Our Picks for the Best Coffee Maker
OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System
A beautiful machine with intuitive controls that makes great coffee right out of the box. The only downsides: It’s quite large and the slowest to brew of all our top picks.
The OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System is sleek to look at, streamlined to use, and tied for second in our out-of-the-box taste test. If you want to make a great pot of coffee without having to sweat the details, this is a great option. If you want the freedom to tinker around and experiment with extraction, it’s even better.
The OXO On 12-Cup feels high-tech without being high maintenance. It’s beautifully constructed, with silicone gaskets, a stainless steel carafe, and sturdy-feeling plastic. But let’s go ahead and get its biggest downside right out there in the open. Of the 10 machines we tested, it took the longest to brew eight cups of coffee — nearly 15 minutes. It heats its entire reservoir of water to temperature before a drop touches the grounds, and if you’re jonesing for a full pot to start off your day, that wait is going to feel like a lifetime. This was particularly noticeable considering four of the machines we tested brewed the same amount of coffee in less than half that time. The Bunn BTX-B Velocity Brew could do it in three minutes flat.
At 14.5 inches long and nearly 16 inches tall, it’s also quite large. But hear us out.
Right: Our top pick, the OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing system. If 12 cups is overkill, we also recommend its little sister, the OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker (left), which brews faster and is $100 less. We just didn’t love its coffee quite as much in our taste test, and it doesn’t give you the option to adjust the water temp.
The simplicity starts with its design: a single button with a scrolling dial underneath an LED interface. That button is the only one on the entire machine. With it, you set the time, set the water temperature, set how many cups you want brewed, and when you want the brewing to start. It takes a second to get the hang of it, but we were impressed with how intuitive it is — a stark contrast to a machine like the Moccamaster KBT 10-Cup Coffee Brewer, which had so many extra pieces, it required constant consultation of the instruction manual.
Once you start brewing, it makes a really, really good pot of coffee. Our taste test revealed the OXO On 12-Cup coffee was “dark and strong” and appealed to the more traditionalist coffee palates. The great flavor comes from the brewing process. The OXO machines have wide shower heads with multiple ports through which water streams, dispersing it evenly throughout the brew basket. Lots of other coffee makers spout water through just one hole, or through shower heads with a smaller radius, which can increase the chances of uneven extraction.
It also automatically pre-infuses the coffee, allowing the grounds to vent their CO2 and “bloom.” Remember, only half of the machines we tested had this feature, and it proved to pay off in our taste tests. The four machines we recommend all pre-infuse. Only one coffee maker without it, the Hamilton Beach, performed well at all in our taste tests — but that guy was so cheap and flimsy, part of the brew basket broke during our testing. Sorry, Hamilton Beach.
The OXO is SCAA-certified, so we knew going in that it would heat water to the right temperature range and let coffee brew for the right amount of time. But what really sold us on the OXO was how its scrolling dial made even that customizable. Assuming you want to bring the extraction down a touch for lighter, subtler coffee, you can lower the water temperature with a twist of the dial. Likewise, if you want a slightly more robust aroma from your brew, you can increase the water’s temp the same way.
That water is heated in a detachable reservoir that doubles as a kettle. This is a unique feature for a coffee maker, but one we ended up appreciating, especially for households with a mix of tea lovers and instant-oatmeal eaters alongside coffee drinkers. Fill the kettle up, lock it in place, and scroll the dial to the amount of coffee you want brewed. The machine is designed so that, even if you have more water in the kettle than you need, it will brew only the amount you specify. The one thing you actually have to measure with the OXO On 12-Cup is the grounds. Do that right, and it’s pretty much impossible to screw it up.
Once your coffee’s ready to go, a “freshness” timer starts on the LED display, so you know exactly how long your coffee has been sitting, preventing you from pouring any cups of stale coffee. Pouring is easy, too — no fiddly lids with levers or buttons that can trap stale brew. Just a clean, even stream.
Once coffee is brewed, a timer starts to show how long it’s been sitting in the carafe. Coffee starts losing its flavor after 30 minutes. Most experts (and the OXO manual) say it’s not really worth drinking after an hour.
Let’s circle back to that extra-long brew time. There are two factors that didn’t make it an automatic “no” for us. The first is that the OXO On 12-Cup is programmable. Like our experts say, grinding coffee in advance isn’t going to make the most perfect cup of coffee. But the fact that you can program the machine’s “wake-up time” to start brewing and have coffee ready when you are takes the sting out of the wait.
The next is the machine’s auto-pause. If you remove the carafe before your full pot is done brewing, the flow will stop until the carafe goes back in. It’s not a perfect system. There are a few inevitable drips that add an extra step to clean-up, and if the water is held up in the brew basket for too long, it increases the chance of over-extraction. But if you want a great first cup to sip on while the rest of your pot is brewing, you’ll get it in a much more satisfying time frame.
One last downside: a $300 price tag. Yowch. Even for a great machine, that’s going to be an inevitable deal breaker for some — which is why we also have three other recommendations.
