The quality of home coffeemakers is finally catching up to the quality of the coffee going into them.
The biggest advance has been power. Look for a machine drawing at least 1,200 watts -- that's about what you'll need to get water hot enough to make the best-tasting coffee. Three coffeemakers in my testing -- the Technivorm Clubline KB-741, the Newco OCS-8 and the Capresso CoffeeTEC (all automatic drip machines) -- exceed that threshold.
Another major improvement is the widespread adoption of thermal coffee pots. They minimize exposure to air, which dulls coffee's flavors, and obviate the need for warming plates, which cook coffee rather than keep it warm.
Though bells and whistles on coffeemakers abound, you don't need them for great coffee. With manual drip coffeemakers, such as those from Melitta, you pour hot water -- about 195° to 205° F, or just below boiling -- over coffee grounds in a cone above a pot or mug. The same is true for the French press pot; after water and coffee are combined in a beaker for several minutes, the grounds are pressed to the bottom with a plunger. Bodum, best known for its French press pots, also makes the Santos, which uses a vacuum system to make very good coffee. Here are snapshots of six of the best coffeemakers available. With the exception of the Melitta One:One, all models were tested for eight cups; a cup is generally about 5 ounces.
|Capresso Coffee TEC
At 1,266 watts, this machine just makes it into the heavy-hitter brewer category. Nonetheless, the java it produces is comparable in richness, balance and flavor to that from the OCS-8 and the Clubline, and in only six minutes for eight cups. What sets the Capresso apart from those other two is its features. The most prominent is the frothing element, for making what the company calls "American cappuccino." Unlike the steam wands on most espresso machines, this one is fully automatic. The CoffeeTEC can be programmed up to 24 hours ahead, so you can wake up to wonderful coffee in the morning. A setting for lesser amounts of coffee (three to five cups) turbocharges the water heating unit to ensure that the water is hot enough -- most coffeemakers don't heat small batches properly. The instructional video is excellent. $200; Capresso, Closter, N.J., (800) 767-3554, www.capresso.com
|Cuisinart Grind & Brew Thermal 10-Cup Automatic
This attractive coffeemaker (1,025 watts), which looks like a miniature slot machine, makes a very good pot of coffee. It has several appealing features, such as the attached grinder, which, like the brewer, can be programmed up to 24 hours in advance. This is a major advantage over programmable coffee machines that require beans ground beforehand, which lessens freshness and flavor. The downside is that the grinder must be cleaned after each use. Other features include a charcoal water filter, a setting for fewer cups of coffee, a beeper to tell you when the pot is done, and a pause setting that lets you pour a cup before the entire pot is brewed. Brewing took nine minutes from grinding to finished pot of eight cups. $149; Cuisinart, East Windsor, N.J., (800) 726-0190, www.cuisinart.com
|Krups Moka Brew
This machine combines drip coffee technology with that of espresso machines. Water is heated in the base of the machine, then travels up two arms and comes down over a filter with tamped ground coffee. The filter mechanism is constructed like a large version of an espresso machine portafilter, with little air space. The water is forced over the grounds under pressure. Though less than the pressure from an espresso maker, it is enough to extract a deeper, richer pot of coffee than can be had from most drip coffeemakers. The one disadvantage is that the coffee pot is glass and sits on a heating element. $150; Krups North America Inc., Closter, N.J., (800) 526-5377, www.krups.com
This bullet-shaped coffeemaker is one of a growing number of single pod coffeemakers (including Home Café brand machines) that use espresso machine technology whereby paper pods of measured, ground beans are put under pressure to extract individual cups of coffee. As with pod espresso makers, there is no mess from grounds. The flavor is consistent and, because only one cup is made at a time, freshness is guaranteed. Another advantage is that pods come in different roasts and flavors. The disadvantage, for now, at least, is quality. Coffee brewed with the Melitta (and with the Home Café) was ordinary at best, owing mainly to the already ground beans. However, it is anticipated that in the not-too-distant future the quality and variety of the coffee in pods will improve as more coffee manufacturers make their product available in that format. $60; Melitta USA Inc., Clearwater, Fla., (888) 635-4882, www.melitta.com
|Newco Enterprises OCS-8
Like the Clubline, this 1,400-watt coffeemaker offers little embellishment -- not even the prospect of a mesh filter instead of the usual paper -- but makes terrific coffee. OK, it does beep when the coffee is brewed, which the Clubline doesn't. Though it takes up less room than the Clubline, it is also less stylish, all plastic, and its thermal pot looks like something from a hotel banquet. It is simple to operate, a welcome change from all the buttons and settings on many other coffeemakers; no need for an instructional video here. One cavil: A pot of coffee took nine minutes to brew. $178; Newco Enterprises, St. Charles, Mo., (800) 325-7867, www.newcocoffee.com
|Technivorm Clubline KB-741
This is the most powerful coffeemaker I tried, at 1,475 watts. It produced superb coffee, rich and flavorful with exceptional balance. The Clubline was also the fastest coffeemaker, producing eight cups in about five minutes. I also liked its smart two-tower look and its 7-foot cord (most cords were around 3 feet). The only frill is its ability to use a gold mesh filter, which produces an earthier cup of coffee. The Clubline and the Newco OCS-8 are the only two coffeemakers that meet the stringent standards of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. $184, $205 with a thermal pot; Boyd Coffee Co. Portland, Ore., (800) 223-8211, www.boyds.com
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