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There’s nothing quite like waking up to the smell of fresh coffee in the morning, and thanks to modern technology you can do just that. Once upon a time, the best filter coffee machines were simple things, percolating a gallon of coffee that would then sit on a hot plate for hours, stewing into a rocket fuel-esque coffee soup. Things have moved on somewhat – the latest filter coffee machines can do everything from grinding the beans for you, starting at specific times, creating different brew styles and strengths, and cleverly pausing the brewing process if you can’t wait to grab a cup. They’re often the top choice of the best coffee machines for those who want full-bodied and flavourful brews without too much hands-on operation.
The best filter coffee machines are suitable for anyone, whether you decide you want a coffee on the spot, or like to prepare the night before so you can wake up to a cup first thing. If you’re an espresso-lover, then obviously they might not be for you, but if you want an easy-to-make cup of filter coffee they do the job. They’re not small bits of kit, but are well designed, making good-looking bits of kitchen gadgetry, with all the accessories you need to get your coffee on the go. Most are fairly similar, with a water reservoir, brew basket and carafe, plus a digital display to control your coffee-making, while some may have the extra grinding section to grind your beans.
We tried and tested six different filter coffee machines to see which ones are best for what and how they all work in a real-life setting. Here’s what we found.
1. KitchenAid 5KCM1208
Best all-rounder filter coffee machine
• 1.7L carafe
• Two auto presets
• Pause and pour feature
• ‘Dosage ladder’
• RRP £139
• Two auto settings for weekday and weekend brewing
• Larger carafe
• Options to change
• Positioning of display on the side,
The Kitchen Aid 5KCM1209 claims to reinvent the home coffee experience. It’s a nice looking kitchen gadget, and while larger than some, isn’t too imposing. However, the fact the display is on what I would call the side rather than the front means you do have to position it a certain way, which might mean it takes up more space than you’d like. The carafe is larger than some other, allowing you to brew even more coffee in one go, which might appeal to some.
The LCD display is clear and easy to use, and you can select your brew strength which allows a degree of customisation. Like many other machines, there’s an auto feature so you can set the machine to start brewing at any time, but this one goes a step further with two different auto presets – meaning you can set it up for a certain time during the week, and a different time at weekends, or whatever suits you best.
The machine offers the usual ‘pause and pour’ feature, and has a warming plate too. It has a ‘dosage ladder’ in its filter which is says will help guide you on how much coffee to use, but we found this a bit fiddly and preferred to opt for going for a certain number of scoops. For the price, we think the design (not to mention, that KitchenAid branding that will pair perfectly with the best stand mixer) is a real winner.
Ideal Home rated: 5 out of 5 stars
2 Sage Precision Brewer
Best filter coffee machine for coffee afficionados
• 1.8L carafe
• Six brewing modes
• Automatic presets
• Water filter
• Larger carafe
• Easy to use
• More settings including cold brew option
• Includes a water filter
• RRP £258
•Positioning of display means machine has to sit a certain way
As with anything coffee-related, the Sage machine has all the bells and whistles. It’s got a more industrial feel with its stainless steel brewing basket and large 1.8l carafe, but would still make a pretty striking addition to your kitchen counter.
It has a state-of-the-art feel to it, with the display walking you through the process – reminding you to fill the tank when needed, and offering you all the options you need. The Sage Precision Brewer goes beyond simply changing the strength of the brew and offers six brewing modes, including: fast, ‘gold’ which is supposedly the optimum brew, strong, your own customised ‘My Brew’ setting, as well as options for pour over and cold brew.
Like the Kitchen Aid, the positioning of the display means you would have to have your machine a certain way round, which might not be the best use of space, but if you’ve invested in something like this, there’s every chance you’ll be giving it pride of place in your kitchen.
The Sage machine brews coffee quickly and isn’t too noisy, and the thermos element of the carafe means it seems to keep it hotter than glass equivalents. It’s not cheap by any means, but is one for those who take their coffee seriously and want one of the best machines on the market.
Ideal Home rated: 4.5 out of 5 stars
3. Melitta AromaFresh
Best filter coffee machine for fresh grinding
• 1.37l carafe
• Auto shut-off
• Keep warm function
• Thermostatic hotplate
• Programmable timer
• RRP £115
• Integrated grinder (which can be turned off)
• Reasonable price
• Brews well
• Noise of grinder first thing in the morning
• Size and bulkiness
If you want to go one step further with your coffee and grind your beans before you brew, this could be the machine for you. The Melitta Aroma Fresh has a built-in grinder making it your one stop shop for bean to cup coffee at home.
The extra element means it was the biggest of the machines we tested, and not the sleekest, but is still a fairly attractive kitchen gadget. The LED display is easy to use and includes a timer feature allowing you to set your coffee to brew at whatever time you like. The only downside is if it’s going to be grinding your beans for you you might not want to set it for too early in the morning or you’ll be woken up by a bit of a racket. That said, you can turn the grind function off if it’s an early brew you want, so you have the choice.
Overall, this machine goes one step further by adding the grinding option and brews good coffee simply and easily. It’s also got a fairly reasonable price tag given the extra element, so would make a good all-round purchase that saves you buying a separate grinder
Ideal Home rated: 4 out of 5 stars
4. Russell Hobbs Buckingham Coffee Maker
Best filter coffee machine for those on a budget
• 1.25l carafe
• Pause and pour feature
• Coffee later option
• RRP £64
• Easy to use
• Smaller than some machines
• Fast to heat up
• Autoclean function
•Fewer options than some machines
The Russell Hobbs Buckingham is one of the simpler machines we tried, but pretty much does everything you need. You can brew your coffee on the spot or set it for ‘coffee later’, selecting the time you want it to start.
