Average Customer Review:
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. $85) 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 testing at ConsumerReports.org, the DCC-3200 is the top-rated carafe-style drip coffee maker, earning 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 Braun BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker (Est. $90) is top pick at Good Housekeeping for coming close to the "gold standard for water-brewing temperature," which resulted in a "rich, satisfying, and hot cup of coffee." At CNET, Brian Bennet says, "The Braun BrewSense KF7150 creates drip coffee every bit as good as gourmet machines that cost three times as much." Owners agree, saying the coffee is plenty hot and very tasty.
Good Housekeeping does ding the Braun a bit for ease of use issues, saying the water tank is hard to access, again, something users concur with. Further, even happy owners say the tank is so dark they can't see the fill lines and it's quite finicky to fill -- especially for those who like to fill the reservoir with filtered water from their fridge -- because it's not removable.
Still, the Braun is fully-featured and most say it's easy to set the programmable timer; many also appreciate that the clock is so prominent and easy to see. It makes up to eight cups. While Bennett calls it a "compact" coffee maker, in fact, the Braun BrewSense is just as tall as the Cuisinart DCC-3200 at 14 inches, but has a slightly smaller footprint, 7- by 8-inches compared to the 9- by 9-inches of the Cuisinart.
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 49467 (Est. $30) is a basic machine, but it earns high praise for the hot, strong coffee it produces. At ConsumerReports.org, it earns an Excellent rating 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. $5) makes the 49467 even more affordable as well as more environmentally friendly. Otherwise, it also can use #4 coffee filters.
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, and especially those 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.
If you're a fan of the Kenmore brand, Good Housekeeping recommends the Kenmore 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker (Est. $30) as one of the top coffee makers. In testing there, it made very hot coffee and kept that coffee warm for the full two hours -- something even the priciest thermal carafe style coffee makers failed to do. Giving it an overall 4-star rating, Good Housekeeping's editors also say it's very easy to use and brews very quickly. However, the carafe isn't dishwasher-safe, so keep in mind that you'll have to hand wash it.
Owners posting at Sears.com also like this brewer, saying it's a great, basic coffee maker that's a good value considering its features. Those include a programmable timer and pause brew function so you can sneak a cup. At 12 cups capacity, it's also large enough for a crowd.
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 (covered in their own report) 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. $65) 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 reports are the result of 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.