Coffee Makers – A Buyer’s Guide

Posted by on Aug 16, 2015 in Frugal For Everyone, Product Information | 44 comments

Coffee Makers

Coffee Makers – Drip Style and French Press                    Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

September sales are basically a repeat of  August sales, with coffee makers among the sales items listed. Rather than repeat the same information, I thought if would be of greater benefit to discuss the different coffee makers available. Choosing the right coffee maker can give you long-term pleasure, reduce replacement cost and quite often, eliminate waste. Knowing the choices available – types, sizes, features, uses, etc. – makes it easier to make that perfect choice.

First, some general information about coffee makers:

  • Manufacturers measure cups in 5 oz. size, while many coffee drinkers use mugs which hold 8 oz. Therefore a 10-cup coffee maker means 50 oz. which provides 6 mugs of coffee, not 10;
  • To get the best cup of coffee, the temperature of the water is important and should be between 195F and 205F. Temperatures above 210F may burn the bean and you could end up with burnt tasting coffee;
  • Always use cold water in the coffee maker, unless it specifically tells you to use hot, as for the French Press, or Pour-Over.
  • BEFORE YOU BUY, ask about the store’s return policy and check the manufacturer’s warranty. It’s not uncommon for you to have to pay shipping to return a product. Here in Canada that can easily cost around $20.00. As far as I’m concerned, that is a very unfair practice if the product is faulty.                             TIP: When buying a new appliance, tape the bill to the box it came in, then find a place to store the box along with the original packing material and keep the manual handy. Doing these little things can save you a lot of hassle if you do need to return the product;
  • Permanent coffee filter – this is a super feature – if the machine doesn’t come with one, it’s very much worth your while to purchase one. This is a green act that saves money by eliminating the need for paper filters – it also makes it easier to add the coffee grounds to the compost bin;
  • Some coffee makers have built-in carbon water filters to remove impurities. This is great, but only if you need it since it costs to replace filters (it is recommended to change filters every 60 days);
  • There are also coffee makers that come complete with a coffee grinder. Think twice before buying one of these because it may be more trouble than you like. Often the coffee grounds spillover to the machine, making cleanup difficult. You may actually have to turn the unit upside down to get all the grounds out. Much better to buy a coffee grinder as a separate appliance;
  • Coffee makers come in different sizes and it will help to measure the space between counter and upper cabinets to make sure you can place the unit where you want it. Another thing to consider – if the reservoir needs to be filled from the top, can you do so without moving the unit?

I am not affiliated with Amazon but found they have the largest selection of coffee makers at the best prices. The links here are simply to make it easy for you to compare products and prices: 

For Cdn. shoppers – Amazon.ca

For US shoppers – Amazon.com

Different types of Coffee Makers:

