for making good coffee with a manual filter is actually about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, or 94 degrees Celsius.
Even if these variations weren’t a problem, the problem is that coffee makers tend to go to extremes. It’s not uncommon for their brewing temperatures to be at 212 degrees. And that’s too hot to make good coffee, regardless of the method you’re using.
At the same time, as it’s moving through the filter and into the carafe, the water often quickly cools down. That means that your carafe will be full of cold (and poorly extracted) coffee that’s reminiscent of old dishwater—especially if you only make a little bit of coffee.
This factor especially played a role in my 2018 Coffee Maker Tests and Reviews. After all, if you do decide to get a coffee maker, you’ll surely want to have hot coffee in your mug, even if you only make a little bit, right?
As an aside, if there’s one symbol that can sum up all of the problems inherent in coffee makers, it’s that cursed obligatory warming plate. Hear ye now my ruling on this matter:
The only thing a warming plate does is to keep on cooking coffee that you’ve already brewed. That means a bitter brew with absolutely no aroma. Boo! Hiss! Nasty!
Of course, this is also the point where many of us shoot ourselves in the foot. Many of us switch on the coffee maker and, without even thinking about it, make more cups of coffee than we actually need. You know, just in case we need a warm-up. Or because there’s an unspoken rule in the office about making a full pitcher. Or because the machine led us into temptation and made us do it.
In the end, the very nature of a coffee maker means that we hardly have to think about portioning, grind coarseness or the quality of the filters.
When it comes to determining how much coffee to put into the filter, most people seem to go by the motto of “1 scoop per cup, plus 1 extra scoop for the machine.”
This motto seems to be well-established, and because it’s so popular, I decided to use it for my tests.
However, it’s not just a coincidence that baristas and coffee fans like to use kitchen scales with their coffee maker setups. Choosing the right amount of ground coffee to use is actually a kind of science in and of itself. The standard is about one ounce (30 grams) of coffee per cup if you’re using a normal, Hario V60 filter.
If you’re using a coffee maker, you also don’t have to worry about the coarseness of your ground coffee. And I would also assume that hardly anyone who uses a coffee maker will worry about going to the effort to freshly grind their beans before using them in the machine. That’s just not the kind of thing most coffee maker owners do.
Coffee makers with built-in grinders can at least solve this age-old problem. However, the results I got with models that have this feature were only fair to middling, and very few managed to convince me that they had the goods. One of the few exceptions was the Philips HD7766/00.
With regards to my thoughts on coffee filters–the paper kind, at least—I believe I’ve already said more than enough in a separate article. The fact that such a guide even exists lets you know that even here, the lowly filter, you can find all kinds of fine-tuned differences, most of which probably don’t matter to owners of coffee makers.
Alright, let’s have a quick summary of all the challenges that coffee makers, by their very nature, need to overcome:
- The water is sprayed onto the ground coffee, instead of being poured gently by hand
- The water isn’t heated evenly
- The water temperature isn’t optimal for brewing coffee
- When passing through the filter into the carafe, the water (the coffee) gets cold quickly and suddenly
- The coffee beans are normally not freshly ground
- Users normally eyeball portion sizes, instead of measuring them
- People normally make more coffee than is needed
If a coffee maker is going to do a halfway decent job at making coffee, then it’ll need to do everything it can to overcome these problems, or at least make them less problematic. And yes, that is in fact possible. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen.
What Should I Pay Attention to when Looking for a Coffee Maker?
Before I go into more detail and describe all of the features of these coffee makers, I’d like to make one fundamental thing clear right from the get-go:
If a coffee maker only costs about 30 dollars, don’t waste your time or money. And that goes double if it’s even cheaper!
But if you only cared about finding a cheap gadget that could automatically make you a caffeinated brew in huge quantities, with no thought given to taste, then you wouldn’t be here. Right?
Models like the Melitta Easy are nothing more than a filter connected to a electrical cord, and it still manages to do everything wrong.
On the other hand, that also doesn’t mean that you’ll have to plop down way more than $100 for a sensationally good machine like the Moccamaster.
Machines that are truly usable start at around $60, and for about $75 you’ll probably get something quite good. Now let’s have a closer look at what we mean by “quite good.”
The Carafe: Thermos or Glass?
If you’re an Average Joe looking to buy a coffee maker, before even worrying about any other features, it’s a good idea to first take a look at what the carafe is made of.
The question is the same whether you’re dealing with the cheapest or the most expensive model: Is it made of glass or insulated stainless steel?
Both options can make sense. Glass won’t affect the taste of your coffee and it can retain heat fairly well as long as—here’s a Pro Tip!–you rinse the carafe out with hot water before you start brewing. Unfortunately, most people don’t do that.
Therefore, insulated stainless steel is probably a better option. Insulation maintains the temperature of your coffee for a longer period of time without reheating it. That also means that you don’t need to mess with a warming plate, and that you can put the thermos right on the table.
By the way, you should also pre-warm your insulated thermos before brewing. Insulation is also good at keeping things cold, so if you put hot coffee into a cold thermos carafe, the thermos will actively cool it down.
What’s more, an insulated carafe can also help with another problem: coffee that isn’t hot enough if you only make a small amount. Even the manufacturers note that if you’re using their models with a glass carafe, it’s best to make a larger quantity. That’s because otherwise, the coffee cools down quickly.
Models with an insulated carafe, like the Philips HD 7697/90 Café Intense, for example, also did quite well in my tests, and the carafe had quite a bit to do with that.
If you’ve got your eye on a model that offers either a glass carafe or an insulated one, I’d advise you to go with the insulated carafe. It might cost a bit more than a glass one, and you might think it looks less fancy or elegant, but you’ll probably get better results from it.
Cooking Up Something Good: How the Brewing Stage Works
With most coffee makers, you normally can’t see this stage of preparation—and that’s why it plays such an important role when testing coffee makers. An important factor when brewing is how gently and evenly the water comes into contact with the ground coffee. The less it spits and sputters, the better.
