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.
Best affordable espresso machine: De’Longhi Stilosa ($99.99; target.com)
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.
Best compact automatic espresso machine: Breville Bambino Plus ($499.00; bedbathandbeyond.com)
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.
Best espresso machine for beginning coffee hobbyists: Gaggia Classic Pro ($445; amazon.com)
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.
Best automatic espresso machine with grinder: Breville Barista Pro ($799.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)
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.
Best high-end single-boiler espresso machine: ECM Casa V ($999; food52.com)
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.
Best dual-boiler espresso machine: Rancilio Silvia Pro ($1,690; wholelattelove.com)
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.
Best superautomatic espresso machine: Philips 3200 LatteGo ($799; seattlecoffeegear.com)
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.
Best coffee grinder overall: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249.95; amazon.com)
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.
Best budget coffee grinder: Bodum Bistro Electric Burr Coffee Grinder ($91.10; amazon.com)
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.
Cold brew makers
Best cold brew coffee maker overall: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffee Pot ($22.97, originally $24.50; amazon.com)
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.
Runner-up cold brew maker: Ovalware Airtight RJ3 Cold Brew Maker ($29.99; amazon.com)
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.
Drip coffee makers
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($75.96, originally $89.95; amazon.com)
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.
Runner-up best drip coffee maker: Cuisinart Touch-Screen 14-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker ($129.99; macys.com or amazon.com)
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.
Best luxury drip coffee maker: Technivorm Moccamaster 59636 KBG Coffee Brewer ($329, originally $359; williams-sonoma.com)
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.
Best affordable drip coffee maker: Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Coffee Maker ($29.99; target.com)
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.
Best pour-over coffee maker overall: Kalita Wave 185 Pour-Over Coffee Dripper ($23.13, originally $24.32; amazon.com)
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.
Best pour-over coffee maker for beginners: Oxo Brew Pour-Over Coffee Maker With Water Tank ($16.99; amazon.com, $16.99; bedbathandbeyond.com or $25; walmart.com)
The Oxo Brew Pour-Over Coffee Maker is perfect for beginners, as it takes the guesswork out of the pouring process by allowing you to simply fill the water tank to your desired amount and letting it control the flow rate. Just don’t expect the coffee to be as robust as with the Kalita.
Best pour-over coffee maker for a group: Chemex Pour-Over Glass Coffee Maker ($46.68; amazon.com and williams-sonoma.com)
For times when you need to make several cups at once, you can’t go wrong with the glass Chemex pour-over coffee maker. It delivers a light, flavorful, balanced brew every time. An all-in-one model, there’s no need for a separate carafe.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus (starting at $199.99; amazon.com)
If you’re in the market for a coffee machine that can brew a consistently great cup that’s piping hot, makes espresso, is extremely easy to use and looks great on your counter, then you need the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus. This single-cup coffee maker stood out from the pack in nearly every category. It produced the hottest coffee of the bunch, delivered the same great taste with every cup, allowed for a variety of brewing options and truly could not be easier to use.
Best budget single-serve coffee maker: Sboly Single Serve Coffee Maker Brewer ($49.99; walmart.com)
For best value, we found ourselves smitten with the Sboly Single-Serve Coffee Brewer. One of the lower priced machines we tested, it scored big points for its compact size and ease of use, but especially for its ability to brew four different sizes using either grounds or K-cups — an option we really appreciated.
Best coffee subscription box overall: 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. 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.
Best coffee subscription for those who crave variety: Trade (prices vary, starting at $14 per bag; drinktrade.com)
Trade has a helpful coffee quiz, plenty of customizable settings and more than 400 coffees to choose from. With a seemingly unlimited variety of coffee beans to choose from there will always be new and interesting coffees for you to try. Plus, Trade allows you to pick which coffees are sent to you, giving you more control than many other services.
Best coffee subscription for the budding connoisseur: The Black Box from Angel’s Cup (starting at $17.99; angelscup.com)
The Black Box subscription from Angel’s Cup will have you feeling like a coffee connoisseur in no time. This subscription sends you a box of four different roasts, with only the roast date and a five-digit number to differentiate them. The idea is that each shipment is a blind tasting, so once you brew and drink each coffee, you can go onto an app to rate it for yourself and record any notes.