Coffee is a daily staple. a essential espresso can start the day right, but almost everyone makes some coffee maker mistakes when it comes to their cup of joe. Fortunately, our barista and other coffee experts have tips to make your coffee better rather than bitter.
The average American drinks over two cups of coffee every day, so if you haven’t invested in a good coffee maker yet, I’d recommend that you do. Moving away from instant, towards café-quality brews will elevate your cup endlessly.
Coffee makers are easy to use. This means that lots of people have a false sense of security with their machines. You might not buy the best quality beans on the market, you might not use filtered water, and you might not be cleaning as often as you should.
Combining all of these coffee maker mistakes can result in a less than impressive brew, which you force down for the caffeine content rather than anything else. With these simple, but effective, tips, you’ll be making the perfect cup in no time.
1. Buying the wrong coffee maker
It’s easy to get caught-up in coffee makers. The flashy, shiny ones with a steam wand and 60 different coffees might seem appealing, but if you only drink Americano coffees, you probably don’t need one. As a quick guide: French presses are great if you like more acidic, full bodied coffee; pour-over machines are more delicate and make good filter coffee; drip coffee can cater can make lots of cups of coffee at once and often has a very mellow flavor profile; automatic coffee makers often tackle a range of coffees at the touch of a button, so they’re an easy option; espresso machines are what baristas use. They’re great for making a top-quality espresso, but they can be very hands-on.
If you think about the coffee you like and what you’ll need, you’re much more likely spend money and save money where you need to. With that in mind, our team of experts tested a range of coffee makers on the market and the three below were their favorites.
Philips 3200 Series
The Philips 3200 won our hearts. The LatteGo function made incredible milk and it could make five different drinks at the touch of a button.
There’s more detail in our full Philips 3200 Series review.
OXO Drip Coffee Maker
This might not look fancy, but it’s reliable. If you like filter coffee or more mellow flavors, this is the one for you. The design is sleek and it can brew 8 cups at once.
There’s more detail in our full OXO Drip Coffee Maker review.
If you like a filter coffee, but also want to brandish some barista skills, the All-In-One is the perfect option for you. It’s incredible value and extremely versatile.
There’s more detail in our full De’Longhi All-in-One review.
2. Buying budget beans
Every coffee starts with the beans, so, naturally, that’s where mistakes start too. Former barista and food scientist, Jennifer Pallain says that fresh, high-quality beans are essential for a great cup of coffee. She cautions against buying pre-ground beans or bags which have been sitting on the shelf. She says, ‘as they age, coffee beans lose their natural oils and aroma, leading to a stale and flat taste in your cup’. Check the packaging and if they were roasted between one and four weeks ago, they’ll be brilliant. Jennifer recommends finding a local roastery and buying from there for guaranteed freshness. You also need a smart way to store your beans to stop them losing flavor.
3. Not matching your maker to your beans
Different roasts and origin beans suit different brewing styles. We asked expert coffee writer Rebecca Wessel, for her favorite combinations. ‘A light roast does really well in a Chemex’, she says, but it might not suit an espresso machine. Rebecca looks for medium to dark roasts for her drip coffee and espresso machines. You can look into flavor profiles of the beans you choose. Don’t be afraid to push the boat out, or to test a multi-pack of beans so that you can work out what you like best. Below are three of my favourite coffee makers, which can you can use with a range of beans.
Espro P7 Fench Press
French press coffee typically suits a darker roast. You’ll want to look for chocolatey notes, but a zesty, citrus note can complement the acidity really well.
Drip coffee also suits a darker roast, but can really bring out fruity notes in coffee. It has a more delicate, filtered flavor profile than a French press.
Chemx Pour Over
Pour over coffee is similar to drip coffee, but if you want to try some lighter roasts, it’s the perfect opportunity to do so. Look for delicate, caramel flavors if you want your beans to flourish.
4. Overstuffing your beans
There are a lot of mistakes that people make with their beans, especially related to storage. Once your bag of beans is open, it’s exposed to sunlight, heat, and oxygen. Very quickly, the oils will break down and so your coffee will taste weak. If you fill your beans hopper to the top make sure that it’s airtight, out of sunlight, and cool. You can follow a single dosing technique, where you only pour in the amount of beans that you’ll use. This makes storage more reliable, but can be more hassle when you’re making your coffee.
5. Forgetting your grind-sets
An underestimated but essential contributor to coffee flavors is the grind size. It affects the extraction, flavor profile, and intensity of your brew. Kelsey Waddle, a coffee expert from Roasty Coffee, said that ‘using the wrong grind size can lead to either under-extraction or over-extraction of flavors. For instance, a fine grind for a French press can result in a sludgy cup, whilst a coarse grind for an espresso machine may produce weak shots.’ The easy solution is to invest in a good grinder and think about which grind you’ll need. Lots of machines have adjustable settings. But if you use a French press, pour over, or espresso machine, you’ll likely be grinding yourself. French presses suit a really coarse grind, because it compliments the acidic flavor profiles. Espressos and moka pots need a fine grind for richer, sweeter notes. Below are some of the best grinders that we’ve tested, if you need a hand with your grind-set.
This is a more expensive grinder, but it’s worth every penny. In our taste tests it came out on top and features all the premium finishes, from a good range to minimal retention.
If you’re short on space, we’d recommend this manual grinder. You don’t need to plug it in to use it and we were really impressed with how consistent it was.
