Best Coffee Maker of 2020
Best Overall Coffee Maker
OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup
The OXO Barista Brain was a leader in almost all of our tests. It consistently produces robust and 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 impressed our testers with how straightforward they were to navigate, and its automatic brewing is easy to program. We found it challenging to find many flaws in the Barista Brain.
The OXO has the highest list price of any machine in our review. Its performance matches its expense, but it's also 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 without the high cost.
Read review: OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup
Best Bang for the Buck
BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable
For those seeking a practical coffee maker on a tight budget, the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable is an ideal option, with maximum functionality and no unnecessary features. With such an attractively low list price, it's 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 fresh pot every morning.
We have seen some customer complaints of durability issues after extended use. We didn't notice any problems with reliability in our tests and recommended 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 keep coffee fresher, resulting in a stronger and better-tasting cup, and are recyclable, relieving some of the guilt that comes with using a pod machine. That said, Keurig pods are more widely available and less expensive, so there certainly are reasons to choose Keurig over Nespresso. Furthermore, newer Keurigs have also managed to reduce the plastic aftertaste that can come from using their pods (it's still there, but slightly more subdued).
Best Single Serving Machine
When it comes to single-serve capsule machines, the Nespresso Vertuoline is our clear front runner. Not only can it effortlessly switch between brewing coffee and espresso, but it also manages to produce a much bolder and darker cup than any of its capsule-style competitors. Additionally, the aluminum capsules eliminate the slight plastic aftertaste that many associate with single-serve coffee pods (and Nespresso's recycling program goes a long way to abating environmental guilt). Of course, like all pod machines on the market, the Vertuoline serves up a quick cup with the push of a button and the pull of a lever and requires almost no cleanup afterward. You can't get much simpler than that.
The biggest downside to this, and any other pod machine, is the fact that you'll be paying much more per cup than you would with a drip machine. However, if a drip machine would be wasteful because you never make more than one cup at a time and you're willing to pay for the convenience, the Nespresso Vertuoline provides the best single-serve pod experience we've found to date.
Read review: Nespresso Vertuoline
Best Keurig Machine
If you're dedicated to Keurig's single-cup capsules, then the K-Cafe is the best option out there. Though there are less expensive models, the K-Cafe boasts more features than any other Keurig model, including abundant settings for various coffee drinks and an integrated milk frother.
Keurig's pods didn't produce impressive coffee, and most of our testers found it to be on the weak side. However, 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 K-Cups then the K-Cafe is your best option.
Read review: Keurig K-Cafe
Best for Those with Exacting Standards
Breville Precision Brewer
The recent surge of popularity in pour-over coffee has led many aficionados to make their coffee with a scale, temperature gauge, and timer to ensure the perfect coffee to water ratio, along with ideal bloom and extraction times. We get it, we've been there, and have enjoyed some great coffee as a result. The problem is that the logistics of pour-over dictate making a single cup at a time. Switching over to making a big pot of coffee for multiple people usually means sacrificing control over all of these variables. That's where the Precision Brewer comes in. Its "My Brew" function allows you to choose an exact water temperature, pre-infusion time, and flow rate (a proxy for extraction time), allowing you to transfer all of your pour-over preferences to a 60oz coffee maker.
Outside of those that are yearning to have more precise control over how their drip-maker brews coffee, we don't think the Precision Brewer is worth its expensive price tag. The more reasonably priced OXO Barista Brain can make equally good coffee with much less fuss, and the Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable gets very close for less than a third of the price. Bottom line, this is a machine for true coffee nerds, not those that just want a reliable and straightforward way to make a good pot of coffee in the morning.
Read review: Breville Precision Brewer
Great Taste at a Reasonable Price
Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable
The Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable was second only to a few much more expensive models in our taste testing, and manages to produce a pleasant, bold pot of coffee consistently. It scored slightly lower in user-friendliness and ease of cleaning but is still a top-performer among the machines that we tested.
If you're looking for a high-quality machine on a moderate budget, the Cuisinart will not disappoint. In our testing, it performed far better than the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable. However, it comes at double the price.
Read review: Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable
Why You Should Trust Us
Michelle Powell, our lead coffee tester, has been working in the specialty coffee sphere for more than 10 years. Advanced training at cornerstone coffee institutions such as Blue Bottle Coffee and Four Barrel Coffee, and competing in the prestigious Southwest Regional Barista Competition are just a few highlights from her time in the field. Max Mutter has been writing about coffee and coffee products at TechGearLab for more than 4 years, and has used more products and consumed more caffeine in that time frame than he can quantify.
In finding the best caffeine slinger for your countertop, we researched more than 100 of the most compelling makers around. We then chose the best and purchased all at standard retail price (we never take any gifts from manufacturers to eliminate any bias) and brought them into our test kitchen. Our core team, along with a panel of 8 taste testers, then spent over 150 hours using, cleaning, and over-imbibing with these machines. All of our tests were completed in a side-by-side, controlled manner using the same coffee beans and brewing with one machine right after the other to ensure consistent outside conditions. This allowed us to objectively assess convenience, ease of cleaning, and, more importantly, the quality of coffee produced by each machine.