This is also another area where the unique design of the Philips HD 5407/60 Café Gourmet comes into play. It doesn’t need to pump the water upwards because the tank is already above the filter. Instead, it first boils the water completely, and then uses gravity to let the water drip onto the coffee, making the whole process gentler. You’ll definitely notice that when you note the aroma you get from this machine.
However, even models that work in the usual way can still gain a few points by including components such as valves or a special head outlet. A good example of this is the WMF Bueno coffee maker, which brews very gently.
In a perfect world, a coffee maker would also do a so-called pre-infusion”; when using a manual filter, we do the same thing, only we call it “blooming.” You just pour a bit of water onto the ground coffee so that it wells up, a bit like a flower blooming, thereby revealing its aroma. Only then does the actual brewing process begin.
None of the machines that we tested do this step per se, but some of the higher-quality ones do have a function that works somewhat similarly.
Especially Philips and Melitta, two companies that are true coffee maker experts, offer an “Aroma” feature on many of their midrange or top-of-the-line machines.
When using this feature, you need choose a number of beans on a “bean scale” to indicate how intense you want your coffee—at least in theory. In reality, though, you’re just fiddling around with settings that determine how quickly or slowly the water comes into contact with and flows through the ground coffee.
The quicker the water passes through, the weaker the extraction will be—which will also lead to a milder (weaker) cup of coffee. The opposite is also true: the slower, the stronger.
This whole thing may seem a bit pointless at first glance, but if you at least attempt to simulate a pre-infusion, it can actually help you get the best results from your specific kind of coffee.
The Aroma feature is really just a mechanical control lever that you can adjust during the brewing process. If you practice a bit and learn how to really slow down the water at the start of the process, then later change it to the desired speed, you can make a big difference in the resulting coffee.
I for one was happy to use this feature on machines like the Melitta ENJOY Top Therm coffee maker, to give just one example.
However, don’t let all these secondary features lead you astray. There’s still one factor that carries more weight than everything else when evaluating a coffee maker: the quality of the coffee.
(Automatic) Coffee Quality
Now let’s get down to the real nitty-gritty. Leaving aside all the extra features, what it comes down to is this: can these coffee makers overcome all the hurdles we’ve already mentioned and prove that they can ultimately make a good cup of coffee?
Interestingly, it seems that apparently every coffee maker really has a different starting point. For my 2018 Coffee Maker Tests and Reviews, I always used the same coffee beans and the same “dosage” (aka “Mom’s One Scoop Per Cup, Plus One” rule). Yet I ended up with a different cup of coffee every time.
All of the good machines were able, in one way or another, to magically conjure a different element of the coffee aroma from the beans. Some were more abundant, others were more elegant, yet they all managed to tease out different notes of the aroma.
As for the bad machines, they all simply made “coffee”: a hot and coffee-like drink that lacked any discernible characteristics.
For me, one of the biggest surprises I took away from all these tests was precisely this huge variation in aroma. I had always thought that there was no nuance at all to coffee maker coffee, and that it certainly wouldn’t be able to compensate for any human inaccuracies.
They worked, though. The WMF and Bueno machines gave me a well-rounded, very nicely oil-toned cup of coffee. The Philips Intense pleasantly dealt with the coffee’s acidity, and the coffee from the Philips Gourmet did in fact taste like a very elegant, gourmet coffee.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that these machines will suddenly make great coffee if you use bad beans. These aren’t Rumpelstiltskin Coffee Makers that’ll magically turn crappy beans into black gold. But at least you can be sure that if you use good beans in a good machine, your efforts won’t be in vain.
On the contrary!
If you freshly grind the beans every time you make coffee–which I of course did!–it actually doesn’t really matter if you don’t get the proportions exactly right. And that, my friends, is a clear advantage of coffee makers, and it’s one that I hadn’t really considered.
Unfortunately, you can’t tell if a machine is good just by looking at it. You have to test it out.
This category lumps together all the elements and features that make it substantially easier for you to fill up and use a coffee maker. This especially includes things like:
- A removable water tank, or
- A tank you can fill one-handed, and
- An easily readable water level indicator, with marks for small divisions, and
- A removable filter holder
In terms of one-handed filling, I’m talking about a carafe with some type of lid that you can flip open with the same hand you’re using to hold the carafe. That’s because most of us fill up the carafe by holding the carafe in one hand and operating the water faucet with the other hand. Any extra step you need to do, such as unscrewing the lid, is therefore annoying.
The water level gauge should be fairly obvious: it should go up or down to indicate the amount of water in the tank. And the more individual cups are marked on the water level gauge, the easier it is to make the right amount of coffee. Finally, the location of the gauge is also important, especially if you have a small kitchen.
A removable filter holder doesn’t just make it easier to throw away a used paper filter. It’s also an important way to help you get better coffee from your machine.
Here’s how: simply remove the filter holder (with the filter inside!) and gently dampen it under running water. Believe me—doing this easy step makes a huge difference in your final coffee.
This category includes several elements that played an important role in my tests, but which aren’t always readily apparent. They include:
- The temperature of the coffee, both when making the minimum and maximum amounts
This is where most machines flunked out, especially when making the minimum amount, for reasons that we’ve already seen. You can’t really do anything to prevent that, though, besides making more coffee. But the heating plate is a no-go!
- The drip time while brewing
The general idea here is that a longer brew time is better than a short one (based on the amount of coffee to be made). If the machine takes its time at the start of the brewing process, it can avoid many problems later on, such as uneven extraction, incorrect brewing temperature, and others.
- The minimum water level
The lower the minimum fill level, the better. Making less coffee can prevent waste and let you avoid dealing with nasty leftover coffee.
Some of the minimum levels on the machines I tested sometimes made my life a bit difficult (see Comparison), but at the same time it’s an indicator that different machines will offer different things to different people.
