How we test bread makers
By Christina Woodger
Our rigorous tests separate the bad bread makers from the brilliant ones. Find out how we uncover the models worth buying.
Can a bread maker really deliver that delicious freshly-baked smell and make perfect loaves at the touch of a button? We've tested the most popular models and found some that bake bread so unappetising you'll be forced to head down to the local bakery - while others bake loaves Paul Hollywood would be proud of.
We make a variety of loaves with each bread maker, replicating how you would use it at home and checking how consistent each model is at turning out a great loaf. We test the most popular settings such as the basic white bread, wholemeal and delay-timer setting - so you know you'll wake up to brilliant bread in the mornings.
The appearance, texture, smell and taste of the bread from each model are all rigorously inspected, as we look for a good rise, even structure and airy texture. When selecting the models to test, we aim for a range of price points from budget to premium, and include popular brands such as Andrew James, Argos, Lakeland, Kenwood, Panasonic and Morphy Richards.
Our reviews answer your key questions about bread makers, including:
- Will it bake a loaf that looks appetising?
- Can it make tasty bread?
- Will the paddle stick to the bread, leaving unsightly holes?
- Is it easy to use and clean?
- Will it be irritatingly noisy?
To discover which bread makers give outstanding results, head straight to our list of the best bread makers.
Will it bake a loaf that looks appetising?
We bake six loaves in each bread maker: two wholemeal loaves and four white loaves - two of which are baked using the delay timer. Our expert testers then rate each loaf for its appearance.
Best Buy bread makers will make loaves with an even crust that's a beautiful golden brown, like the ones below.
The worst bread makers we've tested make a real hash of things, baking bread that has an overly dark or pale crust. They may be knobbly, have a sunken top or be marred with unsightly holes, like the examples from our testing below.
Can it make bread with a great texture and that tastes delicious?
We inspect each loaf after baking to rate the crust and crumb texture. We cut them in half, into slices and into chunks so that we can really see what the bread is like throughout.
Good loaves should be light and fluffy inside - the bread should spring back when pinched and not be doughy or have large holes. The crust should be the right thickness all the way around the loaf, too. We mark down those bread makers that make bread with an overly thin or thick crust, and that are dense and uneven inside.
Using the same section cut from each loaf of bread to taste, our experts comment on all aspects of taste and smell. Bad loaves will have a burnt or bitter taste, will be saltier or overly sweet. We're looking for anything that means you won't get the great-tasting loaf you'd expect.
Will the paddle stick in the bread, leaving a hole?
It's really annoying when you've made a perfect loaf, but the paddle gets stuck in the middle, tearing a gaping hole in the loaf when you try and remove it. Making sandwiches becomes a tricky business and you'll feel cheated of a full slice.
To help you avoid this, we check how much the paddle sticks to the centre of the loaf during our testing to find out which bread makers are the worst offenders, and then rate them overall.
Is the bread maker easy to use and clean?
As you'll (hopefully) be using your bread maker regularly, the last thing you want is one that's confusing to understand, frustrating to use and a total pain to clean.
We assess all aspects of each bread maker to see how easy they are to set up and use, from the clarity of the instructions and display, to how simple it is to program and to take the bread out once it's baked. We also look at what it's like to clean the inside and outside of the machine.
This means you can use the results of our tests to pick a bread maker that makes great bread and is a pleasure to use.
Will it be irritatingly noisy?
Ideally, you want to be able to pop your bread maker on and get on with your day. But bread makers usually take several hours to make a loaf, so if you get one that is distractingly noisy, it's could be a real nuisance in the kitchen. We rate how noisy each machine is, so we can separate the annoying machines from the ones you want to live with.
Visit our bread maker reviews to see our star ratings for noise - the higher the rating, the quieter it is.
Should I buy it?
All the tests above combine into an overall score for each bread maker we review. A Best Buy bread maker needs to not only make a beautiful loaf of bread, but it also needs to be easy to use - otherwise you'll be left frustrated every time you use it.
The test score for each bread maker ignores price and is made up of the following two factors:
- 65% performance
- 35% ease of use
Bread makers need to earn a test score of 80% or more to be a Best Buy. Any model that scores 45% or less is a Don't Buy and should be avoided.
Update for 2018: Improvements to our tests
We're constantly seeking to improve our testing, to ensure that only the very best models can earn our Best Buy logo.
Some of the bread makers you'll see reviewed on our website have been assessed under an older test programme (anything reviewed before December 2017) and aren't entirely comparable to our newer results. The date tested is shown on the Technical Specifications tab in each review and also on the main review page.