Prices are accurate at the time of publication.
- There are many excellent choices for high-quality electric coffee makers on the market today.
- Using my decade of coffee industry experience, I tested 8 machines to determine which performed best.
- Café Specialty's Drip Coffee Maker produced the best-tasting coffee and is easy to use.
Electric drip coffee makers provide the quickest, easiest way to brew coffee. But can a coffee maker help you achieve the same great cup of coffee that you can get from your favorite cafe? As it turns out, yes.
Automatic coffee makers have come a long way in the past few years. As appreciation of specialty coffee in the United States has grown significantly, manufacturers of coffee makers have outfitted their products with a variety of new features, many of which are designed to emulate facets of manually brewing pour-over coffee. For example, many modern machines come equipped with a pre-infusion cycle that allows the coffee to bloom, fully-customizable temperature controls, and settings that allow you to choose your preferred brewing strength.
Whether you want a coffee maker that's straightforward and simple, one that allows you to make a wide variety of drinks, or one that gives you precise control, you'll find it in this buying guide.
Here are the best coffee makers in 2021:
- Best drip coffee maker overall: Café Specialty Drip Coffee Maker
- Best budget drip coffee maker: Kitchenaid 12 Cup Drip Coffee Maker
- Best drip coffee maker for specialty drinks: Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker
- Best precision drip coffee maker: Breville Precision Brewer
Pros: High build quality, easy to use, consistent performance.
Cons: Expensive when compared to competitors.
The sleek Café Specialty Drip Coffee Maker looks simple, but it delivers when it comes to performance. It's made primarily of stainless steel with a matte black finish, copper accents, a reusable titanium plated filter, and a vacuum sealed thermal carafe.
The water reservoir holds up to 10 cups, and is outfitted with a carbon filter to ensure that any excess minerals in the water don't make it into the coffee. It also offers a temperature control option, an auto brew setting, and wifi connectivity that allows you to control the brewer remotely with a phone app. I found the controls for all these features to be intuitive and easy to use.
Most importantly, this SCA certified machine (more on what that designation means here) produces some of the best coffee I tried in my tests. There are options available to brew at multiple degrees of strength, "Gold," "Light," "Medium," and "Bold," with "Gold" being the recommended setting. I tried coffee made at multiple settings and all were good, with the "Gold" and "Bold" having a more well-rounded, full flavor and a slightly heavier body. I was able to taste all the chocolate and fruit notes of the flavor profile in every cup.
What makes this coffee maker the best I tested is its combination of simplicity and customizability. It's also extremely consistent — every cup of coffee brewed at every setting tasted just like it should. The only downside with this machine is the high price tag, but if you're willing to invest in a top-tier appliance, the Café Specialty won't let you down.
Pros: High capacity, multiple options for brew strength
Cons: Mostly plastic construction, fewer options than similar models
The unfortunate truth is that a high-quality, reliable coffee maker is not going to be cheap. At $99.99, this Kitchenaid 12 Cup Drip Coffee Maker isn't "budget" for most, but this is about the minimum amount you will have to spend on a high-performance machine. The Kitchenaid has many of the same features as our favorite, the Café Specialty, but at less than a third of the price.
This coffee maker is built mostly of sturdy plastic, with a glass carafe kept warm with a heating plate. With a 12 cup capacity, it's also one of the largest we tested. It comes with a reusable filter fitted with a convenient "dosage ladder" that matches the volume of ground coffee with the desired amount of water. It's very easy to use and the controls are intuitive, allowing for a "Bold" brewing option, a timed auto brew feature and a cleaning cycle.
The coffee the Kitchenaid 12 Cup produced on the normal settings was well extracted and full-flavored, which was impressive considering that it's one of the simpler machines we tested.
Using the "Bold" setting made an even better cup. It was much richer with a heavier mouth feel and still maintained all of the beans' chocolatey notes. It may lack a few of the extra features of other coffee makers, but the Kitchenaid delivers delicious results at a fraction of the price.
Pros: "Specialty" brew setting and milk frother can be used to make espresso-style drinks, wide variety of brewing options.
Cons: Lower build quality, mostly made of plastic.
If you're looking for versatility in a coffee maker, the Ninja Specialty is the one to get. It can be operated with either a reusable filter or a paper filter. It also has a wide selection of brew sizes, from a single serving cup all the way to a full 18-ounce carafe. If you choose the former, there's a retractable platform that can hold a mug — an addition I found to be incredibly useful.
