Oh no, you have just woken up to find that your coffee maker, a machine you have relied on each morning for the last five years of your life, will not work. Disgruntled, sleepy, and downright irritated, you set out to work, stopping for a coffee at your local coffeehouse on the way there. The receipt confirms that you just cannot afford this practice everyday you have to get back out there and purchase another coffee maker. Buying a new machine can be challenging with so many brands and types of coffee makers in the market, all with different combinations of features and warranties. The great part about getting a new one is that you now have more convenient options than were offered five years ago. Rest assured, the right coffee maker for you is out there; figure out what features you want, and go for it.
The most commonly used coffee maker, the drip machine, is found in households nationwide. The drip machine works by pulling water that gets added right before brewing through a small heating unit, then dripping the heated water through the coffee grounds placed in a filter above the glass carafe. Brewing takes approximately ten to twelve minutes, but varies between different drip coffee makers. The machine only begins to work when it is plugged in and turned on, but once you add the coffee and water, your job is done. Standard drip coffee makers also offer many options for added convenience, and are one of the most reliable coffee makers available.
These many options include automatic shut-off, a programmable timer, a pause-and serve feature, adjustable temperature hot plate, small-batch setting and brew strength control. A coffee maker such as the Cuisinart DCC 1200 Brew Central has all of these features as well as an above standard three year warranty. A fully decked out model such as this can be purchased for around $80.00. The auto-off is a good option for those who worry about leaving the coffee pot on, as it will automatically turn off, usually two hours after the brew cycle is complete. The programmable timer is another convenient feature that allows the pot to be set to brew at a certain time; your coffee can be made while you enjoy a hot shower! Pause and serve allows the coffee carafe to be removed mid-brew with a valve to stop the coffee flow so that you can pour yourself a cup before the brew cycle has finished. Other features, such as the adjustable temperature hot plate and brew strength control, offer more control over the flavor and temperature of the coffee for the discerning drinker, and the small batch setting allows faster brew time for a small pot of coffee. At the other end of the standard drip spectrum, a basic coffee maker such as the Braun Aromaster KF400 will brew coffee that tastes just as good as coffee from a more expensive model, but because it does not have added features, the Braun can be purchased for under $20.00.
A close relative of the standard drip machine, the pour-over coffee system functions more like a hot water heater, as it has a full tank of hot water at all times. When the machine is purchased, it must be filled with water and allowed to heat up, which takes nearly fifteen minutes. Once that process has been completed, you can add grounds at any time and get a full pot of coffee brewed in three minutes. Though fast, this coffee maker needs to be on at all times to keep the water in the tank hot. This type of coffee maker may be best in an office setting where many pots of coffee are made every day; otherwise, the energy cost of this system may outweigh the benefit of an almost immediate pot of coffee. Bunn is the most popular pour-over manufacturer; prices are dependent on size, and range from $200-$300.00. These office coffee machines can also be rented for a monthly fee.
Other ‘vintage’ style coffee makers exist, such as the French press or stove-top percolator. In a French press, hot water is added to a canister of coffee grounds. The mixture is steeped for five minutes, then a plunger is depressed (takes a little elbow grease), forcing the grounds to the bottom of the pot. The coffee is served directly from the French press, and is really meant for immediate consumption. A stove-top percolator has two containers, the lower housing the cold water and coffee grounds. Heating the pot forces the water through the grounds, and the water is siphoned into the top container ready to be served. Both of these methods require careful attention as the coffee flavor may differ based on water temperature and steep time. Also, these coffee makers only make enough coffee to serve two or three people, so would not work well during a large party. Cost of a French press or percolator starts around $11.00.
A newcomer to the coffee maker scene is the single or double cup brewer that uses a prepackaged pod or disc of coffee instead of loose grounds in a filter. The single brewers are standard drip machines, usually without heating plates, and are very easy to use and clean. Because they use prepackaged pods, there is absolutely no mess to clean up, and even the clumsiest person would not be able to spill coffee grounds all over the kitchen! A single cup can be brewed in thirty to sixty seconds. While convenient, these coffee makers use one type of disc only, so you must rely on the manufacturer’s coffee selections instead of being able to choose your own new, exotic blends. Also, if your local supermarket is out of coffee pods, you may have a difficult time making coffee. Two well-known single serve coffee makers are the Tassimo TA1400 and the Philips Senseo, with prices ranging between $70.00 for the Senseo and $140-170.00 for the Tassimo. Consumers complain that the pods cost more than ground coffee, but converted Starbucks junkies admit that using the pods is much less expensive than purchasing Starbucks coffee everyday.
Really, brewing your own coffee is the most economical way to enjoy a decent cup each morning. A good, reliable coffee maker can become your trusted companion on good days and bad. Choose a coffee maker that has the options you need for convenience, but remember that the more complicated the coffee maker, the more expensive it will be. Also, a coffee maker that can be programmed to turn itself on will have a more intricate computer system than one without such a feature, which may lead to more problems down the road. Only pay for the options you will use when buying a coffee maker, and keep in mind what you really want: a good tasting cup of coffee.