Figuring out the best drip coffee maker to buy is a lot harder now than it used to be. I mean, there are more options than ever, which isn’t always a good thing.
Some of you are looking for a simple drip coffee maker without all the bells and whistles that complicate things.
Others are more tech savvy and looking for a feature-rich coffee maker that can do pretty much everything.
While neither camp is right or wrong, it’s important to understand your options so that you can make an informed decision.
Before we go any further, though, let’s talk fundamentals. I want to make sure we’re all on the same page, so you can consider the following my drip coffee maker 101:
A drip coffee maker is definitely worth buying! For those who just want a simple way to prepare their daily fix, there are plenty of good, affordable options out there. On the flip side, there’s a growing number of sophisticated machines that produce pour over style coffee. Coffee makers like the Ratio Six and OXO 9 Cup will certainly appeal to coffee purists.
There’s no doubt that preparing pour over coffee allows you full control over what’s happening. Personally, I love nothing more than busting out my Hario V60 and geeking out over grind size, coffee-to-water ratios and flow rates. Still, that can take a lot of time and energy. Plus, preparing pour over for a group can get old fast. Fortunately, there are several drip coffee makers that produce excellent coffee. In fact, I’ve had drip coffee that I’d swear came from a Chemex if I didn’t know otherwise.
Consider this your coffee maker boot camp! I’m going to sharpen your coffee maker buying skills so you can find a kick butt deal on Amazon. I’ll give you the lowdown on a bunch of different machines before getting into the nitty gritty of how coffee makers work. Don’t worry, I’ll give you plenty of information about what to look for in a drip coffee maker. Heck, I’ll even throw in a few cleaning tips!
Just sit back, relax and — well — enjoy a cup of coffee while you read.
Our Top 12 Best Drip Coffee Makers Quick Picks
I originally planned on compiling a “Top 10” best drip coffee maker list. When it came down to it, though, I couldn’t resist adding a couple more. Sure, “Top 12” isn’t quite as catchy, but hey – at least you’ve got more options to consider! Anyway, before we dive into all the coffee maker details, here’s a sneak peek at the machines I’ll be talking about in this guide:
Pour over-style coffee
Thermocoil heating system
Dual filter set
12 cup capacity
Easy to use
Borosilicate glass supply lines
Makes superb coffee
Stainless steel carafe
8 coffee strength adjustment levels
Stainless steel carafe
Pot and single serve functions
Includes reusable k cup pod
Adjustable water hardness
Adjustable coffee intensity
4 brew styles
6 cup sizes
Built in milk frother
SCA certified home brewer
Best With Multiple Brew Sizes
Multiple serving sizes
4 brew modes
No coffee pods
Can accommodate travel mugs
How to Choose the Right Drip Coffee Maker For You
In case you haven’t been paying attention, drip coffee makers have come a long way in recent times. Gone are the days when a coffee maker was simply a gurgling little machine with a brew button and little else. Sure, you can still get hold of a basic, no-frills device that’ll do the job.
However, as more folks become interested in specialty coffee, manufacturers have scrambled to innovate. I guess you could see it as an attempt on the part of manufacturers to stay relevant in a world where manual brewing methods are experiencing a renaissance.
Either way, it’s good news for consumers; there are now any number of excellent machines available that’ll give your pour over technique a run for its money. Even less sophisticated and more affordable drip coffee makers often include features that would have been seen as cutting edge a few years ago.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at a few things to consider when you’re trying to find the best drip coffee maker for your specific needs.
As you already know, we all have to live within our means when it comes to shopping. There are plenty of great options listed here that can fit within any budget.
That said, if what you want is out of reach at the moment, consider what you might be able to sacrifice to afford that machine. This is obviously done best before you purchase the coffee maker of your dreams, as buying on credit has a way of catching up with us.
Seriously though, would canceling one or two subscriptions make it possible to achieve your goal? I know plenty of people who pay upwards of $50 a month on movie streaming subscriptions they hardly, if ever, use.
Might you be able to do without something for a short time period to save up some money? Perhaps delaying another purchase or even buying less of a consumable would help.
One sacred cow I dare to mention is your daily coffee consumption. Yikes! Could you save $3.00 per day by drinking one less caffeinated delight from your local coffee shop? Maybe you drink two a day but could get by with one for a while. At $3.00 per day, you’d have $93 saved up in 31 days! Surely that could bridge the gap, at least in part.
All of this to say, spend responsibly.
Some folks may think of a drip coffee maker as just another kitchen appliance – in the same league as a toaster and blender. However, if you value aesthetically pleasing objects in your kitchen, there’s no shortage of beautiful options. Seriously, some manufacturers have elevated the humble coffee maker to an art form!
As far as materials go, you’re going to find a lot of plastic at the budget end of the spectrum. That said, if you’re willing to spend a little more, you can expect to find durable stainless steel components.
One thing to bear in mind is the size of the coffee maker and how well it’ll fit in your kitchen. If countertop space is at a premium, make sure to take accurate measurements before committing. Oh, and don’t forget that overhead cabinets can cause problems when it comes to filling water tanks!
