Some coffee connoisseurs have a bad habit of turning their noses up at programmable coffee makers. But not us at Coffee Dorks. Yes, there are some terrible coffee makers out there that produce cup after cup of tasteless brown sludge… but then there are the diamonds in the rough. Some programmable coffee makers that just make you say wow, whether it’s a fantastic flavor, super fast brew time, or both!
Read our list of the best programmable coffee makers to find one that works quickly, efficiently and produces a fantastic brew – all programmed to start in time for your morning commute.
Recommended Smart Brewer
The Cuisinart DCC-3200 is our top choice when it comes to programmable coffee machines. It has a state of the art technology that is accompanied by an easy to operate settings menu and a sophisticated interface. This is one of very few fully automatic and programmable brewers that comes with a 14 cup water tank reservoir. And we all know that this extra cup of delicious coffee will never go to waste!
How Did We Choose?
The first thing we review on each coffee maker is, of course, it’s programmable features. If it’s rubbish at programming, it won’t be on the list. But the quality and taste of the coffee produced are just as important to review. There’s no point buying a highly technical, beautifully efficient programmable brewer if it churns out a carafe of watery garbage.
So, after weighing up the programmability and quality of coffee brewed, we had a rough idea of where each maker stood. Then it comes down to these 3 main aspects:
- Price – coffee makers that rely on computerized features can go very badly wrong. When the computer fails, often repairing it is costly or just isn’t an option. You can’t replace it like a broken filter. So, we weighed up the upfront cost with repair costs, maintenance costs and the design/materials. If it’s a poorly designed plastic unit, the chances of something going wrong and costing you money are higher.
- Ease of use – if it’s not easy and convenient to use, what’s the point in forking out extra for a programmable coffee maker. Ease of use also extends to cleaning, maintenance, and warranty. As for permanent vs paper filters, the coffee dorks were divided. On one hand, permanent filters save money and time finding paper filters. On the other hand, paper filters don’t need washing up. You need to work out what you’re willing to do to maintain the coffee machine, and what you are trying to avoid before you buy one.
- Extra features – it’s not just about who has the most features, but which are genuinely useful. Brew strength selector is a nice feature, but we’re buying a programmable coffee maker for convenience, so we ranked self-clean features higher on our list. Once you know how much coffee to add for the coffee strength you like each morning, there’s no need to have a variable strength selector.
You can also check our list of best drip coffee makers.
List of 7 Best Programmable Coffee Brewers
Cuirinart DCC-3200 Programmable Coffeemaker
At 14-cups, this programmable coffee system is the biggest brewer on our list. But that’s not what gives it the top spot.
It features a very stylish yet sturdy stainless-steel design with BPA-free plastic components, LCD control panel, gold-tone permanent coffee filter, charcoal water filter, hot plate with adjustable temperatures, and a sleek glass carafe.
The carafe itself is not exceptional at retaining heat, but with the enclosed hot plate that can be kept at low, medium or high, you won’t have a problem with cold coffee, even after several hours.
As for the computer panel, you’ve got a brew strength selector, 1-4 cup brew optimizer, 24-hour programmability, brew-pause, adjustable auto-shutoff (up to 4 hours) and a self-clean setting.
Cuisinart also throw in a limited 3-year warranty, the longest warranty period for any programmable coffee maker on our list. As for price, both the 14-cup and 12-cup models are under $100 which we feel is very fair. Bizarrely, the 14-cup model is currently cheaper than the 12-cup. A no-brainer on which you should buy!
It’s got the top spot because it really does have everything you could possibly need from a programmable coffee maker. For 1 cup or 14, you’re always met with delicious tasting coffee that’s at the perfect temperature for your taste.
We’re reviewing the programmable model that comes with the 8-cup thermal carafe. Because if you’re going to buy the fancy option, you might as well go all-out.
The glass carafe is still very nice with a double wall for insulation, but the thermal carafe is sleeker to look at and will keep your coffee hot for longer. Be prepared to pay more for it though. You could buy a whole new coffee maker (look at the last 3 on this list) for the price of the Bonavita thermal carafe. Or, you can buy 3 brewers, instead of this one. I kid you not, this is a highly-priced model. But, it is also very reliable and it definitely delivers good-tasting coffee.
