Coffee makers have come a long way since it was invented over 200 years ago.

Coffee has been a part of many cultures around the world for centuries. After the coffee plant was discovered in Ethiopia in the 11th century, the leaves were boiled and drank for medicinal purposes. By mid-14th century, the application spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula, particular in Yemen where coffee cultivation became a part of their history in the next 300 years. At that time, they call coffee a “magical concoction.”

Europeans first got to taste coffee in Venice, when Venetian merchants discovered the drink in Istanbul and brought it back home in 1615. By 1645, the first coffeehouse opened in Italy and spread widely all over the country.

Today, coffeehouses still exist, and many countries thrive in coffee production. The top 10 coffee-producing countries are Guatemala, Uganda, Mexico, Honduras, India, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Colombia, Vietnam and Brazil.

Of course, with the rise of coffee lovers around the world, the need for coffee makers has took a life of its own after Paris-based Mr. Laurens invented the first coffee machine – a percolator-type – in 1818.

Today, numerous types of coffee makers are available in the market, but it wouldn’t be possible if not for the notable inventions of several people. In 1853, English engineer James Napier created the vacuum siphon coffee machine. In 1908, German housewife Melitta Bentz invented the filter coffee machine and co-founded Melitta Bentz Company with her husband.

Italian designer Attilio Calimani invented the French press in 1929. The modern espresso machine we know today was invented by Dr. Ernest Illy in 1833, but the modern designs are attributed to Achilles Gaggia who released a modern steam-free machine in 1946.

If you’re buying your very first coffee machine, or upgrading from a traditional one to a modern unit, here are everything you need to know about the different types of coffee maker available in the market.

Percolators, Coffee Pots and Stovetop Coffee Makers

stovetop coffee makers

As we’ve mentioned, percolators are the first-ever coffee machines invented. These glass-type brewers had been the standard tool for brewing coffee for years. It had gradually disappeared in the market when modern types of machines popped out, but percolators are making a comeback thanks to the rise of coffee enthusiasts who believe glass percolators brew richer coffee.

Percolators is a type of pot that brews coffee grounds by boiling continuously until the coffee strength users prefer is reached. These coffee pots, which are available in stovetop or electrical versions, only have several parts. The basket (where coffee grounds are placed), coffee filter, spout, lower chamber/heat source, and pump stem/tube that connects the heat chamber up to the top of the pot where water is released down to the coffee ground.

To brew coffee, boiling water moves up to the coffee basket and pours down to the middle. It repeats the cycle until the coffee strength is reached. Smaller percolators (that produces 6 cups) work the same as larger versions (those that produce up to 50 cups).


Who is it for?

Those who love drip-type machines, but feel that coffee isn’t as full-bodied or strong as they’d like. Percolators are also a favorite among campers and those who love to go on fishing trips, since they can bring their tabletop-ready coffee maker along.

Pros

  • Produces strong coffee
  • Best for dark roast coffee lovers
  • Boiling hot coffee
  • Electric-type automatically switches to warming mode
  • Some units can produce up to 50 cups

Cons

  • Time-consuming
  • Requires daily cleaning
  • Over-boiling may turn coffee beans bitter
  • Need to master boiling times for the perfect brew

Popular Brands & Model (based on Amazon coffee maker reviews):

  • Bialetti Moka Express 6-Cup Espresso Maker
  • Kitchen Craft ITAL6CUP Le’Xpress Italian Style Six-Cup Espresso Maker
  • VonShef Italian Espresso Coffee Maker

French Press & Cafetières

French press coffee makers

A French press, also known as cafetières, coffee plunger, or coffee press. Used for decades, this type of coffee maker is made with four parts: a glass or stainless steel carafe, the filter or screen at the bottom of the carafe, frame with a handle, and the lid with its built-in filter plunger.

There’s no need for electricity, even for the portable, modern variations. You can buy French presses in 1-cup or 10-cup models, depending on how you wish to use this type of coffee maker.