It might seem obvious, but starting with high-quality coffee beans is an absolute must. No matter how sophisticated your coffee maker might be, you can’t expect to get superior results from pre ground supermarket coffee.
With that being said, some machines are definitely superior to others. The more control you have over parameters like brew time, flow rate and water temperature the better. Obviously, you’ll pay a premium for additional control, so it comes down to how much you’re willing to invest.
Most of the very best drip coffee makers have been certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). If the machine you’re interested in bears the SCA stamp of approval, you’ll know it’s capable of producing excellent coffee. I’ll discuss that in more detail later on.
Later in this guide, I’ll go into detail about what to look for in a drip coffee maker. For now, I’ll just touch on a few features to bear in mind:
- Carafe: Will you be happy with a glass carafe, or do you need a thermal carafe to keep coffee hot for hours?
- Water reservoir: Is having a removable water reservoir important to you?
- Programmability: Do you want to be able to set your coffee maker to start brewing before you wake up?
- Filter: Do you prefer a reusable filter or are you fine with using paper filters?
- Brew size: How much coffee do you need to make? Will having a single-serve option be important?
Our Top 12 Best Drip Coffee Maker Picks in Detail
Now that you (hopefully) have a clearer idea of what you’re searching for, let’s take a more detailed look at what each coffee maker is all about. Oh, and feel free to skip ahead to any particular machine that may have caught your eye!
Moccamaster KBGV Select: Best Overall
Best coffee maker
Moccamaster KBGV Select
The Best, Most Ingenious Coffee Maker on the Market Beats the Cheaper Alternatives!
Makes Excellent Coffee
Readily Available Replacement Parts
Fixed Water Tank
Ask me about the Moccamaster KBGV Select and I have just six words for you: best coffee maker in the world! Enough said. No other coffee machine processes grounds as gently and evenly, producing a brew that’s very much like what comes from a manual pour over dripper.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of copycats eager to snatch the crown. Growing numbers of manufacturers are trying more or less brazenly to replicate or simply knock-off the Technivorm Moccamaster. The results are mixed and no one can touch the original.
Ironically, the Technivorm Moccamaster has a very simple design that has been around since 1968. This is definitely one of those times to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Honestly, if my Moccamaster were to finally give out tomorrow, I’d replace it immediately. I love this thing!
You can pick up one in your favorite color today for $359.00.
See Also: Technivorm Moccamaster Hands-On Review 2023
Breville Precision Brewer: Best Performing
tons of great features
Breville Precision Brewer
Excellent Home Coffee Maker!
Very precise settings & preparation
Very large volume capacity
Perfect mix of custom & automated options
Coffee like from a pour-over dripper
Steep price thanks to unnecessary functions
Getting a reliable home coffee machine is a top priority for many families in the United States and around the world. In general, people are looking for three things when they purchase coffee makers for home:
- Ability to brew up a ton of coffee at once
- Easy to clean
With the Precision Brewer, Australian appliance manufacturer, Breville, has created an innovative coffee maker that enjoys great popularity among those who love stainless steel.
Known as the Sage Precision Brewer in Europe, the Breville Precision Brewer is much more than stainless steel eye candy. It’s capable of brewing 60 ounces at a time and comes complete with six brew modes, including ones for iced coffee.
A thermocoil and pump system with Precise Digital Temperature Control (PID) allows for faster heating times. This can be helpful when you have guests and need to brew a lot of coffee fast, back-to-back.
The Breville Precision Brewer comes with both a flat bottom and cone filter system to match your preferred style.
It’s available for $274.99 with a stainless steel carafe or for $288.51 with a glass carafe.
While compatible with the Hario V60 and Kalita Wave, you can also buy the Breville Precision Brewer with pour over adapter kit for $339.95. The adapter kit can be purchased separately for $34.95.
I personally like the version with the stainless steel carafe since it can keep my coffee hot longer, but each version has its own merits.
See Also: Breville Precision Brewer Hands-On Review 2023
Mr. Coffee 12 Cup Coffee Maker: Best Budget
Best Simple Coffee Maker
Mr. Coffee 12 Cup Coffee Maker
As simple as they come!
Easy to use!
Easy to understand!
Made like coffee makers used to be.
Lacks the bells and whistles some users want.
This $30.49 no frills Mr. Coffee 12 Cup Coffee Maker is simple and to the point.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use coffee maker, this is the machine for you. Just check out the design. There’s an on/off button and nothing more to fool with.
The water tank has windows on both sides to prevent spills.
There’s also a removable coffee filter basket for easy cleanup.
Nothing more. Nothing less. Just a plain ole coffee pot.
I give more details in my full review, but bottom line: This is a one button and done machine!
See Also: Mr. Coffee 12 Cup Coffee Maker Review 2023
Ratio Six: Best for Purists
Ratio Six Coffee Maker
The best stainless steel coffee maker by far!
