French press, automatic drip, percolator - you have a lot of options when shopping for a coffee machine. You want the perfect cup of coffee, but don't necessarily want to spend an excessive amount of money on it. Before you head out to buy your new coffee maker, decide which features are the most important you. You may want a machine that automatically makes the coffee, one that is programmable or a manual machine.
The automatic drip coffee maker may be the one you are most familiar with. Most come with a pitcher that holds anywhere from 4 to 14 cups of water. You pour the water into the machine, measure out the coffee grinds into a filter-lined basket and turn the machine on. The machine heats the water, then pours it over the grinds and into the pitcher, as coffee.
Another type of coffee machine is the manual drip. A manual drip machine will take a bit more effort on your part, but may produce a better cup of coffee, than an automatic drip. When using a manual drip machine, you heat the water separately, so you have better control over the temperature. You also pour the water over the grinds, and can vary the rate at which you pour to get a stronger or weaker cup of coffee.
A coffee percolator is an older type of coffee machine. You can get a percolator that works on the stovetop or an electric one. The water in a percolator is brought to a boil, then works its way up a tube in the middle of the machine. Once at the top of the tube, the water pours over a basket full of coffee grinds and into the pitcher below.
The French press coffee maker may be the machine of preference for coffee connoisseurs, according to the editors of "Cook's Illustrated Magazine." When using a French press, you place the coffee grinds directly into the carafe, then pour just-boiling water over them. After stirring the grinds into the water to get them completely wet, let the grinds steep for up to five minutes. A French press has a lid with a plunger. To stop the brewing process, push the plunger down into the pitcher.
If you decide to purchase a drip coffee machine, either automatic or manual, you will most likely have the option of getting either a glass or a thermal carafe. A number of cooking experts, including Alton Brown and the staff at "Cook's Illustrated Magazine" strongly recommend using a thermal pitcher instead of a glass one. Thermal carafes keep the coffee hot for several hours. To keep coffee hot in a glass pitcher, you need to leave it on a burner or heating pad, which gives the coffee a burnt taste.
Not all thermal coffee pitchers are the same, though. Look for a pitcher that will keep your coffee hot for at least three hours. You may also want a carafe that is easy to pour from and that won't leak if gets knocked over.
For the best tasting coffee, it's important to keep the carafe clean. You should always rinse out the pitcher, whether thermal or glass, with hot water after using it. Wash the pitcher in hot, soapy water at least once a week. To ease clean up, look for a dishwasher safe carafe.
It's up to you to decide what is most important in a coffee machine. Consider your morning routine, or what you will be doing when you drink coffee. If getting up and boiling a pot of water, then carefully pouring it over several tablespoons of coffee grinds seems like it will be too much of challenge, you may want to sacrifice taste for convenience and choose an automatic machine.
Many automatic drip coffee makers allow you to pre-program when the coffee is made. This means you can measure out the coffee grinds and water the night before, punch in a time for the coffee maker to start, then wake-up to smell of fresh-brewed coffee the next day. If you want the taste of freshly ground coffee without the hassle of measuring and grinding the beans yourself each morning, some automatic coffee machines also have built-in grinders.
The size of the coffee machine matters as well. If you only plan on drinking a few cups of coffee a day, investing in a 14 cup machine doesn't make sense. You'll get a better taste and won't waste any coffee by purchasing a machine that fits your needs.