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Best Drip Coffee Makers

By: Kelly Burgess on November 02, 2016

Glass-carafe drip coffee makers are convenient and easy to use

Most drip coffee makers are self-contained units that brew multiple cups of coffee into a glass carafe that sits on a hot plate. The plate keeps the coffee hot, usually for about two hours or so, then shuts itself off. They're easy to use and to clean, and most make a pretty darn good batch of coffee. They also tend to be the lowest-priced option. Some coffee lovers don't like leaving a pot of coffee on a heating element; they feel that it changes the taste of the coffee -- and most expert reviewers scorn glass carafe coffee makers altogether, only testing thermal coffee makers, which we also cover elsewhere in this report.

However, experts and owners agree that the 14-cup Cuisinart DCC-3200 (Est. $80) does a great job in producing hot coffee that is as tasty from the first cup to the last. The coffee brews at the ideal temperature for extracting the maximum flavor from ground coffee beans. In one professional test, the DCC-3200 earns an Excellent rating for brew performance. Owners also praise the DCC-3200 for brewing very hot coffee that is comparable in flavor to what they get at their local coffee shop. While other experts don't praise it quite as highly, it still gets very good ratings for a machine in its price range.

The plethora of convenience features on the Cuisinart DCC-3200 is another plus, owners say. They like the 24 hour programmable timer that lets them wake up, or come home, to a hot pot of coffee. Many say the brew strength settings, regular and bold, are distinct enough that they can taste the difference, although others say they can't tell which is which. However, other features are well-liked across the board, such as the option to pause the brew to sneak a cup, the easy-to-read clock, which also makes setting the timer much easier, and adjustments that allow you to choose "keep warm" for up to four hours -- two hours longer than on most coffee makers.

Another highly-rated coffee maker in this category, the Bonavita BV 1800 (Est. $130) is a basic coffee maker that focuses on one thing: making a delicious cup of coffee. However, those with less finicky palates aren't impressed with the lack of convenience features; the BV 1800 is an extremely basic machine with just an on/off switch.

Still, when it comes to taste, the Bonavita BV 1800 gets extremely high praise from users for the excellent coffee it produces, with many comparing it to high-end coffee makers costing twice as much. Like those expensive brewers, the Bonavita raises the water temperature to 200 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit, and then its "showerhead" design sprays and saturates the grounds to extract the maximum amount of flavor from the coffee beans.

Users say that, unlike most glass carafe-style coffee makers, the heating element on the Bonavita BV 1800 keeps the coffee sufficiently hot without changing the flavor or giving it a "burnt" taste even toward the end of the pot. The BV 1800 makes eight, 5-ounce cups of coffee. While a few would prefer a 10- or 12-cup option, the BV 1800 has a smaller footprint than most full-size coffee makers, something that those who are challenged for counter space appreciate.

We didn't see the Hamilton Beach 2-Way Brewer 49980Z (Est. $60) in any professional roundups, but we can't ignore how popular it is with consumer reviewers, especially at Amazon.com where thousands of owners make it one of the highest-rated coffee maker there. This versatile coffee maker has both a single-serve setting and a full pot option. Just flip a switch to choose one or the other. You can make 12 cups in the glass carafe, or a 12-ounce "to go" cup in a travel coffee mug (you have to use your own, it's not included with this coffee maker, but we have some great suggestions in our separate report on travel mugs).

Owners appreciate the flexibility of this one-cup or full-carafe brewer, although they note that you can't use both features simultaneously. They also say it's easy to use, and yet fully-featured with a programmable timer to set for fresh coffee in the morning. The single serve basket accepts grounds or soft pods. The one main complaint we saw is that it's very slow, so impatient coffee lovers may want to look elsewhere, or try to achieve Zen-like patience.

Hamilton Beach offers an excellent brew for practically pennies

The great thing about inexpensive coffee makers is that they generally brew a good cup of coffee, are straightforward to use, and some of them last for years, making them an amazing value.

The Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Coffee Maker 49465 (Est. $20) is a basic machine, but it earns high praise for the hot, strong coffee it produces. In one professional test, it earns an Excellent for brew performance as well as a Best Buy nod. The carafe and filter basket are dishwasher safe, and an optional Medelco #4 Cone Permanent Filter (Est. $6) makes the 49465 even more affordable as well as more environmentally friendly. Otherwise it uses disposable #4 Melitta Cone Coffee Filters (Est. $20 for 480).

As we said, this is a basic machine, with just a programmable timer, pause and brew function so you can sneak a cup mid-brew, and an auto shutoff feature. Still, that lack of bells and whistles is actually a big plus for most people who don't want to have to tweak every little thing. While we saw a few reports that the carafe leaks when you pour the coffee, and a few durability issues, in general this super cheap coffee maker gets ratings that best even coffee makers that are significantly more expensive.

Grind and brew coffee makers offer all in one convenience

True coffee aficionados love to customize their brew as much as possible and one of the best ways to do that is by grinding your own coffee. While most prefer a dedicated coffee grinder paired with a great coffee maker, others like the convenience of a grind and brew coffee machine that does both. Grind and brew coffee makers aren't tested by experts as often as other types of coffee machines, but they're popular with consumers regardless, and those who love them are quite passionate about them.

The Cuisinart DGB-550BK Grind & Brew (Est. $95) is the most popular grind and brew machine that we spotted, with owners agreeing that it makes an excellent, fresh-tasting cup of coffee. In spite of its two-part system, users say it's easy to use and clean, but it does require a bit more attention and more frequent cleaning to be sure that the coffee grinder does not bog down. The grinder can also be messy, and we saw some complaints of it "spewing" coffee (and grounds) on the counter. However, many reviewers point out that this can happen if you don't follow the instructions closely, so at least a percentage of those negative issues are user error.

The coffee maker and grinder on the DGB-550BK have many programming options, including pause brew to sneak a cup, delay timer and auto shut off. It makes 12, 5-ounce cups, but it also has a 1 to 4 cup feature.

The one issue we found with the Cuisinart Grind & Brew is that it gets panned for durability -- a common problem with coffee makers with built-in grinders. Many say theirs broke after just a few months, although the reasons why are all over the place. The machine is covered by a three-year warranty, but Cuisinart's customer service gets mixed reviews for helpfulness.

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