There is no reason to settle for a so-so cup of coffee. The coronavirus pandemic may have closed down countless coffee shops in 2020, but it’s never been easier to brew high-quality coffee at home. All you need is a good coffee maker that suits your preferred style and taste, along with a few expert tips on how to brew great coffee, every time you want a cup.
Quite simply, finding the best coffee maker for you and using the same techniques employed by professional baristas can take your coffee-making to a whole new level.
When we started looking into coffee makers, we wanted to expand beyond basic automatic drip machines and the very popular espresso makers that many people already have in their homes. We made sure to consider devices for each different brewing method, to allow for most (if not all) taste preferences and skill levels.
To better understand different coffee maker types and how you can improve or tweak each method of brewing, we spoke with Tyler Schultz, Head of Coffee at MistoBox coffee subscription, and with Master Barista Giorgio Milos, from illycaffé. After talking to the experts and evaluating many products, here’s what we ultimately found to be the best coffee makers.
6 Best Coffee Makers of 2020
Bodum Chambord French Press: Great for people just starting to take the plunge into alternatives to the same ol’ drip machines.
AeroPress: The most versatile choice, the AeroPress allows users to customize their coffee experience, from the grind to the brew time, and the use of different filter types.
Chemex: The brand’s double-bonded filters make a cup with the crispest, most citrus-forward flavor profile.
Bialetti Venus Induction 4 Cup Espresso Coffee Maker, Stainless Steel: A classic design at an affordable price, the Bialetti is easy to use and quickly brews rich, dense coffee similar to much more expensive espresso machines.
Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine: It makes excellent espresso, and comes with a tamper, pitcher, and burr grinder already included.
Cuisinart DCC3200 14 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker: Sometimes you just need to wake up and smell the coffee, and this automatic drip coffee maker is reliable and has enough features to make your day easier.
Best Coffee Maker Reviews, Updated September 2020
Bodum Chambord French Press: Best for medium to medium-dark roasts
• $37.99 at Amazon (8-cup model)
Bodum Chambord French Press Review:
If you’re in the market for a French press coffee maker, chances are you’ve seen the Bodum name. At roughly $30 for the three-cup version and $40 for the eight-cup, the Chambord, used and recommended by Giorgio Milos, is one of the best values you can get. It features high-quality materials throughout, from its sturdy borosilicate glass beaker to its stainless steel frame, as opposed to other models with all plastic beakers, frames and handles.
Schultz recommends the French press for anyone looking to make that first jump from automatic coffee makers to other, more hands-on methods. “It’s the easiest method to brew delicious coffee and the most difficult method to mess up,” Schultz says of the French press.
On top of that, Bodum is a trusted brand with good customer service and a wide array of accessories, including separately sold glass beakers in case your toddler tries to make you a nice French press coffee.
AeroPress: Best for traveling
The AeroPress is a patented, unique device that promises to create the “ideal conditions” for coffee. According to Milos and Schultz, the device’s limited capacity is its main drawback. Yet its small size makes it very portable, making it ideal for travel.
There are so many things you can customize with an AeroPress, it’s Schultz’s candidate for most versatile coffee maker. You can vary the grind size and steeping time. You can get a reusable metal filter to avoid waste — and a stronger, full-bodied brew — or use disposable paper filters if you want a lighter body and less time at the sink.
In summary, the AeroPress is a modern, tough-built device that can brew high-quality coffee wherever you are in the world, especially if you experiment and find how it can work best for you.
Chemex Pour-Over Glass Coffee Maker: Best for medium to light roasts and tasting
• $44.95 at Amazon (6-cup model)
Chemex Pour-Over Glass Coffee Maker Review:
While there are many look-alikes out there, the original Chemex’s famously attractive design hasn’t changed since its invention in 1941 by Peter Schlumbohm, and it still outshines the competition. The hourglass shape accommodates the filter on top, without sacrificing space at the bottom and giving you a nice grip in the middle. The glass is borosilicate, which is extremely resistant to heat and sudden temperature changes. This also helps keep your brew clean due to its non-porous nature. The only piece of the Chemex that will interact with your coffee is the proprietary filter, which is thick enough to keep any sediment or oil from seeping into your coffee. That’s why the Chemex is often recommended for those who really want to taste the nuances of coffee.