Related: How We Tested Coffee Makers
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 easily and efficiently. We designed our testing around this sentiment.
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 taste. The detailed results from these testing metrics are discussed in the sections below.
Related: Buying Advice for Coffee Makers
With coffee makers, we've found that you can either pay top dollar for high-end taste (with the OXO machine) or convenience (in the Nespresso and Keurig pod-style machines). Or you can pay a lot less for good but not fantastic 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 while keeping the 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 carefully 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 blindly, 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 the 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, giving a much richer and more flavorful brew. In our opinion, this is the closest you're going to get to the quality of pour-over coffee in the convenience of a machine.
Regarding taste, the Breville Precision Brewer is the first machine we've found that can rival the OXO. It earned the same score of 9 out of 10 in our taste testing thanks to a bold taste that didn't drown out more subtle flavors. It even allows you to adjust every step of the brewing process if you're hoping to transfer your exact pour-over setting to a drip machine.
We also found the Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable capable of producing a nice brew, earning an 8 out of 10 in our taste testing. Its coffee comes out bright and bold but loses just a bit of the flavor nuances that the top-scoring models are able to bring through. The Bonavita Thermal Carafe 8-Cup performed very similarly in our tests with a smooth and pleasant, if slightly less bold, brew.
Earning 7 out of 10, both the Technivorm Moccamaster KBG 741 and the Bonavita Thermal Carafe Coffee Brewer fall into the good but not exceptional range when it comes to taste. Both models can produce a hearty, intense cup, but they also draw out fewer of the subtle flavor complexities usually present in coffee made with the top-scoring models.
Outside of the top scorers in our taste testing, most of the machines produced average tasting coffee. If you're entirely satisfied with the taste of the bottomless cup of coffee at the local diner, then you'll undoubtedly be satisfied with any of these machines. However, if you're used to the refined flavor of gourmet coffee made with a pour-over setup, you may be somewhat disappointed.
Leading off this average group with a score of 6 out of 10 is the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable. It makes a pleasant, crisp brew, but muddled some of the finer flavor notes of our test coffee. The Mr. Coffee Simple Brew Switch also scored a 6 and made a very similar brew.
After much hemming and hawing, the KitchenAid Siphon received a 5 out of 10 in this metric. When it comes to taste, we consider it a bit of a niche product. Its unique brewing style produces an impressively smooth brew with nary a hint of bitterness — something we've never seen in another drip maker. However, that smoothness undermines much of the coffee's flavor which can make it taste somewhat weak. While some people are sure to be terribly disappointed, this is probably exactly what others are looking for.
The Nespresso Vertuoline also earned an average 5 out of 10 in this metric, making it the best single-serve capsule machine we tested. While its coffee tasted weak compared to almost all of the drip brewers we tested, it was noticeably bolder and richer than its capsule competition. Additionally, the aluminum pods eliminate that plastic aftertaste that is often associated with capsule coffee machines.
Among the worst performers in our taste tests were the Keurig's K-Cafe, and K-Elite. Each earned a 3 out of 10, largely due to a faint plastic taste that its pods can leave behind. They also make very weak coffee if you make anything larger than a 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 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 a groggy, non-caffeinated state.
Unsurprisingly, single-serving pod machines dominated our user friendliness testing. You can't get much simpler or more straightforward than the push-button-get-coffee functionality of the Keurig and Nespresso models. The Nespresso Vertuoline even has a barcode reader that automatically adjusts the brew settings depending on which pod you load into the machine. Accordingly, all of the pod style machines we tested shared the top score of 9 out of 10 in this metric.
Earning an 8 out of 10 in this metric, 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 pours, but this is a minor annoyance. This machine still requires loading and disposing of grounds yourself, so it can't quite compete with the top scorers.
Earning a 7 out of 10, the Technivorm Moccamaster KBG 741 offers a spartan and easy to understand interface, along with a carafe that produces a controlled pour. However, you don't get any extra features that you see on many comparable models, such as a timer that allows you to know how fresh the coffee is.
A good number of the models we tested fell into a not difficult to use, but also not particularly pleasant to use sort of category. Leading off this group with a 6 out of 10 is the Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable. It has many well-labeled buttons, but the small LCD screen can make navigating its settings a bit tricky. We also found the spout on the carafe prone to spills if you're not careful. Also scoring a 6 out of 10, the Mr. Coffee Simple Brew 12-Cup Switch's carafe provides a nice smooth pour, but its single-switch interface doesn't allow for any customization of your brew.
Continuing the 6 out of 10 trend, the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable provides a simple single-button option for brewing and arrow buttons that allow you to easily set the timer if you'd like to wake up with your pot of coffee ready. However, it lacks any options for adjusting how it actually brews your coffee.
