I've tested a several automatic coffeemakers myself and have looked into even more by reading
lots of reviews to find the top rated coffee makers. To me, the important thing is whether or not
the machine makes a good pot of coffee. The other criteria I consider important are ease-of-use and ease of
cleaning. While I appreciate good design, function is much more important than appearance.
Before I tell you about the best machine I've found let's consider what a good coffeemaker
has to accomplish. To summarize from How to Brew the
Best Coffee, here's what you need to make good coffee:
• Good-quality cold water
• high-quality, freshly roasted coffee beans
• a way of heating water to the most effective temperature and keeping it in contact with the ground coffee
for the proper amount of time
It doesn't sound like it should be too hard does it? It's not, and a surprising number of coffee
machines get it wrong. Either the water temperature is off or the contact time with the coffee is wrong.
To be clear, on this page I'm talking about automatic drip coffee makers, not espresso machines
or more exotic coffeemakers.
Ideally the coffeemakers should keep the water to the correct brewing temperature before it
reaches the coffee grounds. The ideal temperature is between 195 and 205°. If the water is to cool it doesn't
extract the aromatic compounds that give coffee its flavor. If it's too hot in its tracks compounds that make the
The next issue is the brew time. Even if the water is at the correct temperature, if it isn't in
contact with the coffee grounds long enough the coffee will be thin and weak. If it stays in contact too long, it
will over extract compounds making the resulting pot of coffee bitter.
The proper contact time is around five or six minutes.
To be blunt, most coffeemakers fail miserably at reaching these goals. One of the most common
faults is that the water temperature control is very poor. At the beginning of the brew cycle the water is
typically too cool. It continues to heat up during the cycle and by the end is too hot. This is perhaps the ideal
way to get the worst possible pot of coffee. Half the pot is thin, flavorless, watery coffee. A cup or so of decent
coffee may come through in the middle of the brew cycle before the pot is topped up with bitter, over extracted
As an example of how far off coffeemakers can be you're the results from one I just tested. The
tip things in the coffeemakers favor I brewed one pot before taking temperature measurements so the coffeemaker was
already warmed up. When I immediately drew the second pot the initial water came out at 114°! By the end of the
cycle it was up to 186°. Clearly not ideal.
The best automatic coffee maker I’ve found is the Technivorm Moccamaster Coffeemaker. I think
the main reason this coffee maker is superior is because it uses copper for the heating element. The vast majority
of coffeemakers use aluminum because it is much cheaper than copper. Unfortunately aluminum, while the good
conductor, doesn't transfer heat as efficiently. This means it takes longer for the coffee to reach the right
temperature. In many coffeemakers it never does.
Another feature that that's important to me is the fact that it empties the brewed coffee into a
thermos rather than a carafe on a hot plate. Even a few minutes on a hot plate will ruin upon coffee.
This coffee maker also comes closest to the ideal brewing time when you make a full pot. Less
than a full pot is a little weak but still very good.
The Technivorm is simple to use and simple to clean. All in all, it's a great machine. The only
downside is the price. At least for me, it's expensive.
Obviously, whether or not you get it depends on your budget. But let me in encourage you to
avoid "bargain" coffee makers. Most of these only succeed at turning quality coffee beans into inferior coffee.
Even worse, some very expensive coffeemakers are as bad as inexpensive models. This is not a
case where paying more automatically guarantees that you get good quality. Without wanting to bash any brands, I
was especially disappointed with the one expensive Cuisinart model I tested.
As I've pointed out several times on this site, I consider an excellent cup of coffee one of
life's great pleasures. If you brew the coffee manually it's relatively easy to get the temperature and time
The trade-off is the pushbutton convenience of an automatic coffeemaker. In my mind, that
convenience isn't worth putting up with lousy coffee.
Below are some coffee makers I can recommend for you to consider.