Unlike drip-type coffee makers, a French press requires coarsely ground coffee. To begin brewing, ground coffee is placed in the empty beaker. Water is boiled up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit separately under a stovetop. About 28 grams of coffee grounds (for every 450ml of water) are added into the French press, then boiling water is transferred. The French press is then covered and allowed to brew from 2 to 4 minutes (depending on the size of the press). The user presses the plunger to separate the grounds, which will get stuck at the screen located bottom of the beaker. Coffee is then ready for drinking.

For those who love cold coffee, a French press could also brew the same way, but without the need for boiling water. Cleaning the French press, particularly the carafe and plunger, is a daily routine.

Modern French presses are made of stainless steel, instead of glass beakers. Some are made to be portable, equipped with insulation to keep the coffee hot. Both the traditional and modern French presses can serve as tea infusers, wherein coffee grounds are replaced with loose tea leaves, but brewed by the same manner.


Who is it for?

The French press is for coffee lovers who need their fix with the perfect temperature and coffee strength that they can manually brew. It is for those who are always outdoors, but want to bring their homemade coffee anywhere they go. It is more ideal for users who have patience with coffee-making, since brewing is quite hands-on and require effort just to make a cup of coffee.

Pros:

  • Users have control over water temperature
  • Manual brewing means control over each step
  • No need to use filter, but retains coffee bean oil effectively
  • Very inexpensive (compared to other types of coffee makers)

Cons:

  • Requires mastering of steps for a consistent brew
  • Each serving should be consumed right after brewing
  • Users need to have an electric kettle and grinder (if using coffee beans)
  • Daily cleaning required

Popular Brands & Model (based on Amazon coffee machine reviews):

  • IKEA UPPHETTA Coffee/tea maker
  • Bodum Travel Press Set Coffee Maker
  • Espro Press Medium French Press Coffee Maker

Vacuum or Siphon Coffee Makers

vacuum coffee makers

Vacuum coffee makers, also known as siphon brewers or vacpots, looks more like a test tube from a lab than a coffee maker. But it’s one of the many reasons why coffee lovers are attracted to this type of coffee maker. This type of coffee maker is a little bit more scientific than the rest on this list, since it works on the principle of contraction and expansion of gases.

A vacuum coffee maker is made up of two glass chambers, where vacuum and vapor pressure produce coffee. Invented by Loeff of Berlin in the 1830s, a vacuum coffee maker can be made using metal, plastic, or borosilicate glass for the chambers.

Although there are different sizes and shapes of vacuum coffee makers, they all have four important parts: the bottom chamber (where water begins and brewed coffee will go by the end of the process), the top chamber (where brewing occurs), a rubber gasket or other type of material that creates a vacuum in the lower chamber, and the filter, which can be either made with a glass rod, or a screen-like nylon, paper, metal or cloth.

Vacpots has a heating source, depending on the design. It could use a butane burner, stovetop, or alcohol burner with a cloth wick. Some expensive variations of the vacpot have a halogen burner system as heating source.

Siphon brewers use a suction to brew coffee. Water from the lower chamber is heated, causing water vapor to be produced. With the pressure in the lower chamber increasing gradually, water is then forced upward. After removing heat, gases from the lower chamber begin to cool and draw brewed coffee downward thanks to a partial vacuum and the suction.


Who is it for?

Brewing from a vacpot may be time-consuming compared to instant coffee machines, but this type of coffee makers is ideal for anyone who appreciates the science of brewing. It is perfect for those who want to be hands-on with their coffee-making. The brewing process is definitely a conversation starter, so those who entertain guests over coffee would definitely enjoy making cups of coffee from a vacuum coffee maker.

