Updated: April 10, 2018
I want you to stop reading this, go to your kitchen, take your coffee maker and throw it out the window. You heard me. Take the plug out, pick the whole thing up and put it straight in the trash. Right now.
Sound extreme? It should. Because the truth is the average coffee maker is so out of whack that
a multinational organisation was created to unify and control coffee making standards.
In fact there are only 12 coffee makers in the world that you can rely on to make good coffee. No, really. I’m not making this up. Every single other coffee maker does not meet the required standards to make great coffee, and that’s a good thing.
Making a delicious cup of coffee is a tricky process that is full of complications. Getting a machine to do all that on its own requires some handy engineering, not a cheap hunk of junk, and that’s why these standards set by the SCAA are your ticket to an awesome and reliable drip coffee machine.
A little background
An Autodrip coffee maker is an American staple. A classic design that’s been making mornings bearable for decades. At the same time, it has a mixed reputation. Particularly when compared with the rise of espresso and Third Wave coffee.
Given the option, would you choose a freshly made Latte or some coffee that’s been sitting in a pot for 5 hours? How about a single origin Costa Rica Tarrazu pour over or that thirty year old machine in the corner of your hotel room?
I’m hoping you answered the first to both those questions. I think most people would. Most people want nice coffee. And the majority of the many, many coffee makers dotted around the US just aren’t capable of providing that.
The Autodrip Coffee Maker has a tarnished image as being the cheap and easy choice. The plain, basic coffee that works in a pinch but doesn’t taste all that great. And that’s a shame because it’s a perfectly viable way of making excellent coffee.
Why your coffee maker is bad
So what’s the problem? Well, making coffee is hard. And most drip coffee makers simply are not designed to account for all the little idiosyncrasies that go into making a great brew. The main issues are…
1. Temperature. The biggest issue is that the temperature of the water is not high enough for the coffee to properly extract. A temperature of between 195 and 205 degrees F is necessary to get the full flavor and aroma. Many cheaper and unregulated coffee makers brew at a temperature much cooler than this. This results in a lifeless and tasteless cup of coffee.
So why is this? Well, the most common explanation is that coffee that is ‘too hot’ is a potential lawsuit. You may recall the infamous case of a woman who was badly burned by her coffee from McDonald’s. Sadly, this seems to have caused manufacturers to abandon the correct way of making drip coffee.
This isn’t a problem with most manual brews as you pour the water in yourself. Make it as hot as you like!
2. Even flow. Not just a great Pearl Jam song – am I getting old? – but a description of one of the most imortant aspects of drip or pour over coffee… making the water flow evenly throughout the grounds.
One key aspect is to have a small preinfusion of water that will saturate the grounds to prevent dry clumps forming. Another is to have a showerhead that drips water in a way that prevents channelling – the process where water flows quickly through fine channels in the slurry and overextracts the grounds it passes but doesn’t extract at all the grinds it misses.
3. Adjusting for different sizes. If you’re brewing a smaller or a larger batch in a drip coffee maker, the flow rate should be slower or faster to account for the differing sizes of grounds. A cheaper coffee maker will do no such thing, again risking under and over extraction.
The SCAA and SCAA-Certification
Enter the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America). This organisation has spearheaded an increase in standards in Autodrip Coffee Makers. Notably doing their best to regulate the temperature of the water that coffee is made with.
The gold standard in autodrip coffee makers is SCAA certification. Any coffee maker that is SCAA-certified can stand up with the best methods there are and make superb coffee. A coffee maker without this certification is likely to be the kind of $40 ugly plastic thing that is collecting dust in your parents’ basement.
Now do bear in mind you pay a premium. These are not the kind of coffee makers you get at Walmart then throw in the trash 6 months later. These are well engineered machines that will give you fantastic coffee at the touch of a button and will last you a decade. You do pay a bit more for that.
You can check out their list of the current SCAA Certified coffee makers here. Or you can be a super smart cookie and read on for three of my picks from that list!
Note: Since this article was written the SCAA has merged with the SCAE (Specialty Coffee Association of Europe) to from one organisation: the SCA – Specialty Coffee Association. This doesn’t change anything that’s written here. Good coffee makers are still good coffee makers.
Should I even get a drip coffee maker?
Don’t let this put you off getting an Autodrip Coffee Maker. A quality, modern coffee maker is the peak of convenience in making a morning coffee. Paired with a solid grinder, you can make high quality coffee at the touch of a button in your own home.
A great advantage is how easy it is to use. No fiddling, no hassle. Put your coffee and water in, press a button and you’ll come back to a pot of coffee. And so long as you buy the right machine, you can be sure of getting high quality coffee with a minimum of effort.
Choosing the best drip coffee maker? One that is SCAA-certified with all the bells and whistles? Well, that’s why I’m here…
These are well engineered machines that will give you fantastic coffee at the touch of a button and will last you a decade. You do pay a bit more for that.
