There are basically four types of COFFEEMAKERS:
AUTOMATIC DRIP: This type works by heating the water you put in the water reserve, and forcing the water through a filter filled with ground coffee. The coffee is dispensed into the carafe resting on the heating plate. Automatic coffee drips brew quickly and can yield multiple cups of coffee at one time. These coffeemakers are perfect for families, entertaining, and for those of us who drink lots of coffee.
SINGLE SERVE: Single serve coffeemakers brew one cup at a time. Individually pre-measured, containers or pods can be purchased in many flavors. Each container makes one cup of coffee. Simply pop the container/pod into its slot, add water, and hit the brew button. This type is perfect for people who want a fresh brewed cup of coffee in seconds. Also you don't have to deal with measuring, scooping, or cleaning up the coffee grounds.
PERCOLATOR: Ground coffee is placed in a metal basket with a perforated bottom that serves as the filter. The basket is place in the percolator above the water line. As the water is heated in the percolator, it is forced up a tube, over the grinds and brewed coffee is returned to the bottom of the pot. Percolators are available in both stovetop and electric models. They come in a wide range of sizes. Larger models are great for those who entertain a lot.
FRENCH PRESS: With a French press, hot water is poured directly into a carafe containing fresh coarsely ground coffee. Once the water is poured, you simply push down a plunger within the carafe. The plunger filters and forces the coffee grounds down to the bottom of the carafe and holds them there, allowing the fresh brewed coffee to rise up and separate from the grinds. For coffee aficionados, French presses produce the most full-bodied coffee because of the direct contact between the coffee and water.
Beyond the brewing process, there are many other machine features to consider:
PROGRAMMABLE: This allows coffee to be brewed at a pre-programmed time - great for waking up to the smell of coffee in the morning.
AUTO DRIP STOP: If you can't wait for the entire pot to fill, this feature allows you to temporarily pause the brew cycle and pour yourself some coffee with out having any coffee spill. The pot continues to fill once you replace it on the heating plate.
AUTO SHUT-OFF: Found on many automatic drip coffeemakers, auto shut-off will simply shut off the coffeemaker after a specified time, should you forget to turn it off.
DRIP TRAY: Found on many single serve coffeemakers, this captures spills that may occur if you didn't place the cup underneath in time, or used too small a cup. If you are prone to doing this, look for a model with a large capacity drip tray.
1-3 CUP SELECTOR: This feature slows down the water flow so the flavor is richer when brewing smaller quantities. This will allow you to make the same great cup of coffee, whether it's one cup or an entire pot.
TEMPERATURE ADJUSTMENT: The heat plate maintains the temperature of the brewed coffee, and this feature will allow you to adjust the temperature of the heat plate. Some models even begin heating the carafe before the brew process begins, so the coffee brews into a warm pot. It's great if you like your coffee piping hot (which most of us do).
BREW VOLUME SETTINGS: This feature is found on many single serve coffeemakers. It enables the user to adjust the amount of beverage being brewed. Some models let the user adjust the strength of the brew as well, from regular to robust.
GRIND & BREW: A special feature found on select automatic drip coffeemakers, it lets the user grind fresh coffee beans and brew fresh coffee all in one machine. The best way to produce a great cup of coffee is to freshly grind your coffee beans, so consider a coffee grinder with any machine you choose, or an all in one grind & brew machine.
Once you determine your needs, you can then choose single serve, four, ten or twelve cup sized machines. The larger the machine, the better for entertaining.
Here are some other commonly found features that you should look for.
FILTER (PAPER OR PERMANENT): Paper filters are disposable and produce a sediment-free coffee. They don't let through some of the coffee oils so the coffee flavor may be mild. Permanent filters are typically made of nylon, stainless steel or gold-plated stainless and are reusable. They are durable, easy to clean, and most are top-rack dishwasher safe.
SINGLE SERVE CONTAINERS: There are several different types of single serve containers or pods that are generally exclusive to a particular manufacturer. These containers are air tight and vacuum sealed.
WATER FILTER: This built in filter removes impurities from the water before brewing, producing a better tasting cup of coffee. Filters do need to be replaced periodically. Note these are not found on all machines.
THERMAL CARAFE: Found on some automatic drip coffeemakers, thermal carafes typically have a stainless steel exterior and a thermal interior to keep your coffee warm on or off the heating plate. A feature you might want to have if you do a lot of entertaining.