I don’t drink coffee. I’m an espresso man. But, I come from a long line of coffee drinkers. My dad drinks coffee. His father drank coffee as did his father before him. In fact, some of my closest friends and relatives drink coffee on the regular. And, I’ve been known to make it for them. After all, I don’t let my personal prejudices get in the way of my kitchen work.
Below is the culmination of my days of research scouring automatic drip coffee machine reviews trying to find the best and easiest way to make a cup of Joe DiMaggio. But, before I rattle off Brains Report’s list of the best automatic drip coffee machines under $200, let me educate you.
Some Notes Before We Get Started
None of the trendy one-cup pod coffee makers made our list. These machines are great if you want to provide an easy way for Airbnb guests to make coffee. But, when it comes to personal in-home use, the more traditional, brew-basket-based coffee machines are king. There are several reasons for this:
- The coffee that comes in pods ends up costing you about $40 to $50 per pound. Compare that to the ten bucks you might spend for a pound of beans at a local coffee shop or even less at your grocer.
- Al Gore and his main squeeze, Mother Earth, cry when you use pods because you just throw more crap away.
- The inventor of the K-cup even regrets unleashing his nightmare on the world.
Also, how your coffee is ground is more important than the machine you choose. It can make or break your day. If you want to grind it yourself and want a good, easy-to-use, inexpensive option, I recommend the Quiseen One-Touch Electric Coffee Grinder. If you are like me and don’t like messing with a coffee grinder when half-asleep each morning, have the barista grind your beans at the shop you buy them at or use the crappy grinder at your grocery store. Store your ground coffee in the freezer to keep it fresh.
What to Look for
Here’s what you should look for when shopping for the best automatic drip coffee machines:
This is a feature that is usually found on the more expensive machines, and it does produce a more complex, full-body flavor in the coffee. It also adds up to a minute to the brewing process. If taste matters the most to you while price and speed take a backseat, then choose a maker that carries out the pre-infusion process.
I’m a morning person. My brain is ready to go the moment I front handspring out of bed. So, making espresso first thing is easy for me. However, if you are one of those people who has a coffee mug that says, “No talkie before coffee,” you might want a machine that gets coffee all hot and ready for you right when you get up.
Drip Pause Function
If you simply can’t wait for the entire brew cycle to finish before you get your caffeine on, then you will want a machine with a drip pause. After all, you don’t want the coffee to keep coming out creating a mess for you as you rush to get ready for work.
Thermal carafes are preferable over the glass carafes. Why is that? With the glass carafes, a heating plate at the base of the machine usually keeps the coffee warm. But, the heating plate tends to scorch the coffee within minutes, which doesn’t taste the best. Thermal carafes generally keep the coffee hot enough to burn your mouth for hours after the brewing process.
Unlike most food, faster is better when it comes to brewing coffee. Scientists have determined that the best coffee takes less than eight minutes to brew. If the brewing process takes longer than that, you can count on more of the undesirable flavor compounds being released, and your coffee will end up like me: a bitter mess.
As you’re shopping, you should also keep in mind that in the world of coffee, a cup does not equal eight ounces. Instead, it is generally five or six ounces. So, a ten-cup drip coffee maker will probably give you about 50 ounces of the good stuff. Additionally, coffee mugs usually hold ten to twelve ounces, or about two “cups” of coffee.
For the best coffee possible, it’s important to regularly clean your rig. The carafe should be cleaned daily, though if flavor country is not your destination, you can go much longer. The entire system should be cleaned on a monthly basis by running a 50/50 mixture of water and vinegar through a few times. Plus, every few months you should descale your machine using a citrus-based solution, such as OXO On All-Natural Phosphate-Free Descaling Solution.
Lastly, you should know about the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). They put coffee makers through rigorous tests to see if they are up to their exacting standards. In order to receive SCAA certification, a coffee machine must not have water in contact with the grounds for more than eight minutes, the temperature of the water contacting the grounds should be between 197 degrees and 205, and there are several more exacting requirements. Currently, there are only a dozen certified coffee makers (most of which cost more than $200).
