There’s nothing quite like that first cup of coffee in the morning. The rich flavor and the right amount of jolt can set the tone for an entire day. Similarly, a terrible first cup can leave you off-kilter and not quite ready for that 9 a.m. meeting. That’s why, whether you spend $20 or more than $1,000 on a coffee machine for your home, you want it to make the perfect cup every time. But how do you know which model to buy? I recently faced such a dilemma that was only compounded by the fact that I’ve been reviewing coffee machines for the past few years.
The gradual descent of my beloved Cuisinart coffee maker began when it started producing a couple pots of extremely watered-down coffee about three times a month. I made every excuse in the book.
“Well, I must need to change the water filter,” I said. When that didn’t do the job, I’d say “It is awfully early in the morning, maybe I didn’t put in the right amount of grinds.” After setting up the auto feature and prepping the machine the night before and still getting the same sad, light-brown water in the morning, I knew the Cuisinart was on its last legs. It was time to find a new morning caffeine buddy.
Here’s the thing about appliances and electronics: They will always let you know when they are on their way out, whether they just stop working one day or begin malfunctioning. “It’s a bug,” you might say. “Of course [name of your favorite device/appliance] isn’t working today, Mercury’s in retrograde.” But if you’ve had that item more than a few years and it happens enough that you notice it, it’s basically telling you “Our time together has been great, but I can’t do this much longer.” Yes, your product is breaking up with you. Take the hint before it’s too late and you’ll end up with nothing or a piss poor replacement.
That’s easier said than done — even for me, a person who has been reviewing products for almost 20 years. I didn’t want to face the fact that even though my Cuisinart was letting me down easy, our more than ten-year relationship was coming to an end. We’d been through so much together, including three cross-country moves. Yet the facts were undeniable: In another month or two we would have to go our separate ways.
Ordinarily, I would just buy another Cuisinart or Krups, the model I had for ten years before the CCuisinart. I would have bought another Krups a decade ago, except in that year, the machines were going through some quality issues. So I bought the Cuisinart. Not an inexpensive machine, but not one that wouldn’t break the bank either.
As I said, we were happy together.
Now, as a coffee machine reviewer, I had more options than most. I saw this as an opportunity. Over the years, I’ve reviewed all types of coffee makers: Fancy machines with touchscreen displays, like the Jura GIGA 5, those that use pods to brew, like the DeLonghi Nespresso Lattissima Touch, single-serve and double-serve espresso makers like the DeLonghi Magnifica S, the Ninja coffee brewer that dispenses the right amount of coffee based on cup/thermos size, and even the Bonaverde, which roasts the beans before it brews the coffee.
In the end, I learned a couple of things: Espresso machines are no longer cost-prohibitive (you can get a decent one for around $200); it’s not just the beans that are responsible for a good cup of Joe; and pods are not for me.
As the many machines cycled through my home and the Digital Trends office, I realized some things about my coffee drinking habits as well: First, I’m a refiller. Once I have the perfect blend of milk and sugar, I never drink the coffee to the bottom. Instead I refill the cup at the half way point.
Also, I do love a good cappuccino, as there’s something about perfectly frothed milk that reminds me of whipped cream on a sundae. Finally, fancy contraptions are just too much work for me in the morning, and this probably accounts for why I’m not a French Press kind of girl at home. So many steps, from the boiling of the water to setting the timer, I get the ratios wrong every time. It’s a delicious cup of coffee—don’t get me wrong, but I need that first cup ready and waiting for me before I can even think about making a cup of French Press.
No, for me, I need some options, a reliable cup every time, and I wouldn’t say no to having a milk frother at home to use on those lazy Sunday mornings or after a good meal with my dinner club. I tell you these requirements because it’s part of the product-buying journey. Before buying any home appliance big or small, think about your habits and how you’ll actually use the product. I am not a morning person, I know this, and that first cup needs to be no-fuss, no-muss just straight, good coffee every time.
After about a year of searching and my editor asking me, “Have you found it yet?” I finally came upon the model that I hoped would be “the one.” It was the DeLonghi BC0430, a coffee brewer on one side and an espresso/cappuccino maker with milk frother on the other. Normally, I’m skeptical of these two-in-one-type machines (usually only one of the two works well), but in this case, I was pleasantly surprised.
The design encases two separate machines: a brewer and an espresso maker. You can run both simultaneously. Perhaps the thing I like best about this machine is that it makes really good coffee every time. Visitors who like strong coffee can use the 1-4 cups button without having to dump half a bag of coffee in the machine’s mesh filter.
Best of all was the price tag: $250 for both a coffee machine and an espresso maker. Sure, it costs more than my beloved Cuisinart even with inflation, but I do have this two-for-the-price-of-one euphoric high about the whole thing. Did I ever think I’d be a person who owned an espresso machine? Never in a million years—I’m simply not that fancy. Am I glad I have the option? You betcha.
Now, the model I picked might not be right for you. As a professional reviewer, I’ve learned over the years that people often want to just buy the model I pick. Flattered as I am, I do find myself asking them a bevy of questions to help steer them to the product that’s best for them. For you, dear reader, here’s what you need to ask yourself before picking a coffee machine:
Those aren’t the only things you should think about when making this decision, but those questions will help you narrow down your search. For some of us, buying the right coffee machine is as important as picking up a good pair of underwear — we use it that much. Truth be told, the key to picking the best machine, whether it’s a Mr. Coffee or a Breville, is in the way that you use it. As is the case with any relationship, just remember to heed the signs, look for compatibility, and know what you want. Hopefully, you too, will find the perfect machine for you. Good luck.