CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or office chairs — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
This year, we tested dozens of coffee-related products — from single-serve coffee makers to grinders — to find the best products you need to whip up any coffee with ease.
If you want to make real espresso drinks at home but you’re on a budget, then the De’Longhi Stilosa is the machine you should consider if you need to spend as little as possible. It’s a capable machine, though it takes a little technique and practice to get the best results — you’ll need to grind the coffee to powder level (all espresso machines need to be paired with a good grinder) and make sure you tamp properly.
The Breville Bambino Plus takes the guesswork out of great espresso, with automatic features to help you through every step of the process of making café-quality drinks.
The latest update to a 30-year-old design, the Gaggia Classic Pro doesn’t have as many automatic features as some more modern machines, but there’s no better machine for learning barista skills. And it makes great espresso and milk drinks.
If you don’t have a grinder or prefer an all-in-one-machine, the Breville Barista Pro has the same great automatic features as the Bambino Plus, plus a quality grinder and a little more programmability.
Beautifully designed, built like a tank and well suited to the serious hobbyist looking for a luxury machine, the ECM Casa V is a traditional single-boiler machine that should last many years and give you café-quality espresso and steamed milk along the way.
If you’re making a lot of milk drinks, the Rancilio Silvia Pro — an updated, well-engineered version of the classic design — has two boilers for always-on convenience, whether you want an espresso or a latte.
If you want espresso drinks at the touch of a button, the Philips 3200 does everything for you, from grinding to milk steaming, without any additional effort. It’s always ready to serve up a quality espresso, latte or cappuccino.
• Read more from our testing of espresso machines here.
The Baratza Virtuoso+ has a sleek, intuitive design. It also has 40 settings from which to choose. Having more options lets you micro customize the grind size to your liking, so you get the exact taste you want from the beans. It was easy to quickly customize our grinds, from espresso and Turkish coffee to French press or cold brew.
The Bodum Bistro burr grinder is packaged in a contemporary look (we especially liked it in poppy red) and includes a dozen adjustable settings, a static cling-free glass bean catcher and just enough special features to make it an ideal starter machine.
Best manual coffee grinder and best hand grinder: Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder ($66.50; amazon.com) At just 8 ounces, the tiny Porlex Mini handheld offers precision grinding, with 18 settings, in a travel-friendly size. At your desk or when you’re in the outdoors or traveling, it’s hard to beat.
• Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.
The Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew coffee pot is a sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe that produces 1 liter (about 4.25 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.
Also pleasingly easy to use and a handsome visual addition to a breakfast table, the Ovalware Airtight RJ3 Cold Brew Maker narrowly lost to the Mizudashi only because its glass handle feels a bit more fragile and thus slightly less user-friendly. As straightforward as any of the brewers, this was one of the most upscale design-wise without feeling fussy.
Best tumble and travel cold brew maker: Takeya Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker ($24.99; amazon.com) The all-plastic Takeya Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker turns out 1.8 liters of fantastic cold brew — a greater volume than some of its simple-carafe brethren — and is the lightest, easiest model to throw in a weekend bag without fear of breakage for on-the-go brewing for a group or larger family.
• Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.
We brewed countless pots of coffee with the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense drip coffee maker, ranging from light to dark roast, and each one yielded a strong, delicious cup with no sediment, thanks to the gold tone filter, designed to remove the bitterness from coffee as well as reduce single-use paper-filter waste. The machine we tested was white, but it also comes in black, and it’s compact enough to fit under the cabinets in a smaller space compared to some of the more cumbersome machines we tested.
This was, to our eye, the most handsome and minimally designed of the straightforward auto-brewers, delivering a clean, tasty cup. It lost first place only because the touch screen may not be for every consumer, and brew time is significantly longer than the other machines we tried out.
In just near five minutes, the Technivorm Moccamaster 59636 KBG Coffee Brewer turns out a whole pot of pretty, perfectly brewed coffee, and the process is as entrancing as a targeted Netflix trailer.
One of the cheapest options we tested, the Mr. Coffee 12-cup brewer is compact, is simple to operate and yields a very competitive cup.
• Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.
The Kalita Wave 185 Pour-Over Coffee Dripper features a flat bottom with three drip holes, which enables more easily and evenly saturated coffee grounds. The flat-bottom shape and its larger surface resulted in a rich and robust single cup of coffee, and it was also the most user-friendly of the drippers that required a swirled pour, producing between 16 and 26 ounces at a time.
The Oxo Bre
The 25 best coffee products we tested in 2021
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