Do you need to start every day with a pot of coffee? After extensive research, we bought 15 varied coffee makers and ran them through a gamut of tests to evaluate their coffee taste, user friendliness, convenience, and ease of cleaning. After brewing dizzying amounts of coffee, consulting a range of coffee aficionados, and conducting blind taste tests we can help you choose the right one for your kitchen counter. Some machines produced cup after cup of perfectly brewed java, while others made less-than-impressive watery mud. From the occasional coffee drinkers to diehard connoisseurs, our review has you covered.
The Best Coffee Makers of 2018
We've added several new models to this review, including the Behmor Brazen Plus and Keurig K-Cafe. In our side-by-side testing, none of the new models bested the Editors' Choice Award-winning OXO Barista Brain in terms of taste or overall performance. The K-Cafe stood out because of its included milk frother, making it the most convenient Keurig machine that we've seen.
Best Overall Coffee Maker
OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup
The OXO Barista Brain was a leader in almost all of our tests and an obvious winner of our Editors' Choice Award. It consistently produces strong, well-brewed coffee and includes a pre-soak step that seemed to make a noticeable difference in taste. The insulated stainless steel carafe kept coffee hot for hours without ruining its flavor. Its sleek interface and simple controls are easy to navigate and impressed our testers. Automatic brewing is easy to program and we found it difficult to find many flaws in the Barista Brain.
At $200, the OXO has one of the highest list prices of any machine in our review. Its performance matches this high price but it is possible to find excellent performance in less expensive models. We suggest checking out the Cuisinart 14-Cup or Bonavita Thermal Carafe 8-Cup if you seek high quality but don't want to spend this much on it.
Read review: OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup
Best Bang for the Buck
BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable
For those on a tight budget to seek a utilitarian coffee maker, the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable is an ideal option, with no unnecessary features and maximum functionality. With a list price below $30 it is difficult to ask for more out of a coffee maker. It makes decent coffee and even has an automatic brewing timer, making it possible to wake up to a hot pot of coffee.
Many users complain of durability issues after extended use. We didn't have any issues with reliability in testing and recommend checking out the Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable if you seek higher performance and are okay with spending a bit more.
Read review: BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable
Those looking for a super convenient pod machine are likely choosing between Keurig and Nespresso. We have to give the edge to Nespresso in this battle. The aluminum pods both keep coffee fresher, resulting in a stronger and better-tasting cup and are recyclable, relieving some of the guilt that comes with using pod machines. That being said, Keurig pods are both less expensive and more widely available. Newer machines have also managed to reduce the plastic aftertaste that can come from using these pods (it's still there, but slightly more subtle). So there certainly are reasons to choose Keurig over Nespresso.
Top Pick Single Serving Machine
The Nespresso Vertuoline won our single serving machine shootout, primarily because its aluminum capsules mitigate the persistent plastic taste present in coffee from the Keurig machine. Its unique barcode system enables the Vertuoline to automatically adjust brew settings for optimal taste.
We found that most of the drip style machines made better tasting coffee at a lower cost per cup than the Vertuoline, but if you feel the super fast no-cleanup-required convenience and higher long-term costs of a single serving machine are worth a bit of a sacrifice in taste, you can't beat the Nespresso.
Read review: Nespresso Vertuoline
Top Pick Keurig Machine
If you're dedicated to Keurig's single-cup capsules then the K-Cafe is the best option out there. Although there are less expensive models, the K-Cafe has more features than any other Keurig model, including an integrated milk frother and abundant settings for various coffee drinks.
Keurig's pods didn't produce impressive coffee and most of our testers found it to be fairly weak, but they are hard to beat when it comes to convenience and ease of use. Overall, we recommend the Nespresso Vertuoline over the Keurig for single-serve capsule machines, but if you prefer in K-Cups then the K-Cafe is hard to beat.
Read review: Keurig K-Cafe
Great Taste at a Reasonable Price
Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable
The Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable was second only to the OXO Barista Brain in our taste testing and still produced a pleasant, bold pot of coffee. It scored slightly lower in user friendliness and ease of cleaning but was still a top-performer among the machines that we tested.
If you're on a moderate budget but still looking for a high-quality machine, the Cuisinart will not disappoint. In our testing, it performed far better than the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable but is also twice as expensive.
Analysis and Test Results
For many, the coffee maker is the crown jewel of the countertop, capable of making a life-sustaining elixir in just a few minutes. For one of these caffeine caterers to do its job effectively, it must make a good tasting cup in an easy and efficient manner. We designed our testing around this ideal.