The final model to earn a 6 out of 10 in our user friendliness metric, the Breville Precision Brewer, offers a reasonably simple brewing process once you realize the "Gold" setting is akin to what "Standard" or "Classic" would be on any other machine. It also offers an almost overwhelming number of advanced settings. Although the interface makes navigating through these settings fairly easy, you'll probably have to use the manual to figure out exactly how each one works.
Leading off the low scorers in our user-friendliness tests was the Bonavita Thermal Carafe 8-Cup, which scored a 5 out of 10. It has a simple single-button interface that streamlines things but 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, if you haven't used the machine before, you may require the user manual to get a cup of coffee. Also, the lip around the carafe opening forces you to tip it nearly all the way over to get a good pour.
For those of us that are useless before our first cup of coffee, cutting down on the time and effort required to get said caffeine fix is paramount. For our convenience testing we objectively measured how long it took us to make 6 cups of coffee with each machine, (prep, brewing, and cleanup included), and subjectively evaluated the difficulty inherent in those processes. Models that let us make a pot in less than 10 minutes with only some grind dumping and brew basket rinsing scored highly, while those that required more thorough cleanup or longer brew times scored poorly. We also gave bonus points for features like programmable brewing that could further streamline your morning coffee ritual.
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. Taking home a 9 out of 10, the Nespresso Vertuoline was the top scorer in our testing. From start to finish, it can make a cup of coffee in less than 3 minutes, no cleanup required. The Keurig K-Cafe and K-Elite also require no cleanup but 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. However, pour-over does require a little bit of extra cleaning, and depending on your system for boiling water, may take longer.
For the more traditional drip makers, we measured how long it took to make a 6-cup pot for our speed test. These times include 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 Hamilton Beach 2-Way 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 significantly improves convenience if you just want to fill up your thermos in the morning without making a full pot.
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 on our score sheet. 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 roughly 12 minutes. The Breville Precision Brewer consistently took 10 minutes to brew 6 cups in our testing. It does offer a fast setting that can cut that down to around 8 minutes, but the resulting brew lacks some boldness.
All of the lowest scoring models ended up towards the bottom of the score sheet at least partially because they are not programmable. Both scoring 5 out of 10, the Bonavita Thermal Carafe 8-Cup and Moccamaster can brew 6 cups in 9.5 minutes and 9 minutes, respectively. The Mr. Coffee Simple Brew 12-Cup Switch brews a pot in 12 minutes and earned a 4 out of 10, while the worst scorer was the KitchenAid Siphon, which scored 3 out of 10. It takes a full 14 minutes to make 6 cups of coffee, mostly because it is so difficult to clean.
Ease of Cleaning
Even the most euphoric cup of coffee can be ruined if the ensuing cleaning process is excessively cumbersome. In our testing, we used and cleaned each machine dozens of times, which gave us a clear perspective on which ones will streamline your morning routine, and which ones will likely bog you down. We also ran through each machine's long term cleaning tasks to judge their inherent difficulty. This generally entails running descaling cycles to remove built-up minerals.
The two pod style machines we tested dominated our cleaning tests due to their simple brewing methods that produce practically nothing 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's all that really needs regular cleaning. Its descaling process is straightforward and took us about 30 minutes. The Keurig models had longer descaling processes that lasted roughly 70 minutes, which bumped them down to the 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.
Earning a 7 out of 10 in this metric, the OXO On Barista Brain fell slightly behind the capsules machines. Its large filter basket makes removing grinds easy, and the stainless steel carafe can be hand washed without much fuss. The descaling process takes about 60 minutes to run and is easy to start. As a bonus, the machine tells you when it needs to be descaled, so there is no need to set any reminders on your calendar.
The Breville Precision Brewer also picked up a 7 out of 10 in this metric, thanks to some thoughtful design touches. We like that its shower head is both removable and silicone, which makes removing built-up minerals very easy. However, it does tend to drip coffee when you remove the carafe, as well as condensation when you remove the brew basket, which can add to your daily cleanup routine.
The Moccamaster also fell into the good, but not great, bucket in our ease of cleaning testing. We found the majority of its components to be easy to both access and clean. The pot has a wide opening that easily accommodates scrubbing, and the paper filters make for quick disposal of grinds. None of the components, however, are dishwasher safe, which eliminates that convenient route for weekly cleaning.
The one machine that we absolutely dreaded to clean throughout our testing was the KitchenAid Siphon. It brings up the rear in this metric with a score of 4 out of 10. First off, you can't put any of it in the dishwasher. Everything has to be washed by hand. Secondly, trying to grip and scrub the oddly shaped glass orb feels like a task that could end in a pile of glass shards at any moment. Finally, it uses a cloth filter that also needs to be cleaned after each use, a step very few other machines require.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the seemingly countless number of coffee makers available. At a glance, many of them have few significant distinguishing 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 side-by-side, real-world, and directly comparable results, so you can rest assured that our data will lead you to the right model.
— Max Mutter, Michelle Powell, and Steven Tata