Additionally, the maximum fill level, which is usually around 40 ounces–1.2 liters or 1 quart—can also have an impact. An exception is the Severin KA 5828 Duo coffee maker, which is actually two machines in one.
- Electricity consumption
This point is less about how much electricity a coffee maker needs to brew a pot (although that’s also important). Instead, I included it because I was surprised how many of the machines continually used electricity even when they were switched off—for no reason at all!
I can understand that with some products, like the Melitta Optima Timer, which has a clock, or the Melitta Aroma Elegance coffee maker. But I can’t understand why one like the Krups ProAroma continuously uses power. It’s especially dumb and ridiculous since most of us probably leave our coffee makers plugged in, as opposed to unplugging them after every use.
- Automatic Shutoff
I only mention this because these days, an automatic shutoff is basically a must-have feature for any useful coffee maker. If you forget to do it, a good model will generally shut off by itself after X minutes or hours—the timeframes can vary. Models with insulated carafes generally shut off sooner than ones with glass carafes, which makes sense.
One advantage of drip coffee makers is that the inner parts of the machine don’t actually come into contact with coffee. That makes the care and upkeep significantly easier than it is when dealing with something like a super automatic espresso machine.
However, coffee makers still aren’t immune from calcium deposits and other crud. Therefore, the more pieces that you can take apart and put in the dishwasher, the better.
It’s best not to put insulated carafes in the dishwasher, though. Instead, you should gently wash it out by hand. That means that it should have a removable lid and a big enough opening to not be uncomfortable to clean. This is rarely a problem for glass carafes, which generally have lids that can attach to the top.
The water tank is generally somewhere towards the back of the machine. Since a damp environment can eventually attempt to form its own ecosystem, it’s more hygienic if the tank is removable. Otherwise, you’ll need to clean it out in a different way. Later on, we’ll go into more detail about how to clean and decalcify coffee makers.
A Short Digression: Coffee Makers with Timers – Coffee Makers with Grinders
If it’s true that coffee makers enable our inner sloth (and they do), then a coffee maker with a timer enables a whole herd of sloths. The alarm rings at 7 o’clock, and your coffee’s ready at 7 o’clock—and nobody even had to get out of bed. It sounds pretty great, and actually is pretty great.
However, you can only have that greatness if you’re willing to pony up another 30 or 40 bucks to get a machine with a timer—though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the machine itself is worth your hard-earned money. And in the end, a timer doesn’t really have much to do at all with the actual process of making coffee.
If you do use a timer feature, you’ll need to be sure that everything’s ready to go the night before, so that the machine can start toiling away the following morning. However, remember that while you’re sleeping, the water will just be sitting around in the tank and the coffee will release some of its aroma, and all the while the machine will be using electricity.
You can avoid the (however slight) loss of aroma by freshly grinding your coffee, as opposed to buying pre-ground. I’ve reviewed loads of easy-to-use coffee grinders that can help you get the job done.
But put your hand on your heart and tell me: would you actually grind the beans the night before? It still seems to me that even this step might be too much of a hassle for many coffee maker users.
Therefore, I eventually moved away from testing coffee makers with timers, and instead got more into coffee makers with built-in grinders. The good news is that a good many of these machines can also be programmed beforehand to always freshly grind your coffee when you want it.
I’m even convinced that the market for these kinds of machines will grow more important in the coming years. After all, it’s like the love child of a sloth coffee maker and a sloth super automatic espresso machine: a sexy, new, lazy machine species that can brew you fresh coffee in mass quantities.
The 2018 Coffee Maker Tests and Reviews – An Overview
As usual, I put some thought into what key criteria I would use when testing these machines, and I also always tested them in the same way so that they’re easier to compare. Still, Coffeeness has been talking about coffee makers for several years now, and a few things have changed over time.
For one thing, we’ve had to do the tests a bit differently. Some machines that we’ve reviewed earlier have become outdated in the meantime, or they’ve been surpassed by newer, updated models. Others are simply not available anymore. And in some cases, machines that won previous reviews have fallen a bit in the rankings.
That’s not a problem, though, since we always are careful to ensure that we continually bring in new candidates for testing, so that you can always have up-to-date reviews.
The basic test is always based on one fundamental question: How easy is it to make good coffee with this machine? Of course, the answer to that question is always influenced by other sub-questions and test criteria, such as:
- What’s the minimum and maximum water level?
- How long does it take the machine to brew when using the minimum and maximum levels?
- What temperature is the coffee when using the minimum and maximum levels?
- How much electricity does it use?
In the past, I used to include the electricity use in actual dollar amounts, but I’ve stopped doing that since electricity costs can vary a lot. That’s why the newer tests will instead include electricity use in kilowatt hours.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that after 30 minutes, I check the temperature of the coffee—without the heating plate! The gist: non-insulated carafes basically always lose here. And I mean “lose” literally, since they lose a significant amount of heat, with their temperature usually dropping by double digits.
Otherwise, the “sideshow” questions of these tests have hardly changed:
- Is it a high-quality machine?
- What’s its overall “look”?
- How does it get the water to the ground coffee?
- Are there any exceptional or strange smells, etc.?
- How easy is it to clean?
- Are there any features that are confusing or hard to use?
If the answer to that last question is “yes,” it almost always puts a machine out of the running. After all, a coffee maker should be the easiest thing to use in the world. And the ones in our test pool are easy to use. I only need to consider this last question if a feature does something that’s really different or weird.
An Overview of the Test Winners
If you don’t have time to read each individual review—or if you just don’t want to—you’ll find the most important results from the 2018 Coffee Maker Tests and Reviews summarized here. But if you want to make a more informed choice, be sure to take a closer look at the reports.
Coffee Maker Test Winners: The Old Classics and Perennial Winners
In this section I’ve gathered together all the best-performing machines that I’ve tested at least three years ago (or earlier), but which are still available to buy. These machines haven’t lost any element of their positive rating, and for one reason or another they are all top-of-the-line.