Pros

  • Entertaining to watch its theatrical brewing process
  • Aesthetically beautiful
  • Provides users with better control of water temperature and steeping time
  • Seeps less coffee grounds (compared to French press)
  • No burnt-taste because it doesn’t boil coffee

Cons

  • Requires plenty of practice to master brewing technique
  • Need a heating source (burner, stovetop, etc.) to heat the chambers
  • Require freshly-ground beans, which means you need a grinder
  • Most vacpots are not safe for dish-washing
  • Fragile and hard to store
  • Messy clean-up

Popular Brands & Model (based on Amazon coffee maker reviews):

  • Bodum Pebo 1.0 Litre 8-cup Vacuum Coffee Maker
  • KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer
  • Coffee Master 5-Cup Syphon/Vacuum Glass Coffee Maker

Aeropress

automatic espresso coffee makers

Unlike other types of coffee makers on this list, Aeropress is a brand. It is closest to a French press or a vacuum coffee maker, but it can’t be considered any of the two since the process of coffee extraction is completely different.

Aeropress is the first foray of Stanford professor/Aerobie disc inventor/long-time coffee enthusiast Alan Adler into the world of coffee-making, and it blew many people away. The idea of this “tool” is to create a “one-cup” coffee every time.

Each Aeropress brewing kit has two plastic cylinders. The larger cylinder (where brewing occurs) has an opening on both sides. One side has a filter cap (where filters are placed inside) that is screwed on to the chamber. To brew, you place freshly ground coffee into the large chamber, fitted into a cup or travel jug, and hot water is poured onto the coffee. The second and smaller cylinder (the plunger) will then be inserted into the larger chamber and pressed down, pushing water and adding pressure inside to extract coffee beans at a faster rate, more efficiently.

Many people claim that the Aeropress produces only the highest quality of espresso extracts. It isn’t as simple as drip-type coffee makers, but a few tries can let you master the brewing process.


Who is it for?

It’s for anyone who wants freshly-brewed cups of coffee every time and don’t mind getting their hands dirty for a good cup. While each serving only creates a single cup, the Aeropress can be used by groups as well. It is ideal for anyone who cannot live without their coffee fix, and always wished they could bring their coffee maker with them anywhere. With Aeropress, this is a possibility.

Pros:

  • Extremely portable
  • Quick cleaning
  • Creates consistently-good shots of espresso
  • Users control coffee strength
  • Brew time is less than two minutes

Cons:

  • Aeropress has its own filters, so you can’t just buy them on any grocery store

Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machines

Bean-to-cup coffee machines are a sub-category of coffee makers characterized by a built-in coffee grinder. Some drip-type machines and one-cup coffee makers can be considered bean-to-cup machines because they can grind, brew, and mix coffee with just a push of a button

When it comes to espresso machines, the manual and semi-automatic espresso machine cannot be categorized into bean-to-cups since you have to transfer ground beans into a group-head, before it could create a shot of espresso. The automatic and fully automatic models, however, are great examples of a bean-to-cup machine.

Bean-to-cup machines require less hands-on control, since these units could grind, tamp, and brew with just a single press of a button. Some specialty machines even froth milk automatically.

Drip Coffee Machines

drip-type coffee makers

Drip-type coffee machines replaced then-popular percolators in 1972 when engineers Edmund Abel and Edwin Schulze invented “Mr. Coffee,” the first electric drip coffee for a company founded by Vincent Marotta and Samuel Glazer. When the duo brought in professional baseball player Joe DiMaggio as the coffee maker’s spokesperson, the company sold 1 million units in a span of a year.

Traditional drip coffee makers work with coffee filters. The amount of coffee brewed depends largely with the volume of water you put into the reservoir. To brew, hot water drips through ground coffee, pushes through the filter, and fills up the coffee carafe of the machine with freshly brewed coffee. This carafe, made of either glass or thermal, is placed on top of a hot plate that keeps your coffee pot warm.

Modern drip-type machines are equipped with a timer, which lets you pre-set brewing time hours earlier, so you could wake up to the smell of coffee in the morning. Some also have auto shutoff function that turns the hot plate off when it gets idle for a while. Other drip coffee machines use portable travel mugs as carafe, allowing you to bring the coffee along when you leave the house.

You can use any ground coffee you prefer, but modern drip machines also accommodate coffee pods. The most common coffee makers have 10 or 12-cup capacities, but smaller 4-cup capacity and larger 20-cup variations also exist. Some machines need paper coffee filters, while others have a reusable plastic or stainless steel filter included in the coffee maker.

