In our quest for fresh bread, we compared 25 different bread machines, then bought the 7 most promising models on the market in 2019 to test out head-to-head and find out which one topped them all. We rated and compared the quality of the bread produced by each machine — even gluten-free! — to pick our award winners. In addition, we also evaluated the ease of using each machine, the intuitiveness of the interface, and the difficulty of cleaning out each one after use. Keep reading to see which bread machine beat them all, which give you the best bang for the buck, and which is the best at making things besides bread.
The Best Bread Machines of 2019
If you are looking for a bread machine that can outbake the rest, then look no further than the Virtuoso Plus by Zojirushi. This top-notch machine made some of the tastiest bread in our tests and definitely took home the prize for making the most consistent and aesthetically pleasing loaves. In addition to making some of the best-looking bread of the bunch, this is the only model that we tested that has two separate kneading blades, ensuring that all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated into your dough and there isn't any residual flour. The Virtuoso has a ton of different preset settings and is unique in the fact that it has memory functions, allowing you to customize the knead, rise, and bake times to match your preferences.
Unfortunately, all this performance comes with a bit of a hefty price tag and the Zojirushi is by far the most expensive of all the bread makers that we have tested. It also is one of the heaviest and largest models, making it quite cumbersome to move around. However, we feel that the Virtuoso Plus is definitely the best bread that you can buy today and we highly recommend it.
Read review: Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus
If you saw the price tag on the Zojirushi and started to panic, then the Hamilton Beach HomeBaker might be a much better bread machine for you. This appliance costs a fraction of what the Virtuoso Plus does, all while delivering comparable loaves in terms of taste and texture. The crust is usually fairly uniform and the overall appearance of the bread is fairly nice. The nonstick pan is also a breeze to clean — even being safe to put in a dishwasher — and the bread pan's handle will lock down, making it easy to dump out the bread once it is baked.
This discount bread machine does make a few concession to keep the cost down. The HomeBaker has a much smaller set of presets than many of the other ones and struggled a bit with some of the more specialized loaves in our test, with the whole wheat bread and the gluten-free loaf collapsing a bit. While it does have some significant drawbacks, it's harder to find a better bread making appliance than the Hamilton Beach if you are shopping on a budget.
Read review: Hamilton Beach HomeBaker
If you are considering purchasing the Hamilton Beach, you may want to also consider the Sunbeam Programmable bread machine. This is another great bargain option that performs almost the same as the HomeBaker. It did very well with more difficult to bake breads, like the gluten-free loaf — even without a specific gluten-free preset. We also found that the bread will rise quite a bit more in this machine than in the others, leading to some exceptionally large and airy loaves that were hard to remove in some cases. It's got a decent set of presets and a delay function that can be handy if you want to measure the ingredients in the morning and ensure the bread is ready right with your dinner.
Unfortunately, we did find that the top of the bread would tend to collapse and sink in quite a bit. This bread maker also didn't completely incorporate all the dry ingredients every time. However, both the Sunbeam and the HomeBaker are excellent budget options and we would honestly recommend either if you are shopping on a budget, just check which is cheaper when you are ready to buy.
Read review: Sunbeam Programmable Bread Maker
The Breville The Custom Loaf is a sleek and stylish — or at least, as sleek and stylish as you can get with a bread maker — that is a great option if you buy premium kitchen appliances. It has tons of features and functions, allowing you to choose between a ton of different preset programs and even create up to 9 custom options for your own personal recipes and preferences. This bread maker has an interface that is exceptionally clear and easy to read, makes great bread, and is the only model we have tested that as an integrated automated dispenser to add mix-in — like dried fruit or nuts — at the appropriate time. The Breville also has a backup power supply that can hold your place for up to 60 minutes — it won't continue baking or kneading, but it is quite handy if you accidentally unplug the device or your power flickers.
