Every home in America needs a coffee maker; even if you don’t like coffee – your friends and family will.
It’s practically our national drink and deservedly so, because it’s fantastic.
The good news is that great coffee makers do not need to be expensive and they’re incredibly convenient and easy to look after.
Our complete guide to coffee makers covers everything that you need to know about coffee and coffee makers.
To get things rolling we look at the history of the noble bean and the first coffee makers.
After that, we pay a visit to our favorite celebrity chefs sharing their tips for making the most out of your coffee. Then it’s on to how to select the perfect coffee bean for your favorite cup before we start looking at the criteria you should use to decide on the right coffee maker for your home.
Then we give our recommendations for the best coffee makers of 2019 and also show you some of the awesome coffee machines that didn’t make the final cut, but which deserve your consideration anyway.
Finally, before we finish things up – we teach you how to clean and care for your coffee maker and make sure that your investment lasts as long as possible. You’re an awesome cook and that means you demand the best value for money.
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We know, you’re busy and it might be that this article is simply too long for you to read. If that’s the case, don’t worry – the best coffee maker of them all is this Cuisinart 14-Cup Coffeemaker Machine buy it and you won’t be sorry. It’s not even expensive.
However, if espresso is your thing and you don’t want to lash out a fortune on an espresso machine get this The AICOOK Stovetop Espresso Machine, instead. We’d urge you to read on though, it may help you choose an even better coffee maker suited to your needs.
A Brief History of Coffee
Coffee is found all over the world and it grows in warm, humid, temperate climates. It is fair to say that many of the world’s coffee producing nations are facing hard times as climate change has an impact on ideal growing conditions. But where does coffee come from, originally?
The Ethiopians say that Kaldi, a goat herder, saw that his goats get a buzz from eating coffee beans and then after giving them a go himself; he ran up to a monastery and managed to coax the monks into giving it a try too. The trouble with this story is that it first appears in writing in the year 1671 A.D. About 1,000 years after the Ethiopians can be shown to have started drinking coffee.
The Yemenis have two stories relating to the discovery of coffee. One has a Sufi Mystic, Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan AlShadili, trying the berries by chance and enjoying the experience. The other has a starving doctor, Sheikh Omar, being brought berries by birds and when he discovers they are bitter – he throws them in the fire, but they are too hard to eat. So, he boils them and conveniently invents the cup of coffee.
Whichever way it goes – North Africa is almost certainly the true home of coffee and the first cups of coffee would have been consumed in about the 7th century A.D. or thereabouts.
- Coffee was invented in North Africa – either in Ethiopia or in the Yemen
- Coffee was discovered in the 7th Century A.D.
The Origins Of The Coffee Maker
Coffee makers, however, arrived on the scene much later than the coffee did. As it would require the invention of more complex engineering principles to be able to turn out a coffee machine.
However, it is not entirely clear who invented what and when. Certainly, there is evidence that the Turkish people had invented some form of coffee percolator as early as 1818. Sadly, this original design was not preserved, and we do not have any concrete proof that it existed even though it is mentioned in texts.
What is absolutely clear is that the machine that Americans think of as a “coffee maker” e.g. something for making drop coffee and typically using a filter, wasn’t invented until the turn of the 20th Century.
The inventor was a German lady called Melitta Bentz and in 1908 using blotting paper for a filter; she created the modern coffee maker. It’s nice to be able to acknowledge the contribution that women have made to culinary history and Melitta is a winner in our book.
Fun fact:The Melitta Group KG still makes coffee machines and it is based in the North Rhine-Westphalia of Germany and employs over 3,000 people! It’s still owned by Melitta Bentz’s family too.
It’s also worth noting that the coffee maker is still evolving. There are high pressure machines, cold-extraction machines, coffee pod machines and more being invented every single day. As we look to the future, we can predict people will always love coffee but not what they will make their coffee in.