Coffee Makers

Pyrex Percolator

  1. Percolators have stainless steel or glass pots with a tube that runs up from the bottom of the pot to the top. A perforated basket sits on this tube and is filled with coarse coffee grounds. When the water boils it forces its way up the tube and then falls down over the grounds back to the bottom of the pot and the cycle repeats. These units are available in stove-top and electric models. Percolators make the best coffee if the water is not allowed to keep boiling. I have a Pyrex percolator that I use in the winter on my woodstove. It makes great coffee if I set it off to the side of the stove once the water has begun to boil and it is then allowed to slowly perc away. When buying an electric percolator ask for the water temperature range since you can’t control it in the same way.
  1. French Press Coffee Makers do not need electricity, other than for a kettle used to boil the water. These pots have a glass carafe and a stainless steel mesh filter which separates the coffee grounds from the water. It only uses water, boiled separately, and freshly ground coffee beans (a coffee grinder is required – a conical burr coffee grinder is recommended). The plunger is used to stir the coffee and extract every bit of flavour from the coffee bean. French pressed coffee is meant to be consumed right away. Don’t try to keep the coffee warm – it does not keep unless immediately transferred to a thermal carafe. This makes it rather important to buy the right size for your needs in order to prevent waste.
  1. Drip Coffee Makers are the most popular by far since they are the most cost efficient and easiest to use and maintain. With these coffee makers you fill a reservoir with cold water which then flows through the coffee into the pot below. These units come in different sizes and quite a few offer a choice of glass or thermal carafe. (If the coffee is not going to be used up within 30-45 minutes, the thermal carafe may be the preferred choice. Leaving the glass carafe sit on the warm burner means the coffee continues to ‘cook’, adding a burnt or bitter taste.) Don’t let price alone determine your choice. Some of the lower priced models provide you with a cup of coffee comparable to the more expensive machines. Let your choice be based more on the features that are important to you:
    • Spray Head. Some of these coffee makers don’t have a large enough spray to cover all the grounds. Look for one that has a showerhead type spray. This lets you save money by using less coffee and also makes the coffee taste better;
    • Programmable Clock/Timer. This feature allows you  to set the controls to whatever time you want your coffee – great for mornings when coffee is the first priority;
    • Auto-Off. If your mornings are rushed you may forget to turn the machine off. This safety feature does it for you, usually after 2 hours;
    • Adaptable Cup Size. This is another great feature. Quite a few of the newer models are sized for up to 10 or 12 cups but have separate settings for 1-4 cups. Excellent for the student or single person as they can brew small amounts for themselves and still be able to brew larger amounts if an occasion calls for it;
    • Strength adjuster. I’m not sure this feature is worth paying extra for since you should be able to control this by the amount and grind of coffee used. The strength settings are weak, normal and strong.
    • Brew Interrupt. A real coffee drinker loves this feature. It allows you to interrupt the coffee flow so  you can have a cup of coffee before the brew is finished.
  1. Pump Espresso Coffee Makers are available as either manual or automatic machines. These machines make espressos and cappuccinos. The machine forces hot water, at high pressure, through finely ground coffee. Anyone who loves their espresso generally chooses the manual machine since it gives them greater control. One of the most important features to look for in a pump espresso machine is a minimum bar pressure of 15 – this is needed to produce good crema (foam) and to prevent bitter tasting coffee.
    Coffee Makers

    Keurig Capsule Coffee Maker

  1. Capsule Coffee Makers, like the Keurig or Tassimo, use pre-measured pods to produce the coffee. They generally make good coffee super fast, are easy to use and maintain. However, the pods are only good for one time use which makes them costly to operate and of environmental concern. I read a lot of reviews about these coffee makers and the general consensus is ‘OK, but not great’. The biggest complaint seems to be that the coffee isn’t hot enough, something I discovered for myself within months of purchase.
      • The Keurig is more expensive to buy initially, but the k-cups cost less than the Tassimo disks so that probably balances out at some point.
      • Keurig has more than 250 flavours to choose from and makes coffee, tea and hot chocolate;
      • You can choose your own brew cycle – brewing is very fast;
      • Different cup sizes to choose from (reviews indicate this may become a problem);
      • Since it is always on, it wastes energy.
      • The Tassimo costs less to buy originally but the disks can be more expensive;
      • The disks come in 40 flavours. It also makes espresso, cappuccino, lattes, hot chocolate and tea;
      • The brew cycle is pre-set. Takes a bit longer to brew than the Keurig;
      • More energy efficient since it doesn’t use energy other than when it’s brewing.

    Coffee Makers

    A very simple pour-over unit

  1. Pour-Over Coffee Makers. This is the method my mother used and she made great coffee. With her making and serving coffee was a process she took great pride in. While she poured the hot water over the coffee grounds she would heat up the cream. Then the coffee would be served in a china cup placed on a saucer with a small spoon to stir the coffee. The hot cream and sugar were served separately along with a plate of cookies or something similar. I loved having coffee at mom’s – there was absolutely no better way to de-stress.                                                     Anyway, back to the pour-over coffee makers. These pour-over units are such an easy way to brew a cup of coffee. All you need is the hot water, a mug (or carafe), the pour-over unit, and a filter to hold the finely ground coffee. The pour-over units are available in ceramic, steel, glass or plastic. You don’t need anything costly, but if you want something fancy check out the Chemex. It is one of the more expensive units, and while it doesn’t make better coffee than the other types, it’s very cute and has a lot of appeal. Since I’m more the frugal type the unit I have is plastic which works fine. All I do is place the unit on my mug, put one coffee scoop (2 Tbsp.) of finely ground coffee in the reusable filter, pour in a little hot water and let that drain into the cup and then continue pouring until the cup is full. To make more than one cup you simply adjust the amount of coffee grounds and place the unit over a coffee carafe. So easy, so inexpensive, and absolutely no waste.

