A coffee maker is easily an essential part of our morning routine. Unfortunately, coffee equipment has become an oversaturated market. And rightly so, finding the right coffee brewer can be overwhelming. To cut through all the confusion, we designed our testing procedures to determine which machines consistently make the best-tasting coffee while also evaluating each model's ease of use and cleaning.
Brew quality was our most important metric, and we made the taste-testing process as objective as possible. Our testing team included eight coffee drinkers, one of which was a professional and award-winning barista. Each tester tried samples from all 13 brewers against a control coffee. For our control, we used a pour-over brewed with a Hario V60 Size 02. We conducted blind taste-testing to avoid bias and used the coffee from the exact origin, roast date, and roaster. While we couldn't use the same coffee for the pod machines, we used pods comparable in flavor and roast level.
To assess user-friendliness, our coffee professionals brewed a pot of coffee on each machine from start to finish, including; filling the water tank, inserting filters, and loading in coffee grounds. In addition, we tested automatic brewing features and any additional features offered by each machine. Then we ranked each model based on the design of their interface and how easy it was to pour coffee out of their carafes.
Ease of Cleaning
The cleaning of a machine can ruin even the most delicious cup of coffee. So, we used and cleaned each brewer dozens of times to understand better which devices were easiest to maintain. We focused most of our cleaning score on daily cleaning, which encompassed all of the things you'd be cleaning daily (disposing of wet grounds, cleaning out the carafe, etc.). We also ran a descaling process on each machine, a deep cleaning process that removes mineral build-up from the device. 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.
To analyze the consistency of each brewer, we made five back-to-back pots of coffee and measured their results. Then, we examined the grounds of the spent coffee from each brew. We looked at the coloration of the grounds in the brew basket to help to determine how well the spray head distributed water during the brewing cycle. Good water distribution gives the coffee a better chance of evenly extracting and significantly contributes to a better-tasting coffee. Also, we examined the brewed coffee and whether grounds or sludge were in the cup. And finally, we measured the consistency of brew speed to determine if the machine slowed down after brewing multiple batches.