A steaming hot pot of coffee is a morning essential. Now, you can take the effort out of making yours by investing in a drip filter machine for freshly brewed coffee at the touch of a button, without breaking the bank.
In a sea of expensive, barista-esque coffee machines, filter coffee machines are the reliable, simplistic original method of brewing your beans, and can be picked up from around £20 on the high street.
You’ll find most filter machines will prepare a large jug of coffee from ground beans using a filter and pour-over method and will then be kept warm on a hot plate to take you through the morning. Of course, more sophisticated models are available and will cost more for extra features.
Typically, machines that incorporate bean to cup technology, programmable timers or allow you to tinker with the coffee making process can cost upwards of £150. But we know that’s not for everyone. So, we tested a range of machines along a broad spectrum of budgets.
How we tested
To ensure we judged on an even playing field, we used the same high-quality speciality coffee (the fantastic Dr Congo from Lost Sheep Coffee which is well suited to filter machines) to test, looking for an aromatic, well-bloomed cup from each machine.
We were looking for machines that brewed delicious, hot coffee that stayed hot, and was free from coffee grounds. We also looked to see how easy the machine was to operate and care for. Here are the best...
The best filter coffee machines for 2021 are:
Best overall – Sage precision brewer thermal: £247, Johnlewis.com
Best for a morning brew – Morphy Richards verve pour over filter coffee machine: £59.99, Morphyrichards.co.uk
Best for freshly ground beans – Melitta aromafresh grind and brew therm: £199.99, Melitta.co.uk
Best for solo drinkers – Judge filter coffee machine: £15.95, Hartsofstur.com
Best for strong coffee – Russell Hobbs buckingham 20680 filter coffee maker: £54.99, Argos.co.uk
Best for vintage style – Smeg drip filter coffee machine: £180, Selfridges.com
Best for quick cuppas – Morphy Richards evoke filter coffee machine: £53, Ao.com
Best for large families – KitchenAid drip filter coffee machine: £119.99, Argos.co.uk
Sage the precision brewer coffee machine
If you’re a serious coffee drinker but don’t go in for the frothy coffees, this is the machine for you. Set up is fiddly, but only takes around 25 minutes all in, then you can get started with your brewing experimentations. You can choose from preset modes including “gold” (the best), “fast”, “strong”, “cold” and more, or fine tune to your personal tastes by trying different bloom times, flow rates, brew temperatures and more to get the most out of different beans and roasts.
The machine has a 1.7l capacity and drips the coffee quickly and efficiently into the special thermal jug without spilling a drop, and the coffee we tried was really top-notch. We’re also happy to report that the carafe does the job – staying hot for at least two hours by our reckoning. It comes with a reusable basket or paper filter option the choice is left up to you, and all parts easy to clean. A completely fabulous coffee machine that will definitely earn its keep.
Buy now £247.00, Johnlewis.com
Morphy Richards verve pour over filter coffee machine
Best: For a morning brew
Morphy Richards does basic kitchen appliances very well, which is why you’ll find two of its machines in this list alone. Part of the brand’s “verve” collection, it’s a simple programmable machine that allows you to wake up to freshly brewed pour-over coffee everyday. We found the brewing system to be quiet and quick, giving us 1.8l of coffee in a matter of minutes – even if you don’t use the pre-set – which stays warm for 30-minutes plus.
We like that this machine has a cupcake-shaped filter, allowing for extra blooming of the coffee grounds and a more even extraction than with a cone filter. It gives such clear, aromatic coffee and we loved that you can adjust the coffee strength. The glass jug is easy to pour from too and doesn’t leak, and the nod to Fifties styling means the machine looks smart and sleek on the worktop without taking up too much space.
Buy now £59.99, Morphyrichards.co.uk
Melitta aromafresh grind and brew therm
Best: For freshly ground beans
Like the winning Sage machine (£247, Johnlewis.com), this Melitta model is quite a different beast from the others in this list. It has an entirely different set up for one: with a removable water tank on the side, bean hopper on top and a swing out filter (which is non-reusable) but we still absolutely love it.
It’s another high-functioning filter machine with simple programmable features. And we have to admit, the incorporation of a grinder is genius. Freshly ground beans are probably the single most effective way of improving homemade coffee, and this machine means you don’t need to bother with a fiddly separate grinder or save up for an expensive bean-to-cup machine. Plus, when you add in the ability to adjust strength, grind level, water hardness and auto-brewing, and an LED that tells you when a descale programme should be carried out, what’s not to love?
Our one tiny niggle is that sometimes the coffee drips from the “non-drip” spout when the jug is removed, but aside from that the coffee is exceptional, hot and delivered in large proportions.
Buy now £199.99, Melitta.co.uk
Judge filter coffee machine
Best: For solo drinkers
This is the smallest capacity machine we tried and is perfect for solo coffee drinkers who perhaps won’t make their way through a huge pot. With a 625ml glass jug, this diminutive machine brews up two large mugs worth of coffee in just six minutes, which is kept at temperature on the hot plate as long as the machine is on.
