Home coffee makers have experienced somewhat of a renaissance in the past decade. What used to be a fairly simple selection now contains equipment in a number of formats designed to cater to the different styles of coffee drinker. This diversity means that it's easy to find a coffee maker that matches your specific preferences and lifestyle. The process of choosing a home coffee maker begins with understanding how much coffee you want to brew in each batch.
The drip coffee maker is the time-tested choice for coffee drinkers who want their coffee by the pot. It's a format that's stood the test of time, and it's still the most common and economical type of home coffee maker on the market. While the format hasn't changed much in the past few decades, modern drip brewers often include features to make them much simpler and more convenient.
Drip Brewer Options
- A brew-strength selector allows you to adjust the strength of the taste of your coffee. This controls how long the water is allowed remain in contact with the coffee. Longer extraction times yield bolder flavors.
- 24-hour timers can be programmed to begin brewing coffee at a certain time each day. Some brewers allow you to program different times for weekdays and weekends.
- Gold-tone filters are washable and reusable, doing away with the recurring cost of paper filters. They come standard with some models and are compatible as a sold-separately accessory on many more.
- Removable water tanks are lifted out of the machine and filled directly with water, eliminating the step of filling the coffee decanter and then pouring into the reservoir.
- Digital displays are standard on the majority of modern home coffee brewers, displaying the time and the brew status of your coffee.
- Quick brew home coffee machines keep a tank of water at the optimal brewing temperature, enabling them to brew a full carafe of coffee in as little as 2 minutes.
- Thermal carafes are usually made of stainless steel and are vacuum insulated to keep brewed coffee hot without the need for a warmer. This keeps coffee tasting fresher for longer than when kept over heat in a glass decanter.
Single Cup Brewers
The popularity of the single-cup home coffee makers has exploded in the last several years. Now most manufacturers offer their own version. There are really two types of these machines: those that are compatible with coffee pods and capsules, and those that brew from loose grounds. There are hybrid personal coffee makers that can brew from both.
Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there's a difference between single serve cups, pods, and pads. Cups are the popular plastic containers with the foil lid made popular by the patented K-Cup. A convenient but more environmentally-conscious alternative is the coffee pod or pad, a little mesh bag of grounds that serves the same purpose but without the plastic packaging
Many personal coffee brewers have the option of brewing directly into a travel mug, which is preferred by coffee drinkers who take their coffee on their morning commute. Some brewers are designed specifically to brew into a travel mug, and those will generally include the mug as a standard feature. Others give users the option to brew into a mug or into smaller 8-, 10-, 12- and 16-ounce containers.
Home Espresso Machines
A new generation of affordable home espresso machines mean coffee lovers no longer need to head to the café for their espresso fix. For those who want to maintain a little more control over their espresso experience, there are semi-automatic espresso machines similar to the ones used in cafés and restaurants that require users to fill and tamp their own grounds. These automatically provide water at the correct water and temperature, although many will display those metrics on dials or readouts so users can verify that they'll pull a consistent shot.
For a quick and convenient espresso brewing experience, espresso pod brewers like Illy's iperEspresso and the KitchenAid Nespresso brew shots from proportioned pods, similar to those used in cup and pod drip brewers. Users need only insert the pre-portioned package and the press the brew button. There are no portafilters or loose grounds to deal with.