- The first coffee machine was probably built in Turkey in the 19th Century
- The modern coffee machine was invented by Melitta Bentz in 1908 in Germany
Celebrity Chefs That Love Coffee Recipes
You may be thinking that coffee is simply too American to be fashionable in fine dining circles. After all, isn’t tea the new coffee? It may be but that doesn’t mean that America’s favorite beverage has been brought low.
In fact, there’s a growing trend for American celebrity chefs to open their own coffee bars even though, compared to their restaurants, they make very little money!
Why? Because they order and prepare a lot of coffee in their restaurants and they know that if they can show people how good the coffee can be – they might eat in their restaurants to find out how good the food can be too.
Maria Liberati, of Hatfield, Pennsylvania, however, went one better and she spent nearly 11 years working on her book. “The Basic Art of Coffee”, she’s a firm believer in the European-style of coffee and the art that it brings to the culinary world.
Her book is only 32 pages long, so don’t worry it’s not going to bore you with endless facts, it’s a distillation of the perfect coffee from an Italian-American perspective and it’s fair to say that every tip she offers is really valuable.
We think you ought to check out her recipe for Receta Viennese Coffee at Cook Eat Share; it’s absolutely delicious. (Make sure you check out the English version of their site; they also have a Spanish language version).
Nigella Lawson is a British celebrity chef and she is unusual because she has never opened or run a restaurant that’s been open to the public. She has carved out a huge career in the UK by appearing on TV and launching cook books but the only way she’ll cook for you is if you are a guest at her home for dinner.
It can’t get any more authentic than that and we absolutely love her recipe for Coffee and Walnut Layer Cake that she says is “the cake of her childhood”. We’ve never met anyone who didn’t find this truly delicious.
We come back closer to home with our favorite US-based chef, Rachael Ray, she’s the lady with no formal training and an eye for effective cooking that has captured the heart of the nation. You can see the love and intelligence that she pours into her work and she makes us proud to be American.
Rachael tackles something a little different when it comes to coffee with her very simple recipe for Mexican Coffee. Be warned, this requires a little alcohol so if you’re not that way inclined, you probably won’t enjoy this but everyone else definitely will. It’s amazing!
- We think that coffee will always be in fashion and there are plenty of celebrity chefs who will back us up on that
- Check out Maria Liberati’s Receta Viennese Coffee and her book The Basic Art of Coffee
- Try Nigella Lawson’s decadent and wonderful coffee and walnut layer cake
- Then relax with Rachael Ray’s warming and tasty Mexican Coffee
Choosing The Best Coffee For You
We all have different tastes and it can be hard to find that “perfect coffee” for your palate.
It becomes much easier when you understand how coffee is prepared and presented.
Then you can start to sift through the information overload and make decisions on what to try and what to pass over, for now at least.
- The freshness of the roast. It is a bare faced lie that coffee is no good if you use it more than 2 weeks after it was roasted. It’s told to sell more coffee. That doesn’t mean that freshness isn’t important, it is. The nearer the roasting date – the better the coffee will taste. Ideally, pick yours up fresh from roasting and never buy coffee that doesn’t list the roasting date on the packaging. It does taste best 7-14 days from roasting and after about a month, it will start to lose a lot of flavor.
- The kind of coffee you want. There’s a big difference between an espresso and a filter coffee. A good roast can only serve a single purpose. I prefer espresso in the mornings and after a meal – it gives a nice jolt to the system, but I drink filter for most of the day; so, I buy two roasts, one for each.
- Blends or single origin beans. Blended coffees when done well can be absolutely superb and they offer a well-rounded drink that can really stand out and many espresso drinkers are going to prefer a blend to a single origin coffee. The reverse is true for filter coffee lovers – they tend to prefer the subtle distinction of single origin coffees. If you add milk to your coffee, you may find that you don’t much care either way as milk can really upset the flavor balance of the beans.
- Where do they come from? In a nutshell – you have three main regions for coffee: Central and Southern America, Africa and Asia. Coffee from the Americas tends to offer a cleaner, sweeter taste profile and people often pair these coffees with desserts and candies. African coffees are stronger and fruitier and Asian coffees are earthy and very bold. You’ll need to play around a bit to find the right region for you.