With a user-friendly design and excellent results, our team fell instantly in love with the KitchenAid. It’s a little big, but we think that it’s worth making room for.
6. Not getting your ratios right
Choosing the coffee to water ratio is a personal preference, within reason. I was always taught to follow a 1:16 coffee to water ratio and if you want to add milk, just take that off the water. If you want a more delicate, lighter brew you could change the ratio to 1:14, but I wouldn’t go any lower. The same applies if you want a stronger brew. For espresso machines, you’ll want to weigh 18 grams of coffee for 50 ml of water, so the ratio is closer to 1:2. If you change your ratios to the extremes, you’ll spoil your brew, but it’s worth playing with it a little.
7. Forgetting to let your beans bloom
This is my last , but important, note on beans, because there’s a lot more to the coffee making process. If you add a little water to your grounds, in a French press or pour over machine, the coffee can bloom. This is how the CO2 is released from your coffee grounds, helping your coffee to taste sweeter, smoother, and less acidic. You don’t need more than 30 seconds, but it makes all the difference.
8. Don’t use tap water
It’s tempting and easy to fill your carafe or reservoir with water from the tap. However, tap water contains impurities and minerals which will interact with your coffee, giving inconsistent results. If you use filtered water your coffee will have a more consistent taste. Kelsey from Roasty Coffee pointed out that ‘coffee is mostly water, and tap water with high mineral content or chlorine can negatively affect the taste’. Kelsey recommends using filtered water or using a water filtration system to ensure clean and pure water.
9. Consider temperature
There’s a narrow temperature range at which coffee tastes best. When it is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit the beans won’t be burnt and bitter, but they also won’t be under extracted and weak. If you own an automatic coffee maker, this still applies to you. Kayla Stavridis, a barista and coffee expert, laughed over this mistake. It’s one we are all guilty of doing. She told me ‘I remember once, when I was rushing to prepare for a morning meeting and I didn’t let my espresso machine heat up properly. The result was a lukewarm, under extracted espresso that tasted sour’. Some machines won’t let you use them unless they’re up to temperature, but make sure to check.
10. Not keeping it clean
We all know that keeping clean is important, but sometimes it can be hard to see on a coffee maker. Establish a cleaning routine and keep to it. Coffee left in your brew head or grinder can go stale, spoiling your entire cup. We’ve written guidance on how to keep your coffee machine clean, so make sure to follow the practice at least every week. Even better, you could do it after every use of the espresso machine.
11. Not learning how to steam
If your coffee machine has a steam wand, not only will you need to be meticulous in cleaning it, you’ll also want to practice with it too. If you can sort your steam techniques, you’ll be able to make a silky, smooth, and frothy coffee. Even better, you’ll be able to refine your latte art, which looks beautiful and can impress a guest. There are lots of barista videos online where you can watch how to perfectly steam milk. These machines are really good for steaming milk.
De’Longhi Dinamica Plus
We were really impressed with the Dinamica. We loved the cold and hot frothing functions that could do everything from microfoam to cappuccinos.
There’s more detail in our full De’Longhi Dinamica Plus review.
Jura ENA 8 Automatic Coffee Maker
There’s a lot to love about the ENA 8, including its milk frothing capabilities, You’ll need to buy the milk frothing jug separately, but it’s worth every penny.
All the detail is in our Jura ENA 8 Coffee Maker review.
Experiment, experiment, experiment
Coffee isn’t a one-size-fits-all drink. Don’t be afraid to try different grinds, settings, and beans. It’s all too easy to fall into a habit and routine, but coffee makers can do amazing things. If you have a French press, why not try a cold brew? If you have a coffee maker, select an unusual option. If you’re feeling bold, buy a different kind of bean and give it a whirl.
What should I not do with a coffee maker?
There are lots of things not to do with a coffee maker. Leaving it plugged in will use unnecessary electricity; not cleaning it will prevent you making the perfect brew; and buying bad beans will stop you from having a flavorful cup. Make sure to read through our mistakes so that you don’t waste money, time, and coffee on your appliance.
Is there a wrong way to make coffee?
The flavors of your coffee are shaped by your beans, grind, and brewing technique. These can be worlds apart and no method is right or wrong. As long as you end up with a smooth, balanced cup of coffee, your brewing is fine. There are best practice techniques to follow, which we’ve outlined in our mistakes above, so make sure to follow those guidelines.
What happens if you put too much coffee in a coffee maker?
Nothing too disastrous. Hot water will extract a limited amount of coffee oils, so all you’ll be doing is wasting good beans. The best way to avoid putting too much coffee in your coffee maker is to use a scoop to measure out your coffee.
Should you clean a coffee maker after every use?
Ideally, yes. If you’ve used a steam wand to froth milk, make sure to spray it and wipe it clean. That way, milk won’t dry in the spit. I use a brush to clear my brew head of excess grounds and always empty my drip tray after every use. Maintaining your machine like this will ensure that your coffee tastes better and that your machine will last longer too.
There’s no need to panic, as you’ll have been doing lots of things right with your coffee maker. Everybody gets into bad habits, from it’s neglecting your cleaning routine or skimping on beans. However, these add up and can ruin a good cup of coffee. I’d make sure to correct any of your mistakes, but to really focus on experimenting. I always thought I liked darker roasts until I started trying some blonde roasts at a friend’s. Now I make sure to mix up my beans and to try different flavors when I can. Who knows what you’ll find.