Drip coffee makers are one of the simplest and most popular approaches to brewing, and you’re very likely to be familiar with them, even if you aren’t an avid coffee consumer. Many people prefer this method of brewing because it’s fast, easy and inexpensive. It also turns out to be one of the healthiest ways to brew coffee thanks to the filter which blocks most bean oils, reducing cholesterol intake in the body.
Below I put together a list of the 5 best drip coffee makers, which combine great functionality, aesthetics, versatility and other features to ensure you get the most out of your drip coffee. Also included is a buying guide to bring you up to speed with important facts you need to know about drip brewers.
1. OXO On Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Maker
To be honest, I was initially a little hesitant about this coffee maker because I wasn’t aware that OXO had made a foray into coffee equipment. I have many top-notch OXO kitchen tools which I use and love, so I’m not sure why I was so doubtful – but you can’t be too careful. Nonetheless, I was very pleasantly surprised when I realized how easy it is to use this coffee maker, and how freaking good the coffee is.
The OXO On Barista Brain brewer isn’t like any ordinary drip coffee maker I’ve used before. The biggest difference I could tell is how it heats the water to the perfect temperature and subsequently brews the coffee with the help of an inbuilt microprocessor ensuring optimal flavor extraction.
The water is first heated in the side compartment and then sprayed over the coffee grounds from a showerhead which shoots water in timed cycles, almost like an espresso machine. This even distribution of water creates a more full-bodied flavor in your coffee, which is not the case with most drip brewers which concentrate water just over the middle of the grounds.
The coffee is expressed into a double insulated thermal carafe which keeps your coffee piping hot, while the exterior remains cool to the touch. This means that you can take the carafe and place it on your table or counter without having to worry about whether it could burn your surfaces. The coffee stays really hot too. I once checked on my pot after 5 hours and it was still quite hot. Really amazing.
Another major benefit of having a thermal carafe is that they make your coffee maker more efficient and use less energy, as opposed to the glass carafe types which rely on energy-sucking hot plates. Using a hot plate also has the potential to overheat your coffee and give it a burned taste.
The OXO On is super easy to use. It literally has one button. Just one. This button also serves as a dial which can be turned to select different settings or set the time. Also featured is a clear LED backlit display where all the important information is displayed including icons that indicate whether the coffee is brewing, ready to drink, or set for auto-start. Cleaning the brewer is easy-peasy.
How does the coffee taste? It’s pretty amazing in my opinion. Seriously, the OXO On Barista Brain makes one of the best drip coffees that I’ve had at home. It therefore comes as no surprise that this brewer was certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) which has very stringent standards on coffee preparation and quality. The brew time is very short which helps if you’re in a rush. There’s also a 24-hour programmable timer so that you can wake up to the sweet aroma of coffee brewing in your kitchen in the morning.
In terms of the amount of coffee it makes, I wouldn’t mind if it made a few more cups – actually, OXO also sells a 12 cup variant of this coffee maker for users who feel the same way. But 9 cups is still plenty, and because this brewer is so easy to use, it shouldn’t be a big issue preparing another pot of coffee in case the first one gets finished.
2. Ninja CE251 Programmable Brewer
When the SCAA bestows a coffee maker with its seemingly impossible to get Certified Home Brewer award, it’s hard not to take notice. And the Ninja CE251 is one of the few coffee brewers in the world today that hold this prestigious distinction.
This objectives of this drip machine are simple: to produce a delicious cup of java as simply and reliably as possible. While there are other comparable brewers that compete, somehow the Ninja just seems to have an edge when it comes to hitting the consumer sweet spot of price, quality, performance and ease of use.
Ninja went with a more minimalist or utilitarian approach with this brewer so if you’ve grown accustomed to the modern coffee maker design, the CE251 programmerble brewer might seem puzzling to you at first. There is one simple button – the on/off switch. There’s no LCD display or complicated buttons which you need to learn to use. Although the lack of modern controls and gadgetry might be a bit of a letdown at first, you’ll soon realize just how much you don’t need all those bells and whistles to make a great cup of Joe.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice that this brewer has a pretty compact design which means that it can easily fit on almost all counter-tops and under cabinets. In terms of aesthetics, though, it isn’t what I’d call breathtaking, but it isn’t horrid-looking either. The construction which is quite sturdy comprises of a healthy mix of stainless steel and matte plastic.