As with any coffee maker, drip coffee machines require trial and error to get the perfect taste. You have to figure out the perfect balance of coffee grounds, water, and brewing time. You also have to clean the carafe regularly to prevent mineral deposits from ruining the taste of a new batch.


Who is it for?

Those who love black coffee readily available anytime would love drip-type machines. While modern units are programmable, it doesn’t have complicated controls, so those who prefer to keep it simple, would definitely benefit from these coffee makers. It is ideal for families, offices, and groups.

Pros:

  • Extremely easy to make a cup or cups of coffee
  • Adjust the number of cups per brew
  • Modern drip machines have self-clean options, programmable timer, and other features
  • Smaller than espresso machines
  • Control coffee strength and water quantity
  • Hand-free brewing

Cons:

  • Filters also “filter out” coffee oils, which are responsible for richer taste
  • Not portable, but some have options for a travel mug in place of the carafe
  • Need trial and error to find the perfect blend

Pod, Capsule & One-Cup Coffee Makers

one-cup coffee makers

A one-cup coffee machine, also called a single-use coffee maker, is a type of coffee machine wherein a pre-measured amount of coffee in various flavours are inserted into the machine to create just a single cup of coffee. These single-serve coffee makers have been around for 40 years, after Eric Favre invented Nespresso for Nestlé in 1976. Favre founded capsule-based coffee Monodor in 1991.

While there are many variations of single-use coffee makers, the espresso pod and capsule are probably the most popular. They work similarly, in that the coffee pod or capsule are placed in the basket, where water from the reservoir would then drip through it and produce one cup of coffee. Some machines are equipped with a built-in milk frother, which automatically creates instant latte, macchiato, or cappuccino for you.

Most one-cup coffee machines only accept coffee pods or capsules from the same brand. For instance, Nespresso capsules are required for Nespresso Inissia Coffee Capsule Machine with Aeroccino3, and will not accommodate other brands. K-cups coffees, teas and hot chocolate are required on Keurig brewers. Some units do allow different brands of coffee, but you should have to confirm it before buying.

Although it does what it advertises perfectly, the single-serve coffee machines add up costs when you opt to go with brands that require exclusive pods. Pods and capsules have also been criticized for not being eco-friendly, since each cup of coffee results to a metal foil, plastic pod, or filter paper thrown out. A pod or capsule can brew anything from a small 3-ounce cup to large portable coffee mugs, depending on the brand and make you choose.

As a general rule, if you’re confused with what a specific machine could do, check out one cup coffee maker reviews on Amazon, Trustpilot, Reevoo, and other sites with customer reviews.


Who is it for?

Capsules, pods and other single-serve coffee makers are best for people who aren’t particular with freshly-ground coffee. They’re best for people on the go, and are happy with the quality of instant coffee as long as it is brewed quickly and consistently. They are also best for office settings, since both tea and coffee drinkers can be accommodated.

Pros:

  • One-push brewing
  • No need for grinder or kettle
  • Quick serve coffee
  • Different flavoured pods/capsules available
  • Some models allow you to use your own coffee grounds with reusable coffee filters
  • Chai tea latte K-Cups
  • Very easy to clean

Cons:

  • Requires new brewing for additional cups of coffee
  • Most machines are not eco-friendly
  • Limited choice of coffee
  • Comparable to the taste of instant powdered coffee
  • No control over coffee temperature

Popular Brands & Model (based on Amazon single cup coffee machine reviews):

  • NESCAFE Dolce Gusto Melody 3 Manual Coffee Machine
  • Bosch Tassimo TAS1252GB Vivy Hot Drinks & Coffee Machine
  • Krups XN100140 Nespresso Inissia Coffee Capsule Machine

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

manual espresso coffee makers

Manual espresso machines are those you see on Starbucks and other coffeehouses. It was first invented by Italy-based Angelo Moriondo, whose patented design was then improved upon by Milan-based mechanic Luigi Bezzera. However, it was only until Desiderio Pavoni bought Bezzera’s patent in 1905 when his “La Pavoni” company was able to produce one espresso machine a day and sold them commercially.