It’s fairly quick to get brewing from a standing start, so you won’t have to wait long, and has a few options to customise your coffee, mainly the option of making the brew slightly stronger if you’re making lots of cups. It’s got a ‘pause and pour feature’ so you can remove the carafe at any time but you’re warned to get it back on the hot plate within 20 seconds or the brew basket might overflow. We didn’t find this happened, but the warning did make you nervous about taking the carafe off for too long.
We quite liked the status light that shows you how long it is since your coffee was brewed – basically how fresh it is. Apparently this machine uses ‘advanced showerhead technology’ for improved extraction, but we’re not convinced that we would be able to tell the difference in the taste.
Ideal Home rated 3.5 out of 5
5. De’Longhi Argento Flora Drip Coffee Machine
Best looking filter coffee machine
• 10-cup capacity
• Automatic switch-off eco function
• RRP £59.99
• Pretty colour
• Good size
• Doesn’t feel very sturdy
This is one of the simpler machines out there, with a simple one-button operation that gets your coffee brewing. It’s got a rather lovely paint finish that apparently is scratch-proof and won’t show fingerprints, though it doesn’t feel quite as robust and sturdy as some of the others out there.
It’s compact and looks good, and sounds a little beep when it finishes so you know your coffee’s ready. There’s a keep warm plate and an eco function that means it switches off automatically after brewing is finished.
You can’t adjust the strength of your coffee or pre-programme anything, so it’s very much a more basic version than some others, but also has a very reasonable price tag to match, so if you’re looking for something more affordable this could be for you. It also pairs with a very delightful kettle and toaster, and comes in a selection of lovely pastels: pink, baby blue, and a sage green.
Ideal Home rated: 3.5 out of 5
6. Bonavita One-Touch Filter Coffee Machine
Best filter coffee machine for simplicity
• 1.3L stainless steel carafe
• Stainless steel finish
• SCA Certified to make a good brew
• RRP £149.99
• Simple one-touch operation
• Sleek stainless steel look
• Not too big
• Pre-infusion mode
• No customisation options
• Slightly clumsy in use
The Bonavita One-Touch is as simple as coffee filter machines come. No fancy buttons or settings, no presets to mess around with. Just a simple cup or coffee – or eight if you fancy.
It does have a pre-infusion mode which basically wets the coffee grounds for a better brew but that’s as far as it goes – this machine is all about making the process as quick and easy as possible.
It’s a good-looking machine thanks to its sleek stainless steel look, and not too big which will suit some people.
However, it can feel slightly clumsy at certain points of the process – the brew basket actually rests on top of the carafe which means you have to get rid of it before you can pour your coffee. The coffee also has to be brewed without the carafe lid on so you do lose some heat. Some of these elements have apparently been changed in a newer ‘Connoisseur’ model of this machine, but some coffee lovers may find that the quest for simplicity has sacrificed some of the ease of use.
Ideal Home rated: 3 out of 5 stars
How we tested the best filter coffee machines
We tested each filter coffee machine in the same way, assembling them from boxed then following the instructions to brew a carafe of coffee. We tested each machine (where possible) on both the immediate process as well as setting it up to start automatically. Testing involved looking at the appearance of the machine and how it would fit in your kitchen at home, as well as ease of use, practicality, and the finished product for its taste and flavour profile.
All of the machines in this guide were tested and directly compared by Ellen Manning. Ellen is a freelance journalist who writes for a range of national publications on all sorts of subjects – but mainly food and drink. When she’s not eating food, she spends most of her time thinking, talking, and writing about it, and also writes an award-winning food blog Eat with Ellen. Her favourite coffee is a double espresso first thing in the morning, but she’s also partial to a caramel latte on the odd occasion.
How to choose the best filter coffee machine
When it comes to choosing the best filter coffee machine, it really does depend on what you want. If you’re after something cheap and easy that just brews coffee when you want, then one of the simpler, cheaper versions might be best. If you are a coffee aficionado who wants to customise your brew, or opt for different strengths of brew at different times, you might want to spend more on a higher spec versions.
Most machines have certain standard features, like a keep warm option or the ‘pause and pour’ option that allows you to pour a cup before the brewing process has finished, as well as the option to set a timer so it starts automatically, but some do have the extra bells and whistles, like a grinder or customisation options, so it depends how far you’re willing to go and how much you want to spend.
Another factor to take into account is size and style – this machine is most likely going to live on your kitchen counter, so make sure you’ve got the space for it and are happy for it to be there.
What is the difference between espresso and filter coffee?
We spoke to Luke Powell, Manager – Speciality Coffee EMEA at Sage Appliances, to find out more about the difference between filter coffee and other types of coffee that you might get from one of the best pod coffee machines, or an espresso machine. “Espresso is any coffee brewed at pressure, often nine bars but pretty much anything above two bars can be termed espresso. Filter coffee is anything below involving a filter, so at regular atmospheric pressure.”
The taste profile of your filter coffee can often be determined by the shape of the filter itself. A flat shape will often result in a lighter and more fruity flavour, whereas a cone filter shape can often leave you with a more rich and earthy taste.
The secret to great-tasting coffee is fresh-ground beans. According to Luke, “Any food product’s freshness is a hugely important influence. Coffee starts to degrade the moment it’s roasted and although keeping it in a bag helps, coffee will continue to lose flavour and become stale after around three months.
The key factors affecting coffee freshness are sunlight, air contact, moisture, and heat. If you just buy coffee when needed and keep sealed in the bag provided, you’ll most likely never experience stale coffee.” You can take a look at Sage’s ‘Beanz’ coffee subscription for more information on fresh coffee beans, and take a look at our guide to the best coffee grinders to make sure you’re able to make freshly-ground coffee every morning.