How to buy the best filter coffee machine
How much do I need to spend to get a decent filter coffee machine?
Filter coffee machines range in price from as little as £10 to more than £150. A higher price doesn't mean a better brew, though. We've found a Best Buy costing as little as £20 that can make a top-notch coffee, and expensive models that are noisy and mediocre. Pricier models often have extra features such as a programmable timer or removable water tank, which can be handy.
The different types of filter coffee machine
How much you're willing to spend will probably determine the type of filter coffee machine you go for.
A standard drip-brew filter coffee maker won't cost the earth, but fancier models that grinds beans for you or use the 'pour-over' technique - both in pursuit of a better coffee - will usually cost a bit more.
Below, we explain the pros and cons of each type of machine.
Standard filter coffee machines
Classic drip-brew filter coffee machines have been around since the 1970s - they heat water as it flows through a tube and then let it drip down on ground coffee held within a filter basket. Most filter coffee machines work in this way. If you like to stick to the tried-and-true, you'll find plenty of affordable options - standard filter coffee machines can cost as little as £15, although some models cost more than 10 times as much.
Pros: Usually the most affordable option, so good if you're on a budget. Standard models are common, so easy to find.
Cons: They vary in how well they make coffee - it's worth getting one that's earned at least four stars in our expert taste test.
Pour-over filter coffee machines
This fancy new type of filter coffee machine makes coffee in a different way to standard drip-brew models. The 'pour-over' technique originated in Japan as a manual technique which involves pre-wetting the coffee, then slowly pouring water over the grounds. The aim is to product a richer, more complex brew. A number of premium coffee makers now have pour-over technology in their coffee machines. These work by heating all of the water up at once and then using a controlled pouring system to recreate the 'pour-over' method.
Pros: Pour-over models can make great tasting coffee - several have earned top marks from our coffee expert in our blind taste test.
Cons: They tend to be an expensive option, and usually take longer to brew coffee than standard models do.
Grind and brew filter coffee machines
As the name suggests, grind and brew filter coffee machines grind coffee beans with the aim of delivering the freshest coffee possible. When the coffee machine is switched on, it grinds the coffee beans (either in a separate compartment or directly in the filter itself) and then immediately brews the coffee. Most grind and brew machines can also use coffee that has been pre-ground, for those times when you're out of beans or in a hurry.
Pros: These machines guarantee you'll get the freshest cup of filter coffee possible - ideal for coffee connoisseurs.
Cons: Grinding coffee beans is a noisy process, so these machines can make a bit of a racket. And we've actually found some that actually work better with pre-ground coffee despite being designed for beans.
Which filter coffee machine features do I need?
When you're on the hunt for a filter coffee machine, manufacturers will try to turn your head by promoting all sorts of extra features, but which do you actually need? We explain the different features below. Some of them may be nice to have, but if you're not sure you'll use them then stick with a simple model - it's likely to cost you less.
Automatic switch-off: This means the filter coffee machine will switch itself off after a set period of time. Some models will allow you to set this time to suit you, but in many cases it's predetermined. New EU regulations for 2015 require filter coffee machines released from January 2015 onwards to have a default eco mode which automatically shuts off the machine. In this mode:
- Machines with insulated jugs must switch off after a maximum of five minutes
- Machines with non-insulated (ie glass) jugs must switch off after 40 minutes
If you'd like a machine that will continue to keep coffee warm until you switch it off, you'll need to either look for a model that was released in 2014 or earlier, or one with a special setting. However, the best brew is a fresh one - as if coffee is left sitting it becomes increasingly bitter.
Insulated jug: Glass jugs are most common, but some filter coffee machines come with an insulated jug to help keep your coffee warm for longer without the use of a warming plate.
Programmable timer: This handy feature allows you to set a time for the machine to switch on and start brewing - particularly desirable if you love the idea of waking up to a pot of freshly brewed coffee. It's common in pricier filter coffee machines, but not exclusive to them - some models costing as little as £15 have a programmable timer.
Removable water tank: Most filter coffee machines have a fixed water tank - you fill them by using the coffee jug to measure and pour in the water you need. However, fixed tanks may limit where you can place your filter coffee machine in your kitchen and they can be tricky to clean. Removable water tanks aren't common, but they do exist and may make using your filter coffee machine easier.
Showerhead: Both standard and pour-over models may use a showerhead. As the name suggests, this means that a fine spray of water is sprinkled over the coffee grounds rather than a single stream. The idea is that this will wet the coffee more evenly to ensure a consistent brew. The machines we've tested that use showerheads tend to do well in our taste tests.