- What varietal is it? Coffee is a fruit. Fruits come in different varieties. No surprises here; there are different varieties of coffee fruit and good coffee roasts will tell you which varietal of bean was used in the making. Geisha is in high demand as it’s sweet and clear tasting and it costs a lot more too. More common varietals are Bourbon, Caturra and Typica – the more you experiment that more you’re going to be able to tell what works for your taste buds.
- How was it processed? Washed coffees have the fruit removed and then they’re washed and left to dry. This leaves a clean flavored bean behind. Natural coffees are dried with the fruit still attached and unsurprisingly, they have fruitier flavors.
- What altitude was it harvested at? This is a much bigger deal than you would expect, and the rule of thumb is: coffee becomes sweeter and more acidic the higher it was harvested at. With 1500 meters above sea level offering a dividing line between the two main taste sensations.
- Fresh coffee is good. Don’t drink coffee more than a month after roasting if you can help it.
- Espresso or filter? It’s a good starting point to make choices.
- Blends are best for espresso. Single origins for filter.
- The Americas for sweet coffees, Africa for fruity coffee, and Asia for earthy coffee.
- Varietal matters but you’ll need to experiment to find your favorite.
- Washed coffees are cleaner tasting than the fruity natural coffees.
- Go above 1,500 meters above sea level for cleaner more acidic coffee.
Classic Coffee Drinks
Coffee drinkers seem to be split into two distinct audiences. The classic folks who like the coffee beans to do the talking and the wilder people who like to throw a lot of other stuff in the glass and see how it all gets on. We begin with a look at some of the classic coffee drink recipes.
An espresso is a strong concentrated coffee which is, generally, served in “shots”. It forms the base of many fancy coffee recipes and many of the “wilder recipes” but it can also be drunk in pure form.
The ideal ratio of ground coffee to a shot is 7 grams of coffee to one shot. You can make your espresso in anything from a single portafilter machine all the way through to a multi-thousand dollar professional espresso machine.
I wouldn’t recommend the latter unless you’re going to open a coffee shop. You can make a perfectly decent espresso at home by spending much, much less.
The Filter Coffee
The other main traditional drink is the filter coffee, and this is something of an American classic. Europeans seem, by and large, to have drifted to “if it’s not espresso, it’s not coffee” but we’re happy to embrace either and the “cup of Joe” is almost as ironically American as Coca-Cola.
We encounter 7 grams (because it’s roughly a tablespoon) of coffee again for filter coffee but that’s how much you use to make roughly 3-3.5 ounces of coffee. That’s a fairly small cup and we expect most people would use substantially more.
Milk and Sugar?
You can add milk and sugar to coffee but by doing so; you destroy the underlying taste of the coffee. It’s fair to say that classic coffee drinkers tend to prefer their caffeine fix black. It only takes a very short period of adjustment to appreciate and enjoy black coffee.
- There are two classic coffees – the espresso and the filter coffee
- Purists avoid milk and sugar and take their coffee black
Walk On The Wild Side: Not So Classic Coffee Recipes
OK this first choice won’t be seen as that wild… but to a purist; it’s a serious step out of the norm:
A latte is a milk-based coffee with added espresso. The milk is usually heated (and sometimes frothed using a froth machine or attachment for your coffee machine) and the espresso is added afterwards.
This offers a better balanced milk drink than adding milk to a filter coffee and may be the most popular form of coffee on the planet today. Sure, the coffee’s not as well-defined a taste in a latte as it is plain but the creamy deliciousness of it more than makes up for that.
The Blanco Y Negro
This recipe comes from LA Mill and it’s a really delicious take on the classic espresso bean. You begin with a cold-brewed ice coffee (cold-brew is really popular in coffee shops but it’s a lot of work at home – so you may want to buy this in) and add espresso granita and some Madagascan vanilla bean ice cream. It’s utterly decadent and I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t blow away by it.
