This coffee’s too hot. That coffee’s too cold. This coffee’s too weak. That coffee’s too bold. Having a nursery rhyme of a time trying to get the right brew? Even though a cup of joe seems simple enough, the science behind the coffee brewing machine magic is more complicated than one might think.
The right coffee brewing machine can take much of the fuss out of the brew for you. It’ll leave you with a great cup of coffee to enjoy. After decades of tasting the brew from a variety of home and commercial coffee brewers, in addition to thousands of hours sourcing, roasting, and cupping quality coffee from all over the world, my mind is set. The Technivorm Moccamaster home drip coffee roasting machine perfects the science behind drip coffee magic.
The Three Best Coffee Brewing Machines On The Market
Let’s take a look at the three coffee brewers most likely to perfectly brew a cup of coffee.
Our Top Pick: The Technivorm Moccamaster KBGT
I’ve personally been using the Technivorm for over a decade in my home, and it’s still going strong. In my busy house, it isn’t treated with the most gentle hand. Yet I’ve never had one problem with it – not a one.
The Technivorm Moccamaster endures because of its simple, high quality construction and internal components. The water heating element is made entirely of copper – the only one on the market to do so. Copper is the best, most expensive material that a machine can use for water heating. Most home brewers and espresso machines don’t use copper because of the cost. But, what you sacrifice in the pocketbook you make up for in longevity of the machine.
Simple and straight to the point are the two words I’d use to describe the Technivorm Moccamaster operation. Fill the water reservoir, load your ground coffee, and turn the machine on. That’s basically all it needs to enjoy an exceptionally consistent cup of coffee every time. The shower head does a great job of presoaking the grounds. It then evenly disperses the rest of the water so it flows into the carafe at a consistent rate. The copper heating elements keep water temperature consistent so as to provide the right amount of extraction over the grounds.
Only a few, very minor changes have been made over time with this machine. This is probably because it already does its job so well. Technivorm has changed the location of the mid-cycle interruption trigger. That’s about it. They haven’t chosen to add any bells or whistles because frankly, it really doesn’t need it. The Technivorm Moccamaster is the perfect machine for someone looking for the best cup of coffee a drip brewer can make without any distraction.
The Technivorm Moccamaster is at the higher end of the price spectrum for home coffee brewers. But its quality is outstanding. I’ve tried a lot of coffee makers in my day, and I’ve never experienced a coffee maker more reliable than the Technivorm.
Runner-Up: The Breville Precision Brew BDC450BSS
For the person who actually loves to be in full control of the drip brewing process, The Breville Precision Brew is sure to please. The quality of the cup is on par with the Moccamaster, and it features some out of this world customizability.
Breville is a company known for quality, apparent by the stainless steel design found in virtually all of Breville’s small appliances. The Breville Precision Brew’s name speaks for itself in the precision department. The coffee brew temperature can be precisely controlled thanks to its thermo-coil heating and pump system with digital temperature control.
While I don’t personally use the Breville Precision Brew for my drip coffee at home on a regular basis, I do have a Breville Espresso Machine that I adore. I have used it without a single issue for eight years, a testament to the quality and reputation of the Breville name.
So many things are going on with this machine to give the user full control over this drip brew machine, it’s hard to know where to begin. But begin we shall.
The Breville Precision Brew drip coffee brewing machine has a small batch detection system to slow the rate of brew when needed. Since proper extraction of coffee flavor has so much to do with the length of time water is exposed to the grounds, smaller batches mean less water in the carafe. Less water means less exposure to the grounds. The Precision Brew automatically adjusts the speed at which water is sent through the grounds so that more contact with the grounds can be made and proper extraction is maintained.
The Menu screen allows the user to completely control how this drip coffee machine does things. With the twist of a dial, water temperature can be set between 197 and 204℉, coffee ground saturation speed can be adjusted, and bloom time (pre-infusion) can be controlled.
The Breville Precision Brew also has settings for alternative coffee options. This drip brewer will brew extra strong for coffee over ice. It will brew without heat for cold brew lovers. It will also allow the use of a Hario V6 or similar pour-over filter, for single-serve pour-over coffee.
A Respectable Third: The Behmor Brazen 5393
A slightly more unique, but fully capable coffee brewer on the market, the Behmor Brazen offers an alternative way to achieve a hot pot of coffee.
The Behmor Brazen uses a different method to heat water. It’s chamber heats up the entire reservoir of water all at once with a heating plate as opposed to a coil system that heats water as it passes through. The result is precise temperature control as the hot water is slowly released through the bed of coffee grounds below.
This drip coffee brewing machine is made of an ample amount of stainless steel, including the double walled stainless steel thermal carafe. At a lower price point than the Breville Precision Brew and the Technivorm Moccamaster, it’s nice to see Behmor has not skimped on quality.
Like the Breville Precision Brew, the Behmor Brazen drip coffee brewing machine is fully customizable. The buttons on either side of the LCD screen allows adjustment for brew temperature, altitude (since altitude affects the boiling point of water), and bloom time (pre-infusion of the grounds). There’s also a single drip button for a single cup pour over effect.
