Get ready to crank it up, you guys. I’m already seeing friends posting their kids back-to-school photos all over social media and I am so not ready for those early mornings. So: coffee.
There are a lot of different ways to brew a really good cup of coffee at home. Plus, it saves you the money and time of swinging through a coffee shop on your way to school or work. But with thousands of brands out there, shopping for the right coffee maker can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve done the research and pulled together this list of the best coffee makers for each brewing method, from fancy French Press and chemistry-lab looking Vacuum Pots, to the classic Automatic Coffee Makers that are now more impressive than ever.
Hope you find the one that’s very perfect for you.
CME is an r*style affiliate.
Related: 5 killer copycat coffee recipes.
The Best Drip Brew Coffee Maker
My countertops have a tendency to get messy, so I want a coffee maker that will look nice sitting out and won’t have a bunch of parts and cords to worry about. I went with the only coffee maker to be featured as a permanent installation at MOMA: the iconic, modern Chemex brewer, which not only looks great but happens to make a great cup of coffee too (pictured top, via Fresh Ground Roast). Because it’s made of glass, it won’t absorb any odors or residue over time. No moving parts means there’s nothing to break so, unless you drop it, you won’t ever have to replace this coffee maker. You cannot get a better value, or a better cup of coffee, in my opinion.
How it works: You just slide a Chemex filter into the upper portion and add your coffee grinds. Pour hot water over the top and it drips through, leaving you with a hot, fresh cup of coffee below. Keep in mind that unless you get their Ottomatic model (above), you have to heat your own water, which might add a few minutes to your morning routine.
The Best French Press Coffee Maker
There’s just something so romantic about using a French press. That said, school mornings aren’t exactly the most leisurely, romantic times of my week. But, if you can find 10 minutes where you won’t get distracted and forget your coffee, this is a method that will give you really great flavor. I love the Bodum Chambord French press because you can pour your hot water straight into it without waiting for the water to cool first, and the 3-part mesh filter keeps the coffee grinds out of my mug.
How it works: The most important thing about using a French press is that you can’t use coffee beans that have been ground too fine or they’ll slip through the press leaving you with grainy coffee. That means you’ll need to have a burr mill to get larger grinds. Other than that, it’s simple. Put your coarsely ground coffee in the bottom of the press and add hot water on top (at a ratio of 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water). You can wait just 4 minutes to press down on the plunge but, if you give it a full 6-8 minutes, you get a really bold flavor.
The Aeropress Coffee Maker
An aeropress coffee maker like this one featured at The Kitchn looks kind of weird, and it’s inexpensive (so you can use your money on good coffee beans instead) but it’s crazy fast. As in, once your water is hot, you can be drinking your coffee in about a minute. Although it works similar to a French press, there are no grinds left at the bottom of your coffeemaker, which means there’s no messy cleanup—or grinds sneaking into your coffee—either. It’s also a much more eco-friendly way to make a single cup of coffee than using a single pod coffee maker like a Keurig, for those of you who like convenience but are feeling the k-cup guilt.
How it works: Heat the water to a boil, then let it cool for 1 minute so that your coffee doesn’t take on a bitter taste. Wet the paper filter and assemble the press (it’s easy) before setting it on top of your mug. Put your coffee and the water into the top of the press, give a quick stir, and press down on the plunger. Coffee will come through the filter at the bottom for an instant cup of goodness.
The Vacuum Pot Coffee Maker
The vacuum or siphon method of making coffee is not exactly practical, but it’s very exciting. (Well, as far as coffee making goes.) This coffee maker looks like something you’d see in your kid’s chemistry lab at school, and it puts on quite a show. Plus, lots of coffee aficionados think it makes the best cup of coffee out there. There are some very theatrical models, like the Royal Belgian Balancing Siphon coffee maker, but we like the Yama Glass Stovetop Siphon coffee maker because you can put it directly on your stovetop, eliminating the need for a butane burner, which, yeah, is not exactly the safest method with little kids around. Plus, who wants to invest in a butane burner?
How it works: Coffee grinds are placed in the top bowl while water is below it. The heat causes the water to move up into the grinds and then, when you remove the heat, the coffee filters through the top bowl into the bottom. Voila: coffee! The downside to this method? Brewing is a hands-on project, which means it probably doesn’t work well for most people on busy mornings unless you happen to wake up really early.
The Best Espresso and Cappuccino Makers
A stovetop espresso machine is an affordable way to make a really strong cup of coffee at home, and the iconic design of the Bialetti Moka Express espresso maker is our favorite. The flavor and aroma from this Italian brew is amazing. For the best cup, you should use the Moka coffee grinds that go with the machine. Use other brands at your own risk.
For an authentic espresso or cappuccino, you’ll need to invest in a pump machine. These machines have much more pressure than a stovetop espresso maker, and they’re safer to use too. But, whew, they’re not cheap. That said, the De’Longhi Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker is an espresso maker under $100 that gets really rave reviews on Amazon. Just keep in mind, with so many plastic parts this one won’t last you more than a few years.
For the creme de la crema (ha, couldn’t resist!) of barista-style machines, we love the Breville Barista Express. Because of the built-in burr grinder, you can go from coffee beans to espresso in less than a minute (once you figure out how to work the thing, that is). Even if you aren’t an espresso-every-day kind of person, this looks beautiful sitting on your counter. And right now, it’s almost half off at Amazon. So if you’ve been thinking about getting one, now’s the time.
How they work: Steam builds up when the water is heated, working through the packed coffee grinds to create a shot of highly caffeinated espresso. Be aware: You won’t be able to get a good foamy crema on top of your drink with a stovetop espresso maker since you can’t create enough steam pressure there. You’ll need a pump or barista-style machine for that.
The Best Automatic Coffee Makers
Clearly, there are a lot of trendy methods for brewing coffee but, realistically, most people end up with an automatic drip coffee maker. There are hundreds of them available, from the $9 version on your grocery store shelf to imported machines that cost hundreds of dollars.
At the top of the line, we suggest Technivorm’s Moccamaster coffee brewer. Each machine is handmade and individually tested at their factory in the Netherlands, and they’ve won several European awards for quality. It’s expensive, but it comes with a 5-year-warranty and should last a lifetime if you keep it clean (which, I know, doesn’t always happen). Plus, it makes 10 cups of coffee in 6 minutes, which means you don’t have to be away from the good conversation at the table for long at your next dinner party. Or you don’t have to wait long for your caffeine when the kids wake you up at the crack of dawn.
That said, you can still get a good coffee maker without breaking the bank, and the Zojirushi Fresh Brew Thermal is one that does a great job. Your coffee is brewed directly into a thermal pot that can keep it hot for hours, with no heating plate underneath that can give it that scorched taste if it sits too long. It takes just under 10 minutes to brew 10 cups, plus it has a timer, so you can wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. It doesn’t get better than that. If you’re interested, consider buying now when it’s 30% off at our affiliate Amazon.
If you like to grind your own beans at home, it doesn’t get easier than the KRUPS Grind and Brew coffee maker. A steel burr grinder is built into the machine, which deposits the perfect amount of freshly ground coffee directly into the filter. But the programming on this one is what makes it so fun. You can set it to brew automatically, choosing from five grind levels and 3 coffee strength levels to make a cup that’s exactly right for you.
How they work: Do we really need to know the mechanics? The beauty of automatic coffee makers is that coffee just happens. Thank you coffee maker!