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The pandemic has resulted in our leaving our homes much less often, and that means we have to take care of coffee ourselves. But too many of us have old, cheap, or even worse, pod-based coffee makers at home. Here are the best ways to improve your coffee game or please the java lover in your life.
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Every grocery store sells a cheap filter coffee machine that does the job properly, but if someone uses an appliance every day it should be something to look forward to, not the bare minimum.
A coffee maker, however, shouldn’t be an IQ test – you have to operate it before you’ve had your coffee. Personally, I find the ones with touchscreens and apps that just provide new ways to go wrong. So I tested a few coffee machines that balance quality with simplicity, and after a few weeks of jitter, here are my favorites.
For the industrial design lover: OXO 8-cup coffee machine
- Compact, well thought-out design
- Lots of really useful features
- Thermo carafe included
- Brewing in a mug is a little too complicated
- Could be more coffee efficient
OXO’s reputation as a designer of kitchenware is well deserved, but I often find their items a bit much for the job. This is not the case with the 8-cup coffee machine, which manages to harmonize well thought-out design with simplicity and quality. I can say with confidence, if you are not sure which coffee maker to get, get this one.
The OXO 8-Cup is the (obviously) smaller alternative to the 9-Cup. He loses the ability to plan the brewing, but gets easier controls and a single-cup option with a separate, Kalita-compatible basket. The lids of the storage container and basket area fold up (the latter allows condensation to flow safely into the filter) and the basket itself sits securely but easily pops out.
The coffee is equally good; I would say so good, but a little less powerful than the KBGV below. It flows straight into a thermal carafe with a special hole in the top and even simplifies this part. Pretty much everything on this machine is designed to make it simpler and foolproof, which makes the brewing process extremely reliable.
I honestly struggled to find complaints, but I’d say the need to keep a second basket with a different type of filter and then adjust the various parts so you can slide the mug in is arguably more of a problem than it’s worth . But the ability to brew in a cup is there and doesn’t take away the rest at all.
It also recommends a little more base per cup than the KBGV, not an insane amount, but enough that you can probably get one less pot of a regular 16-ounce bag of coffee.
Price: $ 170 from OXO
For the FBI staking out: Technivorm Moccamaster KBGV
- Optimized retro institutional look
- Strong, reliable brew
- Automatic hotplate
- Lots of removable parts
- Materials inconspicuous for the price
The KBGV brewed my favorite coffee and, in my opinion, looks the best you would expect against the backdrop of an FBI stakeout box in a ’70s movie. Where the OXO is rounded and modest and should disappear in a modern kitchen, the KBGV is bold and shiny.
The coffee it makes is fat too: reliably strong and aromatic. Filtering process # 4 was pretty efficient for me for reasons too.
The squat glass carafe is on a hot plate that stays on for about an hour after brewing. That’s great, but it also means you need to remember to turn it off – it doesn’t light a fire or anything, it’ll just be hot sitting there.
My main problem with KBGV is that the container and basket covers only sit on top and don’t hang on hinges, so several parts have to be removed and replaced when brewing. A minor complaint, but like the carafe lid and basket, they are made of a more ordinary plastic and not of anything more durable. I think given the premium price, you should get something a bit more classy and comfortable.
The good news is that if they break they are easy to replace and Technivorm has an excellent warranty.
Price: $ 330 from Technivorm
For the gram: ratio 8
- Very beautiful
- Excellent materials
- Very easy to use
- Nothing to keep the coffee warm
- Quite large!
- Very expensive
Objectively the most beautiful of the machines here (even if I prefer the bizarre charm of the KBGV), the Ratio 8 with its wood and structured metal surface is obviously intended as an exhibit. And you couldn’t hide it if you wanted to – this thing is big, and the thick power cord sticks right out of the back, making it difficult to place anywhere other than a central location.
The machine is basically a Chemex automatic brewery (Chemex makes its own, which I’ve tried to test but never heard of) that tells you everything you need to know. With its one-piece carafes with wooden collars and luxuriously thick filters, Chemex is almost like the BMW of filter coffee, with everything that goes with it. I like it, but I also admit it’s a little over the top. And a machine that does it for you – well!
