Best filter coffee machines 2021: The best automatic drip-brew, pour-over, and manual coffee makers
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It’s best to leave your filter coffee machine preconceptions at the door as modern makers have improved drastically since the relics of the 1970s. While the principle of adding hot water to ground coffee remains the same, the technology has moved on. For example, from 2015, filter coffee machines have been required to have an auto shut-off after five or 40 minutes (for insulated and non-insulated jugs respectively), so they won’t stew your brew for hours on a hot plate.
Long before we were all drinking espresso and Americanos, one type of coffee maker ruled the kitchen and that was the filter coffee machine. It’s easy to see why it’s endured to the present – while pod machines can churn out caffeine-packed shots, a filter coffee machine is a must for those long, milder brews you can drink all day. Equipped with ground coffee, filter papers and one of the latest makers, creating a classic cup of Joe is surprisingly easy and incredibly satisfying.
Here we’ve selected the best filter coffee machines you can buy – and provided some pointers to help you in your search for great filter coffee. Prices start at around £20 for a brilliant manual dripper and work their way up and over the £100 mark for the most luxurious automatic machines. Not sure which is for you? Then have a read of our guide below.
The best filter coffee machines: At a glance
What type of filter coffee maker is best for you?
These are the main types of filter coffee maker on the market. If you just want a classic automatic machine, then scroll down the page, but if you want the best filter coffee possible, you may want to consider something a little different.
1. Filter or drip-brew machines
This is the filter coffee machine you’re probably most familiar with. Fill the tank with water, pop a paper filter and ground coffee in and turn it on. More affordable machines use glass jugs and keep them warm with a hot plate underneath, while pricier models swap the glass pot and hotplate for an insulated jug. These tend to be the cheapest automatic machine, but the quality of coffee produced is variable.
2. Pour-over machines
While they look like drip-brew machines, these work by automating the more involved coffee-making process of the manual pour-over drippers. Rather than constantly dripping hot water over the coffee like cheaper machines, pour-over models dispense water more gradually over the coffee grounds. Some deliver water initially to allow the coffee to ‘bloom’ before dispensing the rest. The process takes longer but results in a more flavourful cup.
3. Grind and brew machine
For those who want the freshest cup of filter coffee with the least effort, a grind and brew machine may be the answer. These come equipped with an integrated bean hopper and grinder that’ll produce ground coffee on demand, depositing it directly into the filter basket. Most allow you to adjust the grind from fine to coarse so you can vary the strength and flavour, or you can still use pre-ground coffee. These machines tend to be a little pricier, though.
5. Manual drip coffee maker
Technically the simplest method of brewing filter coffee, a manual dripper sits on top of a cup or carafe while you slowly pour hot water over the filter paper and coffee grounds. The water then drains through, dripping coffee into the receptacle below – and the results can be as good as filter coffee gets. The downside is that it can be tricky to achieve consistent results as you need to carefully monitor the grind size, dosage, amount of water used and even the speed with which you pour.
6. Manual immersion brewer
This is a foolproof alternative to the manual dripper. Cafetieres and the like are technically immersion brewers, but if it’s top quality coffee you’re after then something like the Clever Dripper included in our line-up is a much better bet. This looks very similar to a manual dripper, but a valve underneath allows the coffee to steep thoroughly before you release it into the cup below. This makes it possible to consistently extract all the good flavours from the coffee, while leaving behind the bitter flavours which indicate the coffee has been immersed for too long.
What features do I need on a filter coffee machine?
For those who like to wake up to fresh coffee or have it ready for a mid-morning break, a programmable timer is essential. Some machines have variable strength settings too – great if you prefer stronger or milder drinks. You’ll also find machines with keep warm options. Removable water tanks and dishwasher-safe parts will help to reduce time spent cleaning while descaling programmes to keep them in tip-top condition.
The best filter coffee machines in 2021
1. Melitta Look V Timer: The best filter coffee machine
If you’re looking for the best of both worlds – convenience coupled with a good-quality cup of coffee, the Melitta Look V Timer should be at the top of your list. While no means perfect, it makes filter coffee brewing straightforward with a range of features, including a 24-hour clock/timer so you can set it the day before.
The removable 1.25-litre water tank is a nice addition, so you don’t have to fill the carafe from the tap then decant into the machine, and the descaling light reminds you to banish limescale buildup on a regular basis. There’s also a strength adjuster, AromaSelector, on the top of the machine but we found it to be more effective when brewing smaller amounts of coffee – at its full capacity of 10 large cups (125ml) or 15 small cups (85ml) it made little difference to the flavour.
A final reason to buy is that it’s easy to keep clean – its filter holder and jug can be rinsed under the tap and are dishwasher safe, plus a drip-stop feature means no splashes on the hotplate.
Key specs – Size: 24 x 21 x 33.5cm (WDH); Type: standard filter; Features: 15-minute auto-off, 20, 40 and 60-minute keep warm programmes
2. Clever Dripper: The best manual filter coffee maker
Mention pour-over coffee and it’s likely that Hario’s V60 will be mentioned as the plastic gadget go-to for single cup and jug brewing. However, the Clever Dripper may come up too, which combines the refreshing simplicity of the V60 with an ingenious design twist: it has a lid on the top and a valve at the bottom.
