History of the Coffee Maker
Coffee has been a thing for thousands of years, of course. For hundreds of years, people brewed coffee by roasting and grinding beans and putting them into a pot of hot water. In the 19th century, the French invented the infusion process (basically putting coffee grinds into a giant tea bag), invented drip brewing (pouring water through a filter), invented the percolator (where boiling water forces itself through a tube into an upper chamber and then “percolates” drip by drip into a lower chamber), and of course the French press, or cafetière. It probably didn’t hurt that Napoleon loved the stuff.
Strong coffee, and plenty, awakens me. It gives me a warmth, an unusual force, a pain that is not without pleasure. I would rather suffer than be senseless
Of course, coffee makers really took off commercially in the mid-20th century when American ingenuity made new innovations. In the 1950’s, George R. Bunn, Jr. invented the pour-over drip coffee brewer and the flat-bottomed fluted coffee filter. His Bunn-O-Matic brand paved the way for the proliferation of brands you see today, from Mr. Coffee, Cuisinart, OXO, Hamilton Beach, Black and Decker. All of which, of course, are made in China now.
Are any Coffee Makers not made in China?
Surprisingly, there’s a bunch of them. BUNN, which started the whole thing, still produces much of the commercial coffee making equipment you’ll find in your favorite restaurants and fast food joints. If you’ve enjoyed coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, Tim Horton’s, 7-Eleven, McDonalds, and likely your favorite restaurant or café, it was brewed on BUNN equipment. And they have a whole line of consumer equipment too. While some of their models are made in China, most of their models, particularly the higher end ones, are still assembled in the USA.
Sadly, the majority of once-strong European brands like Krups and Braun (which is really De’Longhi) have moved all of their manufacturing to China very recently (if you read the Amazon Q&As, the Braun KF7070 was made in Romania as of May 6, 2019, but as of December 9, 2020, it’s made in China). Technivorm is the last European brand hanging on to non-China based manufacturing. We’ll break down the best below.
There’s also a new batch of US-based companies who are coming up with their own designs for old school non-electronic coffee makers, some of which have rave reviews on Amazon (remember, coffee was made for hundreds of years before electricity came around). No doubt companies in China are already copying their designs and selling them under fake brand names, but their price points are so low it’d be a crime not to support them.
Best Coffee Makers Not Made in China – Quick Ranking
|1||AeroPress Coffee and Expresso Maker||4.8||View on Amazon|
|2||Technivorm Moccamaster KBG||4.7||View on Amazon|
|3||BUNN Speed Brew||4.6||View on Amazon|
|4||Gianni Expresso Maker||4.5||View on Amazon|
I had to do a double-take when I saw the Amazon reviews for this one. It has a solid 4.8 rating over more than 12,000 reviews. The AeroPress was patented by Alan Adler in 2004. If you were around in the 1980s, you may remember a new kind of frisbee shaped like a flat ring called the Aerobie. That was patented by Mr. Adler too. Along with over 40 other inventions. Adler is a true American success story; before he retired he taught engineering at Stanford University, and today he is still a sought-after lecturer at places like Stanford, NASA, Google, Caltech, Princeton, and many more.
It was in 2004 that Adler began to study the coffee brewing process and came up with the AeroPress. Interestingly, it looks just like a French Press. But according to the company–and to thousands of real, non-shill reviewers–it produces coffee faster (in one minute), avoids the bitterness and acidity, and eliminates grit from the bottom of your cup that makes drinking a cup of French Press so anticlimactic.
Here’s how it works.
The secret is in using air pressure, i.e., the short time it takes to brew in the patented air-tight container. You start with the right temperature (most people prefer 175 degrees) and then press gently (about 12 pounds of force, or about double the amount of force it takes to break an egg). This extracts rich flavor while leaving bitterness in the grounds vs. letting the coffee steep for many minutes in a French Press.