Borosilicate glass supply lines
Stainless steel body
Well thought out design
You'll be torn between Ratio and Moccamaster
Available in stainless steel, black or white, the $N/A Ratio Six Coffee Maker comes standard with a thermal carafe. The coffee machine itself is so stylish that I debated about creating a “Most Stylish Coffee Maker” category for this review.
The Ratio Six Coffee Maker has been designed to simulate the pour over process. Water flows through a stainless steel shower head, evenly dampening ground coffee for better extraction.
The water tank on the Ratio Six is BPA free. The supply lines are not plastic though. Instead, they are made of hand-blown borosilicate glass. Now that’s something you won’t see on many coffee makers!
If you prefer a conical filter over the flat bottom one that comes with the Ratio Six, you have the option of purchasing the Ratio Eight Thermal Carafe or Ratio Handblown Glass Carafe. These are both compatible with Chemex filters.
I’m seriously crushing on this coffee maker right now. I’ll tell you all about it in my full review of the Ratio Six.
See Also: Ratio Six Coffee Maker Review 2023
Breville Grind Control: Best With Grinder
Breville Grind Control
Hard to Beat!
Solid and sturdy design
Fantastic user interface
High quality stainless steel burrs
Multiple strength settings
Steep and release technology
Potential clogging issues
The Breville Grind Control Coffee Maker is the perfect choice for people who want to control the variables in their coffee brewing process. This incredible coffee maker includes a stainless steel burr grinder with six different grind adjustment settings.
Adding to the decadence, eight separate coffee strength adjustment levels will allow the operator to increase or decrease the intensity of their favorite brew.
The Breville Grind Control Coffee Maker comes with a sleek thermal carafe for keeping your coffee hot and ready to drink.
It’s also possible to pause the brewing process to grab a cup before the cycle is done.
What more could you ask for from a grind and brew coffee maker?
The only downside to this masterpiece is availability. Pulled between supply chain issues and popularity, this is an item that goes out of stock quickly.
When available, you can pick one up for $329.99 on Amazon. If you see it today, don’t wait, as your dream machine will be gone tomorrow … or perhaps in just a couple of hours.
See Also: Breville Grind Control Hands-On Review 2023
Bunn Speed Brew: Best for Offices
Ideal for both home and office
Bunn Speed Brew Platinum Coffee Maker
Best Office Coffee Maker
Can brew 10 cups in 5 min
Desgined and Assembled in USA
Must be kept on all the time
Nowadays, having a reliable office coffee maker is as important as computers and printers. It’s rare that an office doesn’t have a coffee maker of some kind.
In light of all of the meetings that take place in offices, having a large capacity and the ability to brew coffee fast are both important. After all, no one wants to listen to their boss ask where their coffee is, nor do they want to have to listen to him or her without a cup in hand themselves.
In comes the $159.99 Bunn Speed Brew Platinum Thermal Coffee Maker, which can brew 10 cups of coffee in four minutes.
The thermal carafe can also keep a pot of coffee hot for two or more hours. You can literally brew a pot of coffee and pass it around the meeting without having to return to the coffee maker … well, until it’s time for a refill.
That’s why I’ve named this Bunn Speed Brew coffee pot the best office coffee maker on the market. It’s hard to imagine a better scenario outside of your boss hiring an office barista. But wow, what a recruitment tool that would be!
And last but not least, keep in mind that this Bunn Speed Brew coffee maker is both made and designed in the USA! How’s that for office politics?
See Also: Bunn Speed Brew Hands-On Review 2023
Cuisinart Coffee Center: Best Dual
Best Dual Coffee Maker
Cuisinart Coffee Center
Best Dual Coffee Maker!
Both a coffee pot and a single server brewer
Comes with a reusable k cup pod
Nice selection of colors to choose from
Also takes regular k cups, which destroy our only planet
Dual coffee makers are growing in popularity. The Cuisinart Coffee Center 12 cup coffeemaker and single serve brewer sure makes a lot of sense.
When you need to brew coffee for several people, you can use the pot function. Likewise, when you only need one cup, you have the option to brew a single serving.
One thing I really like about this machine is that it comes equipped with a reusable coffee pod filter which, if used, will have a positive environmental impact. K cups, with their single use plastic, are horrible for our planet, and I urge you to avoid them.
Thankfully, more and more manufacturers are catching on to the need to reduce waste. Coffee pod manufacturers are also starting to offer compostable k cups. Though the coffee in all k cups is stale and therefore inferior, I’m glad to see this development for the sake of future generations of Earth dwellers.
Amazon has a coffee maker sale on right now, and is offering this Cuisinart dual coffee maker for$199.87. Get yours before it’s gone!
See Also: Cuisinart Coffee Center Hands-On Review 2023
SMEG Retro Coffee Maker: Best Retro
Best Retro Coffee Maker
SMEG Retro Coffee Maker
Best Retro Coffee Maker!
Fashionable 1950s retro look
Light flashes nonstop during brewing
Handle on carafe a little flimsy
The $229.95 SMEG Retro Coffee Maker aims to be a blast from the past.
