Buying Guides
Jan 29, 2009

Buying guide: Coffeemakers

By: Yuki Hayashi

Buying guide: Coffeemakers Author: Style At Home

Buying Guides
Jan 29, 2009

Buying guide: Coffeemakers

By: Yuki Hayashi
A Starbucks or Timmy's habit notwithstanding, most Canadians consider a good home coffeemaker to be a kitchen must-have. But with coffeemakers at every price point and available almost anywhere (including at your local Starbucks or Tim's!), how can you zero in on the best one for your home?

The answer depends on your drinking habits and lifestyle. Answer the following questions and find out what to look for so you can make your perfect cup day after day.

1 How many cups of coffee do you drink on average?
Are you a light drinker or a diehard caffeinista? This first question will help narrow your choices.

If you have a one- or two-person household and only sip a morning cup, consider:

• A drip coffeemaker that brews your morning java directly into an insulated portable cup, like the Cuisinart Two to Go coffeemaker, which comes with two travel mugs.
• A French press-style coffeemaker that will allow you to make just a single cup (or up to eight, when you have guests). Try a Bodum Chambord or Bistro, for their classic styling.
• A single-cup coffee system that uses pods or canisters, like Java Pod, Mr. Coffee or Senseo. Keep in mind however, that not all the casings can be composted or recycled, meaning they may produce more landfill-destined waste than other coffeemakers.

If you consume a lot of coffee in your household, consider:
• A conventional drip coffeemaker with a 10 or 12-cup capacity.
• A 10- or 12-cup drip coffeemaker like the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go, which brews coffee into an insulated thermal carafe so that coffee stays extra fresh without needing a heating element underneath. (This extra heat can cause your coffee's flavour to deteriorate after 20 minutes.)
• A French press – although keep in mind coffee chills a lot faster in a French press so it may not be the best bet if you nurse several cups while reading the weekend newspaper.
• Finally, if you're a social butterfly, consider a coffee urn. They come in 40- to 60-cup models, more than enough to keep your book club or family get-togethers humming.

2 Where's the coffeemaker going?
For electric coffeemakers, placement is a key concern. Not only do you need an electrical outlet, you'll need to place the coffeemaker safely away from the sink. So where are you putting it?

On a petite kitchen counter or table: Look for a compact, space-saving design. Models like the Black & Decker SpaceMaker II even mount under your kitchen cabinetry so they don't take up any counter space at all.

On an island or peninsula: When space isn't at a premium, and when your small appliance is out on display (in the centre of the room, in this case), look for smart design features like a snazzy colour or chic, contemporary styling.


3 Is convenience a priority?
If so, look for features like:
• A programmable auto-brew timer on a quality coffeemaker. While many coffeemakers allow you to plan a brew time, this is one of the first things to break on bargain-basement coffeemakers. So if you plan to actually use the feature, do splurge on a respected national brand like Krups, DeLonghi, Breville, Cuisinart and others.
• Cone-filter models. Cone filters spill used coffee grounds a lot less frequently than basket-style filters. If you're a butterfingers, look for a cone model, although some aficionados believe there's more coffee-to-water contact time on basket models, resulting in stronger flavoured brew.
• Auto-shutoff. Avoid turning back when you're halfway to the office because you think you left your coffeemaker on. Auto-shutoff offers peace of mind.
• Auto-pause. If you can't wait for your first cup of the day, look for a model that automatically “holds” the brewing coffee until you place the carafe back into place after pouring yourself a cup.
• A combination coffee/espresso machine, if you also enjoy lattes and other hot bevvies. Krups and DeLonghi both make some affordable versions.
• A built-in grinder. Look for a burr-style model, but be forewarned: the more moving parts, the faster a small appliance might break.

4 How easy is it to use this thing?
User-friendly design is a given, right? Actually, you'd be surprised how hard it is to pour water into some reservoirs, how much condensation some coffeemakers drip onto the countertop when you lift their water reservoir lids, and how hard to clean some models are.

Upshot: Read reviews online to get some background, but buy your coffeemaker in person at the store. Handle the display model so you can see firsthand how ergonomic, accessible and easy to use it is.

5 Finally, what's your decor style?
Lastly, don't forget that a nice bit of eye candy on your counter will give you a pick-me-up first thing in the morning. Black and stainless steel models look fresh for years, and keep in mind that white plastic will stain a lot sooner.
If you go for an eye-popping colour, keep it clean and it'll stay perky for hundreds of cups – and beyond.


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Buying guide: Coffeemakers