The irony of making great coffee is that most of us need to have had a cup before being capable of operating even the simplest, most intuitive, best coffee makers. And even if you can muster the early-morning brain power, unless you relish the process of grinding beans, weighing beans, boiling water, not messing up the water temperature, preparing a filter, and cleaning up after yourself, whatever you have at home is going to lose out to handing $3 to a barista (under normal, non-socially-distanced circumstances, that is). But these days even the most ardent buy-over-brew coffee lovers are forced to become masters of at-home coffee making, even if they’re perfectly content with Folgers, pods, or anything that only kinda resembles coffee.
If you are someone who typically spends way too much money at coffee shops, but doesn’t like any form of instant coffee—totally get it, it’s gross—you might have tried a lot of at-home solutions. With guidance from one too many coffee blogs, you might have tried your hand at pour-over or AeroPress or a Chemex. You may have extolled their virtues for 4 full days before realizing you just couldn’t dedicate more than three brain cells to any task before 9 am. Any of those methods, and countless others, make kick-ass coffee, as long as you’re patient while bleary eyed. But if you’re able to admit to yourself you aren’t, you can find a much better solution.
The best coffee makers for most people, then, are the ones that provide high-quality coffee without sacrificing convenience. They must nail the fundamentals—consistent water temperature, easy to use, solid build—while incorporating a system that reduces the daunting list of variables to a clever group of dials. No matter your taste, you’ll find the perfect cup here more effortlessly than with anything else we tried.
Breville Grind Control: The Best Overall Coffee Maker
The Breville Grind Control nails all the fundamentals of coffee brewing, but adds a few bells and whistles that bring it over the top. The first of these is a built-in grinder. Better coffee starts with freshly ground beans, but adding a separate grinder into your routine adds another machine and another thing to clean. The built-in grinder is solid, and the ability to adjust the coarseness of the grind with a knob makes switching things up for specific tastes a no-hassle experience. Hence the name, “grind control.” The coffee maker has two other adjustment dials, one for strength of brew and one for number of cups. You could do this yourself with more accuracy if you were willing to bust out your scale, but, y’know, it’s 8:00am and you probably don’t have the time or the patience. And it works well regardless of whether you’re making one cup of coffee, which some automatic drip coffee makers struggle to do, or a whole pot. Honestly, it’s kind of fun tweaking the dials each morning to make the taste exactly right.
None of this would matter if the Grind Control threatened to fall apart each time you booted it up in the morning, which is a real concern with some poorly built automatic drip coffee makers. That being said, we’ve found the Grind Control holds up pretty well with use. It heats water to appropriate temperatures and doesn’t have any obvious build flaws. The only real downside comes when you have to clean it, which involves a few steps. When you consider that this one device is both a grinder and a brewer, that cleaning doesn’t feel like a huge hassle. And spending 10 minutes one day a week is easier to stomach than the daily upkeep of other more precise devices.
OXO 9-Cup: The Best Coffee Maker without a Built-in Grinder
Buying any coffee maker involves a bunch of elaborate trade-offs. We like the Grind Control because its built-in grinder simplifies the process of making that morning cup of coffee a lot. But built-in grinders tend to be less exact in their measurements, and therefore lead to slightly worse coffee than our favorite stand-alone brewers. If you’re willing to do slightly more work for better coffee, but not so much work that you might as well just go full java freak with a Chemex, you should get the OXO 9-cup coffee maker. Once you’ve ground your beans, the OXO is dirt-simple to use. You basically just pour in your water and grounds, push a button, and then you’re brewing. And if you want, you can program your brewer the night before so that you have coffee ready the moment you wake up. That coffee will taste about as good as anything you’d brew with a pour-over, especially to your morning brain. But don’t take our word for it! The OXO coffee maker is one of the few home coffee makers certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (an international non-profit organization of coffee farmers, roasters, and brewers) for consistently producing great tasting coffee.
Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741: An Upgraded Coffee Maker Preferred by the Experts
If you’re after the best possible tasting coffee you can get from a drip coffee maker, the Moccamaster is the answer. This Dutch brand is a favorite of many a nerdy coffee website, and somehow, it lives up to the nerdy coffee hype. It hits the perfect temperature, quickly brews a perfect pot, and the carafe does a commendable job of keeping extra cups hot. It’s a little bit less flexible than the OXO 9-Cup—for example, you can’t schedule it to brew in advance—but it’s still pretty hard to mess up a batch. In a category where aesthetics are on the back burner, it actually looks pretty cool (a little laboratory-esque, but cool). It’s expensive—and you’ll need your own grinder—but with a five-year warranty, it’s an investment worth considering.
Cuisinart PerfecTemp 14-Cup Coffeemaker: The Best Budget Coffee Maker
In a sea of similarly-priced budget machines, the Cuisinart wins out: it brews consistently good coffee at the right heat, and has enough features to be functional. The build, with its relatively svelte glass carafe, is better suited to hold up for years than its cheaper, plastic-ier counterparts. If you’re a low-fuss coffee drinker, here’s your low-fuss device.
Four Other Coffee Makers to Consider
Bonavita’s coffee makers are frequently recommended by baristas. This one is easy to use and produces excellent-tasting coffee, but doesn’t have the programmability or curb appeal of some of the other coffee makers in its price range.
Brim’s coffee products come with elegant design, but are a bit more complicated to use than your brain can probably handle first thing in the morning.
Mr. Coffee coffee makers have been keeping people awake for generations. If you think of coffee as something to be inhaled, and don’t really care how it tastes, you might be able to get away with spending this little money on the tool to make it.
Alternatively, if you have money to burn, you could do a lot worse than to spend it at Clive Coffee, a beacon for coffee nerds. The company’s automatic drip coffee machine is pricey, but it basically automates the pour-over process you’d usually have to do by hand.
Our Favorite Coffee Gear
A coffee subscription is a super easy way to get consistently good coffee delivered straight to your door. Trade Coffee quizzes you on your taste preferences and preferred brewing style to get you coffee from roasters across the country that you’ll like. If you already have a favorite roaster, check if they have a subscription—it’s a great way to directly support their work.
One of the essential factors of making coffee is even extraction of the grounds, which is impossible if they vary widely in size. That’s why it’s important your grinder uses a burr, which uniformly crushes beans, as opposed to a blade, which just cuts them randomly. This one from Baratza is simple to use and easy to clean.
Getting a hand grinder allows you to save some money, but it’ll quickly start to feel like an obstacle to your morning cup of coffee. If you absolutely must, this one is the easiest to use.
Especially in warmer months, having the option of cold brew coffee at home is a game changer. This gizmo from OXO allows you to make a bunch of it in advance that you can parse out over the course of a few days.
The AeroPress Go is a new version of one of our favorite brewing devices. It’s easy to use and makes a consistently good cup of coffee, but its scientific-design also encourages you to experiment with brew ratios, to fine tune a cup exactly to your taste. Only downside is that it can only brew one full cup at a time.
Among the many pour-over brewers available, the Chemex is a staff favorite here at GQ. Its conical shape gives it a super sharp look, but it also makes it a bit easier to brew a consistently good cup of coffee—you can be a little bit more cavalier with your pours than you could with a pour-over that has a flat bottom. Plus, its size makes it possible to use for more than one cup of coffee at a time.
If you do decide to wade into the world of pour-over coffee, you should invest in a gooseneck electric kettle. Those will allow you to control the temperature of your water and the volume of it that you pour onto the grounds a lot easier than a stovetop kettle or electric tea kettle.