Shopping for a new drip coffee maker can be positively daunting. But there are a handful of features that distinguish the best drip coffee makers, the ones that can consistently brew a cup of joe that will knock your house slippers off. My favorite (and the top pick for many coffee drinkers) is the Moccamaster Technivorm KBT, which produces the best homemade drip coffee I’ve ever tasted. It reliably churns out delicious coffee that’s smooth, never sour or bitter, and actually evokes the tasting notes listed on a bag of beans. My college coffee pot could never.
To learn more about the features and specs that play a part in why some machines brew superior coffee, I turned to Cara Mitchell, public education manager at Joe Coffee, a chain of cafés in NYC that has been in business for 19 years. Joe’s house drip coffee has been dependably excellent for the seven years I’ve been sipping it, first as a study aide when I was a harried university student and more recently as an occasional pick-me-up on the way to work. Mitchell chalks up the quality of their brew to using great coffee beans that have been roasted within 30 days and machines that heat and distribute hot water in just the right ways.
To help me understand the difference between a $30 drip coffee maker and a high-end machine that costs four times that amount, I asked Mitchell what I’m actually paying for. Generally, “the more expensive machines are maintaining water temperature much better than the less expensive coffee makers,” she says, which helps extract maximum flavor from your beans. “They’re also dispensing the water a little more evenly over the bed of coffee [grounds]. And both of those things are really important.” The takeaway: Investing in a solid machine will result in a difference you can taste.
The Moccamaster is the best drip coffee maker I’ve used. It brews a full 10-cup pot of coffee fast—a brew cycle lasts just six minutes. This speed was a lifesaver during the months I got to know its ins and outs while staying with family who use and swear by it too. Its copper heating element keeps the water temperature within the ideal range of 195–205 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that our household of five adults was treated to consistently smooth coffee day after day. “When it comes to brewing great coffee, you want to make sure that the water temperature is as even as possible throughout the entire brewing process,” Mitchell explains. And this machine’s temperature control is excellent: The conical filter basket positions the coffee grounds so that the water flows through (gravity!) rather than pooling in the filter basket and potentially over extracting the coffee, which is usually the culprit behind bitter brews.
Of all its charms, my favorite feature of the Moccamaster Technivorm KBT is that it doesn’t use a glass pot and hot plate to keep your batch of coffee warm. Instead, coffee is brewed directly into a thermal carafe that maintains the temperature, as opposed to “cooking” it the way the machines with glass carafes and hot plates tend to do. “If you leave it too long on that hot plate, it’s going to end up tasting, well, not as good as if you maybe drank it 45 minutes earlier,” cautions Mitchell. “Insulated carafes will keep your brew hot, but they’re not going to continue to extract the coffee.” While the Moccamaster Technivorm KBT has a hefty price tag, these machines are known to last for a long time, and they’re also backed by a five-year warranty.
I love my machine, but it’s not the only drip coffee maker on the market that meets Mitchell’s criteria for brewing great-tasting coffee. If you’re looking for something less expensive, more glamorous, or slightly smaller, we’ve got options for you as well.
“People don't have to have the most expensive equipment in order to get the quality coffee at home,” says Mitchell, who recommends Oxo’s 8-cup drip coffee maker as a more affordable option. For coffee lovers, it’s a “great entry-level machine at an excellent price point,” she says, especially in comparison to big-ticket brewers on the market.
The Oxo comes with a lot of the features commonly found in drip coffee machines above the $200 price point: a focus on maintaining consistent water temperature, an expansive showerhead to evenly distribute water over the bed of coffee grounds, and a certification by the SCA (that’s the Specialty Coffee Association) that the machine meets its standards for brewing great quality coffee. As a bonus, the Oxo also includes a special filter you can use to brew a single cup of coffee—no pods or single-use plastic required. If I hadn’t already splurged on a home espresso machine (the Gaggia Classic Pro) I’d seriously be stumped between shelling out for my own Moccamaster or opting for the Oxo brewer.
The Chemex Ottomatic 2.0 provides the delicately honed flavors of pour over coffee with the convenience of drip, and, perhaps most importantly to contributor Andy Baraghani, “it looks beautiful while doing it.” It’s equipped with the same paper filters and iconic glass carafe as the classic Chemex—our favorite pour over set up for making both single servings and large batches—plus all of the aspects of an automatic drip machine. The heated tank keeps the water at the optimal brewing temperature before it’s dispersed over the coffee grounds in a wide arc. Additionally, this machine has a warming plate with an auto shut-off and functions for both hot and iced coffee. Available with a 6-cup or 8-cup carafe, the Chemex Ottomatic 2.0 basically removes all of the work of making pour-over coffee without sacrificing taste.