Available in a variety of colors, the SMEG 10 cup coffee maker looks like an appliance you’d find in the Brady or Cleaver family home. It has that space race-inspired, rocket ship look, yet with modern push buttons and a digital clock to boot.
Besides its amazing retro look, there are some terrific features on this drip coffee maker. For starters, you can adjust the water hardness, depending on your needs.
It’s also possible to adjust the coffee strength intensity, which I’m sure many users will appreciate.
The downside to all of this beauty is the price tag. I’ve seen this machine fluctuate in price by as much as $150 in a very short period of time.
Different colors enjoy different levels of popularity, which shows people buy this machine for style over function. At the time of writing, the pink version is $230 more than the green version.
My full review has more information on this SMEG coffee maker.
See Also: SMEG Retro Coffee Maker Review 2023
Ninja CM401: Best Specialty
best specialty coffee maker
A Drip Coffee Maker With Versatile Brew Styles
4 Brew Styles
Six Cup Sizes
No Pods Required!
Fold Away Frother
Frother Not Hot Enough
The Ninja CM401 Specialty Coffee Maker was designed with advanced users in mind.
You can choose between 4 brew styles, allowing coffee drinkers to whip up a variety of drinks, depending on what they are in the mood for that day. The four brew styles of the Ninja CM401 are:
- Over Ice
- Specialty Brew
A built-in milk frother adds to the innovative design, making it possible to add some pizzazz to milk-based coffee drinks.
The Ninja CM401 is compatible with six different cup sizes.
Looking to be environmentally friendly, the Ninja coffee maker can also brew one cup at a time, challenging the perceived need for a k cup coffee maker.
This Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker is available with a glass carafe for $141.09 or a thermal carafe for $444.99.
See Also: Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 Hands-On Review 2023
OXO 9 Cup: Best With With Thermal Carafe
OXO 9 Cup Coffee Maker
Wow! Just wow!
Beautiful modern design
SCA certified home brewer
Easy to set up and use
Makes great coffee
More expensive than some coffee makers
Height could be an issue
Having put the OXO 9 Cup Coffee Maker through its paces, I can confidently say this beautiful machine makes seriously good coffee. Featuring a modern, streamlined design and an understated digital display, this thing will elevate the vibe of your kitchen.
The OXO 9 Cup’s stainless steel thermal carafe doesn’t just keep coffee hot for hours. It also features a cool silicone mixing tube that ensures your coffee will be consistent throughout.
As with some of the other coffee makers on this list, the OXO 9 Cup has been certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), which helps justify its $N/A price tag. Although that isn’t cheap, you can be certain this is a machine that delivers consistent results.
One thing I really appreciate about the OXO 9 Cup is how it adjusts the brewing process depending on whether you’re brewing 2-4 cups or 5-9 cups. When you want to prepare a smaller amount of coffee, the machine slows down the water flow rate, monitoring the process in real time.
See Also: OXO 9 Cup Coffee Maker Hands-On Review 2023
Braun MultiServe: Best With With Multiple Brew Sizes
versatile coffee maker
Braun MultiServe Coffee Maker
The Best of Both Worlds!
Multiple serving sizes
SCA certified home brewer
Four brew modes
Sleek, high quality design
Makes iced coffee
A little expensive
No thermal carafe
You’d be forgiven for thinking the Braun MultiServe Coffee Maker is little more than a Ninja knockoff. After all, visually, the machine shares more than a little in common with the Ninja CM401.
However, the Braun MultiServe can more than hold its own and really impressed me during my hands-on testing.
For those who want options, the Braun will really deliver. You can brew in seven different sizes, ranging from a single cup to a full carafe. While I’m on the subject, the Braun MultiServe’s glass carafe is really well-designed.
Another SCA certified drip coffee maker, the Braun MultiServe is packed with sophisticated features. During testing it quickly became apparent that the manufacturer dedicated a lot of care and attention to the machine’s design.
The Braun MultiServe Coffee Maker costs $162.16, which is no small investment. That said, you’ll get a lot of coffee maker for your money!
See Also: Braun MultiServe Coffee Maker Hands-On Review 2023
Hamilton Beach Scoop: Best Single Serve
Best Single Serve Coffee Maker
Hamilton Beach Scoop Single Serve Coffee Maker
Best Single Serve Coffee Maker
Pod free brewing
Water reservoir can't be removed
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of k cup coffee makers because of both the negative environmental impact and the poor quality of stale coffee.
That’s why it’s a pleasure to tell you about the Hamilton Beach Scoop Single Serve Coffee Maker.
Unlike most single serve coffee makers, this fast brewing Hamilton Beach model can brew an eight ounce cup of coffee in less than 90 seconds or a 14 ounce travel mug in under 2.5 minutes … and all without using a single use coffee pod.
You also don’t have to hassle with paper coffee filters. A reusable mesh filter is included with the machine.
Made of stainless steel, this Hamilton Beach coffee maker will add style to any kitchen. It’s available on Amazon for $N/A.
