Buying Guide: The Best Coffee Makers For You

Drip, Steep or Press Your Way to Delicious Coffee

How to Choose a Coffee Maker

Whether you love the robust taste of a full roast coffee or you crave the sweet taste of flavored coffees, you'll need a reliable coffee maker to brew fresh, delicious coffee. With so many different types of coffee makers available, you'll want to do some research and learn how to choose a coffee maker that suits your java-drinking tastes.

Coffee makers can range from simple, small-capacity machines to complex, cafe-quality machines. Before you make a purchase, use this coffee maker buying guide to help determine which features are right for you.

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Types of Coffee Makers

When you learn how to choose a coffee maker, you'll need to consider what type of coffee maker makes the brew you most want to drink. You have several options, and each one has different features and benefits for coffee lovers. The most popular options include:

Automatic Drip Coffee Makers

Automatic Coffee Maker

Automatic drip coffee makers are what typically come to mind when shopping for these small kitchen appliances. They range from 1 cup to 12 cups in capacity, so it's important to consider how much you'll drink in a sitting. Automatic drip coffee makers require you to measure your grounds and water before brewing,

Pod Coffee Makers

Pod coffee makers are becoming very popular. These specialty electrics brew a single cup of coffee at a time from air-tight coffee pods. They eliminate loose coffee grounds and deliver a fresh cup of coffee every time. Depending on the pod you use, these coffee makers can brew tea, coffee, iced tea and hot chocolate, making them extremely versatile. If you prefer not to be tied to purchasing pods, look for a machine that lets you choose between loose grounds and pods for more flexibility.

Coffee Maker/Espresso Machine Combos

Espresso and Programmable Coffee Maker Combo

If you enjoy cappucinos, espresso and lattes as much as a regular cup of coffee, consider a coffee maker/espresso machine combo. These appliances make both espresso and coffee, so you can add an extra jolt of caffeine and flavor to your morning pick-me-up. They also save space on your counter and give you the option to make different types of coffee drinks without the need for a separate espresso machine.

Percolators

Some people prefer the taste of coffee brewed in a traditional percolator. These coffee makers are available in stove top and electric options. They use a different method to extract flavor than a traditional drip coffee maker, and when used properly, percolators deliver a bold, flavorful cup of coffee that's closer to the taste of French press than drip coffee. In particular, a stove top percolator is a great backup option to your regular coffee maker because you can use it over a flame, so you can enjoy hot coffee when you're camping or without power.

Presses and Tea Kettles

There are some other options for making coffee at home. Tea kettles are an essential to heat water for instant coffee, pour over method or when brewing with a coffee press. Coffee presses offer bold, full-bodied flavor, because they fully extract the essential oils locked away inside the grinds--especially when there's no filter involved. With this method, you can brew stronger or milder coffee and it's easy to make or more less.

While the French press is iconic and popular, innovative designs like the AeroPress are making a splash with coffee connoisseurs. Some people think coffee presses are more complicated than drip brewers, and some people find the method to be more elegant. So it really comes down to your personal preferences and whether you just want to push a button or whether you want control over the flavor and quantity you brew. Presses take up very little room, so if you need a low-profile brewer, a press might be the perfect fit.

Coffee Maker Features

Programmable coffee makers let you set the time you want your coffee to brew, so you can wake up to a freshly brewed pot every morning. Some models feature hot water modes that dispense piping-hot water for tea, hot chocolate or oatmeal. Pause-and-serve is essential if you need to pour a cup before it finishes brewing. Water filters and self-cleaning cycles help to remove impurities and scaling for tastier coffee, while a machine with auto-shutoff saves energy and can give you peace of mind as you head out the door. Higher-end coffee maker design options include built-in coffee grinders and permanent coffee filters. As you conduct your coffee maker comparison, take a look at the features on each model to see which ones are the most important to you.

Consider coffee accessories, such as a coffee grinder, milk frother or airpot to round out your lineup of coffee-making tools.

Coffee Pots

Coffee Pot

While it might not be the first thing you think about as you learn how to choose a coffee maker, the pot itself is an important consideration for any coffee maker design. Glass pots are economical and easy to clean, but they do need to be on a burner on in order to keep your coffee warm, and after about half a hour the coffee will taste less fresh and vibrant. Thermal carafes keep your coffee hot without a burner, and some will retain heat for hours. For example, you can place a thermal carafe on your breakfast table or buffet line. With single-serve coffee makers, you won't need a coffee pot, and your machine may come with a coffee mug to get you started.

A rich cup of coffee is a great way to start your day, and to get the very best flavor out of every cup, you need a coffee maker that is reliable and convenient. Once you learn about the different types of coffee makers and their features, you'll be able to choose the perfect machine for your kitchen and your lifestyle. Whether you buy a single-cup pod system, a 12-cup automatic drip coffee maker or a designer coffee press, you'll get the great taste you expect with your favorite coffee blends when you know how to choose a coffee maker.

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