The Horchata Latte
Throw out that dairy milk girlfriend, that’s so 2017! The horchata coffee is a Mexican favorite and instead of dairy milk, we’re going to reach for rice milk and then we’re going to add some horchata powder, vanilla and a touch of cinnamon. Stir it all up and you have a taste sensation that even the biggest coffee snob in the world is going to love.
We could offer a million more coffee recipes here. There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy this beverage.
- The latte is all about milk and espresso. Let’s leave the filter coffee to the coffee purists.
- The Blanco Y Negro requires ice brewed espresso, espresso granita and Madagascan vanilla bean ice cream.
- The Horchata Latte needs rice milks, horchata powder, vanilla and a hint of cinnamon.
How To Choose The Right Coffee Maker
I don’t think we need to sell coffee makers to people. You’ll know if you want a coffee maker or not, but I do think it can help to look at a few factors when you decide what kind of coffee maker to buy for your home.
So, before you get your credit card out – let’s take a look at what’s important:
How Many Cups Do You Need?
I am not a big fan of leaving coffee around all day, I’d rather make it more often and have it fresh. But I do like to be able to make enough coffee for everybody who wants a cup at the same time. You can buy drip machines that make up to 20 (or more) “cups” though “cup” usually means 5-6 ounces depending on the manufacturer rather than 8 ounces (so keep that in mind). Whereas espresso machines, apart from really expensive models, can normally only handle 1 or 2 shots at a time.
How Often Do You Need Coffee?
I start and end my day with a cup of coffee, as does my husband, and I will have a cup or three during the morning. I now drink tea in the afternoons. The more you drink, the more you’re going to want to keep on hand. Insulated carafes (pots/jugs) tend to keep the flavor of a brew for much longer than the traditional glass carafe on a hot plate which leaves coffee tasting burned after a while.
Do You Need A Coffee Machine To Handle The Heavy Lifting?
Some of us find mornings a breeze and others don’t. If you want coffee but find it hard to think straight in the morning to get it underway; you could consider an automated programmable machine that makes coffee for you (and which switches itself off when it’s done).
How Much Room Do You Have?
You’ve got to be practical about these things, if you barely have a surface free in the home, there’s no point in buying a giant sized coffee shop style coffee maker with all the bells and whistles. Measure up the space you’re going to put the coffee maker into and make sure what you buy fits the space.
The Five Main Choices Of Coffee Maker Style
Then it’s all about picking the coffee maker that suits your style:
- The Drip Coffee Maker. 5 to 6 minutes brew time, multiple cups of coffee and often cheaper than any other kind of coffee maker. This is America’s favorite choice of coffee maker.
- The Single-Serve Pod Coffee Maker. These are great for people with very specific tastes but without the drive to assemble their coffees from scratch. Choose your flavor, drop the pod in and wait a few seconds. Coffee done. Not very environmentally friendly but definitely convenient.
- The Specialty Coffee Maker. From espresso makers, to simulated French presses, there are plenty of choices in this category. They tend to cost a little more and service very specific coffee needs.
- 1 to 2 Mug Drip. These are the “portable” coffee makers and for those that rarely drink coffee. No carafe needed, they use the mug you drink from instead.
- Stove Top Espresso Makers. Truth be told, real espresso requires high pressure and high temperature and espresso machines are rarely cost-effective for home use, but stove top espresso makers are “good enough” and “cheap enough” that many people love them.
- Be practical: decide how many cups you need, how often you will use it, whether you need any special features and make sure that your coffee machine will fit where you want it to
- Then pick the type of machine that best suits you: the drip coffee maker, the single-serve pod coffee maker, the specialty coffee maker, the 1 to 2 mug drip or a stove-top espresso maker.
Our Five Favorite Coffee Makers In 2019
We’ve tested a lot of coffee makers to come up with our favorites. That’s fine by us – we love coffee and in 2019, we think there are no better value coffee makers in the world than these 5; one for each of our 5 main coffee maker categories.