But as one Chemex brewer says, it’s a beautiful thing. You get the extra clarity that the Chemex process brings, and there is something wonderful about the way the coffee comes out of these carafes. Using the machine is a one-button affair that activates a brief flowering period, then over time dousing the soil with as much water as you put in the reservoir.
I found that the ratio 8 was best for making a full carafe, as half a serving felt like it was overwatered and consequently too little extracted of what I put in there. Unfortunately, this full carafe has to be consumed quickly, as the Ratio 8, despite its size and price, has nothing to keep the coffee warm after brewing. You can buy a thermal carafe separately, and while the smaller 6 ratio isn’t quite as impressive, it does come with one.
For a flashy and unique machine, the ratio 8 is great. But if all you want to do is have a great drop, the OXO or KBGV is a much better use of your funds.
Price: $ 495 from Ratio
There are many ways to make coffee, and while drip is the easiest and most reliable for most people, the following slightly more unusual options are also workable and perhaps more interesting as gifts.
Would you like to bring the first coffee machine from Colombia – you know, coffee center? The FrankOne is a cool device that quickly creates a pour-over-like mug by soaking the bottom and then creating a vacuum in the chamber below that sucks in liquid but leaves the bottom on top. It works great, is battery powered, and easy to clean (especially if you have a garbage disposal).
Price: $ 80 from FrankDePaula
ROK manual espresso machine
I avoided the many fancy espresso machines for this review mainly because they are complex, expensive, and require significant maintenance. The ROK is as simple an espresso machine as possible, only surpassed by a moka pot on the stove.
To work the ROK, pack your soil in the espresso filter provided and attach it to the machine like any other. Then pour your hot water into the top of the reservoir, raise your arms and press them down with a slow, steady pressure that pushes it through the filter. It really is that simple.
It might not be quite the high pressure espresso you get from a “real” machine, but it’s pretty good, and the process can be repeated to turn up the volume and produce something like an americano. The coffee produced by ROK is a bit like a moka pot, but a little less potent and far less likely to be burned.
The machine itself is bulletproof – and I mean, I think it’s actually bulletproof. It is practically solid metal, although the reservoir and bellows are made of rubber. Use this option to make coffee while camping and then fend off a bear attack.
For a unique, no-electricity coffee experience, the ROK is a great option, if not necessarily a practical one.
Price: $ 189 from ROK
I haven’t tested this one yet (although I will) but designer Joey Roth hasn’t got me wrong yet. This new device from his workshop uses an entirely new method to circulate hot water through the floor and make a teardrop-shaped cup or cold brew or tea in a very short time. If your loved one is a gadget fiend, this is one they probably haven’t been able to covet. Technically, pods are used, but they are completely biodegradable and you can fill them with your own soil or leaves.
Price: $ 185 from Osma
I’ve used pourover as my primary method of making coffee for years and it reliably makes the best single cup you can have, albeit at the cost of a certain amount of time.
Kalita Wave 185
Kalita makes a few sizes of these pouring cones, and while I’ve enjoyed using my 155 for many years, I’d go for the slightly larger 185 which is more forgiving when you pour it and can brew more than the 16 ounces that the do realistic upper limit of mine is.
Price: $ 36 from Amazon
OXO’s pouring cone with tank
If you don’t enjoy floating around the stove for two to three minutes and pouring your bottom to make a mug, OXO has a nice little device that makes things easy. It’s basically a pouring cone with a reservoir that sits on top and water drips through a couple of tiny holes at an even rate.
It made a good cup and with minimal effort, but capacity is limited. So if you want more than 12 ounces, you’ll need to refill the reservoir.
Price: $ 16 from Amazon
Cones and other metal filters
Those permanent filters turned out pretty good, and I have one that sits right on a mug. Out of paper! However, I would only recommend this to people who have a garbage disposal or a sink that can handle a lot of flooring as a lot of dirt is lost in the drain when cleaning the filter. Occasional deep cleaning is required, but it’s nice to be able to reduce waste just a little.
Price: Between $ 30 and $ 40, depending on the brand.
Just as a general note, these types of subscriptions are great, but you need to do a little research or your loved one will get a roast they don’t like. I don’t want to recommend any specific ones as they all specialize in different things but rather aim to promote independent roasters and fair trade rather than just getting a steady supply of the same old thing from a big chain.
Some good options: