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Best Coffee Maker: How to Choose the Machine That’s Right for You

There’s nothing like that first sip.
There’s nothing like that first sip. (Mattheus Bertelli, Pexels/)

Choosing the best coffee maker is not unlike choosing a new hunting dog out of a litter of puppies, because when you bring one home, it’s for the long run…or so you hope. You may love the way the new dog looks, but will it perform well for you? Are the two of you truly compatible? Will it make you happy? That’s why it’s worth doing the research to find the best coffee maker for your lifestyle. And we’ve done a lot of it for you.

Best Single-Serve Coffee Maker: Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker

Best Hot and Iced Coffee Maker: Keurig K-Elite Coffee Maker

Best Drip Coffee Maker: Cuisinart Stainless Steel Thermal Coffeemaker

Best Specialty Coffee Maker: Ninja CM407 Specialty Coffee Maker

Best Espresso Machine: Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine

Best Cheap Coffee Maker Under $20: Black + Decker Single-Cup Drip Machine with Travel Mug

Features to Consider When Shopping for the Best Coffee Maker

There are many different types of coffee makers that make everything from plain drip coffee to specialty drinks, so you need to figure out which type best coffee machine best fits your lifestyle.

If you’re the grab-and-go coffee drinker, you don’t need a large machine that’s going to brew one cup. Likewise, a single-serve machine won’t work well in a house full of coffee hounds, where being forced to wait in line for the first cup of the day could result in civil unrest. Finding a machine that matches your day-to-day routine is the most important consideration. And it must make the type of coffee you like—and fit on your counter.

Also, no matter the size of the coffee maker, it has a permanent footprint on your counter, so be sure to check measurements before you buy. And note not just the width of the coffeemaker, but the height as well. If you slide the coffeemaker to a spot on the counter under a cabinet, make sure you have the headspace. Note that coffee makers with removable water reservoirs don’t have to be slid in and out, since you won’t need to pour water in from the top.

Are You a One-Cup-a-Day Person?

You’re up early so you can hit the woods or water early. You need a cup of coffee before you go out there, or for the ride out there. Not a whole pot, not a latte. A cup of coffee, probably in a travel mug, and quickly. That means a single-serve coffee maker is your best choice.

Best Single-Serve Coffee Maker: Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker

The K-Mini will accommodate and fill a small cup, a travel mug, and anything in between.
The K-Mini will accommodate and fill a small cup, a travel mug, and anything in between. (Amazon/)

This Keurig coffee maker will brew from 6 to 12 ounces of water and accommodate mugs of all sizes, so you can make and sip a small cup while standing in your slippers, or fill a travel mug and grab it on your way out the door. It’s small—less than 5 inches wide and a hair over 12 inches tall—so it won’t take up much counter space. This little powerhouse will accept any of the 270 types of coffee (along with various teas, cocoas, and espresso-style brews) available in K cups today, so you’ll have a choice of coffees.

Do You Drink Iced Coffee as well as Hot Coffee?

Unless you brew coffee in advance and store it in the refrigerator, the way to make iced coffee is to brew a super- strong batch of coffee and pour it over ice. The cubes will partially melt, mixing with the strong coffee until it’s just the right strength. That’s achieved only if you brewed the coffee to the perfect strength to be diluted…which isn’t easy.

Best Hot and Iced Coffee Maker: Keurig K-Elite Coffee Maker

An iced-coffee function will automatically brew strong coffee, ready to pour over ice.
An iced-coffee function will automatically brew strong coffee, ready to pour over ice. (Keurig/)

The Keurig Elite Coffee Maker is a perfect choice for the coffee drinker who likes it either hot and cold. The machine has an iced-coffee function that automatically brews strong coffee. All you need to do is put in a K cup, put a plastic cup full of ice beneath the dispenser, and push a button. Because the machine has a 75-ounce removable water reservoir, you don’t need to add water every time, either. The K-Elite has a hot-water-on-demand function, so you can make soup, oatmeal, noodles, or any other just-add-water food nearly instantly.

Do You Need to Make a Big Pot of Coffee?

The drip-style carafe coffee maker is the classic coffee maker style, and is ideal for households with several coffee drinkers. Models with stainless-steel thermal carafes are far superior to those with old-style glass carafes, for several reasons. The stainless-steel thermal carafe will keep freshly brewed coffee piping hot for hours, without a warming pad that literally cooks the coffee, giving it a very bitter taste. And if the carafe slips from your hands, it won’t break. You can have a cup pre-sunrise, then come back late in the morning and have another. It’ll still be hot.