Best thing about it? Everything is made in the USA, not just the assembly of the parts, but the parts themselves. They’re a bit coy in that they don’t publicize such a strong selling point (leading me to suspect that there are some people pressuring Mr. and Mrs. Adler, the owners of the company, to sell out). But the fact that they’ve gone so long without selling out to China gives me hope. Mr. Adler has clearly stated himself in the Q&A on his site that “AeroPress coffee makers are made in the USA.”
There are many in Amazon reviews, Youtube videos, blogs, and social media who with no irony declare that a cup of coffee brewed in an AeroPress is the best they’ve had, even better than cups from thousand-dollar coffee makers. And surprisingly, I don’t see any Chinese “fake” brands aping the AeroPress design; AeroPress has been wise not to outsource to subcontractors in China who would not think twice about stealing its design and intellectual property secrets as so many other coffee makers companies in the US have.
At $29.99, what do you have to lose?
- NOT made in China
- Heavy duty; able to mix heavy cookie dough, mash potatoes
- Very quiet
- Amazingly inexpensive. Less than the price of 12 brewed coffees at Starbucks
- Safe, phthalate and BPA free, all materials made in the USA and approved for food use by FDA and EU
- Lightweight, easy to use
- Only brews one cup at a time
- Need to manually heat water, grind coffee beans
- Parts may wear over time (after several hundreds of cups brewed)
As I mentioned, European companies that once prided themselves on keeping manufacturing within Europe like Krups and Braun (De’Longhi) have completely sold out. Luckily for everyone who wants to support a company who hasn’t completely sold out, the very best electronic, automatic coffeemaker is still not made in China.
It’s the Technivorm Moccamaster. All Technivorm Moccamaster filter coffeemakers are handmade in the Netherlands, and have a 5-year limited warranty.
Admittedly, I spent half a day trying to make heads or tails of their different models based on their Web site and their Amazon page. They haven’t done a great job at maintaining logical branding for their products, so I’ll try to sort it all out for you here.
All of the Moccamaster models feature a copper boiling element that heats water to the perfect temperature for brewing coffee, just off the boiling point (between 196 and 205 degrees F) and through a unique hot plate on the base holds the coffee at the perfect temperature for drinking, at your choice of either 175 or 185 degrees (never burning the coffee). A full carafe brews in six minutes, and their unique 9-hole outlet arm pulses water over your coffee to ensure even extraction and saturation.
KBG – Their most popular model, the KBG is the one I ultimately chose to highlight as the best, although all models in this line are a good choice. In this model, an automatic brew basket will ensure that even if you pull the carafe away you won’t get any drips. It switches off automatically when the water reservoir is empty, or after 100 minutes for safety. A switch allow you to brew a full carafe (6-10 cups) or a half carafe (2-6 cups), all with optimal brew cycles.
KB – This model is essentially the same as the KBG, but it doesn’t have the automatic brew basket (there is a switch that allows you more manual control to steep your coffee longer, allow regular brewing, or close the brew basket so you can pull the carafe away). It is also limited to just a full carafe (6-10 cups)
KBGT and KBT – The “T” after the letter indicates that the pot is an insulated thermos rather than a glass carafe.
HBG and HB – These models are the same as the KBs, except that the hot plate is limited to 175 degrees.
The Technivorm Moccamaster is often cited not only as the best coffee maker not made in China, but the best high-end coffee maker made anywhere, by ordinary coffee drinkers and baristas alike. It’s achieved the #1 ranking by Cooks Illustrated, CNET, and USA Today, are certified by the Speciality Coffee Association (SCA), and have been granted the European Coffee Brewing Center’s (ECBC) Seal of Approval meeting their strict and highly demanding gold cup quality guidelines. It routinely wins taste tests as the best tasting cup of coffee from a filter brewer available anywhere.
- NOT made in China
- Built to last
- Meets strict ECBC and SCA standards for the ideal cup of coffee, including optimal temperature, time, even extraction, and amount of total dissolved solids
- Uses only quality European parts; plastics are BPA and Phthalate free
- 5 year warranty
- Isolated reports of uneven saturation
BUNN hasn’t been able to completely avoid manufacturing in China but for an industry pioneer, I’m impressed that they’ve managed to keep so much of their production at home. From the looks of it, most of the units in their “Speed Brew” line are still made in Iowa while certain new models like the CSB1 and the “Heat N’ Brew” are made in China. Avoid those like the plague.
