The Best Automatic Coffee Makers
Trying to choose the best coffee maker can be a daunting task. For while there are an overwhelming number of options available, a lot of the coffee makers on the market are poorly designed and struggle to make decent coffee. This is due to a number of common problems that plague the average coffee maker:
- Incorrect or unstable water temperature: Coffee tastes best when it is brewed with water held at a constant temperature between 195° & 205° F (90° & 96° C). When the water is too hot, it scalds the coffee giving it a sharp bitter taste; when the water is not hot enough, the flavour will be flat and dull. Unfortunately, many drip brewers pay little attention to water temperature; they often start the brew cycle with water that is too hot and end with water that is too cold. This does not make for good tasting coffee.
- Poorly designed shower-heads: When brewing coffee, the water should flow evenly through the coffee grounds. Uneven distribution can cause channeling, which is when the water creates tunnels through the grounds. When this happens, the majority of the water runs through these tunnels, thus the coffee grounds in the vicinity of the tunnels become over-extracted (which makes for excessively bitter coffee). Other parts of the grounds, which end up not having as much water run through them, remain under-extracted (which makes for sour coffee). Thus it is important that a coffee maker has a well designed shower-head that distributes the water evenly over the coffee.
- Incorrect extraction times: In order to make a perfectly balanced cup of coffee, the water must be in contact with the coffee grounds for just the right amount of time. If extraction goes on for longer than 4-6 minutes, the coffee becomes over-extracted. However, many drip brewers let the coffee grounds soak in the water for much longer. This makes for bitter coffee.
- Warming plates that burn the coffee: A standard drip brewer features a glass carafe that sits on a warming plate. This is intended to keep the coffee warm; but often they cook and eventually burn the coffee. A plate warmer can be okay if it is not too hot and the coffee is not allowed to sit on it for a long time. However, a better solution is to use an insulated carafe.
- Cheap materials: Low grade plastics are notorious for absorbing flavours and odours and later releasing them into your food. When this happens in a coffee maker, it inserts an unpleasant, sour flavour into the coffee. Thus it is important for coffee makers to be constructed from high-quality, food grade materials.
Not every coffee maker suffers from all five of these common problems, but few avoid every one of them. Thus trying to find the best coffee maker—one that avoids all of these pitfalls and is capable of producing truly excellent coffee—can be overwhelming. Fortunately, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has done the leg work for you. They have developed a certification program which independently tests home coffee makers. Their rigorous testing ensures that any brewer they certify adheres to the highest standard of coffee brewing procedures. Thus any SCAA certified brewer is guaranteed to avoid the pitfalls that plague so many automatic brewers and will be more than capable of brewing outstanding coffee. Below is the current list of SCAA certified brewers; these are without a doubt some of the best coffee makers available.
The Moccamaster is a high quality coffee maker made in the Netherlands. It makes up to 10 cups at a time and takes only 6 minutes to brew. It is available with either an insulated carafe or a glass carafe and heating plate.
Behmor Connected Brewer
The Behmor Connected Brewer connects to your smartphone to give you total control over the brewing process. It allows you to create and save brewing profiles that control such things as the water temperature and pre-soak time. It is a bit more technical than some brewers, but with total control over the brewing process, the Behmor will allow you to find your perfect cup of coffee. The Behmor uses an insulated carafe that holds 8 cups.
KitchenAid Pour Over Brewer
This excellent coffee maker from KitchenAid mimics the manual pour-over brewing method, but without the effort. It allows you to adjust the settings for medium or dark roast coffees to bring out the best of both. It is available in a variety of colours, and both a digital and non-digital version. The carafe is glass and holds 8 cups.
The Bonavita 1900 (TD or TS) combines superior design with simplicity and ease of use. With its one-button operation, making great coffee couldn’t be simpler. As an added bonus, the carafe, filter basket and shower head are all dishwasher safe, which makes for easy clean-up. It is available with either a glass or insulated carafe (8 cups). There is also a digital version which includes a clock and a programmable timer.
OXO On Barista Brain
The Oxo On Barista Brain is a truly intelligent machine. It boasts a build in microprocessor that monitors all the brewing variables, such as water temperature and extraction time, to make consistently superb coffee. It uses an insulated carafe and comes in two sizes, either 9-cups or 12-cups. The larger version (pictured) has a built-in, detachable kettle.
Wilfa Precision Coffee Maker
The Wilfa Precision is a Norwegian coffee maker that reflects Norway’s avid coffee culture. Carefully engineered, the non-conventional design not only allows you to see the brewing process up close, it’s also super chic. The Wilfa uses a glass carafe and makes up to 12 cups of undeniably excellent coffee.
Cuisinart PurePrecision Coffee Brewer
The Cuisinart SCAA offering is a solid machine that allows you to adjust both the water temperature and extraction time. It is available with either a glass or insulated carafe and makes up to 8 cups.
BUNN Heat N’ Brew
BUNN has been a major player among commercial coffee equipment manufactures for many years. Their Heat N’ Brew is an SCAA approved brewer targeted to the home user. It makes 4-10 cups in a glass carafe. Unfortunately, not many retailers sell it, so it can be difficult to find.
View on the BUNN website