Whether you’re a connoisseur who fawns over specific bean varietals or the type of person who just needs a caffeine jolt before facing the day, one thing is clear: The right tools make that cup of coffee oh-so-better.
The java junkies here at CNN Underscored know this to be true too. That’s why, throughout 2020, we’ve been testing all sorts of coffee products, from makers to grinders to subscription boxes.
And 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.
Based on that testing, here are the best coffee essentials that had us buzzing through 2020.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($89.95; amazon.com)
We brewed countless pots of coffee with the BrewSense, ranging from light to dark roasts, 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. It’s straightforward to operate, designed like a traditional automatic drip machine with manual operating buttons but with a sleek, modern upgrade. At less than $90, this machine delivers the best bang for your buck of anything on the market.
Read our entire review of the best drip coffee makers of 2020.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($136.99, originally $149.95; amazon.com)
The Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.
Read our entire review of the best single-serve coffee makers of 2020.
Best cold brew coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($22.58, originally $25; amazon.com)
The Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot scored highest of all cold brew makers we tested. This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 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.
Read our entire review of the best cold brew coffee makers of 2020.
Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder ($249; amazon.com and walmart.com)
While $249 isn’t exactly a steal, in the world of quality coffee grinders, the price tag is considered midrange. But the performance? Top-notch. Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+. The consistent results, precision grind settings, sleek design, timer function and other special touches — such as the powerful yet quiet motor and LED-lit bin — make it worth the price tag.
Read our entire review of the best coffee grinders of 2020.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.
Read our entire review of the best coffee subscriptions of 2020.