Filter coffee is in our opinion an underrated method to make a good cup of coffee.
There has been an explosion in coffee consumption over the last 20 years and it’s easy to think that the only way to create a great cup of coffee is by emulating what you see in the high street coffee chains with their huge professional espresso machines and coffee bean grinders and it is simply not true.
The five most popular ways to brew a cup of coffee ( in no particular order) in the UK are POD or capsule machines , traditional pump espresso machines, bean to cup coffee machines and filter coffee machines
There are a whole bunch of reasons why you may choose one type of coffee machine over another but the one thing that everyone has at the outset is a budget.
The next thing you should be thinking about is value for money and convenience. How much are you willing to pay for convenience and how good is the coffee going to be relative to the price that you are paying for the coffee machine itself.
In our opinion, if you have a budget below £100 or even below £50 then a filter machine may be the best value for money coffee machine that you can buy out of all the different types when you combine the two critical factors of budget and quality of the coffee.
Filter coffee machines are more popular in the USA because they can cater to a larger number of people in one go and it is normal to be able to brew a 12-cup pot in 10 minutes.
It is, however, a common misconception to think that you should only consider a filter coffee machine if you want to make a lot of coffee in one go. All filter machines will accommodate as little as 2 cups as easily as it will make 12 cups. All you do is add the coffee and water, press one button and the machine does the rest.
The better the coffee and the fresher the coffee, the better the flavour in your cup. A lot of people underestimate the benefit of using the best coffee that you can afford. Any coffee machine is only as good as the coffee that goes in it. Rubbish in, rubbish out but if you use the good stuff you will be amazed at the difference it makes.
There are literally hundreds of different filter machines that you can choose from and a large number of different features that will add to the price so understanding what you get, what it does and whether you will ever use the function are all important factors in the decision making process.
Unlike other sites that just take the best sellers and put them in a list, we have actually reviewed hundreds of filter coffee machines in detail and separated the wheat from the chaff and ended up with a top 10 that cater for all budgets. 5 of the 10 can normally be picked up for less than £50, 2 of them are mid-range but still sit well below the £100 mark and we have included the Rolls Royce of filter coffee machines as well because, well, it’s just really good but it will set you back a few quid.
Links on this page to our individual machine recommendations will take you to a detailed review but if If you want you can jump straight to our top 10 filter coffee machines
What are the kind of features that you get from a filter coffee machine and are they worth paying more for?
Paper filter or permanent filter?
Paper filters are overrated in our opinion. It’s the traditional method used to brew coffee in a “filter” coffee machine but you really don’t need one.
There is a perception that you will get a better flavour if you use a paper filter but unless you are a coffee professional you will not be able to taste the difference.
The main reason you will choose a machine that requires a paper filter is speed and mess. The coffee goes in the filter before the water is poured over it so it can permeate the coffee and drip through into the pot below.
Once the brewing is complete the used paper filter with the used coffee grounds can simply be removed from the machine and disposed of. If you have a permanent filter then you will need to remove it, empty it, rinse it under the tap and put it back in the machine.
The whole process should take less than a minute and in our opinion it’s not really much hassle at all but if time is of the essence then maybe you opt for a machine that takes a paper filter. Although they are inexpensive bear in mind that you will need to buy the paper filters and its just another thing to remember.
A small tip when selecting a machine with a permanent filter is to get one with a handle so the removal of the basket is easy and less fiddly.
This is one of the best value products on the market today. It comes without the bells and whistles of some of the pricier machines but it does the job well and it does come with a permanent filter with a handle on it for easy removal.
It has anti-drip so you remove the jug and pour yourself a cup whilst it is mid-brew without risking making a mess and you can easily program it so you have fresh coffee waiting for you when you get into the kitchen in the morning.
Water pour over method
The brewing method with filter machines is simple. You add water and when the water reaches the right temperature the machine pours the water over the coffee. However, an even distribution of water over all of the coffee and the speed at which the water is delivered to the coffee are important factors in the quality of the drink in your cup.
The spout that pours the water over the coffee can be like a waterfall or there can be holes in the spout so that it is sprayed over the coffee like a showerhead.
We favour the showerhead method because all the coffee gets covered creating a fuller saturation of the coffee and ensures a fuller and deeper flavour of the coffee in the jug.
Showerhead technology delivers an even distribution of water across the coffee ensuring better extraction and more flavoursome coffee, this fully programmable coffee machine from a trusted brand offers really good value for money.
This is a smaller and newer version of Russell Hobbs best selling Buckingham filter coffee machine. Both are similar but the Buckingham has a larger capacity and is more suitable for making a bigger batch of coffee in one go whereas the compact version is ideal for one or two people.