Using it couldn’t be easier. Simply pop a paper filter inside, add some coffee grounds, then pour in the hot water and wait. After a couple of minutes you can release the valve and allow the coffee to pour into your cup below. As the coffee grounds are immersed in water for a period of time, the Clever Dripper is nowhere near as finicky about grind size and dosage as pour-over filters such as the Hario V60 – and you can maximise flavour by changing the brewing time.
The downside is that while it’s made from durable BPA plastic, you’ll have to clean it by hand and not in the dishwasher. However, as a portable and uncomplicated route to great filter coffee it definitely deserves its name.
Key specs – Size: 12.7 x 15.2 x 15.2cm (WDH); Type: manual dripper; Features: None
3. Melitta AromaElegance Deluxe Filter Coffee Machine: The best luxury filter coffee machine
The AromaElegance Deluxe has been in Melitta’s range for years (it’s also available with an insulated jug as the AromaElegance Therm Deluxe) and it’s easy to see why – the simple stylish design and refined function appeals to the filter devotee.
It’s larger than most machines but doesn’t feel bulky. Instead its design allows the water tank to be easily removed for filling, and the filter holder to swing out from the main unit so adding grounds and discarding them afterwards is straightforward. It also has a larger capacity than most – up to 15 cups – and the ability to set the water hardness. The parts are dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning.
However, it’s the technology that goes into making coffee that really sets it apart, including extra power for better extraction of flavours, and its Aroma Control feature that, when activated, ensures a consistent taste for less than six cups without bitterness. If you have space for it on your worktop and are an all-day coffee drinker, this is a fine choice.
Key specs – Size: 29.6 x 27.7 x 33.4cm (WDH); Type: standard filter; Features: Anti-drip, descale alert, LED display, 20, 40 and 60-minute keep warm programmes
4. Russell Hobbs Chester Grind & Brew Filter Coffee Machine: The best grind and brew filter coffee machine
Considering that you can pay upwards of £100 for a grind and brew filter coffee machine, the Chester is an appealingly affordable upgrade from a standard drip-brew coffee maker.
It’s purportedly 60% quieter than one of Russell Hobbs’s previous grind and brew machines – although it still makes a whiny sound as it works. This means that you can set it for the morning using the timer and be roused by the smell of fresh coffee rather than the racket of grinding beans. Another handy feature is its ‘pause and pour’ – if you’re brewing a large batch of coffee for the day ahead but want a single cup before it’s finished decanting the lot. And if you’re thrifty, there’s no need to use disposable papers with this one as it has a permanent removable filter.
Where you might come a little unstuck is getting the strength of your coffee right with this one. It’s prone to grinding too quickly and too coarsely – a workaround is to set it for the maximum amount of cups, which is 12, so that it grinds more coffee for every brew. The estimated cup size is also quite small so if you’re a mug drinker, double up on the settings for water and coffee. After a few attempts, though, you should be able to discover black coffee that’s just right for you.
Key specs – Size: 31.6 x 22 x 36.6cm (WDH); Type: grind and brew; Features: Programmable 24-hour timer, 40-minute keep warm
5. DeLonghi Clessidra filter coffee machine: The best pour-over filter coffee machine
The Clessidra doesn’t just look a little different to most other filter coffee machines – an hourglass design coupled with the filter coffee cone within the carafe makes it instantly eye-catching – it works differently too.
That’s because it uses the pour-over method of brewing, heating water to 92-96C in its tank at the top – which takes about a minute – before cascading it over ground coffee and leaving it to saturate for 4-6 minutes. There are actually two settings for the brewing process, a high-quality one and a pour-over, which produce different results. The high quality one produced a more complex flavour in our testing but you may find that the pour-over works better with different grinds and varieties.
Either way, it scores highly for convenience – it’ll make up to 10 cups of coffee, let you know when it needs descaling, has a separate holder for the filter section when it’s not required in the carafe and all the parts need is a quick rinse under the tap after each brew.
Key specs – Size: 18.8 x 28 x 33cm (WDH); Type: pour-over; Features: Anti-drip, 40-minute keep warm
6. Breville Mostra Easy Measure Filter Coffee Machine: The best value filter coffee machine
While it’s by no means the cheapest filter coffee machine, the Mostra is a bit of a hidden gem. This is because it borrows from the pour-over school of coffee making, showering water over the coffee grounds and allowing them to ‘bloom’ for 30 seconds before continuing with the brew.
There are some other clever features that have been incorporated too, such as colour-coding on the carafe, scoop and water tank for different cup amounts (up to 12), a washable filter so you don’t have to use paper filters, a freshness reminder along the bottom that shows how long since the last jug brewed, and a 12-hour programmable timer. There’s also a ‘pause and serve’ so you can grab a cup while it’s still dispensing.
For those who live in an area with heavily chlorinated water or who don’t have access to filtered water, there’s also an integral filter system. However, the price of replacement filters is comparable with most standalone water filter cartridges. Over time the cost of water filters will mount up, so you may be better off relying on a filter jug or filter tap.
Key specs – Size: 20.3 x 26.5 x 32.7cm (WDH); Type: standard filter; Features: Anti-drip, 30-minute keep warm, LED display