Every setting is easily selected with a dial and light-up icons, along with clearly marked buttons on the face of the coffee maker. But the Ninja's most unique feature is the built-in electric milk frother, which is attached to an arm that folds out from the machine's side.
This coffee maker offers multiple brew styles like "Classic," "Rich," "Over Ice," and "Specialty." Every cup I tried on both "Classic," and "Rich" settings was full-bodied and flavorful. What really sets the Ninja apart from the other machines I tested is its "Specialty" brewing feature, which produces a concentrated, 4-ounce pour of coffee. It's not quite as dense as espresso, and doesn't have crema, but I found the taste to be surprisingly similar.
The "Specialty" setting paired with the built-in milk frother gives you the option to make specialty drinks like lattes. Again, it's not the same as using an espresso machine — the brewing process is completely different — but I was satisfied with my faux lattes. With a little practice I'm sure cappuccinos, cortados and flavored drinks such as mochas could also be in the rotation.
Pros: Highly customizable brewing variables, high-quality build, mostly stainless steel.
Cons: Precision brewing options really most useful for more experienced coffee drinkers.
The Breville Precision Brewer offers unmatched control over every variable in the brewing process. It's primarily made of stainless steel with a clear plastic reservoir. The brew basket is detachable, and you can use reusable or paper filters. With a 12 cup capacity, the Breville is perfect for making large batches of coffee, but it performs well at lower volumes as well. Most of the customization is done using the small, back-lit display screen and a single dial. The screen is easy to read and the menus are simple to navigate.
When it comes to brewing, the Breville offers multiple preset brewing modes; "Fast," "Gold," (the recommended setting) and "Strong". It also offers presets for making both iced coffee and cold brew. And there's an attachment available that lets you swap out the brew basket with a pourover device like a Hario V60 or Kalita Wave. For my tests, I first tried brewing a pot of coffee with the SCA recommended "Gold" setting and followed that up with the "Strong" setting. The coffee I made on both the "Gold" and "Strong" presets was fully extracted and full-flavored, with the second cup a bit darker and more robust.
Beyond these presets, the thing that really sets this brewer apart is the customization available in the "My Brew" setting, which allows users to modify almost every major variable in the brewing process — including the bloom time, water temperature, and water flow rate — and then save those settings for future use. If you're looking for a coffee maker to just get the job done there are simpler and more affordable options. But for the coffee aficionado who wants complete control of the brewing process, the Breville is the best maker you can get right now.
This coffee maker is the clear runner-up for the overall best. The Cuisinart PurePrecision is made primarily of stainless steel with a thermal carafe, uses a reusable metal filter, and has an 8 cup capacity. It's advertised as an automated alternative to a pour-over cone, using a pre-infusion cycle, variable water temperature and brew styles to give the user more control. The coffee it makes tasted great, especially when using the "Bold" setting. If the Cafe Specialty or Breville Precision are out of your price range, this is an excellent alternative.
The Ninja Dualbrew Pro offers all the same features and brewing options as the Ninja Specialty, with the addition of an attachment that allows the user to brew coffee from pods. As far as performance is concerned, the Dualbrew Pro performed very similarly to the Ninja Specialty in my tests. The only notable drawback is the lack of a reusable filter basket with the Dualbrew Pro. Switching between the pod brewing and standard brewing functions was a little awkward , and regardless of which setting you use, there will be either a loose plastic cone or pod brewing attachment. Unless you really want the option to use coffee pods, I recommend opting for the Ninja Specialty Brewer instead.
The Mr Coffee is another machine that provides the option of brewing coffee pods as well as ground coffee. It has most of the standard features the other coffee makers here have, like a timed auto brew function and a variable "Strong" setting. It requires paper filters which are not included, and offers a water filter that fits into the water tank. The coffee made on the "Strong" setting was significantly better than the standard cup, which seemed slightly under extracted and weak. One positive feature here is that the manufacturers provide a reusable pod that allows you to use your own fresh coffee. The overall performance of this maker doesn't warrant recommending it over any of the others. Unless having a coffee maker that brews both pods and normal ground coffee is appealing, I'd recommend the Kitchenaid or Cuisinart PurePrecision over this one.
The OXO coffee maker has a good build quality, but lacks many features standard on other products. There's no option for brewing strength and no ability to control water temperature. Because of its lack of features and trouble maintaining temperature, I have a hard time recommending this maker over others I tested. The coffee it produced was acceptable, and it performed well, but at this price point you're better off choosing the Ninja Specialty or the Cuisinart PurePrecision.
