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Buying Guide: The Best Coffee Makers For You

The authors of The New Cooks' Catalogue certainly know what to look for when choosing cooking equipment. These leading culinary experts have been evaluating cooking equipment for over 25 years. The following information is what they consider important when selecting a coffee maker.

All Coffee Makers »

All Small Appliances »

What to Look For

  • A fast brewing time and the ability to heat water to the correct temperature between 195°F and 205° produce superior coffee.
  • A pause function allows you to grab a cup before the whole pot has brewed.
  • To keep coffee hot for longer than an hour, consider a coffeemaker with a thermal carafe rather than a burner plate.
  • Percolators make one of the fastest and hottest cups of coffee around. Consider their giant cousin the urn if you need to serve a crowd.

More information

Features

Electric drip machines only require you to feed them the proper amount of water and medium-ground coffee, and then you’re free to walk away until the last drip has dropped. With preprogrammable settings, these machines can be set to brew moments before the morning alarm rings, so you can literally wake up and smell the coffee.

Some models have built-in clocks, grinders, adjustable brew cycles, temperature controls, milk frothers, and automatic shut-off switches. For all their bells and whistles, electric coffeemakers don’t guarantee a brew that is any better than the simple manual drip method. But they are convenient and quick.

When we chose from the wide selection of electric automatic drip machines, budget and personal preferences were the big considerations. We found two factors that were most likely to guarantee you superior coffee: fast brewing times and water temperatures between 195°F and 205°F.

The machine should also have a filter basket large enough to hold 2 tablespoons of coffee per 8-oz cup and provide ample headroom for agitation and swelling of the grinds as water passes through. If you’ll be keeping coffee hot for longer than an hour, choose a coffeemaker with a thermal carafe rather than a burner plate. Ideally, the water reservoir should lift out for easy filling.

Percolators & Urns

Picture a small fountain inside a covered jug and there you have the basic design of a percolator coffeepot. This old-fashioned device forces hot water up through a center tube and then sprays it over the coffee that rests in the filter basket below. A weak brew quickly flows out, collects at the bottom of the percolator, and is then forced back up the tube, to be sprayed over the grinds again and again. Coffee experts maintain that this results in overextraction, bringing out too many soluble substances and bitter flavors and leaving the brew an acrid, unbalanced casualty.

Despite these indictments, the percolator was widely adopted in the United States in the early 1900s. A cup of percolated coffee is much less common now, but fans boast, correctly, that the percolator system makes one of the fastest and hottest cups of coffee around. Percolators are available in both stovetop and electric models with capacities of 2 to 4 cups or 10 cups. Electric urns are available in sizes ranging from 22 to 55.

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