Here are three hacks to help you use your new drip coffee maker like a boss:
- Removing Water from the Reservoir – If you ever put way too much water in the coffee machine’s reservoir and want to get it out, don’t tip the whole unit over to pour it out. Use your baster to remove it all, you turkey!
- Spice Up Your Life – When people die, they generally leave behind a cabinet full of spices. Don’t be like that! Mix your spices in with your coffee grounds for a zesty time. For instance, nutmeg, cinnamon, cocoa powder, cardamom, and ginger are all excellent options.
- Shake Your Grinder – Most of the cheap-o electric coffee grinders on the market don’t produce an even grind. Yet, the grind is crucial for a good cup of joseph. You could spend thousands of dollars on a fancy grinder, or you can just shake your grinder during the process to move the beans around.
As always, we are not allowed to precisely disclose how much each of the following automatic drip coffee machines cost because the price will change before we even have a chance to post this. That’s just how online shopping works. Instead, we’ve come up with a rough estimation system:
- $ = about $65 to $84.99
- $$ = about $85 to $119.99
- $$$ = about $120 to $199.99
If you want to get the current going rate for any of the following makers, just click on them. Don’t be shy.
Here are our picks for the top 7 best automatic drip coffee machines under $200 based on taste, ease of use, speed, price, ease of cleaning, programmability, and an automatic shutoff feature:
- Uses showerhead for even water dispersal at the ideal temperature to replicate the pour-over method
- Can make between two and nine cups of coffee and has a 24-hour start timer
- The water reservoir is not removable
- It claims to be capable of single-cup servings, but they mean a single mug
- Users have had issues with the clock
Who is this best for? If you like complex full-flavor coffee that is ready for you the moment you roll out of bed (program the brewing to start five minutes before said rolling), then the OXO On Barista Brain 9 Cup Coffee Maker is your best bet.
We didn’t just choose this coffee machine as our top choice because it has “Brain” in its name. The OXO On Barista Brain is the top choice on expert sites like Wirecutter and TechGearLab. The Coffee Concierge also rates it highly for taste, ease of cleaning, durability, and appearance. It has a four-star rating on Amazon. Customers were most impressed with the flavor quality.
- Brews a full pot of coffee in around three minutes
- Spreads hot water evenly over grounds with multi-stream spray showerhead
- 3-year warranty
- Glass carafe with a heated plate (which can lead to scorched coffee)
- High-energy usage since it keeps water hot at all times
- Not programmable
Who is this best for? If price and speed are your main considerations when buying a drip coffee maker and you can live without perfect flavor and programmability, then you should consider the BUNN NHS Velocity Brew 10-Cup Home Coffee Brewer.
The main selling point of this Bunn coffee maker is that it can brew a full pot in under three minutes. This is nice because it lacks programmability which would allow you to have coffee immediately upon waking up. Instead, you can set everything up the night before and flip the switch when you get up. The downside is that you are wasting energy by keeping the water hot all the time. Nonetheless, users give this Bunn coffee maker an average rating of 4.2 on Amazon and like the carafe’s drip-free pouring.
- Most affordable option on our list
- Programmable auto shutoff and 24-hour advance brew start
- Brew pause that lets you get your fix quickly without making a mess
- Glass carafe (but you can adjust the heat on the scorching plate)
- Hard to clean
- Brews slowly
Who is this best for? If you are looking for a drip coffee maker with all the whistles and bells at a low price yet are not too concerned about speed, ease of cleaning, and flavor quality, the Cuisinart DCC-1200 Brew Central 12 Cup Programmable Coffeemaker is the way to go.
