The coffee maker is the sun around which your kitchen orbits: The day waxes as the first cups brew in the morning, and wanes as the last pot of decaf is prepared.
That's why buying a new machine can be a really big decision and feel like the whole house's happiness rests in the balance. Here are some things to know before you do it.
1. Think about the long-term cost.
Buying a coffee maker is not a one-time expense. If you opt for a single-serving machine, like a Nespresso or a Keurig, you'll consistently be putting money into buying the necessary pods and capsules, which can run anywhere from $5 to $7 a package. If you buy a drip machine, you'll be buying new filters and grounds or beans (plus maybe a bean grinder). Weigh the options and really think about what will be better for you — and your budget.
2. Check the brewing temperature.
The ideal brewing temperature for a pot of coffee is 196°F to 205°F, so if you're really into (good-tasting) coffee, you'll want to make sure that you buy a machine that can brew at high heat. Hint: Most top-of-the-line machines will list their brewing temps on the box or online. If the info is missing, that might be a sign to steer clear.
3. Take stock of how much you drink.
If you barely go through a cup a day, a single-serving machine could be perfect for you. If you'd prefer an IV of java to keep you moving all day long, then you might want the biggest pot available. Look for machines that can hold up to 12 cups.
4. Consider the special features.
Can you barely get your feet on the ground without a cup of coffee? You'll want an automatic-start machine that you can set the night before. Completely frazzled as you rush out the door? Pick a version that automatically shuts off, so you won't need to worry about one more thing as you rush to work.
5. Think about how easy it is to access and clean.
If you have to flip open a lid in order to add the coffee, and that lid hits the bottom of your upper cabinets before it can open all the way, that might not be ideal. Make sure the pieces fit in your kitchen — and your lifestyle. Meaning, if you're looking at a machine with a carafe that has to be hand-washed and you're just not sure you have that time kind of time every day, perhaps move on to something that can go in the dishwasher.
6. Decide what kind of carafe you want.
There's more than just a visual difference in a glass versus stainless steel, thermal carafe. Glass pots obviously let you see the coffee as it's brewed and also tend to be open-air, allowing the fresh aroma of coffee to infiltrate your kitchen. If the ritual of coffee-making is part of what you love, that smell might be non-negotiable. A glass pot keeps warm for about 20 minutes; a thermal, stainless pot, on the other hand, will keep warm for up to an hour. When you're finished with it, it has to be cleaned by hand, while a glass pot can be put into the dishwasher (see above!).
7. Compare your shopping options.
You don't want to make do with a coffee pot you hate, so it's smart to buy it from a store that might let you change your mind if you absolutely hate the model you chose. Macy's is known for its excellent return policy — you can return any item in good condition within 365 days — so hang on to your box if you're not sure you love your coffee maker. Costco also allows refunds on all merchandise, and Kohl's and Target promise to take back merchandise that you're not satisfied with for a full refund.
When was the last time you bought a coffee maker? What else did you do before you made the plunge?