The Hamilton Beach Ensemble starts at $38.
Single-cup pod brewers are seducing a growing number of coffee drinkers with their convenience: Simply choose a coffee pod, pop it in, and press a button. But these instructions conveniently omit the first step: reaching into your wallet to pay the $100 or more such machines typically cost. On top of that, The New York Times has calculated that buying coffee in pods equates to spending more than $50 per pound of ground coffee. Stick with good, old-fashioned automatic-drip to stay caffeinated on a budget.
Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable coffee makers.
- The Black & Decker Brew 'n Go DCM18S (starting at $19) is a highly rated, low-priced alternative to a pod brewer. It uses ground coffee but brews a single cup directly into an included 15-ounce travel mug. (Where to buy)
- The Hamilton Beach Ensemble 43254 (starting at $38) is a more typical programmable, 12-cup coffee maker with a glass carafe that reliably delivers piping-hot coffee, according to online reviews. Many consumers also like how it looks on their countertops. This model is black and stainless steel; a red version (43253) is also available. (Where to buy)
- The Mr. Coffee JWX27 (starting at $35) is another standard 12-cup machine that boasts a few extra features, such as a brew-strength selector, a cleaning cycle, and a water filter. Experts credit this coffee maker with heating water to the high temperature required for optimum brewing. (Where to buy)
- The Hamilton Beach BrewStation Summit 48464 (starting at $47) appeals to many consumers with its distinctive design. Instead of brewing coffee into a carafe, like many other 12-cup models, this machine stores the coffee in an internal thermal tank and dispenses it on demand. (Where to buy)
Carafe-less coffee makers like the Black & Decker Brew ‘n Go and Hamilton Beach BrewStation Summit promise certain advantages over conventional machines. Other low-cost coffee makers typically come with breakable glass carafes and employ a hotplate to keep coffee warm. A brew that sits too long is apt to acquire a bitter, burnt taste. Coffee makers with thermal carafes are another alternative, but those are uncommon in this price range. While we did manage to find one, the Mr. Coffee TFTX85, we also found numerous complaints that it fails to keep coffee hot.
With the exception of the Black & Decker Brew ‘n Go, these are programmable machines that can be set the night before and have coffee waiting when you wake up. They not only turn on but also shut off automatically, typically after two hours. The Hamilton Beach BrewStation Summit can be adjusted to keep coffee hot for up to four hours.
A couple of our picks -- the Mr. Coffee JWX27 and Hamilton Beach BrewStation Summit -- feature a specialized brewing mode for producing bolder flavor from the same amount of coffee. The BrewStation Summit also offers a setting for iced coffee and a small-batch option for brewing one to four cups instead of a full pot.