Need coffee to start your day right? Or keep your day going? We bought 12 coffee makers and put them through a series of side-by-side tests to assess their coffee taste, user-friendliness, convenience features, and ease of cleaning. With such a wide variety of coffee makers available, it can be difficult to figure out which one is best for your needs and budget. We made dozens of pots of coffee and evaluated every aspect of owning each machine, from automatic brewing to cleaning. Whether you make the occasional cup or drink a whole pot every morning our review has you covered.
The Best Coffee Makers of 2018
Analysis and Award Winners
Since our last update we've kept an eye out for newly released models and have not seen any new releases that would contest our current award winners. The OXO has continued to perform well in our office and receive positive user reviews, assuring us that it is the best coffee maker out there for most homes.
Best Overall Coffee Maker
OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup
With a sleek interface and top-notch taste test performance, the OXO Barista Brain was a clear leader of the review and won our Editors' Choice award. Its brew cycle incorporated a pre-soak step that made a noticeable difference in taste, which was a unique feature among our selection of coffee makers. Testers liked the single dial and button controls and found the digital display to be easily navigated. Setting up automatic brewing was straightforward and we couldn't think of any features that OXO missed with the Barista Brain. With a list price of $200 it was one of the most expensive coffee makers we tested. We recommend looking at the Cuisinart 14-Cup or Bonavita Thermal Carafe 8-Cup if you seek high performance but don't want to spend this much for it.
Read review: OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup
Best Bang for the Buck
BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable
If you're looking for a simple coffee maker with few frills, the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable is the perfect morning sidekick. It sports spartan design, materials, and functionality, which keeps the price down below the $30 mark. In keeping with that sleek utilitarianism it offers only the most useful of extra features: a programmable function so you can wake up to freshly brewed coffee. Rather than having a thermal carafe the BLACK + DECKER has a glass carafe and hot plate, which can burn coffee if its left on for too long. To boot it makes a pretty decent cup and is fairly easy to clean. If you can't get out of bed without a hearty dose of caffeine, this machine will be the best money you ever spent.
Read review: BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable
Top Pick Single Serving Machine
The Nespresso Vertuoline won our single serving machine shootout, largely because its aluminum capsules mitigate the persistent plastic taste present in coffee from the Keurig machine. Its barcode system also ensures you get optimal and consistent brewing conditions for every cup, with no need to adjust settings when you switch between coffee and espresso. 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 of a single serving machine is worth a bit of a sacrifice in taste, you can't beat this machine.
Read review: Nespresso Vertuoline
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 cup 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. With a list price that is half that of the OXO this is a great choice if you want a high-end coffee maker but don't want to spend $200 on our Editors' Choice award-winning OXO.
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.
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 drink 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 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 the manufacturer's recommended amount of coffee in our official taste testing. 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 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 probably be satisfied with these machines. If you're used to the refined flavor of a pour over brew, however, you may be slightly disappointed.
Leading off this average group with a score of 6 out of 10 was the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable. It makes a pleasant, crisp brew, but muddled some of the finer flavor notes of our testing coffee. 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 incredibly smooth 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.
The Keurig K55 was one of the worst scores in our taste tests, earning a 3 out of 10. This was largely due to the unavoidable plastic taste its pods leave behind. It also makes very weak coffee if you make anything but the small 5.5 oz cup. This machine is only for those that value convenience over taste. The worst performer in our taste testing was the Mr. Coffee Optimal Brew. It made very watery coffee, and the first few pots had a strong plastic taste to them.
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.
Here the pod machines reigned supreme. Nothing could really beat the insert-pod-push-button simplicity of the Keurig K55. The Nespresso Vertuoline almost makes it even simpler as the machine reads a barcode on the pod and adjusts settings accordingly, you don't even have to tell it whether you're making coffee or espresso. Both of these models earned the top score of 9 out of 10 in this 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.
Three 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 somewhat hidden 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 Mr. Coffee Optimal Brew 10-Cup Programmable's interface is a bit better, with multiple labeled buttons that eliminate some guesswork. The covered carafe makes for a slow pour, which may cause some frustration if you're trying to fill a large travel mug as you hurry out the door. The Technivorm Moccamaster KBG 741 Has a very simple, 2-switch interface and a pot that produces a nice, controlled pour.
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.
In testing convenience we evaluated how much time and effort actually went into making coffee on each machine. We also assessed 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. Ultimately we found that programmable functions work equally well on all models, thus we awarded a small score bump for 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 also requires no cleanup but takes 4 minutes to make a cup starting from cold water, so it earned a slightly lower score of 8. Both 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.
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 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 Mr. Coffee Optimal Brew is also programmable and also makes 6 cups in 10.5 minutes. 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 was slightly slower, making 6 cups in 12 minutes, and is obviously programmable.
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 K55 had a longer descaling process that lasted 70 minutes, which earned it 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. Both the Bonavita Thermal Carafe and the Mr. Coffee Optimal Brew have stainless steel carafes that need 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. We were always worried we were going to drop the orb in the sink and break it.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the seemingly countless number of coffee makers available and simply pick one at random. 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.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.