Finding the Best Coffee Maker
For many of us, coffee is crucial to starting the day. That’s why our Test Kitchen went on a mission to find the best coffee maker on the market for brewing a great cup o’ joe. (Psst! These are our go-to coffee brands.) The right machine can make all the difference between a satisfying sip and a weak, lukewarm brew. Here are a bunch more coffee-brewing mistakes to avoid.
To find our Best Loved Brand (what’s that?), we tried out a handful of the most popular coffee makers over the course of several months to get a good understanding of how they worked. Then, for good measure, we tested them according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s “Gold Cup Standards”—the basics of a good cup of coffee:
- Brew time: How quickly does the machine make coffee? Ideally, this should be around eight minutes.
- Brew temperature: Is the coffee brewed at the right temperature (195-205ºF)?
- Basket overflow: Is the coffee maker designed to hold the right amount of coffee without overflowing?
- Pricing: Is the product affordable? Was the performance reflected in the price?
The Best Coffee Maker: Ninja Coffee Brewer with Auto iQ
After brewing up pots and pots of coffee over a few months, our Test Kitchen got a good feeling for each coffee maker we tried (a whopping 10 options!), but in the end, Ninja’s coffee maker ($80) stole our hearts.
Features We Loved
- Sleek design: As food stylist Josh Rink put it, “this is just a cool coffeepot.” With a unique conical shape, this coffee maker was definitely eye-catching. But Ninja didn’t sacrifice any function for its form. This coffee maker easily slid under cabinets to stash away during the day, and, as our Test Kitchen-approved model, it obviously performed very well.
- Drip/no drip setting: This setting was new to our staffers. This coffee maker features a special button designed to stop the coffee maker’s drip. That means no messy coffee splatter on the heating plate while you use the carafe!
- Easy size settings: Of course, you can choose your brew size with any coffee maker (just use less coffee and water), but Ninja’s coffee maker makes it even easier. Just select cup, travel mug, half pot or whole pot and the coffee maker takes care of it! It combines the convenience of a single serve maker and a traditional brewer.
- Different brew options: You can choose the brew for you with easy settings. Select classic brew, rich or even over ice to suit your coffee style.
How It Performed
The Ninja Coffee Brewer with Auto iQ lived up to those “Gold Cup Standards.” Ninja’s drip coffee maker produced a full pot in eight minutes on average, which falls right in that “Golden Cup” range. The coffee also came out nice and hot at 190ºF—just shy of the 195ºF standard, but the result was just as delicious (and perhaps a bit more drinkable right out of the pot).
As for the features we tested, we found that the basket on this coffee maker was the proper size—no grounds overflowed. Our testers noticed, however, that Ninja’s coffee maker held a bit less water than other drip machines—43 ounces of water versus the typical 60. Our team only considered this an issue if you have a lot of coffee-lovers over for a party. But luckily, a new pot can be made in under 10 minutes.
The only other drawback of this brand was the conical carafe. Our food stylists loved the look but thought the narrow neck might be hard to clean with just a sponge. They recommend getting a nice bottle brush to keep it looking shiny and new. But overall, this was considered a minor inconvenience.
We Also Recommend…
Though we fell in love with Ninja’s coffee maker, there were two other coffee makers that ranked highly in our tests. If you can’t get your hands on our Best Loved Brand, these models are good alternatives, too.
- Krups Turbo 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker ($96, left): The Krups coffee maker impressed our testers with novel features like a “turbo” button designed for extra-fast brewing. (Essential for those mornings when you’re running late!) The one major drawback of this model was that the reservoir lid opens in a way that makes it difficult for lefties to fill.
- KitchenAid Glass Carafe Coffee Maker ($100, right): We found this KitchenAid coffee maker to be a simple, dependable model with a nifty design. The unit also includes a mesh brewing basket. Buh-bye, disposable filters! However, during testing, we found that the reservoir markings were difficult to read and the front of the machine steamed up with water droplets while brewing.
What to Make with Coffee
So you’ve got that amazing coffee maker and a freshly brewed pot? Sure, you could just pour yourself a cuppa and enjoy, but you could also turn that coffee into something even better—like this hot ginger coffee. With crystallized ginger, cinnamon and a touch of orange zest, it’s the perfect fall pick-me-up. But don’t just stop there! Try all these amazing coffee recipes, too!
How to Care for Your Coffee Maker
Chances are you use your coffee maker almost every day. As one of your hardest working small appliances, it does need a little extra care now and again. With our favorite Ninja Coffee Brewer, you can use the self-clean setting for regular maintenance, but occasionally you might have to do a bit more to keep your brewer in tip-top shape, like running a vinegar-water mix through your machine on occasion. Check out more tips on how to clean your coffee maker.