Since then, variations of espresso machines have been made available for both commercial and home use. While designs can vary, similarities of parts include a portafilter and grouphead. The drive mechanism (responsible for putting pressurized water onto the ground coffee) can be steam-driven, piston-driven, pump-driven or air-pump-driven. Some espresso machines are equipped with a steam wand, used in frothing liquids like milk and hot chocolate.

Manual espresso machines with a built-in grinder are categorized under bean-to-cup machines. With these kinds of coffee makers, the grinder is connected to the unit, but the user has to transfer grounds manually into the grouphead, tamp (compress) the grounds, and place it into the filter holder. From there, the user has to press a button – either single or double – to brew a shot of espresso. You can drink the shot as is, add hot water to create an Americano, or froth milk using the steam wand to create a latte or cappuccino.

Espresso machines work thanks to the drive mechanism that creates water pressure and forces water through the tightly-packed ground coffee in the grouphead. This pressure extracts more granules and oils for a stronger, fuller tasting coffee. Some models come with two groupheads with two espresso spouts each to create a pair of double shots. Other compact espresso machines only have one grouphead with either one or two spouts.

Other common elements of a manual espresso machine include a cup warmer (placed at the top), pressure gauge, and hot water spout. Those who wish to create milk-based drinks should check out the machine’s number of boilers. A single boiler espresso machine divides its temperature for the espresso shot and steamer, so it isn’t recommended to do both tasks simultaneously. Those with dual boilers make brewing a shot of espresso and frothing milk possible.


Who is it for?

Manual espresso machines provide plenty of flexibility to coffee lovers who wish to experiment with their drinks, barista-style. It is for people who enjoy the art of preparing their coffee from grinding beans to mixing milk.

Traditional espresso machines are perfect for offices, and homes with more than 1 coffee drinker. Bigger models with two groupheads are best for commercial use, since they take up plenty of space.

Pros:

  • Provides plenty of flexibility with temperature, type of drink, and more
  • Control over the espresso brewing and milk frothing
  • Great-tasting espresso, if you used freshly ground beans

Cons:

  • Cleaning portafilter after each brew
  • Requires mastering of basic barista skills

Popular Brands & Model (based on Amazon coffee machine reviews):

Cappuccinatore and Other Fully Automatic Coffee Machines

Fully automatic coffee machines are those that produce coffee with as little effort as possible, usually with just a push of a single button. Some have built-in grinders, while others come with a container where coffee pods or capsules are kept. These coffee makers take care of everything for you.

Other machines, called cappucinatore, are designed specifically to brew and froth milk automatically for a perfect cappuccino every time.

While various designs and brands exist, the common element of all fully automatic coffee machines is their easy-to-operate and programmable functions. These machines grind (if there’s a built-in grinder), tamp down grounds, brews, and froths milk without your help. You can control water volume, coffee temperature, quantity of coffee grounds, texture of milk, number of shots, and more.

For your part, users have to refill the water tank and bean container, clean portafilter and drip tray, and perform various maintenance tasks such as descaling.

Which Coffee Maker is the Best?

The best coffee makers should be able to meet all your needs. So it is best to answer these questions before buying one:

  • Will you be using it for yourself, or for family/groups?
  • Do you want a one-press operation or do you enjoy the art of coffee making?
  • Are you particular with coffee strength and quality?
  • Do you want coffee readily available all the time? Or do you want to brew every time?

These four questions can help you decide which coffee makers are best for your situation.


Who is it for?

Perfect for anyone who wants their coffee at a press of a button, fully-automatic coffee makers are best for office settings and coffee-drinking families.

Pros:

  • Anyone can operate these machines; No special training needed
  • Self-cleaning functions (on most machines)
  • Pre-programming and customization of drinks
  • Consistent shots of espresso
  • Produces coffee very quickly

Cons:

  • Most expensive type of coffee maker
  • Requires cleaning of drip tray regularly
  • Espresso not as rich compared to semi-automatic machines