At-home coffee makers
February 9, 2020 4:39 PM   Subscribe

The year is 2020 and all the previous questions I could find were at least four years old. Recommend me some machines.

Assume I am entering as a novice here (in the caffeinated arts, if not in technology in general). What coffee maker would you recommend?

My main concern is ease of cleaning the thing. Also, anything with an extra-small cup option (at least by Dunkin standards) would be nice. (Also, price.) Feel free to bring other potential issues to my attention.

(Saw this earlier, which is similar.) I don't have much interest in varieties of coffee right now; I'm doing this mainly to get through the day.
posted by queen anne's remorse to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
We love our Wirecutter-recommended Oxo. It has a 2-4 cup setting and a 5-9 cup setting. It has the settings we need — clock and timer — and nothing else. It also has a thermal carafe which obviously keeps coffee warmer, and is harder to break than glass. A+.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:44 PM on February 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

For ease of cleaning, price, and making whatever size cup you want, you can't beat a pourover and a kettle. I went this route a few years ago and have never, ever looked back. I have one at home and one at work. I still have an ol' Mr. Coffee in the pantry if I'm making coffee for a big group.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:44 PM on February 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

Do you only need to make one cup at a time? A pour-over cone and hot water from the stove is super cheap and doesn't take up much space. If you like stronger coffee look for a size 4 cone instead of size 2 so that there's a little more room for the grounds.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:45 PM on February 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

For ease of cleaning, small size option, terrific coffee and relatively low price, you can’t beat a mid-size chemex. They come both bigger and smaller, are very fault tolerant, and about the same speed as auto-drip systems.

You do have to putter around the kitchen for a few 4-6 minutes, which I consider a feature.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:45 PM on February 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

I have a chemex, it's great. I've also used a generic pourover device designed for one cup, also great, and very cheap - all you need is a source of boiled water, so either an electric or stove kettle. It takes me maybe 2 minutes to make coffee in the morning. Either of them is way better than I ever got out of any machine, at a fraction of the cost.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:55 PM on February 9, 2020

I use a French press, and just today decided to donate my drip coffeemaker to Goodwill after letting it gather dust for six months. No filters, no inaccessible passages, easy to rinse out after dumping grounds into my compost bucket, and the coffee is very good. I don’t want to keep an electric kettle on the counter so I boil water in a saucepan, making the process slower than a drip machine.
posted by jon1270 at 5:08 PM on February 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have an Aeropress that's good for one cup of very strong coffee. You just put the grinds in, stir for ten seconds, plunge into a cup and you're done. It is by far the easiest to clean. If you want that oily-like mouthfeel like a French press, it can do that with aftermarket metal filters.

My "main" is a Clever Coffee Dripper. It makes two or three cups of normal coffee. It is extremely forgiving - I routinely forget that I'm making coffee and leave it to brew for too long and the coffee is fine.

I had a pourover cone, it required patience and a steady hand for good results. I had neither. I also had a French press and it far longer to clean than the above. Note that everything I mentioned requires that you figure out your own method for hot water and (preferably) grinding your beans.
posted by meowzilla at 5:09 PM on February 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

Since it has come up, here’s the difference between Chemex and most other other pour-over systems.

Chemex is about the filter and the geometry. The filter is a special thick laboratory grade and is so fine it removes some oils. It fits flush against the cone, and how you pour has very little effect on the end product. (Nb people who love oily, bitter, espresso-like coffee hate chemex)

For cone systems like Hario And many others, the vanes hold the filter away; and it is designed for normal (auto drip) cone filters that are much coarser, and allow fine particulate matter through.

All this means it can be faster than Chemex, but quality can vary very widely depending on type of coffee, grind size, pour rate; and even batch size.

TLDR Hario et al require skill and attention and practice; Chemex is every bit as foolproof and reliable as a Mr. Coffee, but makes much better coffee and is easier to clean.