Best Budget Option: Bonavita BV1900TS
Bonavita are a big name in SCAA Certified Coffee Makers and the BV1900TS is the latest in a number of models that are well loved by coffee drinkers. The design is simple and elegant, and a nice fit in most kitchens.
The manufacturer says that the design includes a flat-bottomed filter basket and larger showerhead allow for even better saturation and uniform extraction and combined with the strict SCAA certification it results in a lovely cup of coffee. You can even try the pre-infusion mode where the coffee grounds are wetted before brewing. This is called blooming and helps to degas your coffee and give you a better extraction and therefore a better taste.
The Bonavita keeps things simple with a one-button design. Fill with water, fill the basket with coffee and away you go. It has an autooff feature that activates after 40 minutes, useful if you’re as scatterbrained as me and you come back from work to find the coffee machine’s been on all day.
This coffee machine is not perfect, however. Initial brews may taste a little plasticky, you may want to make a few throwaways to start with. Also, parts of the design could have been worked better. For instance, the carafe lid traps some coffee as you pour it, meaning you can’t get that last bit unless you put it basically upside down.
That said, these are minor niggles and for the price this is the best SCAA Certified Autodrip Coffee Maker you’re going to get. Here’s the link to the Bonavita on Amazon if you like the sound of it.
Preset Timer: OXO On Barista Brain
|Capacity||45oz (1350ml) or 60oz (1800ml)|
|Features||Thermal Carafe, Preset Timer|
The OXO’s selling point is one particular feature. What it has over other Autodrip Coffee Makers is its Programmable Wake-Up Timer. The idea is you can synchronize with your alarm clock so you are waking up to a freshly brewed Nicaraguan City Roast.
It’s a well designed machine with – of course – SCAA Certification. It’s modern looking and feels sturdy and solid. It runs very quietly, even for a more expensive machine. The parts such as the showerhead come off very easily which makes for quick and simple cleaning.
The OXO has a couple of interesting benefits when making coffee. It has a microprocessor controlled brew cycle and a Rainmaker Showerhead that work together to copy the optimal way to make pour over coffee, wetting the grounds before brewing the let them bloom, for instance.
In terms of quality of coffee, I’d say the OXO is in line with the Bonavita. That is to say, really good. It does cost a little more and you’re paying for the use of the preset timer. All other things being equal, I’d go with the cheaper Bonavita.
An interesting feature is the OXO’s LED screen. It shows the time by default and you use it to preset the time you want it to make coffee. You can also choose the number of cups of water that it runs through – something I’ve not seen in any other coffee maker.
Best at any Price: Technivorm Moccamaster
|Features||Thermal Carafe, 5-Year Warranty|
The Moccamaster inhabits the top-end of Autodrip Coffee Makers but the higher price tag comes with great reward – this thing makes really makes wonderful coffee. Really, this is the kind of machine that makes you realize you’ve never tasted coffee properly before.
This beautiful machine is handmade in the Netherlands and is backed by a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty. Not just SCAA certified, it’s also SCAE (Specialty Coffee Association of Europe) certified. Looking at it, you’d think it almost looks more at home in a chemistry lab! Parts fit together smoothly and those little outbursts of annoyance everyone has at technology – why does it do that?! – are non-existent.
The Moccamaster has a 10 cup capacity which works out to about 50oz or 1.5 litres – plenty for any size family. You have the option of using paper filters or a mesh reusable filter. I’d suggest trying both types of filter at first, there will be a subtle but noticeable difference in the texture of the coffee.
It’s an expensive machine, for sure. I would not recommend buying this if you’re new to coffee. Try some things, experiment a bit before you make a purchase like this. I also wouldn’t recommend buying it if you don’t have a decent burr grinder. There’s no point. You need a good grinder for this machine to shine.
However, if you know that making coffee with an Autodrip Machine is how you like to do it AND you’re willing to splash out to guarantee excellent coffee every morning – then this is the one for you.
If you’re spending this much on a machine then please make sure you’re grinding your coffee with a decent grinder too. Please. For me.
The Choices + Where to Buy
The three machines I’ve chosen can be neatly summed up as the best value, preset timer or best at any price. These are all SCAA Certified and I can wholeheartedly recommend them as excellent purchases.
Remember these prices may be higher than other coffee makers but you are paying for the quality that comes with SCAA certification. If you’re looking for a cheap machine to pump out factory grade brown swill, go to another website.
Click on the photo of each to be taken to the Amazon page. Full disclaimer: Those are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage at no extra cost to you. If you’re thinking of buying one I’d really appreciate if you clicked on them before you buy, it supports the site and helps me write more articles.
|Bonavita BV1900TS||OXO On Barista Brain||Technivorm Moccamaster|
|Best Budget Option||Best with Preset||Best at any Price|
|Capacity||40oz (1200ml)||45oz (1350ml) or 60oz (1800ml)||50oz (1500ml)|
|Time||6 mins||7 mins||4-6 mins|
|Features||Thermal Carafe||Thermal Carafe, Preset Timer||Thermal Carafe, 5-Year Warranty|
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