How We Tested Coffee Makers

By:
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

Last Updated:
Friday
October 20, 2017

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For many people a coffee maker is an indispensable part of their morning routine. As such a seemingly endless number of manufacturers have made a slew of coffee maker models to try and get their hands on a piece of the morning mocha market, creating a field of products that are almost impossible to differentiate between upon first glance. To cut through all the confusion we designed our testing procedures to determine which machines make the best tasting brew, and which won't bog down your morning routine.

Taste


Taste was our most important metric, and we made sure the taste testing process was as objective as possible. We enlisted a team of eight taste testers. All of them were regular coffee drinkers, and one was a professional coffee roaster. We had each tester taste samples from all 10 of our coffee machines, and one sample from a pour over control made with a Hario V60 Size 02. All of these tasting samples were presented in a blind manner, so none of the testers knew which machine the coffee they were tasting came from. This avoided any sort of ingrained brand bias, or any sort of subconscious effects the visual presentation of each machine may have on taste perception. All the testers scored each sample We used Stumptown Hairbender Coffee for all of the drip machines, and used comparable flavors for the two pod machines. We chose this blend because of its general popularity, and the fact that our professional coffee roaster was intimately familiar with that blend. This allowed him to identify which machines were extracting the flavor notes that the roaster was trying to put into the coffee, and which machines were washing them out.

We compared all of our tasting sample to a pour over control sample.
We compared all of our tasting sample to a pour over control sample.

User Friendliness


To assess user friendliness we had those same testers brew a pot of coffee on each machine from start finish, including filling the water tank, inserting filters, and loading in coffee grounds. We also had them set a timer for the programmable models that allow you to set an automatic start up time for the next morning. We also had the testers use any additional features offered by each machine, for example we had all the testers use the milk frother on the Ninja Coffee Bar. Those testers then ranked each model based on the design of their interface, and how easy it was to pour coffee out of their carafes.

The Cuisinart's interface is fairly straight forward  but not quite as intuitive as that of some other models.
The Cuisinart's interface is fairly straight forward, but not quite as intuitive as that of some other models.

Convenience


In our convenience testing we wanted to see how much time using each machine would add to your morning routine. To do this we brewed 6 cups of coffee with each machine, and a single cup for the single serving pod machines. In doing so we timed how long it took for us to prep each machine, how long it actually took the machine to brew once prepped, and how long all the required daily cleaning took once the coffee was done brewing. This gave us a solid understanding of how much time each machine would add to a morning routine, and we ranked them accordingly. Once we verified that the programmable functions on all of the programmable models did in fact work, we gave these models a slight bump in scoring. This is because the programmable function allows you to frontload the prep time to the night before, and lets the brew time happen while you're still asleep, so it can streamline your morning.

Testing convenience involved timing every part of the process involved in making coffee  including dosing out the grinds.
Testing convenience involved timing every part of the process involved in making coffee, including dosing out the grinds.

Ease of Cleaning


The logistics of testing ease of cleaning were easy. We were constantly making coffee throughout our testing, so there were plenty of opportunities to get our hands dirty cleaning each machine. The actual cleaning part was not so easy in some cases. We focused most of our cleaning score on daily cleaning, which encompassed all of the things you'd be cleaning on daily basis (disposing of wet grounds, cleaning out the carafe, etc.). We also ran a descaling process on each machine, which is a deep cleaning process that removes mineral build-up from the machine, and is the main long-term cleaning process you'll have to undertake as a coffee maker owner. Once we had run through the cleaning process for each machine multiple times we gave them relative scores based on difficulty and the amount of time we had to spend scrubbing and rinsing.

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