So there you have it – everything you ever wanted to know about coffee makers.

Sharing is caring – please leave a comment and/or share with your social media friends.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

44 Comments

  1. The last time you wrote about coffee, Lenie, I regaled you with the fact that I was a slacked-out instant coffee drinker; in turn, you regaled me with the fact that you only use instant coffee to add color to your gravy. Well, my brother was in town this past July and he taught me how to operate a Mr. Coffee coffeemaker, and now I am drinking fresh-brewed coffee every day. He also introduced me to Melitta’s ground coffee, which is rather a step up from Walmart’s Great Value Classic Roast instant coffee. Progress, eh?

    • Andy, I am proud of you. What a move forward. Next thing you know you’ll be brewing esspressos and lattes. Seriously though, now that you have started drinking the good stuff, do you wonder how you ever managed to drink instant. There really is no comparison is there. And Melitta ground coffee is the best there is, definitely a step us from Walmarts coffee. Enjoy the week.

  2. We just recently got a new coffee maker that has an espresso feature. I am afraid of getting addicted to it…it’s just so goood. Yes, an extra “O’ is warranted.

  3. I don’t drink much coffee so I didn’t know that there were that many types of coffee makers.

    • Coffee is big business – just look at all the Coffee Shops – so naturally all the small appliance manufacturers want a slice of the pie. Which is good because there is a coffee maker suitable to just about everyone and most at a reasonable price.

  4. As for me I drink SSSOOOOOO much coffee at work, cups upon cups. I do not even care for the taste, it is the caffeine I desire. At work I brought in my Keurig so everyone could use it, and it does save me a lot of money. Also, I like using the plastic refill capsule cups, where I put in my own coffee, this way the cost is even lower.
    Thanks for sharing this, there was a lot of info about coffee makers I did not know about.

    • William, you’re lucky that you got one of the older Keurigs with the capsule cups – the newer ones won’t allow that feature. I think the older models were also a little better quality and gave you hot coffee, something you can’t count on with the newer models. When I was working I drank coffee by the gallon, now that I’m retired I have the time to be a little more health conscious and drink things like lemon water.

  5. Hello Lenie, thank you so much for checking upon me when i was in hospital. I am back home now recovering well. Hope you are feeling better as well. I missed your posts when i was in hospital. I need to catch you on previous posts on the blog this weekend.

    Ok back to the post! Oh wow great information for coffee makers. My sister will love this post. I dont drink coffee which is strange according to my family but i love the smell of fresh coffee. i am forwarding this link to her.

    ChinWe

    • ChinWe – you are very welcome. I’m glad you’re doing well, hope you’ll soon be completely your old self. As for me, once you hit 70 you can expect health issues to pop up from time to time. I’ve learned to give in to them and that way they seem to disappear faster.
      I love the smell and taste of coffee – especially in the winter time when I use my percolator. Thanks for forwarding this post to your sister, hope she finds it useful.
      Take care
      Lenie

  6. I love the smell of coffee and used to drink it a lot at one time. We usually use the cafeteire as it’s perfect for making 2-3 cups of coffee at a time. My sister always brings her little pour over gadget whenever she is visiting anywhere. On a completely different note – I leave spoonfuls of ground coffee in my microwave and fridge to make them smell nice. (My son suggested that i should do the same for my car!!)The used coffee granules go in my plant pots in the garden.

    • Hi Mina – thanks for the tip about placing spoonfuls of ground coffee in the microwave and fridge. I can totally see where that would work and is something I’m going to be doing. As for the used grounds, I have an old coffee tin where I put all the used grounds and like you, use them everywhere in the garden. Thanks for sharing.

  7. What a fun post, Lenie! After we painted our kitchen last year I posted pictures on Facebook and laughed at the comments on the three visible coffee makers: a Mr Coffee (10 cup), a Cuisinart (4 cup aka 2 cups) and a Nespresso De’Longhi Lattissima. Ahem, and two sizes of French Press in the cupboard.

    Yes, we love our coffee! Husband drinks real or half decaf. I drink all decaf except for the occasional real cup–hence the different drip machines. The Nespresso was a must have Christmas gift to ourselves after a trip to France where we got addicted to it. It’s a truly well made machine, easy to clean and maintain.

