For the Love of Coffee

I used to get so much mail, it would arrive in long plastic trays. Some days I’d get more than 10 trays, each one holding hundreds of individual pieces of mail.

U.S. Postal Service Proposes Cutting 120,000 Jobs

Twenty years later, that kind of mail has dwindled to only a few pieces each day, but don’t assume that means my mail has slowed. It has changed from physical letters to email. You should see my inbox!

I can’t say that I miss all the trays, the trips back and forth to the post office and all of that paper. I still get just enough of your lovely handwritten letters each week, which I enjoy so much—letters like this one that just showed up on my desk:

Dear Mary: My homemade vanilla gifts for Christmas 2015 are all ready to go—they just need precious time to steep and age. Thank you for the recipe, instructions and links to the bottles and beans. Feels so good to be done this far in advance. Now I have another situation. Today our coffee maker went to the land of dead coffee makers, which means we’re in the market for a new one. What do you recommend? Carolyn

photo credit: lotzman

photo credit: lotzman

Dear Carolyn: When I saw your message I grabbed it and put it right at the top of the of the pile because I am nothing if not an evangelist for the joys of coffee. Some might call me a coffee snob—that’s how opinionated I am on the matter. And I love it when someone asks me for a recommendation having anything to do with coffee.

A good cup of coffee is dependent on a lot of things, not the least of which is proper brewing. For example, the water needs to be just the right temperature when it hits those coffee grinds. You can do this manually—but it’s tricky. However, most coffee lovers prefer to make a whole pot at a time (that would be me), which means you really do need a good coffee maker.

That being said, I have three recommendations for you.

The best way to make a cup of coffee manually is with the Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker. Working on the “French press” method of coffee making (but with a paper filter) the Aeropress can make up to 4 cups at a time. While you have to do all the work with the  Aeropress, you can’t beat the result: smooth, rich coffee that has no bitterness. It takes about 5 minutes start to finish. About $25.

My recommendation for the best inexpensive coffee maker is none other than this Mr. Coffee 4-Cup machine. For $20, you really can’t go wrong. It makes a decent cup of coffee. You won’t get a clock or timer or any other bells and whistles but you will get a gold-tone reusable filter, which means you will save money by not having to buy paper filters. About $20.

If you are looking for the best value in a high quality, well-made coffee maker, look no further than the Bonavita 8-Cup Coffee Maker. This is an amazing machine that heats the water quickly and to the  precise temperature needed to make the best quality coffee—205 F. Made of stainless steel, it looks nice on the counter, too. Comes with 2-year manufacturer’s warranty and excellent reviews.  About $115. 

There you go. My best advice for your immediate need. Hope that helps!


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  • annmarie

    My favorite is the Kitchenaid 4 cup, which has unfortunately been discontinued. It makes just enough for the two of us, and the coffee comes out nice and hot but quickly. It has a pause feature so you can pour a cup before the brewing finishes and the heat plate keeps the coffee in the pot hot for a long time. It fits well under my cabinetry and is easy to fill. It is a basic model without a timer or automatic shutoff. I am so disappointed that Kitchenaid has discontinued it.

  • cindyg

    After years of using (and loving) my Bunn coffeemakers (I went through 3 of them over many years), when the pot had to be replaced, I discovered that Bunn had made some changes to the design, and I hated it. At first I though I had a lemon, so I returned it, then discovered that the next one had the same problems. (Maybe it was a case of “they fixed what wasn’t broken!”) The main problem is that they now have the hot water spraying in so hard that it shoots coffee grounds everywhere and tends to overflow the filter basket. That is a mess I cannot deal with. (When I complained, they sent me a different sprayhead, but it did not help enough.) So I returned it, too, and set out looking for something new. After lots of research, I decided to try the Hamilton Beach 2-Way Brewer. I have had it for almost a year. It’s great. Makes a delicious cup of coffee, either by the single cup (no need for a Keurig) or by the pot. The water reservoirs are easy to get to and the reservoir is see-through so you can easily see how much water you put in. The filter basket is super easy to lift out and change. This is the best design in a coffeemaker that I have found. All in all it is well worth the $79 pricetag.

    • disqus_ZSmoKhip0R

      I have had this coffeemaker (Hamilton Beach) for a few years now, and I love it! I especially love the flexibility of 1 cup or by the pot. I am not a huge coffee drinder (1 cup a day) but my daughter, when home, drinks a lot more…
      We bought ours from Bed, Bath and Beyond… love those 20% off coupons (which never expire!)…

  • jtd

    Anyone have INSTANT coffee recommendations??
    Starbucks is good but too pricey.

    • Vicki B.

      The single serve Folgers is really good. And if you like Starbucks get their Via packets. Those are cheap and good.

  • Deanna Sharbono

    If you drink a lot of coffee, like my husband an I do, the Mr. Coffee JWX23 is the 12 cup programmable pot to get. It’s available on Amazon for $24, coffee is ready every morning when I get up and has a cleaning cycle that tells you when it’s time to clean it. If you make sure that your never fill the reservoir from the used pot, but only from a clean source, this pot will last for years and if it doesn’t, it not expensive to replace.

    • DianaB

      This one makes the most sense to me. I will have to check that out. As an aside, I seriously cannot believe that anyone would actually ask Mary what kind of coffee pot to buy.

  • fullcircle

    The Bonavita Mary recommends is a dream. My certified coffee connoisseur son selected it for me for Christmas after much research. He makes his coffee with the true pour over method in a Chemex and this automatic emulates that process. It is by far the best coffee I have ever made with an automatic coffee maker. It has no bells and whistles, but that is fine with me. I am completely sold on this coffeemaker.

  • Linnea Priest

    I just make a big cup of dripped coffee every morning. I heat water on the stove or in an electric kettle, and pour it through a brown paper filter in a holder that sits on my cup. Low investment, never breaks, good coffee every time.

  • Cindi

    Nope. WE are truely the coffee snobs. We use a cuisinart grind and brew. We go thru a lot of coffee and we are on our 3rd one of this same maker. We can prepare it the night before but first thing in the morning it grinds it fresh. And they have a 3 year warranty. I just got a brand new one from them because my last one died at 2 years (not unusual for this family) We had to pay for shipping both ways which at about $25 total….was awesome. Since that particular coffee maker retails at over $150 (no, I never pay that much, but it is what it costs not on sale and without coupons).