How to buy the best filter coffee maker
- A filter coffee machine is the simplest way to brew a pot of fresh coffee
- Key filter coffee maker features to look out for, plus pros and cons
- How to choose between the different types of coffee machine
Brewing with a filter coffee maker
The way most filter coffee machines work is fairly simple. Water from the coffee machine's tank is dripped through a basket of coffee and filtered into a separate coffee jug, where the coffee is heated up and kept warm for when you want a drink.
Filter coffee makers vary from one-cup coffee machines that can sit on your home office desk, through to digital programmable models that can brew up to 16 cups of filter coffee at a time. Our interactive coffee machines tool pulls out the pros, cons and features of these types of coffee machine
Whatever the size, models are generally simple to operate and only need cold water and ground coffee to get started.
Filter coffee maker or espresso machine?
If you're looking for a coffee shop-quality cappuccino or latté, consider choosing a steam-driven traditional espresso, bean-to-cup or capsule coffee machine instead.
These generally have more features and clout than filter coffee makers, and give you the flexibility to make different coffees to suit different tastes. Which? Best Buy coffee machines start from around £50 - which you could end up paying for a more basic filter machine anyway..
Filter coffee maker features to look out for
Which? hasn't lab tested filter coffee machines, because the coffee making process used by filter coffee machines is actually fairly straightforward and doesn't vary greatly between models - unlike espresso coffee makers, which use a more sophisticated method of extracting the flavour and aroma.
This means we don't have Best Buy filter coffee maker models to recommend - but these shopping tips should help you choose the best model for your budget.
Fancy waking up to the smell of fresh coffee in the morning? Look for a model with a pre-programmable timer, which allows you to load water and coffee into the machine the night before and get a cup of coffee as soon as the alarm goes off.
How many cups?
The capacity of a filter coffee machine is usually measured in number of cups of coffee.
A larger capacity means you can make a big round of drinks in one go, or brew enough coffee to drink over a few hours (kept warm using the hotplate). The largest capacity we've spotted is a coffee maker that can brew 16 cups of coffee at a time, but most range between eight and 12 cups.
A good filter coffee machine will have visible markings on the water tank showing you how much water is needed per cup - worth looking for when you're in the shop.
Most filter coffee machines use a hotplate to heat up and keep your coffee warm for several hours after it's been brewed. This means you can make enough coffee for several cups in one go, then serve it up as needed.
Filter coffee machines either come with a permanent filter, or use disposable coffee filter papers.
- Permanent filters are a cheaper, fuss-free option - but can be tricky to clean.
- Filter papers are an extra coffee accessory you'll need to buy and are thrown away after each use - but they're hygienic and save on cleaning.
The real test of a filter coffee maker is the end result. A filter coffee machine produces fresh filter coffee from ground coffee beans (which you'll need to buy pre-ground, or use a separate coffee grinder to grind the coffee beans yourself).
It won't give you the strength and flavour you'd expect from a coffee shop-bought coffee, though. For that, you'll need a pressure or pump-driven espresso coffee maker.
Some top-of-the-range filter coffee machines offer multi-strength brewing options, though it's not something we've put to the test.
- Anti-drip spouts - to avoid coffee dripping and burning on the hotplate
- Digital clock and display
- Easy-to-grip coffee jug handle
- Illuminated on/off switch
- Dishwasher-proof coffee jug
- 'Self-cleaning' filters
Brands and typical prices
Cuisinart, Kenwood, Morphy Richards and Russell Hobbs are among the big brand names who produce filter coffee makers - with stores including Argos, John Lewis and Tesco all stocking filter coffee makers in their kitchen appliance departments.
Prices depend on the size and model, but expect to pay from around £20 for a basic own-brand model to over £100 for top-of-the-end filter coffee machines - and more for extras such as an in-built coffee grinder.