    I love the sound of a percolator, too. It reminds me of growing up and the coffee smells so good coming from it. They are also easier to clean that the drip machines. Maybe when this 10 year old Cuisinart bites the dust, I’ll have to find a small percolator!

    Posted this to Facebook–I just know someone out there is ready for a new machine.

    • Hi Rose, thanks for the share. Isn’t is amazing how we collect the different coffee makers. I recently gave 3 – that were still working but never being used – to the Thrift store. I’m thinking about giving the Keurig away, but since I’m not satisfied with it that doesn’t seem right, so I think I’ll probably just end up throwing it away at some point.
      I used to love coffee too but somehow don’t seem to be able to manage more than a couple of cups a day now – I’ve replaced my coffee with lemon water, much healthier but not nearly as satisfying.
      I do enjoy the percolator in the winter. I used to have a small 4 cup pyrex which was just perfect but it broke – will have to see if I can find a replacement.
      Go enjoy your cup of coffee from whatever machine you choose 🙂

      • I hear you, Lenie. Sometimes things are so bad you don’t want to donate them.

        I forgot to add a little tidbit about Nespresso–they have always recycled, but you used to have to take the capsules somewhere (too far for us). Now they have a mail in program! Isn’t that great?

        • Hi Rose, I didn’t know about the Nespresso recycling program – that’s pretty great stuff and I hope they use it as a marketing fact. That is one of the big problems with Keurig or Tassimo – what do you do with all those used cups? I’m pretty impressed that Nespresso had the foresight to come up with that program.

          • It was killing the granola person in me to throw those capsules out!

  8. Lenie — I use the pour-over unit myself because I only drink one cup of coffee. It tastes perfectly fine and you can adjust the amount of coffee to suit your taste — weak, medium or strong. It’s also good for when you have guests and everyone drinks regular coffee but one guest drinks decaffeinated (or vice versa). Then you need to make only one pot of coffee and use the pour-over for the one guest.

    • Jeannette, I only drink one or two cups a day so I’m with you. I use the pour-over unit. Besides that it makes me think of my mom everytime and that’s a lovely feeling. The idea of using it to make one decaf when everyone else drinks regular is a great idea. Thanks for sharing that tip.

  9. Hi Lenie. I did a post like this a while back too. With so many different kinds of coffee makers to choose from now days, I think your explanation of each will be very helpful. 🙂

    • Hi Susan – There are a lot of coffee makers around now aren’t there? That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to describe each one and point out the benefits and problems you may run into. I’m back to the pour-over unit or in the winter my pyrex percolator. For me, that works best.

  10. Now you’re really speaking my language! I love my coffee. I think french pressed tastes the best, but usually I just go for my $15 drip machine. Works great!

    • Meredith, isn’t it amazing that often the less expensive machines work best? I don’t use the drip machines anymore but did when I was working, both at home and at work. There is a reason why they remain the best seller of the coffee makers. When you find a good one you can have a tasty cup of coffee pretty fast, and of course, there is that wonderful programmable feature where you can have your first cup of coffee even before your eyes are open in the morning.

  11. I currently use a small coffee pot with a stainless steel carafe. It brews on big cup at a time, but I’ve been thinking to going back to a larger size coffee maker. My aunt has one that also grinds beans, and it’s somewhat of a pain to use. I really should look into reusable coffee filters. Thanks for the reminder on that point.

    • Jeri, if you’re thinking about a new coffee pot why not try one that makes 10-12 cups but has a separate function for 1-4 cups. That way you can use the small setting for yourself or the regular setting for when company comes.

  12. Lenie, it’s funny each of the coffee makers you listed represents a period of my life and my relationship to coffee at that time. From quick ,easy ,grab it and go to creating a coffee ritual.

    • Pamela, I never thought about that but you’re right. Looking back I started with the metal percolator, moved up to the drip machine when life became busy, moved to the pour-over unit and pyrex percolator when I retired with only a quick session with the Keurig in between. Interesting though.

  13. This is a great resource for anyone buying a coffee maker! Thanks for sharing. I personally get rid of boxes when the warranty expires so I tape/staple the receipt to the manual. Then the manual gets stored in the manufacturing manuals filing drawer by manufacturer’s name. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Sabrina – The reason I mentioned taping the info to the box is that it makes it much easier to return a product when you have the original packaging. I learned that lesson long ago when I tried to return something without the packing material. Talk about a hassle. Of course, once the warranty expires your system is best.