It’s truly idiot proof, with only one button to begin brewing once the water reservoir is filled and a few scoops of coffee are added to the permanent filter. There’s also a handy indicator on the side to view the water level.
The coffee strength is medium to strong and not a single ground escapes the fine filter, so no need for paper in addition. We like that the filter is dishwasher-proof, and the whole machine stays really clean thanks to the non-drip system. A great entry-level machine, or one to keep on your desk – and all for the same price as a cafetiere.
Buy now £15.95, Hartsofstur.com
Russell Hobbs buckingham 20680 filter coffee maker
Best: For strong coffee
We really like this mid-range model from Russell Hobbs. It produces 1.25l of really, really hot, quite strong coffee on demand – via the 24 hour programmable timer should you wish – in far less time than it takes to boil a kettle. The hotplate also stays warm for 40 minutes to preserve the temperature and having the choice of dishwasher safe reusable filter, or paper is great. But, personally, we found the fine mesh of the filter provided was perfect for filtering our grinds.
The brewing method used is what the brand calls “showerhead” technology, ensuring the coffee is exposed more evenly to the water, which makes for a richer brew and noticeably fuller flavour.
We liked the blue light to indicate freshly brewed coffee which then changes to flashing after 30 minutes. Another useful feature is that you can select how much coffee you’re intending to make, and the machine will adjust its brew strength accordingly so you can enjoy a properly extracted cup even if just for one.
Buy now £54.99, Ao.com
Smeg drip filter coffee machine
Best: For vintage style
Form and functionality combine with this beautiful Smeg appliance. It’s still ostensibly a basic drip filter coffee machine, but there’s a few extra bells and whistles here that might help you justify that price tag. And of course, its Fifties styling with sleek diner vibes, in a range of vintage inspired shades, ensures it really looks the part too.
The glass jug is good quality with a drip-free pour, and the water tank has a 1.7l capacity so it’s easy to brew and go. There’s also a water hardness adjustment, 1-4 cups function and coffee intensity button, alongside the usual timer and a descaling light indicator which explains the higher price point. We noticed that the anti-drip mechanism does exactly that, so the hot plate stays clean and ready to go for its 40-minute keep-warm function which is definitely a bonus we can get on board with.
Buy now £180.00, Selfridges.com
Morphy Richards evoke filter coffee machine
Best: For quick cuppas
The second Morphy Richards product in this list, it’s unsurprisingly similar to the verve model (£59, morphyrichards.co.uk) we’ve already featured. But though it may be similar in price and functionality it has a more modern design, and we found it kept coffee warmer for a bit longer.
Slightly more compact, this glass jug has a 1.25l capacity for up to 12 (small) cups of after-dinner coffee. It’s super easy and fast to use. All you have to is add water, coffee, choose your strength selection (from three) and thanks to its “fast brew” technology, you can brew a full jug within 10 minutes.
The keep-warm function allows you to enjoy steaming hot coffee for 40 minutes, and the jug has an easy pour lip so we didn’t spill a drop. To clean, just lift the removable filter out and run the deep cleaning cycle periodically. A really good machine that needn’t break the bank.
Buy now £53.00, Ao.com
KitchenAid drip filter coffee machine
Best: For large families
We love how sleek this coffee maker is from KitchenAid, and the fact it comes in a range of the brand’s signature hues means you can match it to all of its other appliances. More than that though, it’s sturdy, robust and comes with a generous 1.7l removable water tank and glass coffee carafe of the same capacity.
The carafe rests on a programmable thermostatic hot plate (choose from high and low keep-warm temps) which stays hot for up to 40 minutes with auto-shut-off. It also includes a permanent filter basket which handily has a dosage ladder to mark where to fill your coffee up to, you then use the simple selection pad to choose your brew strength, quantities and 24-hour timer function should you require.
We really liked the full aroma and rich flavour this machine gives from a generous bloom time, while still delivering super-hot fast coffee thanks to the spiral shower head style pour. The filter and all parts can be easily washed and the jug has a prominent lip to avoid spills and splashes. We liked that the display stated when the coffee was last brewed, too. A nice kitchen investment to keep a house or office full of coffee drinkers happy.
Buy now £119.99, Argos.co.uk
The verdict: Filter coffee machines
Drip filter machines don’t come much better than the Sage precision brewer – the only thing that could have made it better was if it incorporated a grinder – still it is a worthy winner of our best buy accolade. With so many tailored features to choose from, this machine will deliver you the filter coffee of your dreams, which you can go back to over several hours to find it just as fresh.
If you don’t have the budget for that, Melitta’s aromafresh grind & brew therm machine is almost as brilliant and the freshly ground beans make this drip filter coffee something special. The machines hovering around the £50 mark are pretty much on an equal footing, so take your pick. Pass the biscuits.
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If you’re in need of an instant fix, why not read our round-up of the best cold brew coffees