Both have showerhead technology so all the coffee gets soaked during the brewing process.
Programmable or non-programmable?
Do you want to wake up to a freshly brewed cup of coffee in the morning?
Bear in mind that once you press the button to start brewing you will have a couple of cups ready to drink within 5 minutes.
A programmable machine gives you the flexibility to choose a time for the machine to produce the coffee but in our opinion, you probably won’t use it anywhere near as much as you think you will.
That’s said it won’t break the bank to add the programmable feature to your machine.
This is right down at the budget end of filter coffee machines but can still be fully programmed. Excellent value for money.
Strength selector or not?
Some machines have a feature that allows you to alter the strength of coffee from mild to strong. What this does in reality is adjust the speed that the water is delivered onto the coffee. It doesn’t change the amount of coffee because you have to add that at the beginning.
In theory, the slower the water delivery then the stronger the coffee because it will seep through the coffee slower and brew for longer and faster water delivery will pass through the coffee faster making it milder.
In reality, we found that it doesn’t actually make that much difference between a high or a low setting.
This comes with a coffee strength selector and it’s also a little different from the others in that it doesn’t come with a hotplate because it comes with a thermal flask to keep the coffee hotter longer.
Filter coffee machines with a grinder or without a grinder?
None of our top 9 come with an integrated grinder. As already mentioned, coffee tastes best when the beans are freshly ground just before brewing but there are two reasons we don’t recommend a filter coffee machine with an integrated grinder.
Firstly, is that it adds quite a lot of money to the price which we don’t believe offers value for money.
Secondly, the grinders that come integrated with filter coffee machines tend not to do a very good job at grinding the beans. The grind fineness is inconsistent and you can end up with different sized coffee grinds which is not what you want.
You can pick up your own blade coffee grinder for a lot less than you think and if you want to splash out a bit more to get the best and most consistent coffee grind then check out our burr coffee grinders that crush the coffee beans instead of chopping them for the best possible grind quality.
In our opinion, you are better off getting a machine without a grinder and buying a separate grinder to do the job. It’s better that way and cheaper.
How important is the water temperature?
Coffee is at its best when brewed at between 92-96 degrees. Most machines will try and deliver the water at this temperature but the cost of component parts to make sure it happens is overly expensive and most people are not willing to pay for it.
However, If you are a coffee connoisseur and you want to combine high design with the best quality components and all the features you need to ensure you get the best quality coffee in your cup then this will fit the bill.
Made with the very best possible parts this coffee machine will give you many years of pleasure and it looks incredible as well.
If you want your coffee exactly how you like it and not the way that the manufacturer has decided will best fit most of the population then this high-end machine allows you to personalise to your heart’s content.
One of the default options has been programmed by the engineers at Sage to automatically deliver coffee in line with the speciality coffee association guidelines for a great cup of coffee but if you want to tweak it further you have the flexibility to do that.
Setting the exact temperature you like your coffee within 1 degree Celcius is just one click of the dial away and you can also change the bloom time and the strength of your coffee as well.
If it’s got to be just right then this machine will make it happen for you.
Anti-drip and anti-boil
Most filter machines will come with an anti-drip and anti-boil features that will make sure the jug does not get heated if there is no coffee in it and when you put it back on the hotplate it will sense there is no coffee in the jug and turn off.
Anti-drip allows you to remove the jug and pour yourself a cup mid-brew without any coffee dripping onto the hotplate so you don’t have to wait until the jug is full before you can enjoy your first coffee.
This Delonghi machine comes with both anti-drip and anti-boil and is made by the world leader in coffee machines so if you are looking for a brand you can trust then this is worth a look.
Ignore the number of cups indicator
One of the slightly annoying things about all filter coffee machines is the indicator in the water tank that shows the number of cups you will get at each level indicated.
It’s always wrong because everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a cup or a mug.
The best thing to do is ignore the indicator completely and just fill up the water tank using the cups or mugs you will be using to drink from. So for 4 mugs of coffee simply fill the tank with 4 mugs of water from those mugs.
Hotplate heating time
Most filter coffee machines will have a hotplate that keeps the coffee hot for 40 minutes before turning off automatically for safety reasons but the quality of coffee starts to deteriorate after about 40 minutes anyway so as a general rule try and only brew as much as you will drink in 40 minutes.
If you want to keep the coffee heated for longer then this model from Melitta can keep your coffee hot for up to 2 hours.
All of the most important features of filter coffee machines have been broken down for you in detail so that you can now make a more informed decision on what you need and what you don’t need and whether these features actually offer value for money or not.