Without a doubt, one of the more popular ways to brew coffee at home is by using an automatic drip coffee maker. These push-button coffee brewers are found in almost every home around the globe and are also a favorite in more commercial settings such as restaurants and company staff canteens, and for a good reason. The best automatic drip coffee makers are pretty cheap with some units costing less than $50. Plus, they are also simple to operate and are a relatively hands-free way of making a fairly decent tasting cup of coffee at home or in the workplace.
In this article, I have reviewed and scoured through some automatic drip coffee makers, to be honest, these are some of the best I could get my hands on. All of these auto drip brewers are ones I have personally used or have been recommended to me by friends and colleagues during my research for this drip coffee maker review article. So rest assured that all of the drip coffee makers below have passed the scrutiny of various coffee lovers that are on my personal Christmas card list.
Not All Drip Coffee Makers Are Equal
Before I dive in head first, I feel it’s important to quickly touch on the fact that not all automatic drip coffee makers are equal. Many of the best automatic drip coffee makers come with varying features, settings, and overall designs. Even though these drip coffee brewers try and stay within the same design specification; featuring a glass carafe and water reservoir, there are some that like to “break the mold” and make theirs stand out from the competition.
In most cases, you don’t need any extra bells and whistles when it comes to buying the best automatic coffee machines, as long as it has the basics you should be good to go. Features such as morning wake-up timers and pause-and-serve settings are desirable, but not having those won’t sways my decision either way.
What To Look for in a Great Automatic Drip Coffee Maker?
The taste of coffee is very subjective. Some of us enjoy dark roasts while others prefer more of a lighter coffee. Some of us love a cup so strong it pours like maple syrup and others would much prefer a coffee as weak as tea. But what we can all agree on is that the most important aspect of a good coffee maker is just how well it brews coffee.
With so many different variables that all come together to brew a great tasting cup picking out a handful of automatic drip coffee makers that ticked all of the boxes ultimately become quite a challenge. However, I put each brewer through their paces and conducted blind taste tests with multiple tasters, I used various coffee beans and I also took note of the water temperature, and the total brew time of each machine. To be honest many of units I tried fell short of even the simplest (and most important) brewing factor – the water temperature, those that did haven’t made the list.
Factors I took into consideration
How long did the machine take to brew coffee? (from pressing the brew button) The automatic coffee maker should be reasonably fast. You should simply press a button and come back within 5 to 7 minutes to a carafe full of piping hot coffee.
How easy was the coffee machine to use? (could my grandma operate it?) Ease of use plays a big role in the decision process when choosing the best automatic coffee maker. After all, if you want to spend time tweaking different brewing variables you’d be better off using a manual pour over coffee maker (far better in my option). So bearing that in mind each machine I tested had to be easy and simple to set up. Simply put, you didn’t have to take a full afternoon reading through a lengthy instruction manual.
Does the automatic coffee maker correctly regulate brewing temperature? The best brewing temperature for full flavor extraction in coffee is anywhere between 195°-205° F according to the National Coffee Association.
Are there any smart or convenient features? Almost all of the coffee makers come with a range of additional functions and features and to be honest many of those never get used. I made sure that each brewer didn’t come with unnecessary features that would often drive up to the price of the unit. As long as the basics were there it was a pass from me. Features such as built-in timers, auto off, stop mid-brew and a single cup option are all essential as far as I’m concerned.
Just how durable is the carafe? The carafe is the part of the coffee maker that often takes the more of the hits, knocks and gets the most of the wear and tear. I made sure that all of the carafes albeit glass or metal were durable enough to take on the day-to-day stresses of being washed and brewed in. The carafe should also be able to pour easily without spilling or leaking and let’s be honest it should look good on your counter-top too.
Is the coffee maker a chore to clean? Coffee makers have lots of nooks and crannies that can often be a challenge to keep clean. I ensured they each unit was easy to clean and in most cases, a simple push of a button is all that was needed.