I have around a decade's worth of experience in the specialty coffee industry. Before testing and reviewing coffee products I worked as a barista, helped open a cafe, and worked behind the scenes in packaging and distribution. For additional expertise, I spoke with Max Gaultieri, barista, roaster and founder of Joules and Watts coffee in Malibu California, and Jessica Rodriguez, who heads the Certified Home Brewer program at the SCA.
The coffee makers in this guide were thoroughly tested based on the following objective criteria:
Build quality: While testing, I paid attention to the quality of the build, most notably what each coffee maker was primarily made of, (stainless steel, plastic, glass, etc.) I also noted which type of carafe each used and whether they were thermal or glass kept warm with a heating plate.
Brewing capacity: For this criteria, I simply noted the maximum brewing capacity for each coffee maker. The machines I tested ranged from 8 to 12 cups of brewing capacity
Ease of setup and use: To test this, I followed the manufacturer's instructions for setup and operation for each coffee maker. During the setup, I paid close attention to how easy each coffee maker was to set up and use and whether there were any awkward controls or components on each machine.
Type of filtration: Each coffee maker uses either a reusable filter (usually plastic mesh or stainless steel,) paper filters, or has the ability to use either.
Customizability: Most of the coffee makers I tested had multiple options to customize the brewing process. Some offered a simple choice between a standard brewing option and a "rich" or "strong" option. Some coffee makers, like the Breville, offered a much higher degree of customizability over brewing variables. For each coffee maker I began by using the recommended brewing preset, usually referred to as the "Medium," "Standard," and "Normal" settings. I then did a second test, again following manufacturer guidelines for any coffee maker that offered a "Strong" or "Bold" option, and tested how each cup tasted compared to the "Standard" settings. Most importantly, I wanted to make sure both of these options with every coffee maker were extracted properly and were not under or over developed.
Consistency and flavor of coffee: Taste is ultimately subjective, so I looked primarily at whether each brewer produced consistent results. After testing with manufacturer recommended ratios, I used SCA standards to see if each brewer met expectations for each brewing variable. I pre-measured the coffee and water at the recommended ratio of 1 part coffee to 18 parts water. I used the recommended ratio of coffee to water to make a batch of 8 cups of coffee (8 cups is the maximum batch size that all the coffee makers had in common). I used a kitchen scale and measured both the coffee and water in grams. I used 60.4 grams of ground coffee to 1088 grams (8 cups) of water. For each test, I timed how long the brewing cycle lasted. I also tested the water temperature in the brew basket after one minute of brewing time, in order to see how close the heating element was able to heat the water to the desired range of 195° – 205°F, and to find out roughly how long it stayed at the desired temperature. I again used the "Standard" option. Once finished, I noted the flavor of each cup and how well it was extracted.
Additional features: After testing each coffee maker three times, I went back and tested the common special features or settings of each coffee maker. Some makers had additional brew settings set up for single-cup brewing, concentrated brewing or for making iced coffee. Others had built-in milk frothers. For this test, I looked at how easy each feature was to use and how effective they were in achieving their stated goal.
To test these coffee makers I made sure to control as many variables as possible between each test. For each maker I used the Peru Eufemio Dominguez Aguilar Cajamarca from Joules and Watts coffee roasters in Malibu, California. The roast was recommended by Max Gaultieri, Joules and Watts founder and roaster, for it's balanced flavor profile with notes of chocolate cake and blackberry. The coffee was ground fresh at a medium coarseness with a Capresso Infinity conical burr grinder. The water used in each test was tap water filtered by a standard Brita filtration pitcher. Each coffee maker was tested a minimum of three times.
How do I make the perfect cup of coffee in a coffee maker?
The best way to make perfect coffee is by making sure your coffee-to-water ratio is correct. You can always follow the manufacturer's instructions, and your ratio might change depending on how strong you want your coffee, but the SCA recommends a coffee to water ratio of 1:18. To get to know your machine, Max Gualtieri recommends you start with "15:1 and adjust up or down to your preference. For example, if you are using 30 grams of coffee you'll use 450 grams of water."
What kind of coffee goes in a coffee maker?
Any coffee can work in a coffee maker, but there are a few factors to look for that will ensure the best results. First, make sure your coffee is fresh. Most roasters print the roast date on every bag of coffee. Try to find a coffee roasted less than two weeks before you want to brew. Second, if you can, grind your coffee just before brewing. "Optimally, freshly roasted and freshly ground coffee goes into the coffee maker. Yes, grinding is an extra step and yes, it is completely worth it," Gaultieri says.