It doesn’t matter what coffee maker I’m testing: no other one comes close to the Moccamaster. However, it still costs around 300 dollars. That price probably won’t leave a very good taste in your mouth if you’re a typical coffee maker buyer. But the coffee, people, the coffee!!
- Moccamaster Review in english.
Unfortunately, this video is only available in German.
This retro-looking model doesn’t actually show up in my reviews anymore, but it’s still a true classic because it only makes two cups of coffee at a time. That’s it. That’s also why it’s still available on Amazon and why it’s so beloved!
Of course, if you’re going to make just two cups of coffee, you might find yourself wondering if it wouldn’t be better and more economical to simply use a manual filter instead. But at least there’s no waste with this machine.
Philips HD 7546
This sleek, stylish coffee maker with an insulated carafe and a stainless steel look won me over back in 2016, and it’s still available now.
I especially liked how the Philips 7546 could keep the coffee warm for a long time, even though there are also other, newer models that can do similarly well.
For about 60 bucks on Amazon, this “old timer” will work well for you.
Test Winners – Coffee Makers with Timers
As I mentioned before, I’m kind of over this category because I think that the next evolutionary step in coffee maker tech is to have a built-in grinder. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that that you can get really good results from machines like the Melitta Optima Timer or the Melitta Look Therm DeLuxe (the model with a timer).
In the end, a timer is essentially just a gimmick. The machines must first and foremost prove that they can deliver the goods when it comes to coffee quality.
Both of these machines did, in fact, prove it. They’re both very popular on Amazon and both made similar quality coffee, but I’d give the Melitta Optima a slight edge due to its lower price.
Test Winners – Coffee Makers with Very High Capacity
This category just barely exists because so far, I’ve only reviewed one machine that fits into it: the Severin KA 5828 Dual Coffee Maker. It’s got two separate brewing units that you can use at the same time. Unfortunately, it’s not available on Amazon in the US but you might be able to buy it from a different seller.
I still wanted to mention it, though, since I thought this machine was actually a pretty clever solution that might fulfill some users’ needs.
You can make up to two liters of coffee at once, which can satisfy a whole group. And it does that with common household coffee filters and the same portioning trick that you can use with any other machine.
Normally, you can only make that amount of coffee with larger machines or percolators, and those use different filters and portioning requirements.
The fact that the Severin’s two insulated carafes are separate means that this dual machine can be a great option for places where people drink a ton of coffee. And the whole thing is reasonably priced at less than $100.
Unfortunately, the Dueling Carafes won’t win a beauty contest or earn any prizes for aroma nuances. But the machine is so terribly practical and logical that it still managed to perform very well in my test.
We’ve already established that when I talk about an “inexpensive” coffee maker, I’m talking about price range of around 40 to 60 dollars. Anything less than that—at least if you want any aroma—is simply pointless.
I did in fact got good aroma results within this inexpensive range—look no further than the WMF Bueno Coffee Maker for proof. Indeed, the WMF is simple and inexpensive, without any frills.This sleek coffee maker makes really tasty coffee, even with inexact portioning, and costs less than $50. But as a tradeoff, you’ll have to deal with a glass carafe that quickly cools down, as well as the fact that the machine continually uses electricity.
To deal with the first point, the only solution is to just make as much coffee as you need. As for the second point, you’ll just have to unplug the machine. That’s a bit of a hassle, but for such a cheap price, it’s (almost!) forgivable.
The Melitta Enjoy Top Therm costs only about $15 more, but it’s also a best buy in terms of price and performance. It has an insulated carafe and a rather precise Aroma feature, and can also make really tasty coffee on the cheap.
What’s more, with the Melitta you won’t have to worry about a fragile glass carafe—the whole thing seems quite robust and durable.
Test Winners – Coffee Makers Under $125
For some people, the category “Coffee Makers Under $125” may seem strange. After all, who’d spend so much money on a coffee maker? But the fact of the matter is, for under $100, the Philips HD 7697/90 Café Intense does everything well that a machine in this category should be able to do.
The coffee tastes excellent and stays warm for a long time. Plus, the machine looks good and it’s super easy to use. You can even mess up a bit when setting things up and it still does a good job.
Another machine in a similar class is the Melitta LookTherm DeLuxe, although I didn’t find its coffee to be as good as with the Philips. But you may find that you have a completely different opinion there.
Test Winners – Coffee Makers Over $125
If “coffee makers under $125” sounds strange, then surely “coffee makers over $125” must sound ludicrous. But as we’ve seen with the Moccamaster, if you’d like fresh coffee but don’t want to do any work to get it, then it really might be worth it to pay so much for a coffee maker.
Other contenders, such as the Philips HD 5407/60 Café Gourmet, with its unusual stacked design, simply don’t come close. Of course, that machine makes great, thoroughly elegant coffee. But its stacked design also makes handling and cleaning it a bit awkward, and that’s not at all the case with the Moccamaster.
Overall Test Winners
Even after years of testing, no other (cheaper) coffee maker has managed to knock the Moccamaster out of the top spot. And believe me, I tried—I also think that $300 is a pretty huge pile of money to pay for a drip coffee maker.
But if we’re being a bit more reasonable about this whole thing, then the Philips HD 7697/90 Café Intense should also have a place on the winners’ podium. This is an overall great machine that won me over, and I even drank all of the test coffee I made with it.
The “Anti-Winners” – Steer Clear!
There are two machines that I’d especially advice against buying, for different reasons. It’s probably no surprise to learn that the cheapest machines in the test were also declared “Anti-Winners.”
The Melitta Easy is an ultra-light plastic thingamajig that roughs up your coffee while also managing to quickly lose temperature. The test results therefore reflected its poor build quality.
It was a similar case with the Krups ProAroma. It actually did what it was supposed to do, but the quality was just miles off of where it should be.