Our overall scores represent the results from our 10 individual tests, which we divided into 4 separate testing metrics. These metrics assessed each machine's convenience, user friendliness, cleaning difficulty, and, of course, how good the coffee tasted. The detailed results from these testing metrics are discussed in the sections below.
With coffee makers, we've found that you can either pay top dollar for high-end or convenience (in the OXO and the Nespresso and Keurig pod-style machines, respectively), or pay a lot less for good but not amazing taste (something like the Black & Decker CM1160B, for instance). One significant outlier from this trend is the Cuisinart 14-cup programmable, which makes a great cup whilst keeping its cost relatively mid-range.
We have not come across any traditional coffee makers that don't put hot water in contact with plastic at some point in the brewing process. If you're concerned about plastic you'll likely have to adopt a slightly less convenient brewing method, like pour over.
For most coffee drinkers taste is likely first and foremost, so we made sure our taste testing was as objective as possible. We closely evaluated taste by having a team of tasters sample brews from each machine one after another, and then grade things like flavor and texture. We also brought in a professional coffee roaster who was intimately familiar with the flavor notes of the coffee we used in our taste testing, so he could tell which machines were extracting all of the nuances and intended flavor notes. Our taste tests were done in a blind fashion, so none of the testers knew which machine they were drinking from. We also compared each machine to properly made pour over coffee as a control. We reserved a perfect score of 10 out of 10 for a machine that could match the taste of a pour over brew. While we haven't found a machine quite this good yet, some of our current models did come close.
The OXO On Barista Brain made the sweetest elixir of all our machines, earning a near-perfect score of 9 out of 10. It adds a preinfusion step to the brewing process that swells and preps the grinds before the real extraction begins, We found this created a much richer and more flavorful brew. In our opinion, this is the closest you're going to get to pour over quality coffee with the convenience of a machine.
The Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable was a close second in our taste testing. It makes a nice, bold brew but with just a bit less nuance of flavor than the OXO. The Bonavita Thermal Carafe 8-Cup rounded out the podium. It made a smooth, pleasant brew in our taste testing, but it was a bit weaker than the Cuisinart and noticeably less flavorful than the OXO.
The Technivorm Moccamaster KBG 741 and the Bonavita Thermal Carafe Coffee Brewer shared the third step on our taste quality podium, both earning a score of 7 out of 10. Both of these models were able to produce a strong and bold brew in our testing but also washed out some of the subtle flavor notes that were still present in the two top scorers.
We used each manufacturer's recommended amount of coffee for most of our side-by-side taste testing. When evaluating differences between specific models we used identical coffee to water ratios to isolate variables in taste. Obviously, any machine will make a stronger brew if you use more coffee, so it isn't difficult to get a stronger taste out of our average taste performers. However, if you're concerned with the subtlety of flavor rather than just brute strength, you'll want to look at our top scorers.
Outside of the top scorers in our taste testing, most of the machines produced average tasting coffee. If you're totally satisfied with the taste of the bottomless cup of coffee at the local diner, then you'll certainly be satisfied with any of these machines. If you're used to the refined flavor of gourmet coffee made with a pour over brewer, however, you may be slightly disappointed.
Leading off this average group with a score of 6 out of 10 were the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable and Behmor Brazen Plus. The BLACK+DECKER makes a pleasant, crisp brew, but muddled some of the finer flavor notes of our testing coffee. We found the Behmor's coffee to have decent taste but it was surprisingly watery and couldn't compete with bolder flavors produced by higher-scoring models. The Mr. Coffee Simple Brew Switch also scored a 6 and made a very similar brew.
Rounding out the average scorers were the KitchenAid Siphon and the Nespresso Vertuoline, both of which scored 5 out of 10. The Siphon's unique brewing style created smooth-tasting coffee that was less bitter than anything we'd tasted from a drip machine. However, it also didn't extract much flavor, and most of our testers felt it was somewhat on the weaker side. The Nespresso was definitely our favorite tasting capsule machine. Though the coffee was weak in comparison to most drip machines (and this can't be fixed by adding more coffee) the aluminum pods negated the plastic taste often associated with coffee capsules.
In our testing, no machine made terrible, undrinkable coffee, but those that scored below 5 out of 10 were lackluster enough that they may bleed some of the enjoyment out of your morning caffeine fix. The BUNN NHS Velocity Brew earned a 4 out of 10 in this test. It's lightning fast brew style seemed to lead to under extraction, with the coffee tasting quite weak. Adding more coffee did help this problem somewhat, but we were never able to get a truly strong tasting pot from this machine. The Ninja Coffee Bar also earned a 4. It created a bit of a plasticky taste in our testing, and sediment often made it through the reusable filter and into the coffee.