There’s one-touch brewing when you need a cup out of the blue, plus the standard programmable timer for auto-start in the mornings. As for the internal tech, the coffee tray has a wide flat bottom. Combined with the wide showerhead design, you get a very even extraction that tastes delicious.
The machine is stainless steel, which looks and feels premium. Plus, all plastic components are BPA-free. The carafe lid, filter basket, and showerhead are dishwasher safe, which puts a tick in the convenience box.
The only fault we have is that there’s no drip-stop feature. If you remove the carafe before it’s finished, it will just keep on dripping down. Not a deal-breaker but definitely something you want to remember before you grab a cup at 6 am!
Black & Decker Smart Brewer
First impressions, upon seeing the price tag and design, are not great. It looks like the standard office coffee maker. But don’t be fooled.
It’s a classic that BLACK+DECKER have refined. Starting with the glass carafe, it’s not thermal but it is non-drip. It doesn’t leak, it’s easy to control as you pour and it won’t release steam that burns your hands or destroys the coffee maker.
When you look further at the features, you’ll notice that this 12-cup brewer can keep up with the rest. All the standard features including a hot plate, auto-switch off, mid-brew pause functionality and the all-important timer for coffee when you wake.
So why is it so cheap?
Our answer – it’s simple. There are no special filters (you need to buy paper basket ones), no intuitive tech to tell you when the coffee is going cold or when the unit needs descaling. The materials used are all plastic. It’s sturdy plastic, but plastic nonetheless.
We highly recommend this programmable brewer for those that don’t want to waste money on a ton of special features they’ll never use. Just be prepared to replace the unit entirely if something breaks, as it’s not really worth the cost of fixing individual parts.
The KRUPS programmable coffee maker comes with all the bells and whistles of a mid-range coffee maker from a well-known brand. But this newcomer is actually at a very reasonable price, in our opinion.
Ease of use isn’t overly straight-forward, but it’s not rocket science either. Use the rotating knob and LCD menu screen to program a coffee schedule for weekdays and weekends separately. Something many similarly priced coffee brewers just don’t offer. You’ve also got a handy window into the water reservoir to check how much is in there, plus a wide opening so you don’t spill water everywhere when topping it up.
This Krups unit uses ground coffee with a gold-tone filter – no problems here, it produced a smooth coffee for both a 12-cup carafe, 1 cup service, and a mid-brew paused serving.
There’s no water filter, however. We recommend using bottled water or be ready to regularly use the in-built descaling program.
The carafe is a simple glass design – nothing special. Unfortunately, with the enclosed hot plate you might struggle to find a thermal carafe that will fit in the gap. Luckily the hot plate can keep your coffee toasty warm at 180°F for 4 hours.
A sturdy, programmable coffee maker we recommend for those that need coffee for the 9-5 grind and sometimes the weekends too.
Hamilton Beach (49980A)
The Hamilton Beach model gives you the option of brewing a whole carafe (12-cup) or dripping coffee directly into a travel mug. It’s certainly convenient, saving time and effort washing up the carafe after pouring into your mug. What really gets us going, however, is just how versatile this programmable maker is.
Instead of feeding both the single serve and carafe coffee dispensers from the same reservoir, the Hamilton Beach coffee maker has 2 separate water reservoirs. The single travel cup dispenser is adaptable too – you don’t need to spend money on a new Hamilton Beach travel mug, you can pull down the top of the coffee maker to snugly fit any travel mug under 14 inches.
As for the actual coffee, you have a choice of using ground beans or soft pods (Senseo pods work well) but not hard plastic pods, like the K-pod.
One problem we did encounter, however, was that no permanent coffee filter is included, just a few paper ones included in the box. For our testing, we stuck with the paper filters, but you can easily buy a permanent one.
A great programmable coffee maker for those that need different brew sizes and strengths with standard auto-start, pause brew and timer functionality.
Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker
For the low (but not quite budget) price, this Mr. Coffee programmable brewer has everything you need for a reliable cup of coffee delivered on time every morning. It features programmable auto-start, pause brew function to grab a cup mid-brew, brew strength selector and freshness timer, to let you know how long that coffee has been sitting there on the hot plate.