  14. Thx for the tip about the size of the spray head, Lenie. That’s good to know. And I had no idea that Keurig makes so many flavours.

    My pet peeve with coffee makers is that even coffee makers that promise they are drip proof when pouring, are not drip proof. They always seem to dribble down the side.

    • Doreen, everyone seems to have a pet peeve, even if they all seem to be different. If I were to name one it would be the coffee not being hot enough – often the case with drip machines and certainly the case with the Keurig I have. If I were to name my favourite coffee maker it would be a four-cup pyrex percolator. Had one until it broke and will be looking for a replacement soon.

  15. What a detailed description of coffee makers!

    I am not a coffee person myself but I do like to drink a mocha every now and again. I also like the smell of fresh coffee.

    • Phoenicia, that’s why I love the percolator. In the winter, having the coffee slowly percing away on the woodstove, the whole house smells like coffee – love it.

  16. Fascinating as always Lenie! I do love my coffee and I prefer freshly brewed so I only make it a up at a time – maybe it’s time to try one of those French Presses!

    • Marquita, the French Press has been popular in Europe for years and is just now making its way to North America. From all accounts, the French Press makes really good, smooth dark coffee so I don’t think you can go to far wrong with getting one.

  17. Wow, so many choices! I just bought a french press which I love. I’ve only used it to brew coffee to cool and then turn into ice coffee and so far, it has worked wonderfully. My next project is going to be to make cold brewed ice coffee. I found this great recipe today that I’m super excited about. It is over 100 degrees here right now (and usually is a high of 65 degrees in winter, so it is almost always ice coffee for me.

    • Erica, with those temperatures I can totally understand why you prefer ice coffee. Would you believe I’ve never had one. I know they are available at local coffee shops but they,ve never appealed to me (am I in a rut or what – afraid to try something new). Maybe I’ll try next summer since this one’s almost gone.

  18. This was great Lenie! I learned my lesson with the coffee maker/grinder. Those proved very undependable and I found the life of the machine to be very inferior. I do like French Press once in a while, though. And I love your mother’s coffee technique! I think I may try that one!

    • Jacquie, I think with my mother’s technique it’s also about taking the time to make the coffee. We tend to live our lives in a rush. so taking the time to prepare and serve the coffee , even to ourselves, is what makes the whole coffee-time so wonderful. The pour-over is what I do in the summer, in the winter it will be back to the good old percolator.

  19. I am not a coffee drinker but my husband is. I think we have tried everything you have on your site. We tried the French Press but that got old fast. I bought him a Keurig, because I thought it was nuts to microwave a cup of coffee throughout the day. What happened to a fresh cup of coffee. We bought the insert so he can put in whatever brand he wants. He is happy so I am happy

    • Hi Arleen – your Keurig must be an older product because mine won’t accept the insert. But they do provide a cup of coffee when you want and super fast. Buying a coffee maker often was by trial and error – hopefully my info will help offset that somewhat.

  20. Great information on coffee makers. I’ve used many of the types you’ve highlighted, but we usually have a drip machine because of its convenience. I gave my French press to my daughter so we could make coffee when we visit her (she is a tea drinker and doesn’t drink coffee). The coffee from the percolator on your wood stove sounds particularly inviting. I think some of the best coffee I’ve had was made in an old metal percolator while staying at a rustic cabin at the lake.

    • Donna, I love my percolator. Just having it slowly perc away sounds inviting and makes the house smell so good. I can very well believe that the best coffee you had was in an old metal percolator. Manufacturers have been trying to improve on the coffee maker every since – I really don’t think they’ve made much headway so you, other than convenience. Again a testament to our busy lives.

  21. Personally have used cafetieres (the original French word that we use in Europe for what you call French Press) and espresso machines for as long as I can remember. Once you get used to coffee from that kind of machines you will not like the taste of “normal” coffee anymore.

    • Catarina, in many ways Europe is ahead of us and coffee makers is just another example. Both the French Press and the Espresso machines are relative newcomers here – probably helped by the Starbuck expansion and popularity. I wouldn’t mind getting an Expresso machine but that is way down on my want list – maybe someday.