Best Affordable Coffee Maker: The 2023 Tasting Table Awards
Jul 19, 2023
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The humble coffee maker helps millions of Americans get the day started with a hefty dose of caffeine. It's a vital appliance in many households and can be an absolute workhorse capable of delivering high-quality java daily for years on end. If you're in the market for a new coffee maker, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the number of options available. However, there are plenty of great options available for under $100 that will serve most people's needs very well.
We tested a variety of affordable coffee makers, evaluating their construction, ease of use, and of course, the quality of the end product. (The same coffee was used in each machine to avoid bias in the results — we went with Eight O'Clock, which we ranked as a solid middle-of-the-pack coffee brand.) Here are the coffee makers that stood out to us.
Read more about the 2023 Tasting Table Awards methodology and all the top picks here.
Factor in the brand name, modern stainless steel design, and all the added features, and you could easily convince someone that the Ninja CE251 Programmable Brewer is a far more expensive machine. Most notably, it produces exceptional coffee, particularly if you use the "Rich" button. There are multiple other settings including one used for cleaning and another which allows you to delay the start of a brew. The temperature of the warming plate is also adjustable, but as standard, the coffee that leaves the Ninja is refreshingly hot. (The carafe is a 12-cup with a tube that sends the incoming java straight to the bottom of the pot.)
We found the Ninja very easy to use. The removable reservoir was particularly useful as it allowed us to easily measure out the amount of water our batch of coffee needed. If removing the reservoir isn't for you, you can still fill it from the carafe, but be warned: The carafe doesn't include any markings, so you'll be eyeballing the amount of water needed. In terms of a downside, the square shape of the scoop is a little awkward to use — but that's a minor blip compared to the machine's positives.
Purchase the Ninja CE251 Programmable Brewer on Amazon for $70.
We get it: with plenty of living situations, space is at a premium. Just a few appliances can quickly take up already limited counter space. Those looking for a smaller drip machine should consider the Zojirushi Zutto. In addition to its slight size, the Zutto has a quality feel. The glass on the carafe was thicker than some of the other models we tested, and the plastic offers texture and stability. As it's smaller, you'll only get 5 cups from a batch, but this is pretty perfect for a single person or a couple who enjoy a coffee in the morning and then move on. In terms of operation, there is a marker on the removable reservoir indicating the ideal amount of water for iced coffee, but the actual brewing process comes down to an on/off switch. The hopper is also in the carafe itself and not in the body of the machine, with a water filter that the manufacturer claims "lasts up to 2 years under normal use." It can be replaced in seconds.
The construction of the Zojirushi took a little getting used to at first; the carafe doesn't balance well and the "iced coffee" markings led to a little disappointment as we expected an extra feature that didn't work as planned. Still, this is a solid coffee maker from a company better known for its rice cookers.
Purchase the Zojirushi EC-DAC50 Zutto 5-Cup Drip Coffeemaker on Amazon for $80.
If you want to sacrifice a little quality for true simplicity in your morning coffee, then you'll likely consider the single-serve route. The biggest name in the world of single-serve coffee is Keurig, and its K Express needs to be at the top of the list if using pods is your preference.
The Keurig K-Express costs around $78, making it slightly pricier than other entry-level coffee makers from the brand — but you get quite a lot for your money. In terms of function, it's incredibly simple: Just pop in a coffee pod, make sure the reservoir is full, and select the size of the beverage you want. In this case, the choice is an 8, 10, or 12-ounce serving. If you prefer you're coffee with more oomph, the K-Express comes with a "Strong Brew" setting which is the equivalent of strong or rich settings on other machines.
Since the K-Express is tall, it can comfortably fit an insulated travel mug. This is a major bonus for those who like drinking from metal vessels, as other single-serve machines often don't offer clearance. It's also very slim, meaning it won't take up much counter space.
Purchase the Keurig K-Express on Amazon for $80.
If you're on a very tight budget, the cheap, cheerful Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Switch Coffee Maker is all you need. For less than the price of a round of drinks at Starbucks, you get simplicity and up to 12 cups of decent-quality coffee.
There aren't any bells and whistles, but that's a plus for people who want to keep things simple and get their morning caffeine fix with minimal fuss. The controls amount to a single switch. Flip it on to brew coffee with any amount of water in the tank and keep the hotplate warm. We found that fitting in the filtration disk was a bit fiddly, but at this price point, we're happy it has a reusable one at all. We also found the coffee it produced to be pleasant, particularly if you use fresh-ground beans.
Purchase the Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Switch Coffee Maker from Target for $20.
There are growing concerns about the amount of microplastics and related chemicals in our food chain. The wrong type of plastic can leach chemicals into water and food when heated. Since you'll be hard-pressed to find a drip machine that doesn't contain plastic without costing an absolute fortune consider going retro with the Classic Yosemite Stainless Steel Coffee Percolator.
Beyond the insulation for the handle and top of the lid, the entire brewing surface is high-quality stainless steel, meaning the (up to) 8 cups you can brew will be entirely plastic-free. Percolation may seem old-fashioned and complex, but it really isn't. We were a little intimidated at first but found the percolator to be one of the simplest methods. We found that simply popping some grounds and some water in and then setting it on a stove will result in a satisfying brew in no time at all.
Since this isn't a plug-in coffee maker, you can also take it camping and use it to brew your morning mug out in nature. Just make sure you brew it over coals or a gas burner. You don't want an open flame hitting the plastic handle.
Purchase the Farberware Classic Yosemite Stainless Steel Coffee Percolator on Amazon for $35.here