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.

Everyone else
Hamilton Beach FlexBrew Single-Serve Coffee Maker
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.

Pros

  • Single-serve is perfect for dorms
  • Auto-shutoff is a must

Cons

  • Might make a mess on your counter
  • Not programmable
KitchenAid KCM1202OB 12-Cup Glass Carafe Coffee Maker
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.

Pros

  • Great design
  • Nice, big clock

Cons

  • Loses seconds a day
  • Two hour auto-shutdown bad for dorms
Mr. Coffee SKX23 12-Cup Coffeemaker
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.

Pros

  • Good flavor and function
  • Budget-friendly price

Cons

  • Two-hour auto shutdown
  • Some reports of problems with longevity
Posted by William Sattelberg on June 5, 2017

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