Americans purchase over 14 million coffee makers each year. Since the population of our country is not growing that quickly, nor is the rate of coffee drinkers increasing by that number of people, that figure would seem to indicate that quite a few coffee makers break or are discarded every year. There’s a reason for this. The lion’s share of coffee makers in the US are cheap, plastic appliances that are not designed or manufactured to make great coffee and last a long time. The internal heating element is typically constructed of thin aluminum, which cannot withstand frequent use, and eventually it will fail to heat the water high enough (if at all). First, a brief discussion on what’s required to make great coffee. Temperature and freshness of the coffee are the two most important factors. Stale coffee that was roasted more than 30 days ago is not likely to make the same quality of coffee that you are used to drinking in some of the better coffee shop. This is an easy thing to fix. Buy your coffee in small enough quantities that you go through it within two weeks. Don’t freeze it, but keep it away from air and light, the two enemies of coffee beans. Oxidation sets in quickly, which will make the coffee taste stale and flat. Keep your beans in an airtight container in your cupboard, and grind right before brewing if at all possible.
That being said, let’s isolate this discussion to the actual machine. In order to brew coffee according to standards set by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), the water temperature must remain between 195 and 205 degrees and the brew cycle must conclude within 6 minutes. Most coffee makers are powered with around 900 watts, and the thin aluminum heating element takes a while to heat up. Meanwhile, the water is already flowing over the coffee grounds. As the heating element slowly heats the water, the temperature will rise from approximetely 160 degrees and will gain all the way to a near boiling point (212 degrees at most elevations). The trouble with this method is that coffee has thousands of volatile compounds that will dramatically affect the flavor of the coffee. Water that is either too cold or too hot will bring out bitter tasting compounds. The 160 degree water will negatively affect the flavor, then it will be compounded by water that is too hot at the end of the cycle.
The other problem is length of time. If you’ve ever left a bag of tea sitting in your cup for too long, you won’t appreciate the result – bitter, astringent tasting tea. The same is with coffee. Most coffee makers take from 10-12 minutes to complete the brew cycle. After six minutes of brewing, the water starts to pull bitter tasting compounds out of the ground coffee.
And that is why most home coffee makers make terrible tasting coffee.
Fortunately, there are few machines that are designed to brew coffee that way it should be. Here are two choices:
Those Dutch know their coffee:
Technivorm is a Dutch company that has been manufacturing coffee makers since 1964. They design and manufacture coffee makers that fulfill all of the requirements set out by the SCAA for good coffee, plus they design their machines with a playful juxtaposition of retro with modern styling.
Their flagship machine is the Technivorm KBT-741, which retails for $265. It boasts a copper heating element instead of aluminum and is powered by 1475 watts instead of the typical 900. The water is heated up quickly in the internal copper tubing, then is quickly pushed through a glass tube and over a metal spray arm to evenly saturate the coffee grinds. It does not have a hot plate so that the coffee will not be baked as it sits on the element. Instead, a high quality vacuum thermos ensures that the coffee will stay hot for hours. The Technivorm KBT741 is designed to withstand years of constant use, and should perform for many years without needing anything besides routine cleaning. It includes a 1 year warranty, and a brief perusal around the internet will show positive reviews of the Thebestcoffeemachinereviews.
Brews up to 8 Cups (43 oz.)
15″H x 12″W x 7″D
The Technivorm is available at:
Clive Coffee with free shipping
Boyd Coffee with discounted shipping
Go bigand bold:
If you’re willing to spend a little more on a coffee maker, the Aqua Brew Express TE-216 makes hot, rich coffee and is designed to withstand constant use from an office or small restaurant. It is not for every kitchen, but for those that want a high quality machine with distinctive looks, the Aqua Brew is a good option. This machine uses advanced solid-state electronics and has a high quality, easy to maintain and clean exterior body that will last for many years.
Brews up to 14 Cups (74 oz.)
Shown with Professional and Ultimate Servers
120 Volts, 1715 Watts, 15 Amps
16″H x 9″W x 14″D