So, how does it perform? Oh, you definitely won’t be disappointed by the CE251 brewing process. Thanks to a pretty powerful 1500-watt heater, it quickly manages to heat the water to the ideal 195°-205°F in a jiffy. Water is dispersed by a large showerhead to allow for uniform extraction of the flavors in your coffee, and brewing is done in about 6 minutes.
The stainless steel thermal carafe does a brilliant job at keeping the brew very hot. Even 4 hours after you’ll still be able to sip on coffee that is on the verge of scalding. You can also choose the cheaper variant which comes with a glass carafe although this is not recommended since warming plates can burn your coffee.
Also worth mentioning is that this brewer comes with an optional pre-infusion mode, which is activated by holding the power button in the ON position for 5 seconds. During this stage, a short burst of hot water is released to pre-infuse the coffee, allowing any potential coffee bloom to settle down so that extraction happens more evenly. Such a thoughtful feature on a simple brewer! Additionally, cleaning this brewer is simple and straightforward as most parts are dishwasher-safe and easy to remove.
3. Technivorm Moccamaster KBT
Despite the hefty price tag, the Moccamaster has quickly risen to become the darling of even the most hard-core coffee aficionados and you have to give props to the folks at Technivorm. While most brands opt to mass-produce their products in China, the guys take the time to hand-make all their brewers in their home country Netherlands, paying extra attention to detail to ensure that every unit is built with superb quality before it’s shipped out.
A five year warranty is not something you see every day on a coffee maker, a bold statement of confidence in the product from its manufacturer. As you would expect, it is accredited by the SCAA and holds two more European certifications which shows just how much of a badass it is.
While aesthetics are on the back burner with a lot of brewers, this is not the case with the Moccamaster KBT 10-cup coffee maker. It looks very cool. Tall, dark, and handsome is how I would describe this machine. Pretty tall actually. At almost 15.5 inches in height, this Moccamaster certainly isn’t built for cramped kitchens.
Just like the Bonavita BV1900TS, Technivorm took a no-frills design approach to things, choosing to go with only one button (on/off), and not including LCD displays, wake-up timers or other fancy controls. There is a bit of a learning curve to it, but once you get the hang of it this machine is as easy to use as it gets.
Arguably the strongest selling point of this machine is its ability to heat the water to the recommended temperature of 195-205°F, thanks to a high-quality copper heating element. You can brew a full carafe in roughly 5 minutes and the thermal carafe is able to keep the brew hot for up to 6 hours which is quite remarkable. A nifty feature which was also included is the manual drip stop – a sliding mechanism at the bottom of the brewing funnel which allows you to restrict how fast the coffee flows out, giving you more control over the extraction and flavor of your coffee.
I personally own a Moccamaster KBT and I’ve had absolutely no issues with it because it makes consistently excellent coffee. It is also built to be more modular/repairable so I trust it to last longer and receive better support over time. The only real reservation I would have in recommending it 100% is that it is definitely quite pricey compared to some of the other SCAA-approved drip brewers. The OXO On Barista Brain and Bonavita BV1900TS are both great machines that you’ll find at least $100 cheaper and essentially do a comparable job.
4. Behmor Brazen Plus Temperature Control Coffee Maker
The Behmor Brazen Plus is a fascinating drip coffee maker from a company you’ve probably never heard of. It’s got an unconventional design, but with a feature set that simply doesn’t exist on most other consumer coffee makers. I discovered the Brazen Plus thanks to the SCAA’s list of certified home brewers. It is fun to use, can handle some serious tinkering, and will bring out the best flavors from your coffee. Its wide range of customizable settings gets you as close to the brewing process as you can get with a machine. And if you hadn’t picked up on it by now, the end result is an amazing cup of joe.
With a unique 3-legged frame, the Behmor Brazen Plus looks like it belongs on the set of a Star Trek movie. This isn’t a bad thing at all; many users like its futuristic look. The control panel features a nice backlit LCD display surrounded by 8 buttons. This is definitely a machine with a learning curve though, so make sure you hold on to that manual especially if you want to harness some of the Brazen’s more unique abilities.