While The Custom Loaf has a ton of handy features, but there are a few things that we weren't totally enamored with. The bread maker has a collapsible paddle that is supposed to minimize the hole at the bottom of the bread, but we found this didn't really help all that much and just made it harder to remove the bread pan. Additionally, the bread pan is a bit hard to clean — Breville recommends that you don't submerge it and only wash the interior of the pan. However, the Breville is a good option if you make bread with tons of mix-ins, but we still found the Zojirushi to be a slightly better pick if you are going to be spending top dollar for a bread maker.
Read review: Breville The Custom Loaf
If you are looking for a bread maker that can go well beyond just baking bread, then the KBS Automatic is worth your consideration. It has a whopping 19 presets, with the usual basics, such as basic, french bread, whole-wheat, and gluten-free, but also includes things like sticky rice, stir-fry, jam, yogurt, and ferment. It did a decent job at baking the white bread and the whole-wheat bread in our test. The color of the top crust matches the rest of the bread load quite well in our white bread test and the wheat bread had the evenest crust of all the loaves.
However, the KBS solidly struggled with the gluten-free loaf. It did a terrible job at mixing in the cornstarch and made the worst looking load of the whole group. Additionally, while this one has a ton of preset, we aren't sure how much of those we would end up actually using in practice. The included recipes and instructions are also a bit of a joke and this machine lacks a fruit and nut dispenser. The KBS might be an interesting prospect if you want to see just how far you can push the limits of cooking in a bread machine, but otherwise, it is far from our favorite.
Read review: KBS Automatic Upgraded Bread Maker
This bread machine is absolutely jam-packed with preset functions, including things like oatmeal, cornbread, yogurt, beer bread, and a desert setting. It has backup protection to resume your place for up to a 15-minute interruption in power and it produces bread with a very even crust color. It also gives you the option to delay the start of the baking process for up to 15 hours and even includes a measuring cup and spoon.
Unfortunately, this bread machine did have a few somewhat significant drawbacks. It has a ton of presets, but it isn't the best when it comes to actually baking bread. While we initially thought that its vertical bread pan would make it easier to mix, but the SKG struggled significantly when it came to incorporating the dry goods, usually leaving leftover flour or cornstarch on the outside of the finished bread. The SKG is a good bet if you want to try and make other things besides bread in your bread machine, but there are both better baking and better budget bread makers out there.
Read review: SKG Automatic Bread Machine
Our least favorite bread maker so far, we wouldn't jump at recommending the Oster Expressbake. While this machine did make one of the better looking gluten-free loaves, it did very poorly with the whole wheat bread and the white bread. This kitchen appliance does have a 13-hour delay timer and a keep warm function, as well as being one of the lighter machines of the group.
Unfortunately, we don't think there is really that much of a reason to get this machine — unless you are planning on almost exclusively cooking gluten-free bread. It isn't a particularly good value option, with less expensive products performing better and we found it to be a bit of a hassle to use. It makes mediocre bread if you can get it at a screaming deal, but there are a ton of better options out there.
Read review: Oster Expressbake
Why You Should Trust Us
To find out which bread machine is the best of them all, we researched and compared close to 25 different kitchen appliances, then purchased all the most promising models to test head-to-head. Here at TechGearLab, we bought all the bread makers in this review and won't ever accept any free units to review or recommendations on which products to review. Our testing and reviewing team, composed of Austin Palmer and David Wise, have extensive experience testing and scoring home and kitchen appliances, having tested hundreds over the past few years. Both are avid home cooks and bakers, lending their own personal expertise to this review as well.
We made multiple loaves with each bread maker, rating and scoring the quality of the white bread, whole wheat bread, and gluten-free produced by each machine, looking for even color, good crust, and overall appearance. We also had a panel of judges rate the taste of each bread and ranked and compared the ease of use and the ease of cleaning each appliance out.
How to Choose a Bread Machine
Bread machines aren't the most technically complex or difficult kitchen appliances out there, but there are still a few key differences you will want to consider when shopping for a new one. The first thing is deciding if you even need a kitchen appliance dedicated to baking bread and what is different when using one versus baking in a conventional oven.
