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In France, in about 1710, the Infusion brewing process was introduced. This involved submersing the ground coffee, usually enclosed in a linen bag, in hot water and letting it steep or "infuse" until the desired strength brew was achieved. Nevertheless, throughout the 19th and even the early 20th centuries, it was considered adequate to add ground coffee to hot water in a pot or pan, boil it until it smelled right, and pour the brew into a cup.
The Bonavita is a simple, compact machine (about 12 inches x 12 inches) for only $190, and it makes coffee that ranked in the top three in our taste test. Its philosophy seems to be “everything you absolutely need, nothing you don’t.” That means it’s SCAA-certified for water temperature and brew times, boasts pre-infusion capabilities, and has a flat-bottom filter basket that extracts grounds evenly. That’s it.
If you push the 54mm stainless steel portafilter into the hands-free grinding cradle, the grounds will go right into the filter. The grinder shuts off when it's done, too, so you don't have to worry about figuring out if you've got the right amount. Finally, the included 54mm tamper ensures that your grounds are evenly pressed, so you get the most out of your beans.
This grinder produced the most even grounds out of all the machines I tested, and its range of output is all-encompassing. The coarsest setting produces large flakes, while the finest setting produces puffy grounds akin to powdered sugar—perfect for Turkish coffee. In between, I was quickly able to find the ideal settings for my Hario Woodneck, Aeropress, and even mason jar cold brew.
“This little coffee maker is PERFECT! So easy and reliable. It works great for a household with little kitchen space and light coffee drinkers. It has upped my coffee intake because it’s so easy to make coffee now! Plus, to be able to have it waiting in the morning and encourage me to actually get out of bed on time is well worth the price of this little machine.”
Just getting into this whole “home barista” thing? Start off with the Delonghi BC0330T Combination Drip Coffee and Espresso Machine for pro level features that won’t break the bank. This machine pulls espresso shots, though it isn’t pod compatible like its big brother, the Café Nero (see above), and the “Swivel Jet” frother makes rich, creamy lattes and cappuccinos. It will brew 10 cups of drip coffee, and you can choose the strength of your java with the Accuflavor selector dial. Whether you opt for espresso or coffee, the advanced water filtration system eliminates chlorine for a tasty sip. Other convenient features found on more advanced models include a 24-hour programmable digital timer, pause and serve functionality, as well as a removable water tank for easy fill ups.
Making espresso in my old, classic Italian-style Moka machine takes about 10 to 12 minutes — and a bunch of elbow grease. My drip-maker for a classic American cup of joe takes even longer. My brewing cone for pour-over coffee requires me to boil water — and it can't make espresso. And my French press needs about 20 minutes to steep. Plus, it makes too much coffee and I find it's best reserved for fancier brunches.
For many of us, the daily grind can't begin until we've had that first cup of piping hot coffee—so the right brewer is at the top of the list. The most basic coffee makers make at least a decent cup, but a little more money buys conveniences such as programmability, a thermal carafe to keep coffee hot longer, settings that let you adjust brew strength, and more.