Keurig's K55, K-Cafe, and K-Elite were among the worst performers in our taste tests, all earning a 3 out of 10. This was largely due to a faint plastic taste its pods could leave behind. They also make very weak coffee if you make anything but the small 5.5 oz cup due to the relatively low coffee to water ratio. These machines are only for those that value convenience over taste.
Our user friendliness scores represent how easy it is to brew a pot of coffee on each machine. The top scorers would likely pose no challenge for a visitor to your home that had never seen the machine before, while the low scorers may require a bit of a learning curve to get right. We made sure to conduct user friendliness testing first thing in the morning to ensure our testers were in an accurately groggy, non-caffeinated state.
Single-serve pod machines dominated the testing for user friendliness. None of the traditional drip machines could compete with the simplicity of the push-of-a-button Keurig and Nespresso models. The Vertuoline even has a barcode reader that automatically adjusts brew settings based upon which pod is inserted. All four single-cup pod models earned scores of 9 out of 10 in the user friendliness metric.
Two models followed closely behind the pod machines, scoring 8 out of 10 in our user friendliness testing. Our testers liked the straightforward interface of the Ninja Coffee Bar that lets you easily dial in the preferred strength of your brew and your desired size (ranging from a single coffee cup through large travels mugs and all the way to a full carafe). The carafe's spoutless design also allows for easy pouring. The OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup follows the brand's minimalistic design paradigm with a single button/knob combo that lets you select the number of cups to make and start the brewing process. Our testers loved this interface design as it feels simple and intuitive. The carafe's design requires a good bit of tipping before it actually pours, but this is a minor annoyance. These machines still require loading and disposing of grounds yourself, so they couldn't quite compete with the top scorers.
Several different models earned a 7 out of 10 in our user friendliness testing. The BUNN Velocity Brew has a spartan interface, but not in a good way. Its single button and well-concealed power switch may leave first time users somewhat confused. However, the large filter basket makes dealing with grounds easy and the carafe has a nicely designed, no-spill spout. The Technivorm Moccamaster KBG 741 has a very simple, 2-switch interface and a pot that produces a nice, controlled pour. The Behmor Brazen Plus includes a washable filter basket and an insulated stainless steel carafe, but its interface felt fairly average compared to the rest of the models we tested.
Three models earned the score of 6 out of 10 in this metric. The Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable's screen and multi-button interface is fairly intuitive but might require some trial and error on your first go around. All of our testers agreed that the plastic spout of the carafe was flimsy and could cause spills. In contrast, the Mr. Coffee Simple Brew 12-Cup Switch has a nice glass carafe with a well-designed spout, but its single switch interface doesn't allow for any customization in the brew. The BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable is similar with a nice carafe and a single button for brewing coffee. Its interface does have a few extra buttons, but all are for programming the schedule, not for adjusting the brew.
Leading off the low scorers in our user friendliness tested was the Bonavita Thermal Carafe 8-Cup, which scored a 5 out of 10. It has a simple single button interface, which streamlines things but also doesn't allow for any fine-tuning. The biggest flaw is the carafe, whose lid requires almost complete inversion to get a good pour. The worst scorer was the KitchenAid Siphon, which earned a 4 out of 10. While this model offers a stunning visual experience, getting a cup of coffee requires the user manual if you haven't used the machine before. Also, the lip around the carafe opening forces you to tip it almost all the way over to get a good pour.
To evaluate convenience we assessed how much time and effort actually went into making coffee on each machine. We also judged the usability and added value of special features, like programmable models that allow you to do the prep the night before and wake up to a freshly brewed pot or included accessories. Ultimately we found that programmable functions work equally well on all models, thus we awarded a small rating bump for models offering this feature.
Here again, the pod machines were our top scorers. As much as our environmentally inclined sensibilities hate to admit it, we can kind of understand why these machines have gotten so popular. The Nespresso Vertuoline was the top scorer in our testing, taking home a 9 out of 10. From start to finish it can make a cup of coffee in less than 3 minutes, no cleanup required. The Keurig K55, K-Cafe, and K-Elite also require no cleanup but each take roughly 4 minutes to make a cup starting from cold water, so they earned slightly lower scores of 8. All of these machines are about on par with the 3 minutes it takes to make a single cup with a pour over rig, though pour over does require a little bit of extra cleaning and might take longer depending on your method of boiling water.
