We went a bit overboard testing the best cheap coffee maker. We brought in seven of the most popular and best-reviewed sub-$100 coffee machines and compared them with what our blind-tasting panel of coffee nerds liked: the $200 Oxo On 9-cup coffee maker.
We started by tasting a single-origin coffee to determine which cheap machine was most acceptable to discerning coffee drinkers, then ran the panel a second time with preground Dunkin’ Donuts house blend from the corner store. The Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Coffee Maker (46201) swept both rounds of testing. It placed second to the Oxo in Round 1 and actually beat the Oxo during the Dunkin’ round.
I haven’t seen a Wirecutter or Sweethome evaluation of coffee machines that use pods. Is there a reason for that?
The truth is, K-Cup brewers are mostly the same. None of them make good coffee and the plastic pods aren’t easily recyclable. Something like our pick for cheap coffee maker will produce much better coffee and be way less expensive in the long run. Besides, it’s not hard to run a regular coffee maker.
Now making espresso at home takes a lot of practice to get right. We wouldn’t fault anyone for getting a Nespresso machine. It can match a drive-through barista for about $1 a pod. That’s still a lot more expensive than grinding your own coffee, but it beats paying $3 for a similar drink at Starbucks. And unlike Keurig, Nespresso has been running a free pod recycling program for years.
Do coffee drinkers have anything to gain from the smart kitchen trend?
Not really. Adding Wi-Fi and an app just moves the buttons off the machine and onto your phone screen. Most coffee makers can already be programmed on a timer. You just need to remember to add preground coffee the night before, which a smart machine still can’t do for you. In any case, the biggest problem when it comes to programmable coffee makers is that the coffee you put in the night before gets stale by the time it’s brewed. An app can’t fix that.
You drank more than 100 cups of coffee to test pour-over coffee gear, 300 cups of coffee for cold-brew equipment. Did anyone get to sleep?
Slurp and spit, just like wine tasting. Though just like wine tasting, we did end up drinking a fair amount. It’s hard not to when it tastes this good.
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