Baking Method: Machine vs. Traditional Oven
While both a kitchen appliance and a normal oven can bake great bread, the finished product undeniably comes out quite a bit different. Bread baked in a traditional oven is usually a freeform load, meaning the dough is briefly shaped after rising and baked without a pan on a baking stone. Freeform bread has a much airier and less dense internal structure — the "crumb" of the bread — and a thicker and crunchier crust, as it is exposed to much more intense heat than what is generated in a bread maker.
Bread baked in a machine tends to be a bit heavier. It has a spongier crumb with an ultrathin crust that makes it perfect for sandwiches. It's very similar typical bagged sliced sandwich bread that you get in the grocery store. It is important to note, you can achieve a similar effect in a conventional oven if you cook your bread in a traditional loaf or Pullman bread pan, but it is almost impossible to replicate the taste and texture of a freeform bread baked in a traditional oven in a bread maker. We aren't advocating for one type of bread over another, it all comes down to personal preferences. However, if you find that you can't stand prebagged grocery store bread, you might be a little disappointed in the results from your bread machine.
Whatever, your preferences when it comes to bread are, bread machines undeniably have a huge advantage over traditional baking: ease of use.
Ease of Use
One of the main things that prevent home bakers from attempting bread is the huge amount of hassle involved. Between mixing, kneading, proofing, and proofing again, it can turn into an enormous amount of work to make something that you can pick up for a few bucks at the local grocery store.
With a bread machine, you simply — in theory — measure the ingredients exactly according to the recipe and dump them in and hit go. Give it a few hours and you have freshly baked bread, ready to go. Many of these machines even have delay timers and warming functions, allowing you to measure and add ingredients for standard bread — no recipes that require perishable eggs or dairy — in the morning and set a delay to coincide with the bread finishing right when you are getting ready to sit down to eat dinner. This allows you to go about your day as usual and ensure that you get the treat of freshly baked bread with dinner with little to no effort on your part.
Ease of Cleaning
The next thing you may be wondering about is how much effort it is to clean out a bread making kitchen appliance once you are done with it, as specialized kitchen appliances like this tend to be a bit of a hassle when it comes to cleanup time.
Fortunately, we found cleanup to be a breeze for most of the machines, though there are a few differences. This mainly manifests when it comes to cleaning out the bread pans. Some of them are safe to stick right in the dishwasher, where others can only get wet on the inside of the pan and can even be damaged if you submerge them fully. Obviously, you are going to want to go with the former option if you absolutely hate doing dishes by hand.
However, we found that even the most difficult to clean bread pan isn't all that much work, so it shouldn't carry too much weight when it comes to making your final purchasing decision.
Following cleaning, the next thing that you may want to consider when deciding if you want to purchase one of these appliances is how much room they take up. These are all undeniably large appliances and take up a significant portion of counter space — already a premium in most kitchens — so the vast majority of people are not going to leave them out on their counters all the time.
Additionally, these appliances are on the heavier side, so you might want to store them somewhat close to your kitchen, rather than lugging them up or down a flight of stairs to a pantry or basement. This might not be a big concern if you have a more expansive kitchen with tons of storage, but you may want to consider how much you will actually bake bread with one of these products and if it is worth sacrificing all the required space if you have a smaller kitchen. That being said, it is a bit of an inconvenience to clean the models that don't permit you to completely submerge the bread pan, as it does add some unnecessary stress to what should be an otherwise simple task.
The last thing to consider when deciding which bread-making appliance you are going to buy is what else you can use them for. In addition to baking bread, many of these appliances have additional settings, allowing you to make things ranging from cakes to yogurt. Based on user experiences, it seems that using theses appliances to make homemade jam or jelly, yogurt, and cakes appear to be the most popular. Most people probably won't use these features all that much compared to baking bread, but it is worth considering and getting a machine that has additional functions if you are hoping to push the envelope when it comes to what food you can make in one of these products.
Hopefully, you should have a pretty solid idea at this point of which bread maker is going to be the best bet for you and what to search for when looking for a new one. We bought all the products in this review and tested them side-by-side, so you don't have to and so you can find the absolute best choice for your budget and baking endeavors.
— Austin Palmer and David Wise