Whether you do drip, French press, AeroPress, pour-over, percolator, or use a pod brewer, there are seriously more ways to make a good cup of coffee than we could ever highlight. Still, some methods are better than others, and you didn’t hesitate to let us know. Here are the top five coffee makers, based on your nominations.
Earlier in the week, we asked you which coffee makers you thought were the best. We didn’t expect the tidal wave of nominations you gave us, but we were happy to see them. Our only regret is that we can only feature the top five, and we don’t have room for a lot of the very specific models and other less well-known products you shared with us. Even so, we know you’ll sound off again in the discussions. In the meantime, here are your five favorites:
Ah, the venerable French press. Also known as a coffee plunger or a cafetière, the French press is a tried and true method of making a delicious cup of coffee that extracts an exceptional amount of flavor from coffee beans in a short brewing time. It’s not the fastest or the slowest method in the roundup, and it’s not the most hands-off, but it’s hardly difficult, and for most people who want a pot of coffee big enough for a few cups (but who are also ready to upgrade from drip), it’s a great option.
A relatively fresh coarse grind, good, cold water, and the time to both heat and brew, and that’s all you need for a great cup. The french press method eschews disposable filters and gives the drinker complete control over the brew time and the end-strength of their coffee. Various models and types exist, from the ever-popular Bodum models to the affordable IKEA Upphetta and the dual-filtered Espro, so prices vary depending on the size and brand you go in for. Even so, those of you who nominated your French presses spoke highly of the control it gave you and the delicious coffee as a result.
The history of the AeroPress is almost as fun to read as the AeroPress itself is to use, especially considering the AeroPress is the only non-sport/toy product Aerobe makes. We love the portable, single-cup maker, and even walked you through getting the best cup with one, and many of you nominated the Aeropress because it’s fast, cleanup is a snap, and you get a quick, well-extracted, delicious cup in a matter of minutes (seen in the video above, although clearly it’s a bit of an exaggeration).
The shorter brewing time and disposable paper filters may be a cause for concern to some, but filters are widely available in several-hundred packs, and the fact that the AeroPress uses air pressure to extract more flavor from the (relatively) finely ground coffee in the chamber makes for a more well-bodied cup. Best of all, the AeroPress will only set you back about $ 25 regardless of where you buy one. The AeroPress’ shape and size make it absolutely ideal for taking a great cup of coffee with you anywhere you go, which is essential if you don’t want to give up a good cup just because you’re visiting friends or traveling for work.
Pour-Over Brewing (Chemex/Hario V60/Melitta/Clever Coffee Dripper)
Pour-Over filtration brewing isn’t exactly new, but it has surged in popularity recently, partially due to a whole new group of people discovering the method who had previously known nothing more than push-pot office brew and Mr. Coffee drip pots. Pour-over brewing is fairly simple: a glass or plastic cone is mounted on top of a carafe, and a paper or cloth filter is used to store the coffee in the filter. You then boil good, cold water to the proper temperature, and slowly pour the water over the freshly ground coffee you put in the filter. You have control over the amount of coffee that goes into the filter, and the temperature of the water, but not so much the level of extraction (beyond through the amount of coffee used, of course).
The end result is a stronger extraction than you might expect because of how long the water stays in contact with the coffee as it passes down through the grinds and through the filter into the carafe below. You also get a more well-balanced cup but one that’s still smooth, blending the characteristics of drip and pressed coffee. Depending on the model you purchase, you can spend as little as $ 25 (for the Clever Coffee Dripper, for example) or as much as $ 40 for a Chemex, not including filters and accessories. Detachable filter models are surprisingly portable, too, and can be used with thermoses, any available carafe, or even right into your coffee cup.
The Technivorm Moccamaster thermal drip coffee maker picked up enough nominations of any individual brewing method that we had to feature it (that, and its competitor and natural alternative, the Bonavita BV1800). The Moccamaster is a handmade thermal pot that represents a significant upgrade to traditional drip models. The Moccamaster (and the Bonavita) both strive to bring the temperature of the water up to the proper level in an independent heating area, away from the coffee and the carafe, and only then introduce the water to the coffee stored in the filter bed above the carafe. The Moccamaster and the Bonavita both have models with thermal carafes on top of their heating elements (if you don’t like the idea of a glass carafe on top of the element), and they’re built to only allow the water to extract for the proper length of time before exiting the filter bed—all design elements that many more affordable drip makers completely neglect, in favor of features like timers and attached grinders.
The Moccamaster even earned a nod from Cooks Illustrated Magazine, a significant feat for a drip maker. When people talk about dropping the drip, they usually haven’t tried one of these models. Cost of entry can be significant though, the Moccamaster starts around $ 300 (and the Bonavita, by contrast, is $ 130 for the glass carafe and closer to $ 150 for the thermal model). If you do enjoy a Moccamaster or a Bonavita, don’t forget our tips to getting the best coffee from a drip maker. They’ll help you make the most of it.
The Moka Pot, also known as the Moka Espresso or the Moka Elite, were invented in the early 1930s and have been making killer coffee ever since. It’s incredibly popular in Europe and Central and South America, and while it’s not as popular in the United States, a few of us here at Lifehacker love them, even if they’re not the easiest coffee makers to find in your local department store (although they are $ 25 at Amazon, so there’s that). I’ve seen them in thrift stores, old and well-loved models available for a few bucks, with people passing by not knowing what they’re seeing.
When brewing with the Moka pot, water in the bottom chamber of the pot is heated and steam pressure pushes it up through a central basket that contains the ground coffee, and then finally into the top chamber where the coffee eventually rests, ready to pour. Since steam pressure is important and the water is in the bottom chamber, the pots are usually made of aluminum or stainless steel, and go right on top of the heating element when brewing. Just open the top, clean it out, pour water into the bottom, add coffee to the center basket, and pop it on the stove. The Moka pot’s classic gurgle signals that the pot is finished brewing and ready to serve. They’re super-easy to use (although they get seriously hot), and while you don’t get much control over the nuances of the brew, the final product has an extraction ratio more like espresso than drip, and has a flavor and balance to match.
There you have it, the top five, based on your nominations earlier in the week. Now it’s time to vote for the winner:
Honorable mentions this week go out to Keurig Single-Cup Brewers, which came surprisingly close to making the top five (They only missed by one or two nominations). Regardless of your opinion of pod-coffee makers, many of you appreciate the convenience and ease-of-use that Keurig’s brewers bring to the mix. Similarly, Nespresso’s pod-based brewers came pretty close to the top as well.
Another honorable mention goes out to vacuum pot coffee makers, like the Yama and the Cona, which use a tiny amount of ground coffee to yield a delicious, strong cup of coffee. We also want to highlight the only cold brew method that made the upper echelons of the nominees, the Toddy Cold Brew System, which makes a flavorful, strong cup for hot or iced coffee in no time.
Of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that regardless of the coffee maker you use, if you put terrible coffee into it, you’re going to get an awful brew out of it. Many of you pointed out starting with quality beans and a good even grinder shouldn’t be overlooked in the rush to find a great gadget to make your morning cup. In short, even the best brewing techniques can’t turn lead into gold.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don’t just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.
The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it’s not because we hate it—it’s because it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest, but if you have a favorite, we want to hear about it. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at [email protected]!