Within their US-made line, BUNN has a dizzying number of models to choose from, but most of the differences have to do with your choice of vessel (a glass carafe or a thermal pitcher) or color of the unit.
All models use an internal commercial grade stainless steel water tank (not plastic) that keeps 70oz of water always hot. This makes this line of coffee makers one of the fastest (if not the fastest) in the world, brewing a whole carafe in 3-4 minutes, half the time of most coffee makers.
They all use a commercial-style multi-stream sprayhead to evenly shower water over your coffee, just like the units at your favorite coffee shop or café (who very likely use BUNN commercial equipment produced in the same plant).
If you’ve ever had to deal with messy coffee grinds from a typical filter-based coffee maker, you’ll appreciate that BUNN filters (and the funnel that holds them) are 1/4″ taller than other filters, allowing water to flow quickly and preventing overflow.
All of their models have a three-year warranty.
Here are some of the differences between the models, which are mostly related to outward appearance.
– GRB Speed Brew Classic – This is the basic model, and the most popular. It has a classic black finish and stainless-steel nameplate. It has a glass carafe with a proprietary spout and lid design where messy drips are a thing of the past–your coffee flows straight into your cup with no mess. A warmer plate keeps your coffee at just the right temperature. It also comes in white (GRW Speed Brew Classic) and with a slightly more modern looking tank design (BXB Speed Brew Classic). Each of these models date back to 2003, so if you’re looking for “tried and true” you’ll find it here.
– SBS Speed Brew – This unit has the same features as above, but comes in a modern curve design with a high gloss and matte black finish. It first became available in 2015.
– CSB2B Speed Brew Elite – This is the same as above with a matte black finish and stainless steel backsplash and top accent. It also comes in a High Altitude version that adjusts the brew to accommodate differences in air pressure at higher elevations. The CSB2G Speed Brew Elite and CSB2G High Altitude Speed Brew Elite are the same with a grey matte finish and black gloss accents. These are the newest members of the family, having launched in 2018, but the only real difference is in aesthetics.
– The CSB3T Speed Brew Platinum Thermal, CSB3T High Altitude Speed Brew Platinum Thermal, and BT Speed Brew Classic Thermal are variations for those who prefer thermal pitchers to glass carafes.
Not only are all models manufactured in the USA, their customer service is out of Springfield, Illinois meaning you won’t have to deal with non-native English speakers trying to sound convincing.
- NOT made in China
- Super fast; brews a whole pot in 3-4 minutes
- Commercial-quality hot water tank and sprayhead that coovers coffee grounds evenly
- Shares DNA with commercial equipment used by the best coffee shops and cafés
- Exclusive drip-free carafe
- Special high altitude version available
- 3 year warranty
- Product lineup can be confusing
- Isolated reports of weaker strength coffee
- Isolated reports of overflowing
h/t to a Twitter user for this one. For those who love expresso or expresso-based coffee drinks, what better than to get one of the best expresso makers made in Italy?
This expresso machine works on stovetops (including induction cooktops) and brews an “excellent” cup of expresso. Usually these units are only available in Italy, but Amazon third party sellers that import from Italy are selling them.
To use it, fill the base with water, insert a funnel and a basket filter with coffee ground to an expresso grind. As the water comes to a boil the airtight design will create pressure within the unit that brews the expresso quickly but to perfection. There’s an excellent video here.
Add milk or your favorite mocha sauce to create hand-crafted coffee a lot quicker, a lot cheaper, and a lot better than Starbucks.
- NOT made in China
- Made in Italy
- 18/10 Stainless steel
- Stay-cool handle
- Some may not like the manual process or cleanup
Do you know of other coffee makers that have avoided the China trap? Let us know in the comments!