But like the Breville Precision Brew, and the Technivorm Moccamaster, brewing coffee can be as simple as you want to make it in the Behmor Brazen. The final product is incredibly reliable brew after brew, thanks to its consistent brewing temperature, a quality infusion that ensures the proper extraction is maintained, and heat retention of the double-walled stainless steel carafe.
A unique feature of the Behmor Brazen is its manual brew option. Just remove the carafe and replace with any single serve coffee contraption. With the push of the manual button, the maker will spit coffee out in fifteen-second increments. Or, don’t load the maker with grounds at all. You can dispense hot water directly into a pour over or french press loaded with grounds.
The Specs Compared
|Technivorm Moccamaster KBGT||Breville Precision Brew BDC450BSS||Behmor Brazen 5393|
|Weight||8.8 lbs||13 lbs||13 lbs|
|Dimensions||16”H x 11”W x 6.25”D||15.75”H x 12”W x 7.5”D||15.25”H x 9.25”D|
|Size||10 cup (42 oz)||12 cup (60 oz)||10 cup (40 oz)|
|Carafe Interior||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel|
|Pre-Infusion||Yes||Yes – programmable||Yes – programmable|
|Brew Time||6 minutes or less||8 minutes or less||10 minutes|
|Brew Temperature||196℉ to 205℉||198℉ to 204℉||Adjustable between 190℉ and 210℉|
|Programmable?||No||Yes – drinks, dosing amt., pre-infusion, temperature||Yes – via app adjust, dosing amt., pre-infusion, temperature, elevation|
|Heating Element||Copper Heat Chamber||Thermo-coil||Water Tank heating plate|
|Automatic Shut Off||Yes – after 2 hours||Yes||Yes|
|Warranty||3 Years||2 Year||2 Year|
|Filter Type||Gold Mesh cone or #4 Cone||Gold mesh basket, flat bottom, or #4 cone||Gold mesh basket or flat bottom paper|
|Alternative brewing||No||Cold brew, over-ice brew, pour overs w/V60 or Melitta replacing basket||Yes – manual pour over|
Like so many foods and beverage genres, coffee has a culture. Coffee culture consists of a myriad of different flavors and tastes. From the old cup of joe (that kind of vacuumed sealed ground coffee popular for over half a century in diners and countertops across the country) to the pureness of the pour over (the slow and precise Sunday morning ritual found in obsessive coffee houses and condos in trendy neighborhoods everywhere).
No matter the method of brew, coffee moves through each decade with a consistent following of die-hards. And, it welcomes burgeoning fanatics into its folds every day. Coffee culture is so widespread and pervasive throughout the world, numerous organizations have been built to study it in detail. These organizations learn how to grow, roast, grind, and brew it using the most optimal tools, ingredients, and environment.
One of the better-known organizations dedicated to the culture of coffee is the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). The SCAA has dedicated countless years examining the qualities of exceptionally brewed coffee. What they’ve found was that coffee can achieve maximum flavor if a few key fundamental processes are involved.
The SCAA is so respected, the best coffee maker manufacturers have sought SCAA certification. When you purchase an SCAA certified drip brewer, you can brew your next pot happily knowing your machine meets all of the SCAA’s specifications. These specifications include optimal water temperature, grounds bed depth and area, and proper coffee extraction. All three of my top three drip coffee brewing machines are SCAA “Gold Cup” certified.
The Good, The Bad, and The Really Awful
So, what separates the good cups of coffee from bad ones? So many things. Some can be controlled by the coffee brewer, while others are contributions are controlled by the user. The primary coffee brewer controlled factors can be summed up in the water, speed, and the volume.
Let’s start with water – specifically, the temperature of it as if makes contact with the coffee grounds. Too cool, and the water will not sufficiently extract enough flavor components from the grounds in the small amount of time it has to flow through the filter into the carafe. Too hot, and the water will extract the flavor too quickly as it passes through, extracting everything and some bitterness too. The SCAA has found that for optimal extraction, water temperature should range somewhere between 196 and 205℉.
A Note About Temperature
While water temperature during brew is crucial to an accurate extraction of flavor, the temperature of the coffee while it’s waiting to be enjoyed is also very important. Not only must the temperature be maintained, how it is maintained can greatly affect the taste of the coffee. Hot plates under a glass carafe help keep the price of the coffee machine down, but also heats the coffee unevenly, altering the taste of the coffee in a negative way.
That’s why my top three picks above all use double walled stainless steel carafes so that heat can be retained and maintained without the use of a hotplate. For increased heat retention, presoaking a thermal carafe with hot water is a great idea.
Speed is the next factor. Water should flow through the coffee grounds at just the right speed. Water flowing at the correct speed will extract all of the coffee flavors without hanging out too long to pull out bitterness too.
We could just run water through a basket of whole beans. But, we’d only be extracting a small portion of the bean. By grinding up the coffee, we’re able to reach more of the flavor of the beans as the hot water soaks into it. But, let the water sit too long and the flavor becomes sour or bitter. According to the SCAA, total coffee brewing should be between four and eight minutes, depending on the volume of coffee being brewed.
