You can spend $200 or more for a coffeemaker with interactive displays and the kind of stainless steel detailing you'd find on pro-style ranges and other appliances. You'll also see coffeemakers that combine brewing technologies, like pod and drip. Yet others might be combined with another appliance, such as a personal blender, for making smoothies as well as coffee. But our latest tests show that a consistently good cup of joe can be had for as little as $40.
The most basic coffeemakers make at least a decent cup. 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, and settings that let you adjust brew strength.
Our top conventional drip machines reached 195 to 205 degrees F. for five to six minutes, the industry standard for optimal brewing. If you're into self-serve, brew-and-dispense models let you fill your cup right from the machine, which keeps the coffee hot. When you're on the go, single-serve models, also known as pod machines, brew a cup at a time from sealed beverage packets—no fuss, no muss.
How many cups do you drink?
If one cup is enough to jump-start your day, choose a one- or two-cup drip model or single-serve pod machine. You'll probably use less coffee than you would with a full-size model, though with pod coffeemakers you'll pay more per serving than you would with a standard drip model—the cost of convenience. If you like multiple cups, choose a bigger machine. Most large models make 10 to 12 cups. Be wary of manufacturers' capacity claims. Most makers measure a cup as a scant 5 or 6 ounces.
How long between cups?
If you space your coffee-drinking throughout the day, consider a model with an insulated mug or carafe. These keep coffee hot and fresh-tasting for hours. The warming plates that come with glass pots can cause coffee to taste stale and burnt from sitting around too long.
Can't see straight in the morning?
For some people, even filling the coffee machine and turning it on is too much to handle in the a.m. If that's you, consider a unit with an automatic "on" switch. For the forgetful who rush out of the house in the morning, an automatic timed "off" feature is also important.
You'll want a clearly marked water reservoir so that you can see how much water you're putting in, a swing-out filter basket that's easy to use and clean, and simple, intuitive controls. Don't forget to factor in counter space. All the machines we've tested can fit beneath upper cabinets, but you'll still need to pull out most when it's time to fill the reservoir.
Espresso requires a special machine
Espresso is made by a different process—forcing hot water through packed, finely ground coffee—so your regular coffeemaker won't cut it. Espresso makers range from a simple two-chamber pot to fully automatic machines. A few newer models combine regular coffee and espresso brewing into a single machine with separate processes.