See Also: Hamilton Beach Scoop Hands-On Review 2023
Brand Overview: The Best Drip Coffee Makers Sorted by Manufacturer
As I mentioned in my super automatic espresso machine guide, manufacturers just love to release multiple variations on a theme. While I always appreciate having options to consider, trying to determine slight differences between model numbers can be frustrating.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a short summary of each brand. Below you’ll find some background information on each manufacturer. I’ve also included tips on which coffee makers to consider and those that might be best to avoid.
Technivorm is a family-owned company based in The Netherlands. The company’s founder, Gerard-Clement Smit, was on a mission to nail down the very best method for brewing coffee automatically.
Using a science-based approach, Smit developed the Moccamaster, making sure that every component was designed to maximize performance. First released in 1969, the Moccamaster has changed little over the years, which is pretty darn impressive. Especially given that it’s almost universally accepted as the best drip coffee maker around.
Today, Technivorm produces numerous variations on the Moccamaster theme, all of which are made in Amerongen, The Netherlands:
In my home espresso machine guide 2023, I positively gushed about Breville. These guys have really tapped into a specific segment of coffee enthusiasts – those who want to learn about specialty coffee while appreciating automated features.
Founded in Sydney in 1932, the Australian manufacturer is known for releasing thoughtful, well-executed and stylish kitchen appliances.
Here’s something else I appreciate about Breville: the manufacturer isn’t interested in flooding the market with a million products. In fact, the two Breville drip coffee makers on today’s list are the only ones the company produces. What a breath of fresh air!
Here’s something you should know: before Mr. Coffee came along in 1972, most folks in North America were burning the heck out of their coffee in percolators. Thanks to its more uniform brewing temperature, the first Mr. Coffee drip coffee maker produced much more palatable results. And so it was that Americans started to wake up and smell the good coffee!
We’re all familiar with Mr. Coffee – I’d say it’s the most recognizable name in drip coffee makers. However, affordability and simplicity is always the name of the game with this manufacturer. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with a Mr. Coffee machine, it’s just that there’s not much to distinguish one from the other.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Ratio has been specializing in high end drip coffee makers since 2012. The company initially focused on the spectacular Ratio Eight, a gorgeous specimen with a hand blown borosilicate glass carafe. The Ratio Six was launched in 2020 as a more affordable and accessible alternative.
What makes these amazing coffee makers stand apart is the incredible attention to detail involved. Not only do the Ratio Six and Ratio Eight look amazing, they’ve been designed to perform to the highest standards. It’s little wonder Ratio coffee makers are so popular among coffee connoisseurs.
When you think of Bunn coffee makers, chances are you’ll imagine one of those big batch brewers. The Bunn-O-Matic Corporation has been specializing in those since 1957, and they’ve since become the industry standard among commercial coffee makers. However, the company has also been producing home brewers since the 1970s.
Today, most of Bunn’s home brewers function in the same way – by keeping water hot in a stainless steel reservoir. That means these machines brew coffee really quickly, although they have to be left switched on.
The only exception is the Bunn Heat N Brew Coffee Maker, which uses special technology to monitor water temperature. Once it reaches the optimal temperature for brewing, the machine opens a valve to allow the extraction to start.
Cuisinart has been around since the early 1970s, and is best known for its food processor. However, the company produces any number of other kitchen appliances, including quite a few awesome coffee makers.
If there’s one thing that all Cuisinart coffee makers have in common it’s that they’re durable, well-designed and they perform as advertised. In other words, Cuisinart is a brand you can trust. Here are a few standout options to consider:
In my opinion, SharkNinja is one of the best names for a company there is. I mean, the visuals that come to mind when I say that word range from cartoonish to downright scary!
Anyway, if you’re new to the wonderful world of coffee makers, you might only associate the Ninja brand with air fryers and food processors. Well, let me tell you that the company also produces a range of awesome coffee makers.
If you’ve been paying attention you’ll already know how much I love the CM401 Specialty Coffee Maker. However, there are a few other Ninja coffee makers worth checking out. Just stay away from the newly released Ninja Espresso and Coffee Barista System. It relies on pods, which just means you’ll get bad espresso from the thing.
I was actually surprised to learn that OXO has only been around since 1990. It feels like such a ubiquitous brand! Just for fun, I looked around my kitchen to see how many OXO products were lurking and ended up with all kinds of containers, whisks and baking utensils. I guess these guys have got my number!
Anyway, when it comes to coffee, OXO is a little more restrained. Like Breville, the company has focused on a small selection of high-quality coffee makers, as well as a couple of awesome grinders. Check out my OXO Coffee Grinder review 2023 if you’re interested.
Aside from the OXO 9 Cup Coffee Maker on my list, you might want to check out my OXO 8 Cup Coffee Maker review. If I remember correctly, I had really good things to say about the machine.
Before researching the manufacturer, I was under the impression that SMEG only produced luxury, retro-style fridges and stoves. However, it turns out the Italian company also pumps out a range of kitchen appliances, including the beautiful coffee maker on my list.
Although SMEG only has one coffee maker on its books, there’s a multitude of colors available. So, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a shade to match your kitchen decor. However, as I mentioned earlier, some shades can drive the price through the roof. Here’s a quick rundown of the colors you can choose from:
How Does a Drip Coffee Maker Work?