Lastly, the size and depth of the coffee grounds filling the brew basket greatly influences the taste profile of the final product. Water must take a long time on its journey from spout to carafe because of a deep grounds bed that runs a good chance of over-extracting the coffee. Bed depths that are too shallow won’t provide sufficient contact with the water, resulting in under-extracted coffee.
Just as important as the brewing environment, are outside factors controlled by the user, such as water quality, bean profile, grind size, and volume.
Let’s revisit the water discussion. Apart from temperature, water should be pure, free from odor or heavy minerals. Filtered water is best, but water from the faucet is fine too as long as its clean. Just let it run a few seconds before adding it to your brewer. Water purity has a huge influence on the quality of brewed coffee. So, before worrying about temperature, sourcing pure water is the first priority.
One of the most influential contributors to quality brewed coffee is the quality of the bean and the roast. Substandard beans will give you substandard coffee. Considering ground coffee loses its freshness within an hour of going through the grinder, starting out with whole bean coffee is key. Wait to grind the beans until just before brewing a pot of coffee will result in a much more flavorful cup.
Even if buying the whole bean, care should be taken when deciding which beans to buy. This may be trickier than it seems. Many grocery chains only offer whole bean coffee from mass production plants that over roast beans to hide imperfections and poor quality. Specialty markets and internet marketplaces are great places to find high-quality whole bean coffee that’s been roasted at the appropriate level.
As a general rule of thumb, any beans that are dark and oily should be avoided. The brewed cup from these beans will be filmy, thick, and often sour. For those who like their coffee stronger, a dark oily roast is not always the best way to get there. Even a strong cup of coffee can be enjoyed without over-roasting the beans. Look for beans that range from light to medium-dark roast (often labeled as roast levels City, City+, Full City, and Full City+). The color of the bean should vary from caramel brown to dark brown with just a slight sheen on the bean surface. For more information on the roast, visit Walletpath’s article The Best Home Coffee Roaster.
Also, look at the packaging. Smaller batch roasted coffee directly sourced from single farms, cooperatives, or small estates are more desirable than large-scale roasters. The language and marketing on the package should indicate in some way that the coffee was a product of direct trade or similar. Beans in these bags are processed, purchased, and roasted in small lots instead of being mixed in with beans that have been grown and processed from many different farms. They run less risk of being mixed in with defective or lower quality beans.
The result is a higher quality roasted batch with a pure flavor profile. Whether you purchase whole bean coffee as a blend or a single origin, as long as the raw, green beans were purchased in small, high-quality lots, you should count on a decent quality flavor profile in the final cup.
When the time does come to grind the whole bean, using a quality grinder to prepare the beans is as important as the grind level itself. Although conical burr grinders are best, there are decent blade grinders on the market that can do a sufficient job grinding the beans with relative consistency.
Most grinders will be adjustable to grind coarseness. Some grinders will specify whether the particular grind level is best for french press, basket filters, cone filters, or espresso. For drip coffee brewing machines, you’ll either be choosing the grind for a basket or cone filter.
Lastly, the amount of ground coffee should match the amount of water used. The ratio of coffee to water should be adjusted, depending on how many cups are to be brewed. Pouring coffee grounds directly into the basket while eyeballing is not a good way to brew coffee and still expect a quality cup. Always measure out your grounds using the specifications in the brewer user guide. Establish a baseline. You can adjust the volume from there based on your personal tastes.
Outside factors have as much of an influence on the taste of coffee as the brewer itself does. Choosing a brewer that can heat water accurately, provide proper extraction, and retain the heat of brewed coffee in an even, efficient way should be the top priority. Paying a bit more for these attributes will go a long way in your lasting enjoyment of quality drip coffee.
Questions and Answers
Q: It’s just me drinking coffee at home. I don’t want to brew a whole or even half pot. I’m not interested in using a single serve cup system either. I’d like to stay on budget and still have quality coffee. What do you suggest?
A: If you’re solely drinking a couple of cups a day, try the pour over method. This is especially relevant if you are really into the flavor of quality coffee, vice just needing a caffeine injection. Pour overs are very inexpensive. All you need is the ceramic or plastic pour over device. This device sits on top of your cup. You’ll use paper filters and a hot water kettle to make your coffee. It takes a little bit of interaction on your part, but you’ll enjoy a really fine cup of coffee.
Q: I use a lot of cream in my coffee. Does it really matter how good the brewed cup is if I’m just going to pollute it with milk?
A: Yes and no. Quality coffee still matters. The brewer needs to achieve quality extraction so as not to provide a weak or bitter cup. Even with a healthy dose of cream, you’ll most likely notice a particularly weak or strong cup of coffee due to improper extraction.
However, you may not need to spend as much time selecting specialty beans. You don’t need that special flavor profile on the package if you’re going to cover up the delicate flavors with cream, as I often do. Here you can save money and pick a more economical brand as long as you avoid over-roasted beans.
Q: What does pre-infusion mean?
A: Pre-infusion or “bloom time” refers to the process of wetting the grounds with a small amount of water before sending the rest of the hot water through. The purpose of this is to allow the initial shot of water to expand the grounds or “bloom”. This is so that the remaining bulk of water can more easily access and extract optimal flavor from the rest of the grounds.