What to look for when buying a coffee brewer

Speed, size, price, maintenance, Taste! Purchasing a coffee brewer is a commitment, especially if you rely on it to brew your first cup of the day. Before jumping right into brewer characteristics, it’s important to identify the type of machine that is right for you.

The self-assessment

The first step in choosing a coffee machine is identifying the type of brewer best suited to your needs. Key questions to answer are:

  • How many cups do you brew and how large is each cup?
  • If you brew multiple cups, are you brewing consecutively or are there large time gaps between cups?
  • Do you brew more than one type of coffee within a short period of time (e.g., a decaf and a regular)?
  • How much time do you have to brew and clean-up?

If you brew one cup at a time or multiple types of coffee, a single serve machine may suit you best. If you brew a large cup or multiple cups of the same coffee, we recommend you consider a drip machine or any other brewer than can brew multiple cups simultaneously (e.g., Pour-over, French Press, Moka Pot, etc.). Other important factors to consider pre-purchase are where you drink your coffee and how long it takes you to drink. If you brew your coffee and don’t get to it immediately or drink your coffee on the way to work, it may be worth looking for a machine that brews directly into a thermal pot or travel mug.

Brew quality

Brew quality is the most vital characteristic to consider when purchasing a coffee machine, specifically brew temperature and carafe composition.

Temperature: If you are purchasing a drip or single serve machine, check the brewing temperature. If it is not listed on the box, contact the manufacturer. Brewing temperatures above 205°F (96°C) will burn coffee; temperatures below 195°F (91°) won’t extract the coffee properly.

Carafe: Glass is generally preferred material for a carafe as it produces the cleanest, purest taste. If you are considering a thermal carafe, look for one that has an internal glass wall.

Brew type: Brew type is a preference — filtration, pressure, and immersion brewers all produce wonderful, but very different cups. To learn more about the different types of brewing, click here.

Short and long-term costs

The short-term cost of a coffee brewer is the initial price of the machine. The long-term cost is the coffee. If you purchase a single serve machine, it is worthwhile to evaluate the long-term expense of purchasing K-Cups and pods over the duration of the machine’s life.

Maintenance

All removable machine parts require some soap and hot water. Before purchasing a machine, be sure the filter holder and water tank (if relevant) are removable. If you cannot view the water tank, we suggest you steer clear of the machine as unwashed water tanks and small tubing can develop mold, yeast, and coliform*. Now that you know you can and should clean your machine parts, consider how much effort you want to put into cleaning post-brew? Generally, plastic and glass pour-overs and drip bowls can go directly into the dishwasher. French press plungers need to be disassembled and hand-washed as do most thermal pots.

Convenience / special features

The final thing to consider when purchasing a machine is special features such as control of brew speed, brew temperature, pre-setting a brew time, and auto-shutoff on the plate warmer. If you are purchasing a single serve machine, you may want to look for a machine that can brew at different strengths (or cup size) and that brews with both K-cups and filter-packed Pods to expand your purchasing options.

Read reviews!

Finally, read the reviews! If a significant number of purchasers are reporting the same problem with a brewer, think twice before buying the machine. Aren’t sure where to start? Here’s a link to Consumer Reports Coffee Maker Ratings.

*If your machine has developed mold, yeast, or coliform, we suggest you throw it out. A mixture of white vinegar and water will clean the machine but the vinegar taste is likely to linger unless you flush the machine many times (we recommend a minimum of 30). Additionally, the mold, yeast, and coliform are likely to reappear without continued monthly cleanings.

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