The water filter is a very simple and removable addition that’s designed to remove 97% of chlorine from your water. The coffee filter is a simple, standard mesh filter. It’s easy to clean but nothing special. You can fit a paper filter inside it as well if needed.
We liked the brew strength selector especially; when brewing just 1 cup (this maker has the capacity to brew 12) the coffee doesn’t really have time to brew and the flavors to extract before it drips into the carafe. The flavor was noticeably intensified with the stronger setting.
The coffee maker comes with a standard glass carafe, but you can upgrade to a thermal stainless-steel decanter – sold separately by Mr. Coffee and reduces your carafe capacity from 12 cups to 8 cups. Still a worthy investment, in our opinion, as it keeps our coffee warm for longer if we fancy an extra 30 minutes in bed.
The 1.8l reservoir can make a 12-cup carafe with ground coffee. There’s a permanent gold-tone filter for the coffee (and space for a paper one) and a charcoal water filter.
Programming is simple. Using the buttons and digital display, set up a time that it will auto-switch on and start brewing. It will auto-brew however much water you have in the reservoir, rather than a set volume of coffee. You also can’t program it to only brew on weekdays or create a schedule.
Auto-switch off occurs after 2 hours and you also have “pause and pour” feature to stop it dripping everywhere if you take a cup mid-brew.
The ease of use extends to cleaning. The carafe, carafe lid, gold-tone filter, and brew basket are all dishwasher safe.
The main issues with this computerized coffee machine come down to water. The glass carafe (not thermal) releases steam from the gap around the lid, so watch your fingers. We also observed water condensation working into the coffee machine from the gaps in the carafe. No damage during our test, but with long-term use, this could cause a problem.
It’s a simple, well-made coffee maker that will deliver a good cup on time. The flavor is decent, and the sturdy plastic materials used to make the machine will last a fair amount of use.
What Is A Programmable Coffee Maker?
By programmable, we mean a feature that allows us to program our coffee makers to do all the hard work for us. No more getting up at 6 am to set your coffee brewer up just for 1 cup at 7 before you leave for work.
A programmable coffee maker can be pre-set to turn itself on and start brewing coffee at a set time.
Most common programmable coffee makers will be able to start brewing at a set time each day. Additional features that are good to keep an eye out for are:
- Adjustable schedules, so coffee starts at 9 am rather than 7 am on the weekends.
- Volume control, so you only brew 1 or 2 cups in the morning even if the reservoir is completely full.
- Brewing directly into a travel mug rather than a carafe.
- Pause features, to grab a cup before it’s finished brewing entirely.
- Reminders when the coffee is ready or is starting to go cold. Usually a loud beep.
- Auto-off functions, so the hot plate and coffee brewer will switch off after a set time.
The biggest reason you’d pick a programmable coffee maker is for convenience.
It’s going to save you time and effort every morning, giving you a few extra minutes in bed and allowing you to wake up to the smell of fresh coffee.
With that in mind, some coffee maker manufacturers go a step further. Dishwasher safe parts, self-cleaning functions, paper filters to reduce washing up time etc. These are all features to look out for. If you want something convenient, don’t buy a programmable coffee maker that will require immediate cleaning every morning or needs special paper filters you must order from the manufacturer.
The benefits of non-programmable coffee makers (some of the models reviewed by us have non-programmable twins) come down to versatility. If you want to skip coffee some days, or use different beans on different days with different brew strengths, or any other coffee quirk that a computer system won’t be able to predict and program for, think about getting a standard coffee maker.
Yes, you may have to wait longer for it to brew, but you have more control. A programmable coffee maker is for the coffee lover that knows exactly what they want, when they want it. And won’t deviate from that.
Recommended Smart Brewer
First off, thank you for reading this entire comparison post (considering you did not just skip ot the end).
Hopefully, you will not be too disappointed to find out that the recommended programmable brewer at the end of the post is the same as in the beginning – the Cuisinart DC3200. This is an excellent choice and the Coffee Dorks team stands firmly behind it. Also, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us.
Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.