Bonus Test: Coffee Makers Vs. Manual Filters – A Head-to-Head Cage Match
From the very beginning of my coffee maker odyssey, one thing was clear to me: I’d absolutely have to do a head-to-head comparison of mechanical and manually-filtered brewing methods. And in fact I did do just such a comparison.
Many of you often ask me whether there’s actually a difference in taste between these methods, and some of you even helpfully comment that I might do well to get down off my Coffee Nerd High Horse.
The contender I used to represent the machines was the Philips HD7546. You’ll remember that I already mentioned that one earlier as a perennial test winner. I chose that one instead of the Moccamaster because I wanted to use a “simple” machine that’s more likely to be found in a typical kitchen.
In general, I predicted that there wouldn’t be much difference in taste. Boy was I wrong! In order to make the duel between electricity and my hands as fair as possible, I was careful to always keep the most important parameters the same. I used:
- Freshly-ground beans, with the same coarseness
- Exactly the same amount of coffee (I weighed it!)
- Exactly the same kind of coffee
- Exactly the same amount of water
- Water from a Brita filter
- I even used the exact same cups
For my test coffee, I used Yirgacheffe from Sonntagmorgen, a German brand that’s unfortunately no longer available. Yirgacheffe is actually the perfect choice for drip filter coffee because the Ethiopian bean is a paragon of floral aromas that come out especially well when used with a filter.
You can find out exactly why that’s the case by reading our guide to drip coffee. But for our purposes, suffice it to say that the filter holds back all the fats and oils, making room for the more delicate notes to come through. And the Yirgacheffe has tons of them. You can find more suggestions in my coffee bean reviews.
In proper cupping fashion, we marked the bottom of the cups and had neutral third parties (aka “buddies”) give them to us so we could do a blind test.
The results were as exciting as they were illuminating:
- The coffee maker really brought out the citrus elements
- The manual filter gave us more widespread fruitiness in our cup
- The machine coffee seemed significantly oilier—but you could also call that “full-bodied”
- Once the coffee cooled down, the machine coffee became acidic. The manually-filtered coffee, on the other hand, turned into a fruit bomb!
In other words, even though we used the exact same roasted beans, we got two completely different coffees out of it! Both were quite good, though. Still, a machine can’t bring out the fine notes that you’ll get if you’re an experienced home barista using a manual filter.
If you wanted, you could also grind the beans differently to make them somewhat coarser for the machine and finer for the manual filter, which would make them more similar.
I don’t think that’s necessary, though. Above all, the test showed that even though there are similarities between the two different methods, the two approaches still led to different cups of coffee.
The machine is by its nature more direct, and it works especially well with very present aromas—and it can also tend to let more oils through the filter. That can also suppress some of the especially fine nuances; if you want them, then a manual filter is the ideal method.
The fact that machine coffee becomes acidic instead of fruity when it cools down also clearly shows the limits of a coffee maker. When compromise and standardization are the order of the day, coffee quickly turns into a generic product lacking in many characteristics.
One of these characteristics: cold coffee should be just as tasty as hot coffee.
Nevertheless, if you pay a bit more attention to how you use your coffee maker, then it can also score points for making good coffee with its own character. In the next section I’ll tell you what you should pay attention to.
Coffee Maker Tips, Tricks and Know-How
If you really wanted to get elegant results from your coffee maker, you’d have to remove the filter unit and place it on a glass carafe, and then switch to doing things manually. But if you’ve got a coffee maker, you’ll probably want it to work like a coffee maker does—simply. But that doesn’t mean that some of its basic functions can’t be improved.
Sure, I know that sounds like the kind of hassle that you wanted to avoid by buying a coffee maker. But by now you should know that if you’re in my little coffee school, you won’t just be sitting around.
I’ll promise you one thing, though: If you take my tips to heart, you’ll discover a whole new side of your drip coffee. And they’re not even that hard to do!
Optimize the Raw Materials
Everything depends on the ingredients that you use with your machine. That includes not only the coffee and water but also the filter. You can improve these three essential elements for every machine—no matter how good or bad it is. Heed my call:
Use good coffee!
If I were feeling philosophical, I’d say this was a categorical imperative. You’ll only get good coffee in your cup if you use good coffee in the machine. That’s why a filter method, with its subtractive nature, can be rather versatile if you use a suitable roast.
If you like it lighter and more flowery, you can get it here. When using a dark roast with a filter method, you can pull out some delicate nuances that might be hidden at first. And here’s where we get to a second yet equally important categorical imperative:
Always freshly grind the beans!
There’s also really no way around this one. If you use pre-ground coffee, the aroma goes away before you know it. That’s why most supermarket coffee tastes the same, regardless of what machine you use–the coffee has long since been reduced to its basic building blocks. Admittedly, there weren’t many blocks left after it came pouring out of the industrial roasting drum. But that’s a quibble that I’ll have to sit down and really pick apart some other time.
Optimize the Quality of the Water
My sermons in favor of tap water and against bottled water seem to have earned me several angry emails. But that just shows me that cold water (even for coffee) is a hot topic.
Of course, you don’t have to absolutely start filling up your coffee makers with pre-filtered water. But it should definitely be fresh!
- If any water happens to still be in the tank (which actually goes against its basic functional principle), then pour it out and rinse out the tank
- Put the tap on cold (really cold!)
- Let the water run for a few moments before you fill up the tank
These three steps will ensure that you get oxygen-rich water for your brewing. The individual components of the coffee aroma should be more noticeable when you use water with high oxygen content. That’s also one of the advantages of a machine with a removable water tank.
If the tank isn’t removable, your best bet is to use a filling container that’s always clean and used just for filling the coffee maker—and don’t use the carafe for this. The carafe can contain coffee residue that you won’t want to get back into the brewing cycle, and certainly not into the machine itself.