The company has several different models, but we like the six- or eight-cup classics the best. They’re a great bang-for-your-buck, the original wood handle look is beautiful and unique, and the size is convenient without taking up too much space.
Bialetti Venus Induction in Stainless Steel: Best value
• $69.99 at Amazon (6-cup model)
Bialetti Venus Induction Review:
Found in millions of Italian homes, the distinctive Bialetti Moka pot hasn’t changed much since its invention in 1933, and for good reason. Simply put, it makes great coffee and is, hands down, one of the most reliable pieces of kitchenware you can buy.
The Moka pot comes in a wide variety of looks and prices, from less than $10 for the traditional, two-cup pot, to more than $70 for the more modern versions. Unlike its more expensive cousin, the espresso machine, the Bialetti barely needs any maintenance and even the least expensive models are known to last for decades.
Bialetti’s stainless steel 4-cup Venus model has a heat-resistant handle and a sleek, stainless steel construction that can be used on both regular and induction cooktops. It’s important to note that this Bialetti will make enough for about 4 espresso cups, not full 8-ounce cups. If you live in a multi-coffee drinker household or like a full mug in the morning, you might want to spend a bit more on the six-cup pot. Otherwise, Bialetti’s Venus offers reliability and smooth, full-bodied coffee, at a very affordable price.
Breville BES870XL Barista Express: Best for dark roasts and fine grind
Breville BES 870XL Barista Express Review:
A top brand, Breville is no newcomer to the coffee game, and the Barista Express is one of its best all-arounders, with an included grinder, tamper, and pitcher. Its built-in burr grinder allows you to choose from 16 different grind sizes. The grinder itself is very easy to clean, which tends to be a hassle in other machines. It has a milk frothing wand that bends 360 degrees, so no matter where you parked the Barista, you’ll find a nice angle to position your pitcher.
As a semi-automatic, it does require more work from you, but this is part of its beauty. You get to select the grind size and the amount of grinds that’ll fall in your portafilter. In the package, you get both pressurized and non-pressurized filter baskets. When using these, you’ll need to figure out what the perfect grind is (with the integrated grinder and knob) and how much grounds you’ll need (there’s a knob for that too). You tamp it yourself, and while brewing you can follow the integrated pressure gauge to see if your brew is doing well.
We found the Breville BES870XL Barista Express to be a excellent model that gives you a genuine espresso-making experience.
Cuisinart DCC 3200 14 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker: Best for convenience
• $99.95 at many major retailers
Cuisinart DCC3200 Coffee Maker Review:
If all you want is the simple ability to make decent coffee for your household, you don’t need to shell out hundreds of dollars. The Cuisinart DCC3200 is a large 14-cup coffee maker, so in seconds you can brew enough coffee for your entire day or hand out mugs during a large breakfast. It has a programmable timer, so you can set it up for the next day as soon as you drink the first batch.
The machine also addresses some problems common to drip coffee machines: water temperature, water distribution, and the hotplate. It keeps temperatures between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit, and has a temperature control for the hotplate, so your coffee will be warm, not burnt. And it distributes water more evenly than other machines, ensuring you get the most out of your grounds.
The Cuisinart brews better coffee than most drip machines, it delivers extra features you don’t find in similar models, and it’s sold at a reasonable price. That’s why it is a solid all-around machine for a big coffee drinker or a big household.
How to Make Great Coffee at Home
Upping your coffee game does require a little time and effort, but there are some easy tricks to help you make a better cup of joe. Coffee expert Tyler Schultz and Master Barista Giorgio Milos explained some of the methods they use.
The first step to upping your coffee game is simple: buy fresh, whole beans and grind them yourself. This is why both Milos and Schultz agree that your first purchase should be a burr grinder.
A burr grinder, as opposed to a less expensive blade grinder, allows for more precise grinding of the beans, and gives you more control. As you’ll read below, each method favors a different grind size, because the grind size will determine, in part, how the coffee beans’ components are released into the water. Even if you only have a drip machine, freshly ground coffee will improve the experience.
Schultz personally recommends the Baratza Virtuoso grinder. At $249, that model is on the pricey side, but Baratza also has some more budget-friendly models, like the Encore ($169), which he considers “one of the best value grinders out there.”
How to Brew Great Coffee With Any Kind of Coffee Maker
Drip Coffee Maker
In addition to using fresh beans, here are some other simple ways to improve your coffee when using a drip coffee maker:
- Use filtered water to avoid any sediments or external flavors.