Best Drip Coffee Maker: Cuisinart Stainless Steel Thermal Coffeemaker

The insulated steel carafe keeps coffee piping hot and fresh, eliminating that bitter cooked taste imparted by warming pads on glass-carafe machines.
The insulated steel carafe keeps coffee piping hot and fresh, eliminating that bitter cooked taste imparted by warming pads on glass-carafe machines. (Cuisinart/)

The Cuisinart Thermal drip coffee maker features a steel carafe that keeps freshly brewed coffee piping hot for hours—without heating it up. That means the last cup of coffee will taste just as fresh as the first. The Cuisinart has a “Bold” command, which will make a stronger brew, plus a 1- to 4-cup setting for those times when you don’t want to make a full pot. There’s even a “Clean” button to simplify that task. And if you’re making a carafe of coffee but want to pour a cup while it’s still brewing, the basket incorporates a feature that will pause dripping when you remove the carafe. You won’t spill a drop.

Do You Like Specialty Coffee Drinks as well as Plain Coffee?

Classic coffee. Strong brew. Iced coffee. Espresso. Lattes. Cappuccino. Cold brew coffee. There’s a world of coffee types and preparations, and sitting down with a specialty coffee drink is a terrific way to spend time with friends. That historically has meant a trip to a local coffee house, which isn’t always feasible.

Best Specialty Coffee Maker: Ninja CM407 Specialty Coffee Maker

One cup? Carafe full? Specialty drink? The Ninja can do it all.
One cup? Carafe full? Specialty drink? The Ninja can do it all. (Ninja/)

The Ninja CM407 is the next best thing to having a barista in your kitchen, because it can do so many things: it’ll make coffee amounts from a single cup to a whole carafe. You can make espresso, or an iced-coffee strength. A frothing device on the side allows you to transform milk into froth and make a cappuccino or latte-style drink. This Ninja specialty coffee maker also has a removable water reservoir, which means you won’t have to slide the whole coffee maker out from under a cabinet in order to use it. Plus, you can use whatever coffee you like in the Ninja CM407—no pods required.

Do You Drink Espresso?

There’s no need to go into the virtues of espresso, that small savory cup of very strong coffee made by forcing highly pressurized hot water through freshly ground coffee beans, resulting in that wonderfully savory crema top. It’s a perfect way to cap off a fine meal—or to quickly get your eyes open before a long drive to the deer woods or trout stream. Many home machines don’t make espresso in the traditional manner. If you want excellent traditional espresso, don’t skimp. You’ll be disappointed in the results.

Best Espresso Machine: Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine

Breville’s Barista Express makes espresso in the traditional fashion, but won’t take up a lot of counter space.
Breville’s Barista Express makes espresso in the traditional fashion, but won’t take up a lot of counter space. (Breville/)

The Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine makes espresso in that traditional manner. It will grind the beans to your liking (different roasts require different grinds) and make espresso in the traditional manner, getting water to the optimal temperature and forcing it via the correct amount of pressure through the coffee grinds. It can make single or double shots, and even has a steam wand so you can froth milk for a latte.

How Much do You Want to Spend?

If you want a simple machine that will make you a good, basic cup of coffee, there’s no need to spend a lot of money. A budget machine won’t be as precise as flashier models, and you may need to replace your machine more often. But if you choose a well-known brand, even the cheapest of coffee maker is going to produce a decent cup.

Best Cheap Coffee Maker Under $20: Black + Decker Single-Cup Drip Machine with Travel Mug

Makes a 15-ounce to-go cup of coffee in minutes.
Makes a 15-ounce to-go cup of coffee in minutes. (Black + Decker/)

This single-serve drip machine comes with a stainless steel travel mug, so you can easily take your morning joe to go. It comes with a permanent filter for coffee grounds, meaning you don’t have to buy or fuss with the paper ones. Just dump and rinse the filter each day before brewing your next cup.

About the Brands

Cuisinart

Cuisinart introduced the first kitchen food processor in 1973, which was hailed by culinary experts Julia Child and James Beard as a revolutionary kitchen appliance. The company prides itself as being a full-service culinary resource for both chefs and consumers, offering scores of products for the kitchen.

Keurig

Keurig was formed in 2018 with the merger of Keurig Green Mountain and Dr Pepper Snapple Group. The original single-serve brewer and coffee-pod manufacturing company, Keurig, Inc., was founded in Massachusetts in 1992. It launched its first brewers and K-Cup pods in 1998.

Ninja

Ninja is one of the two brands designed and marketed by SharkNinja, based in Needham, Massachusetts. The company owns dozens of patents related to its line of house-care brands.

The Bottom Line on the Best Coffee Makers

Coffee is complicated if you dive deeply into it, but the thing is, you don’t really have to. If you want to get a kitchen scale, obsess over burr shapes, and relentlessly experiment, that’s fine…but you can also, at any price point, snag yourself a machine that’s easy and rewarding to use.

But remember this: No coffeemaker can brew coffee better than the grounds you put into it. If you’re going to invest in a good coffee machine, make sure you use quality coffee grounds. And water quality makes a big difference—chlorinated tap water can give brewed coffee an off taste, so use water that has been filtered in your quality coffee maker.

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