Optimize the Filter
This tip might get me into hot water, but I’m generally not a big fan of Melitta filters.
That’s despite the fact that their shape and size are more or less the standard for all machines. The fibers used in Melitta paper filters are certainly clean but, based on my experience, they don’t filter as well as some of their competitors from Japan.
What’s more, Melitta filters seem to always smell a bit like wood. And if a filter smells like that, it’ll also pass that scent on to the coffee. That can get really bad if you use the cheapo brands (some supermarket brands take the cake here in terms of grossness).
Whether you use alternatives like Hario, Kalita or another brand, highly pure filters are simply better. Yes, you have to cut some of them to size. Boo hoo. And it’s almost become a question of faith as to whether the bottom should be folded, formed into a cup or tapered to a point.
Personally I’m a fan of filters that are folded under, but flattened ones simply work better with normal coffee makers. Once you’ve found the right filter, there’s an even more important step:
Always rinse out the filter—inside the filter holder—before brewing!
This step will rinse any dust or residue from manufacturing out of the fibers, and will also open the pores to do their real job. If the fibers have already been soaked with water, they can focus instead on letting the right stuff through during the brewing cycle.
Optimize the Brewing Process
Now we come to a point that even I think is a bit nerdy. Anyone who’d feel the need to mess around with an essentially standardized brewing process on a simple machine must be really crazy. Fortunately, that describes me.
The previous steps laid out several changes you can make to ensure that your coffee will be better than it was before. Fresh water means better extraction, with a better-prepared filter, with better and fresher ground coffee.
The nice thing about many coffee makers is that they have a lid that you can lift up during brewing, making it easy to see (and touch) the filter and the water outlet.
If, as you’re checking under the hood, you notice that the water is only reaching a certain part of the filter while ignoring another part, then it can help to stir the grounds when the filter is completely full of water. But you should do that towards the beginning of the cycle, and it’s best to do it just once.
The grind coarseness is another important area where you can make some adjustments to optimize the flow of water and thereby optimize the brewing process. Using different Aroma features is also helpful, of course, but changing the grind coarseness is more significant.
If the ground coffee is finer, the water will move through it more slowly, regardless of how quickly it came out of the outlet. You should just be careful that the coffee isn’t ground too fine, otherwise the filter can quickly overflow.
As I’ve said on another occasion, you shouldn’t prevent anyone from adjusting the machine’s settings before brewing a pot of coffee. All of these changes require a bit of fiddling around. But just doing this step can be great fun for coffee nerds.
Optimize the Coffee Temperature
Now we finally come to the Original Sin of coffee makers: Even though the coffee is brewed hot, it quickly becomes cold in the carafe. With or without a warming plate. The best thing you can do to keep your coffee from getting cold—regardless of the carafe material—is, before you start brewing, to rinse out the carafe with hot water and then quickly dry it out.
That’s because, just like the coffee aroma changes when it’s left to keep cooking on the warming plate, it also changes when it gets cold too quickly. And that’s just the aroma—the taste can also change completely.
Bonus: Using Drip Coffee to Make Coffee Drinks with Milk
If you’re a latte fiend, you’ve likely noticed that coffee makers don’t have a cappuccino button. Indeed, these humble machines generally aren’t able to make milk foam.
However, I’ve tested enough automatic milk frothers to know that in terms of laziness and automation, they’re a perfect match for coffee makers. My recommendation for a compact frother has been and still is the Philips Senseo Milk Twister, which makes great milk foam and is hardly noticeable next to a coffee maker.
And what magic can we conjure up with these devices? Café au lait, mon amour! That’ll add a bit of glamour to even your humble cup of breakfast coffee from the coffee maker.
Decalcifying and Cleaning Coffee Makers
Making coffee is lovely, but now we must also come to a less exciting yet unavoidable part of the whole process: cleaning. Though it may seem like even our coffee machine couldn’t care less, you still need to clean it!
When the comfy, cozy gurgling of your machine turns into a rickety sputter, it’s a pretty good sign that your machine needs to be decalcified (aka descaled). Another sign that the tubes are probably becoming clogged is when you notice that the amount of liquid you get in the carafe is less than your poured into the tank earlier.
Some people may be tempted to just throw away a $40 machine instead of cleaning it, but I completely disagree with that mindset. Our throwaway society is not something to be proud of.
In any case, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about tap water, as well as the calcium that comes with it. That’s just part of cleaning super automatic espresso machines or testing electric water kettles. And the water filter question also keeps popping up.
The fact is, coffee makers are significantly more resistant to calcification than a complicated automatic espresso machine. Yet whereas an automatic espresso machine will tell you when it needs to be decalcified, most coffee machines won’t let you know on their own when the time has come.
On the other hand, it’s also significantly easier to clean a coffee maker than an espresso machine, simply because the parts that deal with the water don’t come into contact with coffee, and the inner workings of a coffee maker are extremely straightforward.
If you know approximately (or exactly) how hard your tap water is, you’ll also have a rule of thumb about how often you need to decalcify your machine. Once again, my trusty table can help us out here:
|Level||Degree of Hardness||Millimoles of Calcium Carbonate per Liter||German Hardness (dH) Degrees||How Often Should I Decalcify?|
|1||Soft||Fewer than 1.5||Fewer than 8.4 °dH||Rarely|
|2||Medium||1.5 to 2.5||8.4 to 14 °dH||Occasionally|
|3||Hard||More than 2.5||More than 14 °dH||Often|
Using a Brita filter can reduce the hardness from level 2 or 3 to level 1. Just one note: I always mention Brita filters because I’ve used them in my own kitchen for years, but there are also other, cheaper brands that work based on the same principle.
Which Cleaner Should I Use for a Coffee Maker?
Although I always intensely debate the merits of the proper cleaner to use with super automatic espresso machines, when it comes to coffee makers, I’d advise you to use simple household cleaning products. Spare yourself the expensive frills and simply run a full tank of water mixed with lemon juice through the system.