Do fresh grounds in coffee makers really make a difference?
"Always!" Gaultieri says. After roasting, all of the flavorful oils and sugars start to decay and the gasses inside the coffee beans leak out, creating a more dull and stale flavor. Pre-grinding your coffee long before brewing amplifies that effect. "The coffee starts to lose volatile aromatic compounds as soon as it is ground," says Gaultieri. By breaking up the beans and releasing more of the gasses and exposing the organic compounds and oils to the air, it spoils even more quickly.
What variables affect the coffee brewing process?
No matter how you're making your coffee, the same variables always contribute to the quality of the cup you're making. The choice of coffee, grind coarseness, water temperature, coffee-to-water ratio, brewing time and filtration method all contribute heavily to how your coffee is going to turn out. Different brewing methods require adjusting the specifics of those variables, but the most important factor is always going to be the coffee you use. "Start with quality coffee!" Gualtieri says. Make sure it's freshly roasted and freshly ground.
Why is water temperature so important for brewing coffee?
Water temperature has a huge effect on the coffee brewing process. Brewing at the proper temperature (195° – 205°F, 90° – 96°C) ensures that the proper amount of coffee solubles are extracted.
What is blooming and why is it important?
Blooming is a commonly recommended step in the brewing process when making pour over coffee. Blooming, or pre-infusing, is when a small amount of hot water is used to soak the beans in order to help release the carbon dioxide gas in the coffee. Without blooming, the CO2 bubbles released can disrupt the overall brewing process by making the ground bed uneven and lead to an uneven extraction. Many coffee makers now utilize a programmed pre-infusion process to help create a more evenly extracted and full-flavored cup of coffee.
Why should I buy an electric coffee maker?
Electric coffee makers may seem overly complicated and expensive when compared to manual brewing devices like the French press, or a pour-over. Electric coffee makers excel when it comes to consistency. "Both methods use the same variables to extract coffee. One difference with electric coffee makers is there isn't the human variable," Rodriguez says, "A coffee machine is programmed to do the same thing every time it is turned on, and if it is a good machine, it will do this very consistently." Electric coffee makers also often have features such as timed brewing, which can save time in the morning if your schedule is tight.
Should I choose a thermal carafe or warming plate?
Coffee makers often have either thermal carafes or warming plates to keep coffee warm after it's brewed. But Jessica Rodriguez warns, "The heating plate is sometimes overlooked as an element that can affect flavor. If a brewer has a heating plate to keep the carafe warm, it is really important that the plate does not raise the temperature of the brew, which can have a negative impact on the flavor." In my testing, I found that most coffee makers with thermal carafes do a great job of maintaining the temperature of the coffee for about an hour.
What kind of filters should I use?
Different coffee makers use different methods of filtration. The most common are reusable metal or mesh filters and single-use paper filters. Some makers even allow the user to choose between the two. The major difference between filtration types is how much of the dissolved coffee solids and oils they allow to pass through. "Filtration affects the beverage clarity which affects the body/mouthfeel sensory experience of coffee." Rodriguez says. Reusable filters have the added bonus of producing less waste and cutting long-term costs.
What sets an SCA certified home brewer apart from other coffee makers?
The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has a program that rigorously tests coffee makers and certifies the ones that perform to their standards. As Jessica Rodriguez, Certifications Program Manager at the SCA explains, "Multiple production units are submitted and tested at 1L and full capacity for adequate brew basket space to hold the SCA Golden Cup ratio of 55g/L, that they can reach and maintain a brewing temperature of 92 – 96C, the total water contact time falls between 4 – 8 minutes, the total dissolved solids of each brew falls between 1.15% – 1.45% and is consistent from extraction to extraction, and that there is good beverage clarity. Submitted brewers are also subjected to a uniformity of extraction test procedure that analyzes the spent coffee bed for the evenness of extraction." Basically, any SCA certified brewer is proven to produce high-quality, consistent cups of coffee.
A good cup of coffee starts with good beans and, of course, a good coffee maker. Our recommended drip coffee makers come in a range of prices, but the best ones seldom go on sale. If you're looking for the best times to shop, try Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day — they're all pretty reliable occasions for good coffee maker deals. During Black Friday last year, we saw our best overall pick, the Cuisinart Coffee Plus, discounted by a rare $30.
Here, we've gathered up the best deals available on our expert-recommended machines: