The 5 Best Coffee Makers For College
If you’re preparing to make the big jump to college this fall, you might feel a bit unprepared. Moving from high school to college can be a huge change; for most people, it’s their first taste of true freedom outside from under the thumb of their parents or guardians, and there’s a lot to learn in order to prepare for school. If you’re already a coffee drinker, you know the importance of a great cup of coffee in the morning. It’s one of the best ways to jump out of bed and prepare for the day, and for a lot of people, they’re nothing until they’ve had their first or second cup of the day. If you have a hard time waking up in the morning, the smell of a fresh pot of roasted coffee can really grab you and pull you out of bed.
If you’re new to coffee, or you’ve never drank a cup, it might take a bit for you to get used to the taste and flavor of a cup. Maybe you’ve tried coffee, and you thought to yourself “I’ll never drink this.” Listen—while we aren’t one to tell any of our readers that they’re wrong, our personal experience indicates that you might just be. College is where plenty of us learned to drink coffee, to survive early mornings, long nights, and insufferable study crams. We’d complain about the term papers too, but as you can tell through perusing the site, we rather enjoy our fair share of writing.
Sure, you can pay $2 or $3 for a cup of coffee while you’re on the go all over campus, but your budget for caffeinated drinks will add up quickly. Instead, we’d suggest investing in a great coffee maker to last through your two or four years of college, and even longer. And while you can head over to Walmart and pick up a cheap machine for $15, spending a bit more on a machine will strike a great balance between price, features, and taste.
In looking for the best coffee machines, we looked for five separate things. Our machines had to:
- Brew good coffee.
- Be simple to use.
- Be easy to clean and maintain.
- Be able to use all kinds of coffee.
- Be reliable enough to always be there when you need it.
With these factors in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best pots you can pick up for your first—or returning—year of college.
It’s tough to recommend a coffee maker that will meet everyone’s needs. For some, a cheap maker that doesn’t have any bells or whistles, but makes a great cup of coffee, will be the ultimate buy. For others, they might want a coffee maker that can be programmed, timed, turn on and off by itself, and make sure you’re ready with your cup of coffee right in the morning. But when it comes to most users, people will be willing to drop a bit more cash in exchange for an all-around great pot of coffee, and that’s what we have with our top pick in this list. With a great balance between price, performance, features, function, and taste, you can’t beat Cuisinart’s PerfecTemp brand DCC-3200.
The DCC-3200 is one of the newer models in Cuisinart’s most popular lineup of consumer coffee pots, and it’s loved by users around the country. In terms of appearance, the coffee pot is nothing special: it’s stainless steel exterior will look good in most apartments and dorm rooms, but nothing too extravagant. The pot is made of glass, and can fit up to 14 cups while still allowing for the single-person 1-4 standard cup size. We’re big fans of the flexibility found in this maker, since it can create both big and small cup sizes for sharing with your roommate or dorm-mates.
Let’s talk about features and function, both of which are what make this coffee maker such a great choice for anyone looking for a long-lasting maker. The DCC-3200 doesn’t come with anything out of the ordinary, but for under $100, it has a great featureset—not to mention one of the most important features for any college student looking to live on-campus in a dorm. First, the 3200 has a great set of easy-to-use controls on the front of the panel, complete with an LCD display. The maker comes with a fully-automatic mode, making it easy to hit the on-switch in the morning and begin creating some great-tasting coffee for consumption. There are hour and minute buttons that allow you to set an automatic-on mode, which will brew the coffee for you right as you wake up. If you’re often running late to class, this is a must-have feature for any student, making it easy to jump out of bed and go right away in the morning. The 3200 can even beep to alert your when your coffee is finished, in case you have a habit of brewing and forgetting about a cup.
Like plenty of brewers on the market these days, the 3200 doesn’t require paper filters, instead coming with an on-board, washable filter that makes it easy to throw in your coffee grounds at night for brewing in the morning. Similar to some popular Cuisinart models, the 3200’s glass carafe can be taken out during brewing to sneak-fill a cup, without having to worry about the maker beginning to drip. The machine has an a self-cleaning feature, and will inform you when it needs to be cleaned. And like we mentioned up top, the most important feature a coffee maker can have for students is the ability to auto-turn off—some dorms even require this to use your coffee pot inside the hall. Luckily for us, the DCC-3200 includes that feature, too.