Afterwards, do another flush of the system. You’ll have thereby solved the two-headed problem that plagues coffee makers—calcium plus water residue.
Chemically or organically, there’s also nothing against using vinegar. However, vinegar attacks the machine’s important valves and rubber parts, and always leaves a slight smell note behind that manages to stay in your scent memory even long after it’s gone from the machine.
A Quick Pro Tip: If you want to play it safe, after you run the first cycle with the water-lemon juice mix, pour the same mix back into the machine for a second cycle. The mix will already be warm then, which will help it remove the rest of the calcium from the coffee maker.
Cleaning Glass and Insulated Carafes
Because all the coffee residue in the machine eventually makes its way to the carafe, you’ll have to clean it a bit more thoroughly and more often. Residues can especially accumulate inside insulated carafes, leaving a tough, unsightly film after a while.
However, even a very smooth glass surface isn’t immune to that film. It becomes increasingly difficult to remove it as the calcium level in your tap water increases. Calcium-magnesium compounds dry out as strong crystals and give the coffee residue more stability.
You can solve the calcium problem in the carafe the same way as in the machine: with the water-lemon mixture. If you still have coffee residue that’s left even after that, simply go to a drugstore and get some Corega tablets or another similar product. They’re actually denture cleaners, but they have a few advantages over other options like dishwasher tabs:
- They dissolve more quickly in lukewarm water and are effervescent
- They’re extremely gentle and non-abrasive yet very effective
- They’re cheaper, even if you use generic ones
- Their components aren’t as environmentally damaging as dishwasher tabs
Nevertheless, I always plead that you don’t let things get so out of hand that you need to use any kind of complicated or pricey cleaning products. If you simply wash and rinse out your glass or insulated carafe after every use, no residues will accumulate in the first place.
And if you completely ignore the warming plate and only make as much coffee as you need, then it won’t be able to “bake” coffee or calcium deposits into the carafe. It’s as simple as that.
Is It Worth It to Buy Replacement Parts for a Coffee Maker?
When testing every machine, I also checked to see if replacement parts were available. You might imagine that more expensive models would be more likely to have a market for replacement parts, but price actually hasn’t got anything to do with it.
It’s no problem finding replacement parts on Amazon for the cheap Krups ProAroma coffee maker. But I wasn’t able to find any parts for the similarly-priced WMF Bueno. There wasn’t anything available for the Philips Intense, but there was for the Philips Gourmet. Even (a few) models with insulated carafes offer replacements parts.
Offering replacement glass carafes would seem to be a logical idea because they’re relatively inexpensive compared to replacing a whole machine—after all, they’d also help avoid waste. But they only work in theory.
Let’s take a closer look: The Krups ProAroma costs around $40. The replacement carafe will cost you a tidy $25 or so. Considering the quality of the machine (and its carafe), that’s breathtakingly bold.
Would you be willing to part with $65 all told, if you could instead use that same amount of money to buy a significantly sturdier machine with an insulated carafe—which would also give you better coffee?
A replacement carafe for a machine like the Café Gourmet is easier to justify. At about $25, it’s more reasonably priced, considering that the machine itself costs around $160—and also considering that the machine’s price is for the most part also justifiable.
A replacement carafe for the WMF Bueno or the Krups ProAroma will end up being almost as expensive as the machine itself. In the end, it doesn’t do anything more than heat water and open a valve, but buying one would nearly double the cost of the machine. And if you’re doing that, you might just as well buy a new machine.
Just look at the Melitta Enjoy TopTherm with an insulated carafe: It costs around $70, while a replacement carafe goes for about $50, adding up to about $125 in total if you need to replace the carafe. Just show me someone who plays this little numbers game and doesn’t decide to simply buy a new machine.
Although everything inside me revolts at saying this sentence, I have to do it: In most cases, it’s not worth it to buy replacement parts for a coffee maker. That’s not because they’re bad in principle, but because the manufacturers are basically trying to swindle us.
The sometimes laughable price difference between a carafe and a machine are almost a kind of dare to simply toss the whole thing in the trash and to hand over another stack of cash to buy a new machine.
Stiftung Warentest and Coffee Makers
You can see that coffee makers aren’t very trendy because Stiftung Warentest—a German institution that tests and reviews consumer products—doesn’t have much to say about new coffee makers. On the other hand, super automatic espresso machines are sexy, so there are always new tests of those. And each! Single! Test! Is! A! Fail!
In fact, coffee makers are apparently so boring at that testing institute that the last time they did coffee maker tests was actually in 2011. But even back then their tests bothered me in more than one way.
I’m going to go through this spiel again here because the parameters that Stiftung Warentest uses make it extremely easy to see why coffee makers have such a bad reputation—and a deservedly bad one–based on these criteria:
- The test coffee was pre-ground supermarket coffee
Noooo. Just no.
- They didn’t test the actual brewing temperature of the machine
OK, I didn’t do that either, but that’s because I don’t have the right equipment to do so. But that technology-obsessed testing institute should actually have that equipment.
- However, they did measure the extract content in the coffee
It would only make sense to do that if you also break it down by oils, caffeine, bitter compounds, chlorogenic acid, and so on, and then compare the results against the initial values in the ground coffee. Knowing just the end values doesn’t increase our knowledge or accurately convey the quality of the coffee in any sense.
- They didn’t include any information about the grind coarseness, the type of coffee or portioning amounts
But hey, who needs that, eh?!
By the way, after it occurred to another user that seven years is a long time to go without a new test, Stiftung Warentest commented that a new test is on the way.
I’m already excited about the next round, and wondering why we actually care what they think.
Coffee Maker or Automatic Espresso Machine? A Few Ideas to Help Guide Your Decision
If you’ve managed to make it this far as I led you through a rather long-winded tour of the world of coffee makers, then I’ll assume that you’ve probably already wondered whether it would be better to buy a super automatic espresso machine instead of a new coffee maker.
