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. 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. If you like your coffee's flavor to have a greater consistency to the last drop, you might be more interested in a thermal coffee maker, covered elsewhere in this report.
Experts and owners agree that the 14-cup Cuisinart DCC-3200 (Est. $100) 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, a different model in the Cuisinart DCC line earns an Excellent rating for brew performance (all of the DCC models can be expected to perform similarly; the main difference is in the materials and color). Testers at Good Housekeeping came to the same conclusion, ultimately giving a similar DCC model 4 stars out of 5, with brew performance noted as a definite plus. 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.
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-like across the board, like 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.
Our former Best Reviewed coffee maker in this category, the Bonavita BV 1800 (Est. $130) is still a great coffee maker, but it seems to have dropped off the radar of expert and professional reviewers. Part of the reason is the lack of convenience features; the BV 1800 is an extremely basic machine -- just an on/off switch -- and there are no programs or other bells and whistles that some coffee drinkers tend to like on their machines.
Still, when it comes to taste, the Bonavita BV 1800 gets extremely high praise from owners 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.
Most 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.
The great thing about inexpensive coffee makers is that they generally brew a good cup of coffee, come loaded with handy features, and some of them last for years, making them an amazing value.
The Mr. Coffee BVMC-SJX33GT (Est. $30) packs a lot of punch for the price. It gets better reviews than some much more expensive coffee makers from one professional test organization, and is one of the top-rated inexpensive coffee pots on Amazon.com, This coffee machine is loaded with features, including delay brew, a "Fresh Brew" timer that tells you how long it's been since you brewed your coffee, a brew strength selector, a brew pause option for the more impatient among us, and a two-hour automatic shut off. Owners say it's very easy to use and clean, and makes a good, strong pot of coffee. It gets great reviews for its quiet operation and most agree that it's an exceptional bargain for the price. The timer works well, users say, and they like that they can consistently wake up to a fresh pot of coffee in the morning. One feature that's not so popular: the clock/timer display is not backlit, so it's hard to read. Owners say that renders it useless as a clock and makes it difficult to set the other functions.
While owners, in general, are very pleased with the Mr. Coffee BVMC-SJX33GT, some users are dissatisfied with how well this Mr. Coffee machine stands up over time. In our research, we found complaints regarding failures of the various electronic settings -- a hazard of cheap electronics no matter what type of product it is. Still, the overwhelming majority of reviewers give this coffee maker a solid 5-star rating, with many saying they bought a second one for their parents, kids or vacation home.
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 only grind and brew coffee maker that we saw with enough positive reviews to recommend it is the Cuisinart DGB-700BC Grind & Brew (Est. $170). It gets top marks for performance in one professional test and owners agree that it makes an excellent cup of coffee. The most popular feature is a highly customizable brew-strength setting that users say gets it right every time, no matter how weak or strong you like your 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 the coffee grinder does not bog down.
The coffee maker and grinder on the DGB-700BC have many programming options, including pause brew to sneak a cup, delay timer and auto shut off. In spite of the two-in-one convenience, this unit has a fairly small footprint. It makes 12, 5-ounce cups.
The one issue we found with the Cuisinart is that it gets panned for durability. Many say theirs broke after just a few months, although the reasons why are all over the place. Also, as many reviewers point out, if you don't follow the instructions, the DGB-700BC won't work properly, so at least a percentage of those negative issues are user error. The machine is covered by a three-year warranty, but Cuisinart's customer service gets mixed reviews for helpfulness.