For the more traditional drip makers, we measured how long it took to make a 6-cup pot for our speed test. These times including all prep work (loading grounds and water into the machine), actual brewing time, and required cleanup (disposing of grounds, rinsing the filter if needed). The BUNN Velocity Brew led this race logging a time of just 6.5 minutes, earning it a score of 7 out of 10. This assumes you leave the machine on (and thus preheating) all the time, which likely won't be friendly to your electric bill. It also is not programmable, so you can't pre-schedule a brew time. The Hamilton Beach 2-Way also earned a score of 7 in this metric for brewing 12 cups in approximately 12.5 minutes. It also has an additional integrated brewer for single cups of drip coffee, which greatly improves convenience if you just want to fill up your thermos in the morning without making a pot of coffee.
The vast majority of our makers brewed a pot in an average amount of time and required an average amount of cleanup, and thus all fell into the 6 out of 10 range in our score sheet. The Ninja Coffee Bar brews 6 cups in 10.5 minutes, and it received a small score bump because it is programmable. The OXO Barista Brain makes 6 cups in 11.5 minutes and has the easiest to program schedule of all the programmable models we tested. The BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable along with the Behmor Brazen Plus were slightly slower, making 6 cups and 8 cups, respectively, in roughly 12 minutes.
All of the lowest scoring models ended up towards the bottom of the score sheet at least partially because they are not programmable. The Bonavita Thermal Carafe 8-Cup, which scored a 5 out of 10, brews 6 cups in 9.5 minutes. The Moccamaster, again not programmable, can make a 6-cup pot in 9 minutes, and earned the same score. The Mr. Coffee Simple Brew 12-Cup Switch brews a pot in 12 minutes and earned a 4 out of 10. The worst scorer was the KitchenAid Siphon, which scored 3 out of 10. It takes a full 14 minutes to make 16 cups of coffee, mostly because it is so difficult to clean.
Ease of Cleaning
Even the most euphoric cup of coffee can be completely ruined if it requires an onerous cleanup process. All of our testers took turns cleaning each machine so we could get multiple opinions on how annoying each process was. We scored each model based on both short-term and long-term cleaning. Short term cleaning encompasses all the things that have to be cleaned each time a pot is brewed, namely the filter basket and the carafe. Long-term cleaning incorporates less frequent cleaning maintenance like descaling, which removes mineral build-up.
The two pod style machines we tested dominated our cleaning tests due to their simple brewing methods that produce barely anything to clean besides a dirty mug. The Nespresso Vertuoline earned a score of 9 out of 10 in this metric. It automatically deposits spent pods into an attached bin (remember to recycle them if possible). That bin can sometimes get a little grimy and require a quick rinse, but that is really all that needs cleaning on a regular basis. The descaling process was straightforward and took us about 30 minutes. The Keurig models had longer descaling processes that lasted roughly 70 minutes, which earned them a slightly lower score of 8 out of 10. The spent pods from this machine are simply removed and thrown away, so no bin gets messy. However, the majority of these pods are not recyclable.
The OXO On Barista Brain Was slightly behind the capsules machines earning a 7 out of 10 in this metric. Its large filter basket makes removing grinds easy and the stainless steel carafe is can be hand washed without much fuss. The descaling process is easy to start and takes about 60 minutes to run. As a bonus, the machine tells you when it needs to be descaled, so no need to set any reminders on your calendar.
The Moccamaster also earned a 7 out of 10 in this metric. Generally, all of its components are easy to clean. It uses paper filters that make disposing of grinds easy, and the pot has a wide opening for easy scrubbing. However, none of its components are dishwasher safe, hence the slightly lower score.
Six of the models we tested earned a score of 6 out of 10 in our ease of cleaning testing. These models, for the most part, required what we would consider a normal amount of effort to clean. Of these machines, the Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable and the Ninja Coffee Bar both have reusable mesh filters, which require a bit more cleaning than machines that use disposable paper ones. These machines, along with the BUNN NHS Velocity Brew and the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable have glass carafes that are dishwasher safe. The Bonavita Thermal Carafe has a stainless steel carafe that needs to be hand washed.
The one machine that felt particularly arduous to clean was the KitchenAid Siphon, which earned the low score of 4 out of 10 in this metric. No part of the machine is dishwasher safe, and due to the odd shape of the orb, hand washing takes some extra effort and can feel precarious. In addition to large glass components, the reusable cloth filter can be tricky to install and cumbersome to clean. The orb felt very delicate and if you were to drop it in the sink it would likely break.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the seemingly countless number of coffee makers available. At a glance, many of them have few significant differentiating features. On the flip side, it is also easy to spend hours researching only to be further confused by dubious marketing claims and conflicting opinions. Our tests provide real world, side-by-side, and directly comparable results, so you can rest assured that our data will lead you towards the right model. If you're still a bit confused check out our buying advice article. It provides a step by step guide that may clear up your last few reservations.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.