After all, don’t forget: Espresso machine = fame, Coffee maker = lame.
However, after making thousands of liters of drip coffee with our test machines, I’d no longer subscribe to that statement, at least not in such general terms. Therefore, I’d like to include here some tips and advice to help you determine which category of machine is the better choice for you.
What does your coffee consumption look like?
A sub-question that’s easy to answer here is whether you only enjoy a few small cups of coffee per day, or if your first move every morning is to whip out the giant thermos. Purely in terms of the ability to produce large quantities of coffee, a coffee maker definitely has an advantage. With just the push of a button, you can give everybody in the office their fix.
If just one or two cups of coffee is enough for you, I’d actually suggest a whole different approach: check out French presses. As long as you’re OK with their parameters, French presses are quicker and more efficient than coffee makers.
French presses don’t give many options for a variety of drinks, though. If mom is always jonesing for a latte, but dad would rather get his fix with a lungo or an americano, then a super automatic espresso machine is a better choice.
If you get a coffee maker because it’s cheaper, you’ll just end up taking the money that you’re supposedly saving, and instead invest it into the chain coffee shop around the corner—and just to fulfill a craving.
Since I began using an automatic espresso machine, the only two reasons I drink “specialty coffee drinks” away from home is when I’m traveling or out of professional curiosity. But I don’t do it because I’m bored of the mediocre drip coffee dripping out of my coffee maker.
What’s more, it’s not enough to argue that you can’t make good milk foam at home. There are also high-quality milk frothers available.
How much does price matter?
In terms of price, even an expensive drip coffee maker is positioned significantly better than an espresso machine. Plus, even cheap coffee makers can often do quite well. When it comes to automatic espresso machines, things only start to get really interesting once you get into the upper echelons. And on top of that you need to add in costs for cleaner, water and—obviously—the coffee itself.
Because the extraction, grind coarseness and preparation methods of both machines are so different, an automatic espresso machine actually uses more coffee, surprisingly. Sure, a standard coffee puck in an espresso machine weighs about 7 grams when dry, while a full filter in a coffee maker will hold about 56 grams. However, the coffee maker can easily get you 10 cups of finished coffee from 56 grams, while an espresso machine will need about 70 grams, since each 7-gram puck will yield one cup.
This comparison might seem a bit apples-to-oranges, but for many buyers it’s not an insignificant issue. The fact is, an espresso machine will be satisfying only if you’re willing to deal with its costs and limitations. Otherwise it’ll just gather dust in the corner.
How set are you in your ways?
Earlier in this article, I went on a major tangent on how you can pimp your drip coffee. That obviously shows that it’s possible to make some changes to a standard machine but, nevertheless, coffee makers are and will remain objects that people get used to and then stick with.
If you’ve found a good brand of coffee that you like, then adding any variation to the routine, such as throwing a coffee grinder into the mix, will just mess up your usual routine. If that sounds like you, then a coffee maker is the machine for you.
However, if you always like to try out new things, and if you always like discovering new coffee varieties and even enjoy switching up your coffee beans, then I’d suggest you get a super automatic espresso machine.
They let you keep your routine if you’d like, but at the same time offers you loads of variations at the push of a button. And in fact, you’ll probably want to take a much closer look at coffee makers that have built-in grinders.
Another way to look at it is this: How many of the possible features on an automatic espresso machine will you actually use? Any feature that you don’t actively use is just wasted money.
Instead of a Summary: Guidance about Coffee Makers
If you’ve finished this article with the impression that I would rank drip coffee makers at a similar position to my beloved manual filter, then you’re not the only one. Even I have occasionally asked myself if some of the great machines have shifted my perspective a bit.
Yes, my perspective has shifted. No, manual filters and coffee makers aren’t equally good in my opinion. Manual filters are the Champions League, while good drip coffee makers are just the Premier League. But both of them have lots of talent and fans.
Even I can get off my Coffee Expert High Horse and tie it to a post for a few minutes while I give you a bit of help in answering the question “Manual Filter or Coffee Maker?”
- Do you want to try a completely new coffee? Manual filter.
- Do you gladly sample new blends of coffee? Manual filter.
- Is your roast especially delicate? Manual filter.
- Does your roast let an especially strong aroma do its work? Coffee maker.
- Are all of the technical aspects aligned to get the best aroma possible out of the beans? Coffee maker.
- Is mom coming to visit? Coffee maker.
- And is she bringing grandma too? Coffee maker. And use the dark roast!
- Are you making coffee just for yourself? Manual filter.
- Is the final result the only thing that counts for you? Coffee maker.
- Do you want to learn more about coffee and how to prepare it? Manual filter.
- Will milk be involved? Coffee maker.
- Are you on Instagram? Manual filter.
If coffee makers were really as bad as their reputation, then we wouldn’t even let them near Coffeeness. After all, have you ever seen me test K-cup machines? Exactly. But coffee makers still have that hint of a bad image, which even I can’t quite avoid buying into sometimes.
I believe that our aesthetics-obsessed society is partially to blame (see the last point above). A copper manual filter looks pretty awesome sitting next to an elegant gooseneck pour-over kettle, especially when compared to a dumpy plastic coffee maker. And automatic espresso machines simply bring in more profits for their manufacturers, which is reflected through flashier advertising.
But while we weren’t looking, some of those manufacturers developed good, automatic drip coffee makers into a whole niche product. This method has even been called an “art form”—although it’s not quite a Picasso, it might indeed be a paint-by-numbers portrait.
Automatic drip coffee makers must meet certain standards, which means that individuality gets lost along the way. On the other hand, you can still bring some of that individuality back. You can take that paint-by-numbers drip coffee and change the colors around (use new roasts), or add some artful shading within the different numbered areas (change the parameters).
I’ll be waiting to hear from you in the comments section. See you there!