Whether you’re brewing pre-ground Folgers or $14.38 whole bean coffee from a popular third wave roaster like Stumptown, the principles of how a drip coffee maker works are the same.
- First, water is heated and flows upward through a tube. The tube typically has a non-return valve that ensures water only travels in a single direction.
- Next, water from said tube empties out onto ground coffee beans, where it extracts flavor.
- The affected water — aka: coffee — passes through a filter that prevents granules of ground coffee from traveling with the coffee.
- Once filtered, the coffee empties out into a pot or carafe.
It’s as simple as that! And if you think about the coffee brewing process, it’s rather amazing that drip coffee makers work without a pump. Though, there are a few models out there that have added one to up their drip coffee game and break away from the competition.
So where does that trademark drip coffee gurgle come from, you ask? It’s a result of the water boiling and rising, the valve closing and the incremental build-up of pressure.
Are More Expensive Coffee Makers Better?
Great tasting coffee can be brewed in most any machine. However, there are a few things that can drive the price of a coffee maker up. One, as you’ve probably already guessed, is the brand of the coffee machine. The more famous the name, the higher the cost.
Another consideration is materials. A coffee maker with a metal housing is always going to cost more than a plastic one.
The research and development costs associated with adding cutting edge technology to a coffee machine have to be factored in as well.
On top of that, a coffee maker with a 5-year warranty potentially means more liability for a manufacturer than one with a 1-year warranty. If they have to replace a coffee machine, their margins drop.
The above said, at the end of the day, it’s the features added to a coffee maker that can send the costs soaring. A good rule of thumb is that the presence of a complex control panel equals a more expensive machine.
It’s only fair that a coffee maker with a self-waking timer costs more than one without, for example. The manufacturer had to pay for those parts, the costs for which get passed on to the consumer.
What makes a more expensive coffee maker better or not is how well the features of a machine are matched to their owner. It makes no sense to purchase a machine that can brew iced coffee, in other words, if you only intend to drink hot coffee.
Likewise, if you want to be able to grind whole coffee beans, a coffee maker with grinder is going to appeal to you.
What to Look For in a Drip Coffee Maker
Deciding which drip coffee maker to buy doesn’t need to be frustrating. At the very least, it should be easier than finding the perfect match when dating!
Below, I’ve outlined several key considerations to help you make the right choice … of coffee makers that is! If you need advice about dating and who to marry, well, you’re out of luck. Though practically speaking, I will say that if they don’t like coffee, there’s clearly something wrong with them!
Obviously, if looking at the control panel on a coffee maker causes you to feel like you’re on the verge of a mental breakdown, then it’s not a good fit. Just remember my advice from earlier in this article, a complex control panel equals a more expensive machine.
I always recommend people download the instruction manual of whatever machine they are considering. Just because a control panel looks straightforward doesn’t mean that it’s easy to use.
A case in point, setting the clock, cleaning functions and programmability often require pressing a combination of buttons. This can be especially frustrating if, seeing two buttons on a machine, you assumed it wasn’t complex.
As a rule of thumb, more advanced machines tend to have specific buttons for a singular function. Still, that’s not always the case.
So, ask yourself, are you one of those people whose clock in your car is only right when Daylight Savings Time isn’t in effect? If you answered “yes” to that, you definitely want to download the instruction manual to filter out any machine that you’re gonna hate!
Maybe I watched too much Knight Rider while growing up, but I’ve often wished I could just say to my vehicle, “Car, set the time to …” You laugh, but voice activation is starting to make its way into coffee makers. Won’t that make an interesting article someday!
A lot of people like to program their coffee maker to brew coffee right before they wake up. That way, the fresh aroma of coffee greets them as their feet hit the floor in the morning.
If having freshly brewed coffee available before your eyes are fully open is a priority, you’ll definitely want to look for a drip coffee machine with a program function.
This is also something you’ll want to consider if you’re buying a coffee maker to give as a gift. Some people absolutely love programmable coffee makers and consider programmability an essential function.
Fact: You’re going to get the most flavorful and complex results by using freshly ground coffee beans. That’s why I regularly encourage readers to grind their beans right before they brew coffee.
I wouldn’t think of using pre-ground coffee, but there are others who wouldn’t think about using whole coffee beans.
The question that matters here is what method do you or the person you are buying for prefer?
There are some great coffee makers with built-in grinders, as outlined in my Best Coffee Maker With Grinder Guide.
Alternatively, you can buy a stand-alone grinder and use it in conjunction with a coffee maker. Lots of these are introduced in my Best Coffee Grinder Guide.
Either way, knowing which kind of coffee drinker you are will help you make the best decision. If grinding coffee isn’t important to you, save your money.
Different coffee makers brew at different volumes. On the low end, you have pour over drippers and single serve coffee makers that brew as little as one cup at a time.
On the other end, you have coffee makers that brew 12 cups at a time. Of course, there are also machines like the Braun MultiServe Coffee Maker that offer the best of both worlds.
