Coffee Maker Buying Guide

For many of us, the daily grind can’t begin until we’ve had that first cup of piping hot coffee—so the right brewer is at the top of the list.

You can spend $200 or more for a coffee maker with interactive displays and the kind of stainless steel detailing you’d find on pro-style ranges. But our most recent tests show that a consistently good cup can be had for half that.

Still, you might want more features than a simple on/off switch. A little more money buys conveniences such as programmability, a thermal carafe to keep coffee hot longer, settings that let you adjust brew strength, and more.

How Do You Take Your Coffee?

Hot or Cold?
Some people prefer iced coffee or cold brew over hot coffee, especially in the summer months. Certain drip and pod models offer “brew over ice” modes and cold-brew modes. You could also consider a cold-brew coffee maker if you’re a fan of the concentrated brew.

Number of Cups?
If one cup is enough to jump-start your day, choose a one- or two-cup drip model or a single-serve machine. Need more? Choose a larger automatic drip or one of the specialty machines, such as an electric French press. Most large models brew 10 to 12 cups, although typically a “cup” is really only 5 to 6 ounces, not 8.

How Often Do You Need a Fix?
If you space your coffee drinking out throughout the day, consider buying a model with an insulated mug or carafe. These keep coffee hot and fresh-tasting for hours. But thermal carafes are not perfect. Our testers say they tend to dribble and can sometimes be difficult to handle.

Can’t See Straight in the Morning?
For some people, filling the coffee machine and turning it on is too much to handle in the morning. If that’s you, consider a unit with programming that can automatically brew each morning. (You set everything up the night before.) For the forgetful who rush out of the house in the morning, an automatic shutoff feature is also important.

Size and Height Considerations
Factor in counter space when choosing your model. All the machines in Consumer Reports’ tests can fit beneath upper cabinets, but you’ll still need to pull out most when it’s time to fill the reservoir.

Video Buying Guide

Watch our video below for more details on drip coffee makers, self-serve coffee makers, grind and brew coffee makers, and more.

Match the Coffee Maker to Your Habits

You’ll find several varieties of coffee makers in the marketplace, including manual-drip systems, cold-brew coffee makers, and single-serve pod coffee makers that brew individual cups using ready-to-use pods or packets of coffee. Below are the most common types.

A drip coffee maker.

Drip Coffee Makers

The most widely used type. With automatic drip machines you fill a chamber with water, load coffee into a filter basket, and flick a switch to heat the water and run it through the grounds and into the pot. Our top conventional drip machines reach 195° to 205° F for 5 to 6 minutes, the industry standard for optimal brewing.

Check Out Our Drip Coffee Maker Ratings
A single-serve coffee maker.

Single-Serve Pod Coffee Makers

These force water through a small packet, either a hard-shelled capsule (also called pods) or a soft packet resembling a tea bag. Some accept an adapter that takes your favorite loose grounds. Pod machines are more expensive to operate than other types because you need to buy special coffee refills. With plastic pods, there is also a lot of unrecyclable waste.

Our Latest Single-Serve Coffee Maker Ratings
An cold brew coffee maker.

Cold-Brew Coffee Makers

These machines use cold or room-temperature water and brew a concentrated coffee that you then dilute with cold water and/or ice (or dilute with hot water for hot coffee). Manual models are simpler and brew either in your fridge or on your kitchen counter for 12 to 24 hours. Automatic models, which sit on your counter and plug into an outlet, use a variety of methods to cut down brew time to between 4 and 45 minutes, depending on the model.

Cold-Brew Coffee Makers Ratings
A 1- to 2-mug to-go coffee maker.

1- to 2-Mug Drip Coffee Makers

These are designed to produce smaller quantities and come as either drip or pod models, the latter using an adapter to hold grounds. They sometimes brew directly into an insulated mug that’s ready to take with you in the car or on the train. Others accommodate your “World’s Best Dad” mug.

How We Test Coffee Makers

For drip coffee makers, we conduct a brew-performance test to measure the brew temperature and contact time (how long water stays within the sweet spot of 195° F to 205° F for brewing).

“We also measure the concentration of the brewed coffee to make sure it’s not too weak or too strong,” says Ginny Lui, CR’s test engineer for coffee makers.

For single-serve pod coffee makers, our engineers evaluate temperature consistency and size consistency of individual cups of coffee, as well as the speed of brewing. Then our expert coffee taste-tester weighs in.

For cold-brew coffee makers, our engineers judge ease of cleaning, and our expert taste-tester judges the taste of each brew.

All three types of coffee makers also undergo convenience tests to evaluate how easy it is to set timers, fill the reservoir, and generally use the machine.

For the drip and pod models, the Overall Score also incorporates brand-level data on predicted reliability and owner satisfaction from our annual survey of CR members. You’ll find all this in our coffee maker ratings of more than 150 models.

The Lowdown on Features

Though some coffee maker features can make a machine easier and more convenient to use, there are several you won’t really need. To decide which coffee maker features are right for you, consider the list below.

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