In terms of taste, this maker is designed to please—a huge part of why it’s earned this coveted top spot is the taste from the brew the 3200 can create. It’s temperature is one of the higher temps we’ve seen on any machine, and it even has a “Bold” option that helps make your coffee feel a little more flavorful if you’re the type of person who loves a strong cup in the morning. Of course, a general taste of coffee will depend on what flavor and brand of coffee you choose to pick up at your local market, but trust us when we say the DCC-3200 will deliver with any brand or variety you choose.
We love the DCC-3200 from Cuisinart, but it’s also the most expensive model on our list. While we understand that not every reader will want to drop close to $100 on a fully-featured coffee maker—especially if you have no use for a 14-cup machine—the DCC-3200 offers a full package. It’s built to last, not just through college but through your early-to-late 20s after you graduate school. For the auto-shutoff function, easy-to-use programmable features, and the taste and range of flavor offered by the 3200, we think it’s the best coffee maker you can buy for school.
- Auto-shutoff is a must
- Can fit 14 cups
- Plenty of programmable features
- Design is a bit uninspired
- Expensive in comparison
- Most won't use 14 full cups
We don’t want to just recommend $80 coffee makers, because for a lot of college students—who have their wallets preoccupied with textbooks, furniture, laptops, and so much more—it just isn’t feasible to drop so much on something as utilitarian as a coffee maker. For those folks, who just want something that can brew coffee—and a lot of it—Black+Decker’s CM2035B Coffeemaker (or 2035, for short) is an excellent, well-priced machine that offers just enough in terms of function to thrive in a college environment, all for a fraction of the price of the competition.
In terms of design, there isn’t a lot here to note: it has a plain, clean look that doesn’t offend, nor offer anything new to your kitchen or dorm space. It has a silver, steel-like finish, and is narrow enough to fit into most spaces without taking up too much room. The carafe is wrapped in thermal lining, designed to keep your coffee warm for hours, even after brewing and turning off the machine. The carafe even has a wide-open mouth, making it easier to clean than its narrow-mouthed competitors. We do with the plastic on the body wasn’t glossy; it shows dust and scratches easily if you aren’t careful when cleaning or treating the brewer.
One of our favorite things about the 2035 is the featureset comes close to competing almost spec-for-spec with what we saw previously from Cuisinart, but without the $80 pricetag. The machine is covered in several large, easy-to-press buttons. You can use on the on-board display to set a timer for when you want to brew your morning joe, up to 24 hours in advance, making it a great coffeepot for any student. Just as we’ve seen in the DCC-3200, the 2035 allows you to take the pot out of the machine while it’s brewing to pour a cup, keeping your coffee held until you’re ready for the machine to pour again. It does use paper filters, so you’ll have to plan on picking up some filters from Walmart or another grocery store when you head out to buy your grounds, and unlike the DCC-3200, it can’t beep at you to alert when the coffee has finished brewing. It does, however, have a bright light to indicate when your pot is done. Of course, we’ve saved the best feature for last: just like with our top coffeemaker, the 2035 features an auto-shutoff mode that allows you to keep it inside your dorm without a problem from Resident Life or University Police.
Again, taste is one of the most important aspects with any coffee brewer, and you’ll be pleased to know the Black+Decker model here delivers. While it might not be as bold-tasting as what we’ve seen previously with Cuisinart’s offering, for a fraction of the price, you’re getting close to the same cup of coffee. This kind of value to taste ratio can’t be underplayed when considering coffeemakers for college students, and the option to make your cup has “Strong,” is well appreciated as well. The maker can even remember your previous strength setting, making it easy to always have the right flavor of coffee in your cup each morning.
The biggest problem with the Black+Decker model is longevity. Whereas dropping $80 on a great Cuisinart model might help you make that maker last for years and years, Black+Decker’s budget offering means you shouldn’t expect this maker to last any longer than your time at college will. The print on each of the buttons has been known to wear off after a couple years of usage, and the handle construction inside the cap has been reported as occasionally being flimsy and unreliable throughout daily usage. Don’t let this scare you away, though: this model is one of our very favorite budget offerings, and trouble with the construction of the pot itself isn’t a big enough reason to drop nearly four times more on a comparable coffee pot.