The Best Drip Coffee Maker: Cuisinart 14-Cup Coffeemaker Machine
The Cuisinart ought to be in everyone’s kitchen as an example of how to make a useful gadget that really works. It’s a top quality build that delivers 14-cups of coffee (though as we noted earlier – there is slightly less than 8 oz in a Cuisinart cup). It is programmable (and includes self-cleaning and auto-power off options) and all of that at a friendly price.
This is an excellent coffee maker.
The Best Single-Serve Coffee Pod Coffee Maker: Hamilton Beach 49972
There are many great single-serve coffee pod coffee makers on the market today but few of them offer the flexibility of the Hamilton Beach 49972.
Not only does it take pods from almost any manufacturer, but it also offers the eco-friendly option of making your own pods too with ground coffee.
It looks great and it produces super coffee. It also comes with an adjustable brew strength option for a few bucks more.
The Best Specialty Coffee Maker: The Kungroo Airtight Cold Brew Coffee Maker
It’s not the prettiest of our top coffee makers but this is an awesome device that makes fantastic cold brew coffee and enough of it for a family gathering too.
You get a 32 oz. carafe which is just perfect for summer days gathered together. We also found that it did a great job of keeping the acidity in the coffee low without us having to spend a fortune.
We really liked it.
The Best 1 to 2 Mug Drip Coffee Maker: The MixPresso Ultimate 2-in-1 Single Cup Coffee Maker
It looks great and works like a charm. Better still this “personal coffee maker” is capable of producing 14 ounces of coffee in one go; so, you can share with a friend without feeling cheated out of a decent cup.
It also has an auto shutoff so you can’t forget about it and burn your coffee or short circuit the coffee maker.
Highly recommended and it’s pretty cheap too!
The Best Stove Top Espresso Maker: The AICOOK Stovetop Espresso Machine
We picked the AICOOK stovetop device first and foremost for its good looks but the fact that it also makes 6 cups of espresso compared to the more limited 2,3 and 4 cup capabilities of its peers – made it a sure winner.
Is the espresso perfect like in a coffee shop? No.
But for a device that costs less than 20 bucks? It’s brilliant all the same.
Give it a try and see for yourself.
Our top 5 coffee makers in no particular order are:
Honorable Mentions: Other Great Coffee Makers
We said we’d tested a lot of coffee makers and we meant it. These machines didn’t make our top 5 but they’re all great machines nonetheless:
The AdirChef Grab’N’Go Personal Coffee Maker
This didn’t feel quite a substantial as our eventual winner, but we liked it a lot. I used this for a period of several months before swapping it out for category leader. Check it out.
The Bellemain 6-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker
The Bellemain is cheap and it does a great job of making espresso; we didn’t feel that it was quite as stylish as our top pick but that’s quite probably a matter of personal taster.
The Bialietti Cold Brew Coffee Maker
This neat device is flexible enough to handle both tea and coffee and it makes a very decent cold brew; it’s not quite as big as the category winner but it’s still very good.
The Better Chef IM-102B Compact Personal Coffee Maker
When we tested The Better Chef Personal Coffee Maker, we fell in love with it and it’s still a brilliant machine. It may not have picked up top slot, but it really wasn’t very far behind at all.
The Amazon Basics 5-Cup Coffee Maker
We rave about the Amazon Basics range and think that you can do much worse than trust the biggest online brand with your coffee. However, it’s a lot smaller than most coffee makers and that is a factor in our rankings.
The Elite Cuisine Maxi Matic 4-Cup Coffee Maker
Maybe we need a new category for very small coffee makers? Maybe, next year. Until then, if you’re looking for a coffee maker for a single person who doesn’t drink too much coffee – this might be it.
The Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker
A couple of cups short of our eventual winner; this full-featured coffee maker is at a great price point and we think many people are going to find this their best choice of coffee machine.