Knowing how much coffee you want to brew at a time is important. Some people only want to brew one or two cups at a time so their coffee never gets cold.
Other people need a larger volume because everyone in the family drinks coffee or they are in an office environment. Either way, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding the best drip coffee maker for your needs.
If you are someone who values brewing a larger volume of coffee, you might enjoy the convenience of a thermal carafe. These tend to cost more, but allow you the freedom to refill your cup without leaving the table.
Glass carafes are considerably more affordable, but break more easily and don’t keep coffee hot on their own. Instead, they rely on a warming plate that can scorch coffee.
Pressure is often a sticking point with drip coffee machines. How forcefully the water is sprayed out over the coffee grinds depends on the valve and the way that the basic components work together. Since no pump is necessary, it’s really just physics, pure and simple.
In contrast, when making pour over coffee, you deliberately avoid firing water out of a spray bottle. Instead, the aim is to achieve a gentle, even stream. When a coffee machine spews water, some patches of grounds get more of a soaking than others. The result? Extraction that’s far less uniform than what you get with a good hand pour.
Growing numbers of manufacturers are diligently addressing this flaw. As you might have guessed, this is an area where the Technivorm Moccamaster and Ratio Six Coffee Maker are literally quite the rainmakers.
Thanks to a more sophisticated showerhead, these machines can gently and evenly distribute water over the bed of ground coffee. This ensures a well-rounded and clean extraction every time you brew.
If coffee is over-extracted, it will be bitter and even sour. If it is under-extracted, coffee will lack flavor and taste rather flat.
Ideally, you want a coffee maker with a pre-infusion function. Basically, this replicates what pour over aficionados call the blooming phase: the coffee grinds are moistened with a little water so that they swell up and release their aromas more readily. It’s only afterward that the actual brewing process gets underway.
More often than not, you’ll notice coffee makers which rely on precise showerheads for saturation are also the ones more likely to have a pre-infusion function on the menu. The Breville Precision Brewer is a case in point.
In fact, the Breville coffee maker even allows you to control the blooming phase by adjusting the relevant brewing parameters. You might think that sounds gimmicky, but an ideal pre-infusion duration can vary, depending on roast profile, age and origin.
Aside from pre infusion, some coffee makers allow you to adjust other parameters to really “dial in” your drip coffee.
Some brands include an aroma function — sometimes called other names — on their better coffee makers. For instance, on the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker, it’s the “rich” brewing option.
So, what is the aroma function anyway? Basically, it does the same thing as the coffee strength feature on super automatic espresso machines.
The difference is that on drip coffee makers there is only one brewing variable that the machine can adjust — the water flow rate.
In practice, you can adjust how quickly or slowly the water hits the ground coffee and extracts your brew. Water that quickly drains into and out of the brew basket is in contact with the grounds for less time and produces milder coffee.
A slower flow produces a stronger brew.
Another adjustable parameter that can make a huge difference to the taste of your coffee is water temperature. You won’t see adjustable water temperature on many machines, but if you want to really geek out and experiment, the Breville Precision Brewer might be the way to go.
There’s a lot more to a water reservoir on a drip coffee maker than people realize. Having a removable water reservoir, for example, makes adding water to the machine super easy. It also makes cleaning the water reservoir less cumbersome.
Additionally, a good water reservoir will have water volume indicator marks so you can accurately measure. The ideal scenario is a transparent water reservoir for easy viewing.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you’ll need a water filter. These days, the best drip coffee maker will usually come with the option to install a filter of some sort in the reservoir. This can be especially important if your water is particularly hard. Not only will the filter help lengthen the intervals between descaling, it’ll also drastically improve the taste of your coffee.
You’ll find a variety of filters built into the design of coffee makers. Most filter baskets are removable and come in either a conical or flat bottom shape.
Some coffee filters are reusable, so you don’t have to trouble yourself with paper ones. Even among permanent filters there are metal and steel versions.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the type of filter you’re using has a profound effect on how your coffee will taste. For a more detailed discussion and a closer look at the options available, check out How to Buy the Best Coffee Filter.
As I mentioned earlier, drip coffee makers have come a long way in recent times. As you’re searching for the best drip coffee maker you’ll likely start hearing about the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) and its Certified Home Brewer Program.
The SCA awards its certification to a select number of machines that have met the rigorous requirements of brewed coffee quality as determined by the organization. Testing is based on a number of criteria, including correct water temperature, brewing time and the ability to brew within the SCA Golden Cup guidelines.
Here are the coffee makers on my list that are SCA certified home brewers:
- Technivorm Moccamaster
- Breville Precision Brewer
- Ninja CM401
- Ratio Six
- Braun MultiServe Coffee Maker
- OXO 9 Cup Coffee Maker
Needless to say, if you’re serious about brewing high-quality drip coffee, buying an SCA certified home brewer is a must.
Drip Coffee Makers vs Pour Over Coffee Makers
As you’ve probably already figured out, the majority of coffee drinkers have a favorite brewing method, favorite coffee maker and favorite coffee bean or flavor profile. Without a doubt, as long as there are people, the battle between drip coffee maker owners and pour over coffee maker diehards will continue.