The cost of Chemex filters is relatively high, that’s the only downside imo.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:37 PM on February 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

An Aeropress, for ease-of-cleaning and small cup option (you decide how much you pour). My morning set-up is to use an Aeropress with an instant hot water setup and a small coffee grinder. I make awesome coffee for 1 or 2 in about 2 minutes.
Another basic setup with good results, but with a bit more cleaning time, is the moka pot.
posted by ddaavviidd at 5:44 PM on February 9, 2020

Depends what you mean by coffee: a cezve with fine (dust) ground coffee with cardamom boiled on the stove will make memorable coffee quickly, but Turkish coffee isn't as popular as it should be.

For me, there's nothing that can beat a french press. I've had precisely three of them since the early 1990s: one has been in use every day since 2002 and it's showing no sign of wear.
posted by scruss at 6:50 PM on February 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

As a very general rule if you're talking about auto-drip coffee machines, I think the flavor of coffee from machines with conical filters tastes richer and more full-bodied than that from machines with flat-bottomed basket filters. I don't have any scientific data to back that up, just personal experience, so FWIW; and it doesn't necessarily apply to other extraction methods.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:05 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

We have a Hamilton Beach single-cup coffee maker. It has an insert to use k-cups but most of the time I use the other insert, which is a little filter thing that holds a couple of tablespoons of freshly-ground coffee. It’s perfect for mornings on the go, and it only brews as much water as I pour into it. I only have the clean the little filter insert. It can pour into a coffee cup or my to-go tumbler, which makes my life easier.

For more leisurely mornings I use an aeropress, which wipes clean quickly but is just fussy enough that my wife prefers the Hamilton Beach machine.
posted by sleeping bear at 11:39 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Coffee technology comprises a world of gently feuding tribes. When you mention "cheap" and "easy to clean" as criteria, it points to the direction of solutions like pour-over, aeropress, French press, etc.

However, you don't really talk about what sort of coffee you like to drink yourself or serve to others. If you like espresso coffee or its derivatives then you might be better off with an espresso machine or a Nespresso machine - links to Wirecutter reviews in each case.
posted by rongorongo at 12:03 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

The issue of Cook’s Illustrated that came in the mail two days ago has a page reviewing electric drip coffee makers. It’s also online but behind a subscriber paywall:
posted by chr1sb0y at 2:23 AM on February 10, 2020

Seconding the Clever Coffee Dripper. I used to use a Melitta setup, but when I read about the Clever here, I got one, and haven't looked back. Gave one to my brother, too. They're cheapest on eBay, new. For cleanup, I take out the two silicone rubber bits and wash them and the two plastic pieces in the dishwasher when I run it. If you don't, the funky old-coffee smell builds up, as it does with any coffee maker, and it's hard to wash out without a machine.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:13 AM on February 10, 2020

No one else has said moka pot, so I will. But get a stainless steel one with a round base, not the Bialetti aluminium one that’s octagonal(?). Easier to clean.
posted by rd45 at 3:19 AM on February 10, 2020

I have an outrageous amount of coffee equipment in my life: Bonavita drip machine, moka pot, cold brew contraption, French press, Hario V60, Aeropress, and a Rancilio Silvia espresso machine. Probably others I’m not thinking of.

One thing that no one is mentioning is grinder, which will have a bigger effect than your drip method, at least as far as getting preground stuff vs using a burr grinder at home.

I got this grinder almost ten years ago and still use it occasionally. It’s totally serviceable for drip. (You could save money and get an arm workout with a manual grinder.) Ditto this brewer (actually a previous generation) which is one of the less expensive models to actually get up to a decent brewing temperature.

Pourover or Aeropress are ok if you want to be really fussy about it, and if you already have a good kettle, and if you never want to make a big batch. Chemex is... not good. It makes coffee taste like nothing and has design issues that can halt your brew because of a suction effect. Home espresso is absolutely not where you want to start your coffee journey (and I think is completely not worth it without laying out probably... 1200 for grinder and machine.)

If you want easy and don’t care about taste, get a Mr Coffee and buy preground coffee. If you want to enjoy it and not hover over it like a pourover, spend $200 on a brewer and grinder.
posted by supercres at 5:53 AM on February 10, 2020

The cost of Chemex filters is relatively high, that’s the only downside imo.
True, but the cost of actual brewing device is so low that it takes a long time to spend enough on Chemex to make it cost-equivalent with most machines. And you get better coffee in the bargain, so...
posted by uberchet at 7:06 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

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