Coffee Makers

Friday, 14 November 2008 | Tags: , ,

Enjoyed by millions around the globe, coffee helps many people start the day. We went in search of a coffee maker that can make a perfectly brewed cup.

The Basics

  • Brewing coffee is a relatively simple process that involves dissolving ground coffee in hot water to extract flavour and aroma oils.

  • Connoisseurs say water should be heated to between 195-205°F (91° – 96°C), so make sure your new machine has over 1,000 watts of power.

  • The most common coffee makers are:

    • Automatic drip: the easiest and most popular, simply pour water into the reservoir, place grounds into a filter/basket, and switch on. The container is either a glass pot that sits on a warming element, or a thermal carafe. Capacity: anywhere from 4-12 cups

    • French press: A glass beaker with a metal frame and plastic handle. Place grounds in the bottom of the container and add boiling water. Steep for 4-5 minutes and then press a plunger to contain the grounds at the bottom. No filters are required. Capacity: usually 1-3 cups

    • Percolator: A self-contained carafe that usually sits on the stove. Pour in water, place grounds in the metal filter basket, which sits atop a tube. As the water boils, it’s forced up the tube and percolates through the grounds. Brew gathers at the bottom of the carafe, mixing with the water. Boil until desired strength is reached.

  • Consider your capacity needs. Some coffee makers can brewdirectly into a travel mug. Others have a capacity of 10-12 cups ormore.

  • A cup by coffee maker standards usually means 5 ounces, not 8.

  • Experts recommend a flat bottom filter over the cone style so that the water can come in contact with more of the coffee.

Other Considerations

  • Paper filters are the norm. Buy unbleached filters (typically brown or natural in colour) to avoid any unwanted chemicals leeching into your brew.

  • You can also purchase a reusable gold mesh filter that will last for years, and save paper.

  • If you like waking up to a ready-brewed pot of coffee, look for a programmable clock/timer feature. However, experts say leaving grounds “exposed” overnight can cause some flavour loss.


We brewed up coffee in these machines using equal ratios of grounds to water:

(Please note: this coffee maker test was done for The Shopping Bags a number of years ago. While the models may no longer be available, the shopping tips still apply.)

  • Melitta Cone Filter: $15
  • Starbucks French Press: $20
  • Copco Percolator: $35
  • Black & Decker Smart Brew (programmable): $45
  • Krups (Programmable with self-contained water filter): $150
  • Cuisinart Grind & Brew (Programmable, built-in grinder, stainless steel thermal carafe): $220

Temperature Test

The right water temperature is important so we brewed up all the pots and then took their temperature.

  • Of the automatic drip machines the Black & Decker was the hottest – almost 10° hotter than the other two automatic makers.

Flavour Test

Everyone was very surprised that the flavour varied so much given that the type of coffee was the same.

  • The Starbucks French Press was considered too weak.

  • The Melitta was really bitter.

  • Surprisingly, the expensive Cuisinart made a bitter cup too.

  • None of the machines measured up to the Black & Decker.


Our caffeine crew gave the Black & Decker Smart Brew top marks. 


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