The Proctor Silex 10-Cup Coffee Maker
We really liked the Proctor-Silex and it’s really only the size that stops it from being the best family coffee maker out there. A smaller family might really appreciate this wonderful gadget.
The Robolife 2-Cup Espresso Maker And Stovetop Coffee Pot
Narrowly missing out on the best stovetop espresso maker was the Robolife; it’s a robust and reliable creation with stylish good looks and we’re positive that nobody will be sorry they bought it.
The Bodum Travel French Press
A neat little gadget that was beaten out by the cold coffee makers in the specialty section. If you like to make coffee absolutely everywhere you go – this is the toy for you. A travel French press that really works!
That’s not all though folks! We’re constantly adding new reviews of coffee machines and coffee makers to our Coffee Maker section of the website. Check back regularly to catch up with new developments and the latest offerings.
How To Care For Your Coffee Maker
For most families their coffee maker is not the most expensive piece of equipment in their kitchen (though my coffee maker may be the 2nd most expensive thing in my office after my laptop – I really like my coffee) but that doesn’t mean that it’s a trivial expense either.
As with all things in the kitchen; cleaning and maintenance serves two purposes.
The first, and arguably most important, is to prevent you and your family from getting sick or poisoned by bacteria, mold, etc. building up on or in the equipment.
The second, is to ensure that you get the longest life span out of your purchase as possible and protect your investment. Coffee makers need regular cleaning, or they may begin to stain, clog up or even become unsafe for use.
How To Clean Your Drip Coffee Maker
You need some tools for this:
a damp cloth, some filters (if your machine takes them), water, white vinegar, soap, a brush (dish brushes are fine as are specialist coffee maker brushes).
- Wipe out the central chamber with a damp cloth. If you need to – use a brush to get any grounds or grime out of hard to reach places.
- Fill the water chamber to about the halfway line with white vinegar and then top it up to full of water.
- Place a filter in the filter tray/basket so that it can catch any stuff that falls out during cleaning.
- Brew the vinegar mixture as you would a coffee and then switch it off and leave the coffee maker alone for an hour. Yes, an hour.
- Come back and switch it on again and brew it all over again. Swap out the filter paper after this. Now, empty the water/vinegar mix and replace with just water and brew it again!
- Then rinse the system once more by brewing plain water.
- Finally, give everything a scrub down with soapy water (after you unplug the coffee maker) and make sure it’s sparkly clean.
Note: Sometimes, the vinegar solution may not be enough to remove limescale on a coffee maker that hasn’t been cleaned in a while. If that’s the case – buy a specialist descaling agent and use that according to the instructions from your coffee maker’s manufacturer.
If you clean your drip machines every month; it ought to last for a lifetime. However, if you are a heavy coffee drinker – you might want to clean it weekly to maximize the longevity of the machine.
For all other coffee makers; you’re going to want to check the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning to make sure that you’re doing the right thing.
- You clean coffee machines to a.) keep them hygienic and safe and b.) to keep them running for as long as possible
- Drip coffee makers are easy to clean using these instructions
- All coffee makers can be cleaned, and you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Final Thoughts on Coffee Makers
We said at the beginning of this article that we’d give you everything you need to know about coffee and coffee makers, and we’d say that we’ve done a good job.
- A history of coffee
- A brief history of coffee makers
- Celebrity chefs and their coffee related ideas
- Recipes for classic coffees
- Some wilder recipes for new and exciting coffees
- A guide to choosing the right coffee beans for your coffee
- A guide to make the right decision when it comes to buying a coffee machine
- Our selection of the 5 best coffee makers for 2019
- 10 more amazing coffee makers if you weren’t impressed by our top 5
- Full care instructions for the most common type of coffee maker
That’s good, right? However, if you think we’ve missed something out – we’re all ears. Let us know in the comments or send us a message on Facebook; we’d be happy to consider adding something new next time around if you think it would help you choose a coffee maker.
For now, though, we wish you an enjoyable day with the great taste and scent of coffee gently wafting through it. Coffee rocks. It powers us and it powers America!