Photo of Tim Castle & Joel Starr

Tim Castle & Joel Starr

Professional Coffee Expert

Coffee Makers & Best Coffee Brewers

In the United States, coffee is our national beverage. Our nation’s history is intertwined with coffee and coffee houses. From the Green Dragon (the Bostonian coffee house and meeting place of New England revolutionaries) to the Green Siren seen at Starbucks on nearly every corner, coffee and America have walked hand in hand for centuries. Why then isn’t the average cup of coffee a lot better? If you’re ready to take matters into your own hands (literally AND figuratively), then we’ve put together a list of the top quality home coffee brewers on the market. But don’t be frightened—some can be yours for as little as $5.00, but if you want to spend more, there are plenty of options. (This is America after all!)

With regard to the general, off-the-shelf offerings that can be found in most any department store, these machines generally operate at 900 watts and either don’t get hot enough to brew coffee at or above 200° F or can’t brew a full pot in the recommended interval of time (any brew time over six minutes is not brewing coffee, but torturing it!). So, if you brew less than a “full” pot, and it takes about 4-5 minutes, these machines can be ok, but brew any more than that and cup quality will suffer due to over-extraction of the grounds. For these reasons, we recommend heating water yourself in a tea kettle for many of the options detailed below.

For cost consideration we’ve broken the top ten into two price categories, those under $100.00 and those over $100.00.

Buying coffee makers will make all the difference in the taste of your brew. For the best coffee brewers, we suggest home coffee machines at different price ranges to meet your budget and tastes.

Best Home Coffee Brewers by Tim Castle & Joel Starr

The Best You Can Get

  • Clover

    Tim says: The Clover 1-s isn’t technically a “home brewing machine”, but if you drive to work (very slowly) in a Lamborghini, have seasonal homes, or run your business out of Dubai, then you just might NEED to have a Clover in your kitchen. The Clover is the state of the art, VacuumPress™ brewing machine that is currently in use in the top-tier of coffeehouses in the United States. It brews one cup of coffee in about a minute and is fully programmable, from water temperature to extraction time, meaning you can set different brew profiles for all your coffee varietals to get optimal flavor out of each cup. At $11,000.00, the Clover is marketed to the Specialty Coffee retailers but it has such an alluring X-factor that it just might end up in the homes of some of the most affluent coffee lovers in the world.

  • Capresso

    Tim says: The Capresso CoffeeTEAM is a unique machine on this list because it actually has a stainless steel conical burr grinder integrated into it. This means you can just put some beans in the hopper and grind them fresh without having to transfer messy coffee grinds from a stand-alone grinder into the coffee brewer. The CoffeeTEAM also has some the “creature comforts” that the Technivorm Moccamaster (to follow) is missing, including a programmable clock and timer so you can wake up to a fresh pot of coffee. The CoffeeTEAM also features a conical brew basket for more even coffee saturation, a 1000-watt heating system and a thermal carafe to keep your coffee warm without the strong, direct-heat of a hot plate.

  • Bunn-O-Matic

    Tim says: Coming from the Bunn-O-Matic Corporation is the BTX thermal carafe brewer. What makes the Bunn stand out from the crowd is the fact that it has a water reservoir on board, where water is preheated to 200°. The water is then released quickly over the brew basket resulting in a ten-cup pot in just about three minutes! As the BTX has a thermal carafe it doesn’t need a strong hotplate — it has a coffee-warming hotplate that is heated by its own 34-watt element, independent from the heater for brewing water.

  • Cona

    Tim says: If spending money makes you happy, but the Clover is out of the question, you might consider the Cona-D vacuum coffee pot. Similar to the Bodum Santos and Yama brewers, but coming in at about $200.00 is the Cona-D, the Rolls Royce of vacuum pots.

    “The Cona is a classic design and the all-glass brewing system is ideal, since there are no metallic or plastic surfaces that can taint the coffee,” said Maria Troy at Sweet Maria’s Coffee, distributor of the Cona.

  • Technivorm

    Tim says: If you can’t be bothered with the manual labor involved with vacuum and pour-over brewing, then we’ve got just the thing for you. Our friend’s at Boyd’s Coffee in Portland, Oregon recently sent us a Technivorm, Moccamaster KBG-741. This handmade, Dutch coffee maker is very cool for a number of reasons. First and foremost, its heating system is fast and strong, getting cold water to brewing temperature (200° F) in what seems like just a few seconds. Secondly, the unit breaks down into its constituent parts quickly for easy cleaning. Next comes its switchable hot plate wattage selector, which is nice because you can elect a lower holding temperature for your brewed coffee if the volume is low. The Moccamaster also looks like it came from the design team of Back To The Future 2… Very retro, diner-chic, yet strangely modern with its molded plastic building block pieces. Did we mention that it brews an outstanding cup of drip coffee?