The heating system doesn’t just land the water somewhere in that golden range — it actually lets you program the water temperature anywhere between 190 and 210 degrees giving you maximum control over the flavor of your coffee. You can even calibrate the unit to match your elevation. Since water boils at different temperatures depending on the altitude of place, this is actually a pretty important feature that more coffee makers should include. In fact, the first thing Behmor advises new owners to do before using the coffee maker is to calibrate the unit which takes about 5 minutes.
The other big feature that’s coming of age nowadays is presoak where a small amount of water is sprinkled over the grounds immediately before brewing to help extract maximum flavor. Trust me on this one: it makes a difference. While it isn’t the first drip brewer that comes with a presoak function, the Brazen Plus is the only consumer coffee maker I know of which lets you adjust the presoak time — from 15 seconds to four minutes. I found that if I’m using fresh, locally-roasted beans, dialing the pre-soak up to about 90 seconds seemed to yield the best flavor.
The Behmor Brazen Plus makes some of the best coffee I’ve ever had from a home coffee maker. This is in large part due to the ridiculous level of customization. Flavors were rich and vibrant, and it brought out both the delicate notes of the Sidamo and the bold power of the French roast equally well.
My biggest gripe about this coffee maker is the amount of time it takes to brew a full carafe. It can be slow. About 11 minutes on average. And if you opt for a lengthy presoak time, that duration could get even longer. Thankfully this model comes with a programmable brew start feature which allows you to simply set the timer before you get some shut-eye and wake up to the scent of fresh coffee in the morning.
5. BUNN Speed Brew Coffee Maker
The Bunn speed Brew coffee maker is all about speed. It will crank out 10 cups of coffee in about 3 minutes while most brewers take up to 10 minutes to perform the same task. This is made possible because this Bunn coffee maker is equipped with a built-in heater that keeps water in a special stainless steel reservoir hot and ready to brew at all times. When you pour in cold water, hot water previously stored in the tank is pushed into the brewing system and a full pot of coffee is ready a few minutes later.
The Bunn has a big, blocky dated shape so isn’t the best-looking machine out there. There are also no sophisticated controls or LED panels on it. All it has is one on/off switch which sits at the base of the tank, making it rather easy to operate. You probably won’t need to worry about not having a programmable timer because the brew time is astonishingly snappy. The simple design prevents Bunn brewers from breaking down, and I honestly believe they’re among the most resilient drip coffee makers you can get.
This model is not certified by the SCAA and while you won’t be able to brew an award-winning cup of coffee, it does make a pretty consistent cup of joe.
My criticisms with this brewer involve the brewing temperature which is usually lower than ideal resulting in a weaker coffee extraction, and the glass carafe that doesn’t keep your brew hot for long periods. If you need to make several pots in quick succession (for example at a party), the reservoir won’t get a chance to heat up the water before another pot gets brewed, leading to wasted minutes.
If you’re a casual coffee drinker who isn’t in the habit of brewing a full carafe at least once or twice a day, you should probably consider a different model. This coffee machine is designed to be always plugged in and ready 24/7 which makes it a bit of an energy hog. I can’t tell just how much this will add to the electric bill each month, but it’s certainly going to be more costly to run than a traditional drip coffee maker that only heats up water when in use.
Factors to Consider Before Buying a Drip Coffee Maker
It’s not easy navigating the hundreds of coffee makers available on the market to find the best one for your brewing needs. Don’t let big words and fancy gimmicks confuse you. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind before you make this important decision.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) is a non-profit which focuses primarily on researching and sharing coffee knowledge as well as defining standards to help perfect the coffee making process. In this pursuit, the SCAA has undertaken to test home coffee brewers (submitted to them by manufacturers) in an effort to determine those capable of brewing an excellent cup of coffee.
Some of the qualities they check for in a brewer include brewing temperature, time taken, coffee extraction, and consistency. The testing process is very rigorous and very few brewers usually make the cut. If you buy a drip coffee maker certified by the SCAA, it’s generally a safe bet that it can make a really good cup of coffee.