How does the coffee taste? If the coffee brewed in an automatic coffee maker doesn’t taste great then what’s the point! I made sure that each of the brewers listed churned out great tasting coffee (good enough for my palate, remember coffee is subjective).
At the end of the day using an automatic coffee maker takes away almost all of the control you have over making great tasting cup of coffee. You simply press a button and hope that the machine delivers on its promise. Sure, some of the more advanced coffee makers do allow you to tweak certain brewing parameters but you are still putting your trust into the machine that is will execute them correctly.
Automatic coffee makers have been designed for one thing – hassle-free push-button coffee brewing. So every machine should be able to make a good (subjective) cup of coffee with a touch of a button or two and should be intuitive enough for family and friends to use without having to ask for help.
A good coffee machine should also be super easy to clean and maintain. Remember, these automatic brewers are there to make your life easier and you should be spending hours in the week making sure your brewer isn’t full of dried-up stale coffee or crusty old grounds.
The auto coffee brewer should be able to dispense water from the built-in reservoir, heat it to the optimum water temperature, and the evenly distribute that water over your ground coffee. If your machine is able to do this competently you should have a good coffee extraction that pulls all of the flavors and aroma from the ground coffee beans. It’s not rocket science but you’d be amazed at just how many automatic coffee makers fall short. Again, those units did not make the cut!
Best Auto Drip Coffee Makers (Top Picks For 2018)
What makes a good drip coffee maker (in my opinion) is a brewer that can make a great tasting cup of coffee with little to no hassle. If you want to brew extravagant types of coffee, you can opt for a different kind of coffee machine that’s designed for making specialty coffees. Any automatic drip coffee maker should do one thing well – make a simple “Americano style” coffee (minus the headaches).
Cuisinart Brew Central 12-Cup (DCC-1200)
The first drip coffee maker that I feel deserves a mention is the Cuisinart Brew Central DCC-1200. This is a great budget-friendly drip coffee maker by Cuisinart that brews up to 12 cups of great tasting strong coffee. I have used two other machines in the past from Cuisinart (the Cuisinart DCC-2650 and the Cuisinart DCC-3200), and they have both served their purpose.
However, I prefer the Cuisinart Brew Central DCC-1200 over the other two because the coffee has very little (if no) contact with the plastic of the machine which can impair the taste. Also, I like the more commercial looks of the Cuisinart Brew Central DCC-1200 with its primitive flick switches and controls.
Some of the notable features on the Cuisinart Brew Central DCC-1200 are the shower-head that helps to distribute water over your ground coffee evenly. This helps to reduce the temperature loss when the water passes over and through your ground coffee.
This drip coffee maker also has a charcoal water filter that helps to filter out bad tastes and odors from your water; this is especially beneficial if you use tap water. The charcoal filter can also contribute to eliminating calcium and chlorine from the water you use. The filter basket comes with a permanent filter in the box (I removed that and replaced it with a gold-tone filter like this) but paper filters can be used if you prefer to use those instead. Make sure to check out my article Permanent Coffee Filter vs. Paper if you are unsure of each type.
There are various other settings such as auto off and on, brew pause feature, and a scratch resistant heating plate along with a self-cleaning function which I find works pretty well. (make sure to check out my full Cuisinart Brew Central review for all of the features and functions).
The Bonavita drip coffee maker has been recommended to me by a colleague; she swears that it brews the best tasting coffee she’s ever made at home. After the recommendation, I went digging a little further, and it seems like she isn’t the only one that loves this coffee maker, even the New York Times has given it their thumbs up in their best drip coffee maker reviews.
Let’s take a closer look at the Bonavita 8-Cup Carafe Coffee Brewer. One of the features that were mentioned to me about the Bonavita drip coffee maker was the fact that the thermal carafe never burns the coffee and is excellent at keeping the brewed coffee scalding hot from breakfast all the way through to late afternoon. This makes it a great option for small offices or for those of you who love a regular coffee fix throughout the day.