Black+Decker’s CM2035B isn’t perfect, but it’s one of the best values you can find on coffeemakers today. It keeps the price low—under $30!—while still offering programmable on/off modes, boldness settings, and even the all-important auto-shutoff mode that can keep you out of trouble with the managers of your dorm building. We especially like how the pot was designed to keep your coffee warm even after the maker is turned off, a perfect idea for a college student studying into the early hours of the morning. It’s not a perfect pot, but for the price, it’s our budget model to beat.
- Great features for under $30
- Auto-shutoff included
- Strong mode included
- Not as fully-featured as more expensive models
- Plain design
- Buttons can wear down
The Hamilton Beach FlexBrew Coffeemaker came close to our runner-up spot, but a few small complaints with the build and quality of the machine prevented it from getting there. For $40, you’re getting a wonderful, single-serve maker that is ideal for the dorm or apartment-dweller living on their own or with a non-coffee drinker. It hits a great point of flexibility in how it can make your coffee for you. You can use K-Cups or coffee grounds to make your coffee, which is excellent for those looking for the flexibility of a Keurig machine but still looking to use standard coffee grounds as an alternative. The machine doesn’t come with a carafe, since brewing is limited to 10oz at a time. For most coffee drinkers, 10oz might be a bit too small for around the house, but it fits into most thermoses and mugs perfectly, and the adjustable cup rest means you can make sure your mug fits in perfectly without splashing. The model also shuts off as soon as your coffee is complete, making it perfect for dorm living. Unfortunately, the machine isn’t programmable, so you won’t be able to brew a cup of coffee without getting out of bed—a true challenge on the weekends. Some users have also reported the machine making a mess if not used properly, so read the instructions clearly with this one. Overall, if you’re fine missing out on programmable features, the FlexBrew is a great single-serve option.
- Single-serve is perfect for dorms
- Auto-shutoff is a must
- Might make a mess on your counter
- Not programmable
We’re big fans of the design of KitchenAid’s KCM1202OB coffeemaker. It looks really great on a counter in either black or white, and the stainless steel matches almost any kitchen or room you’d place this in. The display blends effortlessly into the front of the machine, looking clean and almost holographic, and it’s larger than displays we’ve seen on other machines. This model comes with the standard featureset we’ve seen on ~$70 machines, with programmable settings up to 24 hours in advance, different variations on strength and flavor settings, and a backlit timer. This model adds one of our favorite features, a removable water tank, which allows for the machine to be easily cleaned and filled in a dorm bathroom sink. The machine itself is well-built, but a couple complaints keep this one from taking first place in our listings. First, there’s been multiple reports the timer on this model has a habit of losing thirty seconds a day in time, meaning you’ll have to reprogram the coffeemaker every week or so to keep track with your daily schedule. Second, the burner stays on for two hours before turning off automatically, and some colleges may not allow burners to be left on unsupervised for this long, even if you’re in the room with the machine.
- Great design
- Nice, big clock
- Loses seconds a day
- Two hour auto-shutdown bad for dorms
Mr. Coffee has become one of the leading names in budget-brand coffeemakers, and it’s easy to see why. While their designs are certainly nothing to write home about, they keep a good mix of function and price-sensibility, keeping their machines well within the budget of a college student while offering features needed for college life and skipping the unnecessary products. Their SKX23 is a fantastic model for $30, coming it at just a few dollars more expensive than our runner-up Black+Decker model. Like most of the models on our list, this coffeemaker features a great programmable mode, complete with built-in clock for timing exactly when your coffee will start brewing. It features an included pausing method that allows you to pour a cup while the rest of your coffee continues to brew, and there’s an easy-to-read side panel for making sure you add just enough water for your pot. Unfortunately, the two-hour auto-shutdown mode runs into the same problems for college students as our KitchenAid model above, and some have reported quality assurance problems with their makers overtime. Some users swear by Mr. Coffee pots for the ease-of-use and budget-friendly prices, however, so if you’re in the market for a cheap 12-cup brewer, put this one on your shortlist.
- Good flavor and function
- Budget-friendly price
- Two-hour auto shutdown
- Some reports of problems with longevity