Three Other Coffee Makers to Consider
OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker
A similar yet slightly smaller version of our top pick, though we weren’t as blown away by the coffee it brews.
This coffee maker is excellent. How could it not be? Its SCAA-certified, and the technology is practically identical to the 12-Cup brewing system. Lots of what we love about the 12-Cup, from its single-dial programmability to its auto-pause brewing to its multi-port shower head, is pretty much the same. Plus, it brews eight cups in a much swifter nine minutes, and is $100 cheaper.
There are two reasons it didn’t quite win our top spot. The coffee it brews didn’t wow us as much as the 12-Cup. This is likely because the of the brew-basket and filter shape: a cone, rather than the flat bottom of the larger machine. It’s not that cone filters won’t make a great cup of coffee — the OXO On 9-Cup still ranked fifth out of 10 in our taste test. But flat bottoms generally allow for the grounds to be more evenly extracted and increase the coffee’s flavor. (It’s no coincidence our other three recommendations have flat-bottom brew baskets). You may have to do a little more tweaking to get this coffee maker’s brew to the best it can be, and that’s the other reason we like the 12-cupper more. This smaller version doesn’t let you tinker with water temperature.
One last thing: The 9-Cup is still quite large. It’s about the same size as the 12-Cup OXO, although no handle on the reservoir makes it seem a bit more compact. If you lack counter space or have particularly low-hanging cabinets, both OXO coffee makers are going to be out of place. (In that case, we heartily recommend the Bonavita 1900TS.)
If you want to experiment with your drip coffee and really dial in on making it as good as possible, the Behmor Brazen Plus Customizable Temperature Control Brew System (around $200) is your machine.
It scored the highest in our out-of-the-box taste test, brewing coffee our tasters described as “light” with subtle notes of blueberry, citrus, cherry, tobacco, and hazelnut. The machine simply brews great coffee, and it takes its job seriously. If you’re interested in playing around with the flavor and extraction of your roast, the Behmor Brazen gives you more access to more variables. You can adjust water temperature, play with pre-infusion times (15 seconds to four minutes) — it even has you enter your altitude to better determine water’s boiling point, and calibrate its internal thermometer during setup.
That said, it’s not as elegant to use as the OXO machines. (Nor is it as nice to look at. One tester described its tall, bulbous body and squat carafe as “UFO-like.”) Take its eight-button controls, for example, which you use to toggle among brew modes, scroll up and down within the menu, and engage a manual brewing feature. Programming it to start brewing at a certain time was about as intuitive as setting an alarm on a clock radio — easy enough, but more technical than sleek. OXO definitely feels like the future; Behmor is more, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
It’s a little clunkier in practice too. Small things, like a water reservoir lid that had to be completely removed and set aside to fill, as opposed to flipping up on a hinge, felt like oversights. Even the $30 Hamilton Beach brewer could do that. We also noticed its brew basket was drippier (read: messier) when we were tossing out old grounds.
It brews eight cups two minutes faster than the OXO 12-Cup and three minutes slower than the OXO 9-Cup — and we should note that the Behmor maxes out at just eight cups.
The most straight-forward of our top picks. It makes gorgeous coffee, but lacks some features like auto brew times and adjustable water temps.
The Bonavita is a simple, compact machine (about 12 inches x 12 inches) for only $180, and it makes coffee that ranked in the top three in our taste test. Its philosophy seems to be “everything you absolutely need, nothing you don’t.” That means it’s SCAA-certified for water temperature and brew times, boasts pre-infusion capabilities, and has a flat-bottom filter basket that extracts grounds evenly. That’s it.
Like the OXO machines, it has only one button on its interface. Unlike the OXO machines, that button does only one thing: start the brewing process. If you hold it down until it blinks, you’ll activate the pre-infusion; otherwise a simple click gets it going. Brewing a full pot of eight cups took us about seven minutes, by far the fastest of any of our top picks — which is a good thing, considering you can’t program it to start brewing before you wake up.
One downside: The Bonavita’s thermal carafe performed the worst of all our top picks, with a full pot dropping from over 190 degrees down to mid-170s in an hour. All thermal carafes have some sort of heat loss over time, but the Bonavita’s 16-degree drop was the most dramatic of our top picks.
All the machines we tested came with either insulated carafes or glass pots with built-in warmers. Both have pros and cons. Glass pots are typically easier to clean because they tend to have wider mouths, and the lack of internal insulation means that glass pots will have a greater interior volume relative to its exterior volume — basically, it’s easier to get your hand or dish sponge into a glass pot. On the other hand, glass pots are more fragile and have to be heated from a base plate. In our tests, those base plates could even raise the temperature of the coffee, like with the CuisinArt, which can make coffee taste burnt.
There’s also no way to adjust the temperature of the water on the Bonavita, or tinker with any of the other variables some of our other top picks gave access to. And that’s the other downside to this excellent machine: What you get is what you get, and if you do want to experiment with the flavor of your coffee, it will depend entirely on the beans you buy and the size you grind them to. Good thing the coffee it brews right out of the box is so dang good.