After all of my years working as a barista and professional coffee maker reviewer, I finally have a definitive answer. Call me a sage, if you must, but here’s the wisdom I’ll impart to you on the matter.
When comparing two great things, sometimes you have to make peace with the answer not being one or the other but both.
Coffee beans grow in a variety of soils, in different climates with various weather conditions, using a range of planting, irrigation and harvesting methods. Then, they are processed and roasted using, yet again, various methods and tools. Each of these factors or choices influences the taste of the coffee in your cup … as do the decisions you make in your brewing process.
The flavors coffee beans can produce are as complex as grapes in the wine industry. That’s why the Specialty Coffee Association and World Coffee Research created the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel, with 110 different terms to describe the flavors in coffee.
Sometimes a coffee presents its flavors best using one method over another. I’ve had coffees that taste boring when brewed in a drip coffee maker, yet come alive when put through a pour over dripper. Conversely, I’ve had the same thing happen with a drip coffee maker over a pour over dripper … or moka pot, French press, automatic espresso machine etc. Each coffee has a method or two that’ll make it shine, as well as some methods that won’t.
If you really want to geek out on it, coffee beans from identical sources vary in flavor from year to year. Perhaps one year there was a drought, heavy rains, a volcanic eruption … you name it! These all affect flavors as well. And don’t get me started on how traditional coffee bean growing areas are being affected by climate change. I guess change is perpetual.
Drip Coffee Makers vs Super Automatic Espresso Machines
Super automatic espresso machines, also called full automatic espresso machines, are considerably different from drip coffee makers. Whereas the flow of water in a drip coffee maker is the result of heat, water in an automatic espresso machine depends on a pump to create pressure.
The machine forces water through ground coffee that’s been tamped into a coffee puck inside of a brew group. As with a semi-automatic espresso machine, around 8 or 9 bars of pressure is required for a good extraction.
Obviously, there are huge differences between the extraction process, grind texture and preparation techniques between the two types of machines. Plus, a super automatic espresso machine consumes more coffee.
Admittedly, a dried-out coffee puck only weighs around 7 grams, while a full filter basket clocks in at around 56 grams. However, that’s enough for a good 10 cups of coffee. The super automatic would need at least 70 grams to deliver the same quantity.
Sure, this is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. But these are important points for a lot of shoppers.
The harsh reality is you’ll only enjoy a super automatic machine if you’re willing to carry the costs — otherwise it will gather dust in your kitchen.
If you’d like to learn more about super automatics, I’ve posted numerous reviews in my super automatic espresso machine guide.
Cleaning Your Drip Coffee Maker
When it comes to cleaning, most coffee makers are about as low maintenance as it gets, no matter how sophisticated they might be. Still, there are plenty of nooks and crannies where moisture and coffee grounds can get the mold party started. That’s why it’s important to wash and thoroughly dry all removable parts on a regular basis. I’m talking about showerheads, brew baskets and permanent filters.
Even if a manufacturer says removable parts are dishwasher safe, I advise against it. Trust me, rinsing under warm water and using a little mild detergent will do the job nicely. Oh, and that goes double and triple for a thermal carafe. Putting one of these in the dishwasher will cause terminal damage.
How To Descale a Drip Coffee Maker
Let me start by gently reminding you to always use filtered water when making coffee. It’s right up there with buying high quality coffee beans and grinding them fresh in terms of importance. With that said, you’ll need to descale your coffee maker on a regular basis, no matter how well filtered your water may be.
Limescale and coffee residues build up over time. If you don’t address these issues proactively, you’ll notice a dip in your machine’s performance. Not only that, your coffee won’t taste as good as it should, which is just tragic!
Manufacturers all have different opinions about how often you should run a coffee maker cleaning cycle, but it really comes down to how often you make coffee and the hardness of your water.
Anyway, many of the better coffee makers will let you know when it’s time to descale. For example, the Ninja CM401 Specialty Coffee Maker has a Clean button which lights up when the time is nigh. Take it from me, it’s best not to ignore the warning!
All coffee makers are different, so it’s a good idea to check the user manual for information on how to descale. However, the process is almost always the same:
- Simply fill the water reservoir with a mix of water and white vinegar or descaling solution and run a full brew cycle.
- Once you’ve done that, run a couple more brew cycles using only water to flush the machine of any remaining residue.
I’ve said it a million times before, but it bears repeating: don’t skimp on descaling! It isn’t a big deal, it won’t take up much of your time and it’ll prolong the life of your coffee maker.
Have you ever over-researched a purchase to the point where the only decision you can make is to not make a decision? Don’t do that to yourself! It’s counterproductive and accomplishes nothing.
At the end of the day, this purchase is just a coffee maker. You’ve got 12 curated options here, each of which has its merits.
Go with your gut and get to making some coffee!
What’s the best drip coffee maker in your opinion? Is there a machine you’d like me to consider reviewing? Feel free to chime in with any questions or suggestions!