- Heat the water in a kettle before pouring inside the machine. Drip coffee makers tend to be inconsistent with temperature and often don’t heat the water enough, so fixing that small detail will enhance the extraction process.
- Take the carafe off the hotplate as soon as it finishes so you don’t burn the coffee.
Milos told us that the French press allows you to “play with grinding size and steeping time more than any other methods.” What’s important to remember is that “fine grind calls for short steeping time; coarse grind calls for [a] longer time.” Other than that, some common-sense tips include:
- Pour all the coffee out of the carafe after plunging so it doesn’t continue to extract.
- Sift your coffee before brewing, to minimize the grains’ size difference.
- Skim the grounds off the top before plunging, to help reduce the possibility of them ending up in your cup.
- If stray grounds still find their way to your cup, consider filtering the coffee through a filter after extracting.
Aside from the AeroPress’s intended brewing method, in which you simply pour the water and the coffee and almost instantly press down, many swear by an inverted process. Fans say this method offers a more optimal steep time, and doesn’t allow under-extracted coffee to reach your cup. Milos told us you can have “a good cup of coffee if you follow the regular way to brew; an excellent cup of coffee if you use the inverted method.” Be careful, though, as making the final flip can result in a dangerous, scalding mess.
- While not absolutely necessary, using hot water to rinse your filter and AeroPress chamber not only warms it up, but also removes any papery flavor.
- Before you flip the AeroPress over, give it half a minute to bloom, since this will enhance its flavors, especially if the coffee was freshly ground.
- Speaking of bloom, while the AeroPress’ filter cap is still facing up, press down gently on the flat edges to push the foam layer through the filter — but not so far that you spill!
According to Schultz, machines like the Chemex or the Prima Hario V60 “tend to showcase a coffee’s nuanced flavors […] and make for a clear and crisp cup of coffee,” thanks to its proprietary filter’s efficiency at removing oils and keeping residue out of your cup.
However, the Chemex does require some skill and patience to make a great cup of joe, and there’s a lot more room for error. Try the following steps:
- Weigh your coffee and grind to a medium-coarse texture, similar to sea salt. To start, try 50 grams of coffee and 700 grams of water (about 25 ounces).
- When you place your filter in, make sure that the triple-fold is facing the pour spout.
- Before putting in the coffee, first saturate your filter and warm the glass.
- When you put in your ground coffee, shake the filter a bit so that the grounds lay flat, for a more even pour.
The only stovetop method we’re featuring, the Moka pot’s longstanding popularity can be handily traced to two things: It brews a strong cup of coffee, and it’s easy to use. Here’s how to make the most of your Moka pot:
- Grind your coffee to medium.
- Never start your coffee with cold water! Fill the bottom chamber with boiling water before putting it on the stove. The longer you let the Moka pot to heat up, the higher the chances that your coffee might burn — an outcome none of us want.
- Use moderate heat for your Moka. If the brewed coffee explodes upwards when it starts bubbling out of the spout, your stove temperature is too hot.
- Once you hear the characteristic hissing and bubbling, take the Moka off the stove, to prevent any carryover heat from burning your coffee.
Considered by many to be the highest expression of coffee, the espresso machine is usually the most expensive option, with top-shelf brands running price tags of more than $2,000. There are several reasons for this, such as the quality of the manufacturing materials (steel, metal, and brass), digital displays, water temperature adjustments, included burr grinders and tamping systems with perfectly calibrated pressure, and the degree of automation.
To make sure your machine stays in optimal condition, be sure to follow these instructions:
- Before making your espresso, thoroughly clean your grouphead (where the coffee comes out) by running hot water through it without the portafilter.
- Nowhere is a proper grind more crucial than with an espresso machine. If the grind is too coarse, the shot will pour too quickly and its extraction can be sour, rather than rich. If the grind too fine, it can slow and appear thin and oily.
- Your coffee has four enemies: heat, air, moisture, and light — make sure to store it in an opaque, airtight container.
Summary of the Best Coffee Makers
Bodum Chambord French Press – Best for medium to medium-dark roasts
AeroPress – Best for traveling
Chemex Pour Over – Best for medium to light roasts and tasting
Bialetti Venus Induction in Stainless Steel- Best Option for your Budget
Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine – Best for dark roasts and fine grind
Cuisinart DCC3200 14 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker – Best for convenience