Drip coffee makers usually come equipped with either a thermal or glass carafe. Thermal carafes are better insulated from heat loss and therefore able to keep coffee hot for an extended period of time. This makes them ideal for people who want to brew a big pot of coffee and keep it hot and flavorful for at least 3 hours. Additionally, thermal carafes don’t require a hot plate which saves on energy costs.
Glass carafes are not insulated and need to sit on a hotplate to keep the coffee hot. While coffee makers with glass carafes are usually cheaper, the hot plate could overheat the brew leaving you with burnt, bitter tasting coffee. To mitigate this, you will want to limit the amount of time your pot sits on the hot plate.
If you do end up going for a brewer with a glass carafe, try to find one that has an automatic shut off function. This helpful feature shuts down the hot plate after a certain amount of time (usually 1 – 4 hours) in case you get so caught up that you forget to turn off the coffee maker – saving you a lot of energy and peace of mind.
Having a drip coffee maker which can be programmed to turn on and start brewing can be a lifesaver, especially if you’re always in a rush with little time to spare, or if you simply can’t see straight enough to brew a perfect cup on those early mornings. An added bonus is you get to wake up to the sweet aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Just make sure you leave the coffee maker plugged in, and that the clock on your machine is configured to your current time.
The number of cups that you intend to brew for should have a bearing on the coffee maker that you end up choosing. Carafes mostly come in 4, 8, 10, 12 and 14 cup capacities. The 4 and 8 cup models are ideal for single person use while the larger 12 and 14 cup capacities are the best choice if you need to brew for multiple people.
Carafe sizing can sometimes be ambiguous because of the differing opinions over how many ounces one cup actually holds. A cup may be defined as anywhere between 4 to 8 ounces depending on the manufacturer, so always confirm the true capacity in order to find out what you’re buying. Most home drip coffee maker brands including Mr. Coffee, Bunn, KitchenAid and Hamilton Beach — all measure using the 5-oz cup.
Which drip coffee maker makes the best tasting coffee?
Coffee makers certified by Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) have been rigorously tested to ensure they meet the highest standard of coffee brewing procedures, thus you can rely on them to deliver a great tasting cup of joe.
What grind size should I use for drip coffee maker?
Depending on the type of filter used, most drip coffee makers use a fine or medium grind. Here’s an estimation of how fine to grind:
- Flat Bottom Filters: Medium Grind (feels like regular sand).
- Gold/Plastic Permanent Filters: Medium Grind.
- Cone Shaped Filters: Medium-Fine Grind (Slightly finer than granulated sugar but not as fine as flour).
It might take a little experimenting before you find the perfect grind. If your coffee is too bitter, use a coarser grind. If it’s lacking enough flavor, try a finer grind.
How much should you spend on a drip coffee maker?
A good quality drip brewer will set you back $100 to $300.
Why does my coffee maker brew slower than it used to?
Limescale can build up on the heating element over time especially if you are using hard water, which increases the amount of time it takes to brew. To solve this problem you can run vinegar through the brewer for one or two brew cycles – acetic acid contained in the vinegar should dislodge and dissolve the mineral deposits.
How do I clean my drip coffee maker?
Always read the instruction manual for specific instructions on how to clean your coffee maker. Cleaning should be done at least once a month to ensure you get the best coffee possible with your auto-drip maker. Most coffee makers can be cleaned by running a 50% solution of vinegar and water through the machine which removes clogs and sediment build up. This should be followed up by running 2 brew cycles of plain water to rinse the coffee maker.
To recap, drip coffee makers provide a quick, no hassle, automatic method of brewing which makes them the ideal choice for a lot of homes and offices looking for a quick caffeine fix. To ensure you get the best cup of coffee possible every time, always do your research in order to find the best quality coffee maker, preferably one certified by the SCAA.
All in all, I would highly recommend BUNN Speed Brew 10 Cup Coffee Maker if delicious tasting coffee is the kind of thing you’re into. This machine is remarkably easy to use, easy on the eyes and is SCAA certified which means that it is virtually guaranteed to brew a delectable cup of java.