Unlike the above Brew Central that use classic cone-shaped filters, the Bonavita drip coffee maker uses a flat-bottomed filter basket like this one. This larger basket supposedly allows for a better saturation of the ground coffee, which ultimately should lead to a better tasting brew. One of the downsides with the Bonavita 8-Cup Carafe Coffee Brewer is the fact that the water reservoir cannot be removed, this shouldn’t become an issue, but if you ever need to give it a good clean, you may struggle.
The Bonavita 8-Cup Carafe Coffee Brewer also comes with some other notable features such as a simple one-touch brew button which includes an auto-off function, a pre-infusion mode which showers the freshly ground coffee to help with degassing before your full brew commences (this would only really be beneficial if you grind your coffee before each brew).
BUNN Velocity Brew Home Coffee Brewer (GRB)
I grew up around BUNN coffee makers when I was a kid, my father owned a restaurant, and there was always a BUNN coffee maker with a carafe full of fresh coffee sitting in the restaurant. They have come a long way in the past 30+ years and have also gained popularity in home kitchens as well as still being a favorite in commercial settings.
The BUNN GRB Velocity Brew 10-cup home coffee brewer is a well-made, durable machine that shouldn’t be passed on by its look alone; this drip coffee maker means business. There are a handful of different models in this BUNN range, the GRB (which is the one I like), the GRW which is the ‘white’ version of this, and the next generation BXB which uses a more rounded silver water tank reservoir.
The BUNN drip coffee maker is super easy to use, simply flick a switch, grab your milk and a cup and before you get back you’ll have a carafe full of strong tasting coffee waiting for you. I’m not lying to you when I say this BUNN only takes 3 minutes to make a full brew (it really does).
The BUNN GRB Velocity Brew 10-cup home coffee brewer also uses paper or a permanent basket type of filter. It does come supplied with a general purpose permanent filter, but I recommend that you swap that out and use a better quality Gold tone filter. I have found that many of the generic ones will not fit so make sure you buy the right one for this machine such as this GoldTone filter.
With the BUNN you can effortlessly brew 4 cups of coffee up to 10 cups, and like I said it really only take 3 minutes. Just like the above drip coffee makers, the BUNN uses a spray head system to evenly coat the coffee grounds for better tasting final brew. Some other notable features include; a durable glass carafe, a porcelain-coated warming plate (with an on/off light), and a stainless steel internal hot water tank (not plastic).
Zojirushi Fresh Brew Plus Coffee Maker (EC-YSC100)
This next top rated auto drip coffee maker has been recommended to me by a close friend who recently purchased this brewer as a replacement for an aging BUNN. His first words to me regarding his new toy was that it made one of the finest cups of coffee he had tasted from a home drip brewer and it was on a par with those made by a professional Barista. Ok, he might have been going a bit too far when he mentioned it tasting better than coffee made by a Barista, but I do get his point.
The design of the Zojirushi Fresh Brew Plus thermal carafe coffee maker is very similar to the above Bonavita and a first glance you could mistake them for being the same drip coffee machine. However, there are some subtle differences that keep them apart, let’s take a closer look.
Firstly, the water reservoir can be removed, unlike the fixed tank in the Bonavita drip coffee maker. This makes it a lot easier for deep cleaning and filling up with water a lot easier (plus it has an excellent built-in handle). The thermal carafe keeps the coffee hot for hours, even without the heating plate the coffee is piping hot due to the 10-cup thermos carafe.
Cleaning the Zojirushi Fresh Brew Plus is also pretty easy, and all that is needed is the automated clean cycle initiating and then let it do its thing. You can use both permanent and paper filters with this Zojirushi, and I have been told that any generic filters will work so you aren’t tied in with buying overpriced branded filters.
For a somewhat “new boy” on the block it seems like the Zojirushi Fresh Brew Plus thermal carafe coffee maker is doing a great job and is coming out on top in many other best automatic coffee maker reviews, however, only time will tell if its performance can keep up with the above Bonavita.
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