    Despite its obvious merits, there are two noteworthy drawbacks to the Moccamaster. As evenly as the dispersion of water is over the coffee grounds in the basket, it still left some coffee grounds in the front of the basket unsaturated. We had to stir the grounds manually to get a totally saturated brew basket. Also, conspicuously missing from this $200.00 home coffee brewer was the convenience of an “auto-off” feature that is especially handy in the mornings when you are dashing off to work. Yes, you must turn this machine off manually, but if that’s not a problem, then this is a highly recommended, 1st class machine!

You will be happy with any of these

  • Aerobie

    Tim says: From Palo Alto, California-based flying disc manufacturers Aerobie, comes the Aero Press. We’re still trying to figure out how this vacuum press coffeemaker fits into their product line, but one thing is certain… it makes a pretty darn good cup o’ Joe. The Aero Press is slightly daunting when first pulled from the packaging, but after a quick read through the start-up guide and FAQ sheet we were up and running. The Aero Press is made in the U.S.A. and includes 350 filters in the box. With a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $29.99, the Aero Press is cheap, clean, and efficient. As it only brews small amounts of concentrated coffee, it is perfect for singles and households with only one coffee drinker because it takes up so little space and requires no counter space at all for storage. It’s also virtually indestructible. On the downside, the manufacturer recommends only making espresso-sized volumes (1-2 oz per cup) and then diluting them with hot water. This results in an “Americano” style beverage. Not exactly what the archetypal coffee connoisseur is usually looking for. We brewed some undiluted four oz. cups and drank them but didn’t find the resulting brew to be as bitter as the manufacturer’s FAQ sheet said it might be. We then tried it the recommended way. Aerobie’s “Americano” method of preparation works surprisingly well too, provided you’re able to get over the mental hurdle of drinking coffee diluted with water after brewing. Highly recommended!

  • Bodum

    Tim says: The Bodum series of french presses has been a staple in many coffee lovers’ kitchens for years. These “press pots”, as they are often called, brew coffee without the aid of a paper filter, resulting in a brew that has more coffee oils and more flavor (and more sediment) than coffee brewed with paper or cloth filters. These brewing devices are wellknown and information on them can be found in many places on the web. Bodum’s vacuum pot brewers however remain fairly obscure but highly regarded. The Bodum Santos vacuum coffee maker has been in production since the 1950s and is still a great home brewing system after all these years. By combining a re-usable nylon filter into a traditional vacuum pot design, Bodum has created a brewing method they claim is nearly sediment-free and the Santos’ vacuum brewing process is entirely sealed off, so no aroma escapes. Depending on the amount of water used, the Santos can brew coffee within 5 to 11 minutes, serving anywhere from 4 to 12 cups. Bodum’s classic design has decades of use behind its guiding principles and the stovetop Santos is inexpensive at only $60.00 U.S. There is also an electric version of the Santos available with it’s own internal heating element for about $20.00 more… cool!

  • Melitta

    Tim says: For those coffee lovers out there that have no qualms about using the absolute cheapest coffee brewing method available (about $5.00), there is the Melitta line. Melitta manufactures plastic and porcelain, pour-over design coffee brewers that sit atop a coffee cup or a glass carafe. These brewers, although very cheap, are also very effective and can produce outstanding results. We recommend the use of unbleached paper filters with them (or a Swissgold filter, see below). Melitta pour-over coffee brewers are readily available at most grocery stores, making them even more convenient!

  • Swissgold

    Tim says: Swissgold produces a 23 K gold plated pour-over filter brewer, very similar to the Melitta, except that it requires no paper filter. These units can be bought as either single-cup pour-over brewers or replacement filters for your home coffee maker (Mr Coffee style basket brewers). The Swissgold system eliminates the need for disposable paper filters, reducing the coffee lover’s environmental footprint… nice!

    The brewing results obtained from Swissgold products are very good. A little sediment, but a good cup!

  • Yama

    Tim says: Japanese manufacturer Yama makes heat-resistant, glass vacuum brewers that operate on the same principals as the Bodum and Cona models. According to Maria Troy of Sweet Maria’s Coffee, Yama’s U.S. distributors, “with the Yama brewer - if you substitute the Cona glass filter drainer for the cloth filter that comes with the Yama - you have an inexpensive, all-glass stovetop brewer.” Therefore, the Yama’s are elegant and cost-effective and can be easily modified into a machine that would cost much more. The Yama models are available in different sizes and can be used on the stove or on the kitchen table with their optional butane burner!

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