One of the nice things about the DCC-1200 is that you can make between one and twelve cups of coffee at a time. There is also a “self-clean” function. Basically, a light pops on when the calcium buildup is interfering with the brewing process. You then add a 2:1 ratio of water to white vinegar to the reservoir and press the self-clean button. This unit is an “Amazon’s Choice” coffee machine and has a 4.2-star rating, but there are complaints of seal failures and the plastic warping. Fortunately, it comes with a limited three-year warranty.
- Thermal carafe that keeps coffee hot
- Heats water to the ideal temperature recommended by the SCAA for optimal flavor extraction
- Simple programmable controls
- The basket has a habit of leaking
- Only a one-year warranty
- Takes more than eight minutes to brew a pot of coffee producing bitter flavoring
Who is this best for? If you want a fully-programmable coffee machine and can’t stand the taste of scorched coffee but bitterness is okay, then the Zojirushi EC-YSC100 Fresh Brew Plus Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker may be right for you.
There is a lot to love about the EC-YSC100. It has a removable water tank that’s easy to clean and to fill. When you remove the carafe from the machine, it does not drip, though you need to return the carafe soon after or the basket will overflow. And, there’s a cleaning light that tells you when to do the deed. This is another “Amazon’s Choice” coffee machine with an average rating of 4.1. Those users who have not experienced the overflowing basket problem swear by their Zojirushi (instead of at it.)
- Thermal carafe
- Internal stainless steel water tank that keeps water at 200 degrees
- Brews between four and ten cups in about three minutes
- High-energy use since it keeps water heated
- Not programmable
- Complaints of the carafe dribbling
Who is this best for? If you want coffee quickly and want it to stay warm for hours on end but are not concerned about programmability or energy usage, then turn to the BUNN BT Velocity Brew 10-Cup Thermal Carafe Home Coffee Brewer.
The Bunn NHS and BT are incredibly similar when it comes to features. The big difference is that this Bunn coffee maker has a thermal carafe and no heating plate below the carafe. This equates to about a $30 price bump. For the most part, customers on Amazon like it: it has a 4.2-star rating. The biggest complaints are that the carafe dribbles a bit unless you pour it just right, and it’s hard to tell how much water you are using because there are no measurement markings on the carafe.
- 24-hour programmability with 0- to 4-hour auto shutoff
- Adjustable heating plate control
- Brews coffee in the ideal time and temperature range for excellent flavor
- Glass carafe
- Large footprint
- The water reservoir is not removable
Who is this best for? If you want an affordable way to make coffee for an army or you can’t get out the door without refilling your coffee mug at least six times, then the Cuisinart DCC-3200AMZ PerfecTemp 14 Cup Programmable Coffeemaker may be right for you.
The DCC-3200AMZ has a lot of weird features. For example, there is a button devoted to adjusting the sounds it makes. There is also a “bold” button which steeps the coffee grounds in hot water a bit longer. Though you do get more caffeine this way, it does produce a bitterer cup of java. One user compared this model to its forebear, the DCC-1200 (#3 on our list), and found the two to be quite similar aside from the size difference (the DCC-3200AMZ is larger.)
- Brews up to ten cups in three minutes
- 3-year limited warranty
- Carafe has a unique drip-free design
- Glass carafe
- Problems with the showerhead
Who is this best for? The BUNN GRW Velocity Brew 10-Cup Home Coffee Brewer pretty much has the same pros and cons as the NHS (our #2 pick.) The GRW just looks different, and it’s cheaper than the NHBW (the white version of the NHS.)
By now, you should realize that Bunn coffee makers are among the best around. One of the most helpful customer comments on Amazon regarding the GRW is that you should contact Bunn to get a free flow restrictor part that you can swap out on the spray head. This will provide a more even application of the hot water to the grounds and therefore produce better tasting coffee. Other than that, the GRW is incredibly similar to the NHS.
This should get you well on your way to buying a coffee maker that will help you function for years to come. If you know someone who could use a daily pick-me-up, share these automatic drip coffee machine reviews with them. And, as always, if you have any questions, comment below.