10 Best Coffee Makers | February 2017
- carafe is portable
- has a small footprint
- time display is not backlit
- water filtration removes chlorine
- brews full pots incredibly quickly
- water reservoir does not fully drain
- carafe has 12-cup capacity
- gold tone permanent filter
- hot plate coating flakes off
- brewing temps stay at 200 degrees
- drip-free glass decanter
- best to use with tall filters
- 2-hour auto shut-off feature
- includes milk frother
- capable of making specialty drinks
- includes 2 carbon water filters
- removable 48-ounce water reservoir
- suitable for reusable k-cup use
- removable water tubes for cleaning
- brew-stop feature works great
- alert for when descaling is needed
Keepin' It All Clean
You’re in love with your home coffee maker. It spits out delicious tasting coffee day after day after day. Until it doesn’t. Until your coffee starts tasting a little less than well, clean.
Then it gets worse and a sort of sour or metallic taste creeps in uninvited. Then there’s the smell emitting from the coffee maker. First, a little less than fresh. Then, downright funky.
This doesn't mean the coffee maker has become defective: it's just letting us know it needs a little TLC. So, how exactly to you get your maker, and brew back on track?
That's easy: white vinegar.
Not only is it safe and easy to work with, it's super affordable by the bulk, and it works to kill bacteria, shift the pH and get rid of the mineral build-up. We like to refer to it as the superfecta.
Use equal parts vinegar and water — instead of coffee grinds — and run them through a regular brew cycle. Then do the same thing with clear water. Depending on the amount of cleaning needed, you may want to repeat the vinegar step before flushing it with plain ole water.
But let’s backtrack. If you really want to keep things legit, some daily cleaning is also in order. Use warm, soapy water in the carafe each day. Wipe down the machine's exterior for good measure.
French Drip And The French Balloon: A Parisian Coffee Story
You might think coffee makers came about sometime in the early 1900s. But the story dates back a lot further than that. And women were involved at regular intervals with both inventions and patents.
Early on, folks tended toward infusing coffee. Which comes close to the way some make tea today. You'd put the coffee grounds in a bag -- typically of linen. Then immerse the bag in the hottest water -- just below boiling point. After a few minutes, your brew was ready to drink. At this point, people mostly got excited about what they served the coffee in. Lots of innovation around keeping the brew hot ensued.
There were also those who took pleasure in boiling coffee grounds with water, and then filtering out the grounds.
The Archbishop of Paris -- of all people -- advocated against boiling coffee. As more and more folks came around to his view, the process known as French drip came along. You'd put hot water into a container and let it flow through a coffee-filled filter into a container below. Sometimes, though, by the time the water hit the second pot, it was something like lukewarm. Once again, inventors put their energies toward trying to keep the brew warmer. Et voila! The insulated coffee dispenser was born.
But it was in the 1800s when folks got going with crafting a contraption to actually make the coffee. By this time, the vacuum concept was the subject of a lot of experimentation. In filtering percolators, "heat and vapor pressure forced water into the upper chamber of a metal drip pot."
A decade or so later, someone came up with the idea of putting the whole process on display. With the use of glass, guests and spectators could watch coffee being brewed. Of course, the glass in those days was nowhere near as what we use today. So sometimes it would shatter -- or even explode if left empty. One of the earliest patents of this vacuum pot belonged to a Frenchwoman named Jeanne Richard. It boasted one glass globe atop another and was decorated with a rather fetching metal crown. They called it the French balloon.
Inventors fell all over one another making improvements and additions to this 1838 patent. But just a decade later, Parisians had moved onto a maker that placed the two containers side-by-side. Water was forced from one side to the other, where the grounds were placed. Eventually, brewed coffee would be dispensed. A nifty spring mechanism put out the flame that kept the coffee warm at just the right moment. A bunch of incarnations followed the intro of this gadget. The English came up with a similar machine of their own in the 1840s.
Fast-forward about 50 years, and take a leap to the other side of the ocean. Where Americans revised a British machine that was basically a French balloon, called it new, and congratulated themselves on their innovation. In fact, even the Silex pot of 1915 strongly resembles the French balloon. The use of Pyrex glass made the machine much more durable. Alas, no more explosions.
There was really nothing new under the sun after that -- other than electrifying the whole process -- until Mr. Coffee came along in 1972. Plus ca change, right. Mr Coffee repped a return to the French drip method, only automated.
There are still enthusiasts who cleave to the infusion, French press and vacuum methods. But the automatic version of the French drip predominates in the U.S.
So that's the accelerated history of coffee makers.
Coffee Maker Features To Enhance The Brewing Experience
While some of us are content to stick with the coffee making basics, others might feel life is not complete without the most state-of-the-art bells and whistles. Below are a few of the innovations available to enhance your brewing experience.
Brew Pause: Say you have holiday guests, but you want to sneak your first cuppa -- the better to deal with your mother-in-law, your rude aunt/uncle, etc. This handy feature lets you stop the brew process on a multiple-cup maker, and siphon off a cup or two for yourself. Before the rest of the crew even gets up!
Brew Settings: You might like coffee on the lighter side. Your spouse might favor a dark, rich cup of Joe. The settings feature lets you select the brew that's just right for you. TIP: Keep in mind that some settings might require a certain grind, i.e., medium as opposed to fine.
Charcoal Filter: Just in case you don't have filtered water to hand, today's nifty coffee makers have got it handled. Some filters eliminate as much as 70% or more of contaminants! And all because coffee made from purer water tastes better...and is better for you.
Programmability: Of everything from brew strength, to brewing time to number of cups.
Temperature Control: Of both brewing water and finished coffee. 200 degrees Fahrenheit is the brewing ideal, and many machines ensure reaching this temp before the process starts.