There are just a few elements that you need to get right in brewing the perfect pot of coffee, and coffee connoisseurs will disagree over what’s the most important when shopping for a drip coffeemaker.
Save on the machine, but splurge on premium filters, purified water and use the finest whole-bean coffee. Then there are others that swear it’s all down to the coffee maker and how it brews your beverage, so go for an expensive machine.
Let’s see for ourselves, as we explore the differences between cheaper, and more expensive drip coffee makes.
The Coffee Makes Matters
You can buy a Melitta 1021-01 AromaFresh Filter Coffee Machine for over £100, or you could really splash out and buy a SAGE The Precision Brewer SDC450 for over £200.
At the opposite end of the scale, you can pick up an economical LOGIK L10DCS19 Filter Coffee Maker from your local Currys for around £20. Of course, you can spend just about any amount in between, depending on what you want in terms of features and brand name – they’ll all brew a cup of coffee.
No matter the price, a filter coffee maker generally has a water reservoir on top along with a heating element. The heated water drips through a showerhead-like array of holes and into the basket that holds ground coffee in a filter. The hot water saturates the coffee and passes through the filter, then pours down into an insulated carafe or a pot that sits on a hot plate.
Cost depends to a degree on the number of features a coffee maker has. Plenty of coffeemakers that sell for less than £50 feature programmable timers, so your coffee is ready when you need it in the morning, as well as automatic shut-off features for those of us who are forgetful. A few high-end coffeemakers have built-in bean grinders, although these will cost more (expect to pay £100 or more).
Some of the more expensive machines allow you to adjust the water hardness and set the intensity of the coffee dispensed. They also tend to be bulkier than coffee makers that lack grinders.
The Coffee Pot
Glass pots have been the mainstay of coffeemakers, but they can break. Stainless pots have come into use, but the major complaint about them is you can’t tell how much coffee is left in them. The problem with either one is that they must sit on a heating plate to keep the coffee hot, but further cooking after the initial brew will alter the taste.
A pricier option is the insulated carafe, which retains the heat of the fresh-brewed beverage without cooking it on a heating plate and changing its flavour. For the most part, these pots are dishwasher safe, so they’re easy to keep clean. Though, always double-check before popping it into the dishwasher.
Water and Filtration
Making a good cup of coffee is frequently a matter of personal taste. Some purists insist that the water has to be exactly 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit or all is lost and that only high-end machines will ensure that.
But for most people, if the water’s steaming, it makes a great cup of coffee. There is something to be said, however, for water quality: If your tap water tastes bad, so will your coffee. Some coffeemakers have a water filtration system built-in, but these require filters that are sometimes hard to find and can be costly.
A better solution is to use a simple tap water filtration system like a Brita water pitcher to remove contaminants and unpleasant taste from your water.
Filters deserve a second thought, too. Paper filters are cheap, easy and disposable. But some people say that using bleached paper coffee filters can affect the flavour of the coffee.
Again, it’s a matter of personal taste. If you’re one of those people, try using unbleached, brown filters instead. A better alternative is to purchase a reusable gold screen filter, which costs about £25 and is way cheaper than running a pod machine.
It’s better for the environment and your bank account because you won’t be throwing away paper filters, and many coffee drinkers say it allows the full flavour of the coffee to come through. The downside is that some screen filters allow fine coffee bean residue to trickle into your pot – and into your cup.
Buy good, whole-bean coffee and grind it yourself. Even the most expensive, elaborate coffeemaker on the market won’t turn store-brand grounds into a magnificent cup. At the end of the day, both cheap and expensive filter coffee makes will make a comparable cup of coffee that few people would notice any difference between.
A mid-priced machine would be ideal for most people, going into the £100+ range does not get you a better cup of coffee, only some additional features to brag about over your morning brew.