Wirecutter’s ‘Best’ Drip Coffee Makers Pooh-Poohs the Two Best Drip Coffee Makers

Here’s a perfect example of what I was talking about in the previous item, about The Wirecutter institutionally fetishizing price over quality. And within “quality” I include design aesthetics, which, let’s face it, almost always goes hand-in-hand with price.

From their current list of “best” drip coffee makers, which is topped by OXO’s $200 Brew 9-Cup:

You can find a number of expensive, stylish coffee makers made in small quantities for enthusiast audiences. Clive Coffee’s Ratio Eight and the Chemex Ottomatic are two prominent examples. They’re all made for connoisseurs who are willing to spend a lot on a high-end machine. The main draw of these coffee makers is that they brew similarly to manually making a batch of pour-over — pre-infusing the grounds and evenly pouring the hot water. For the price, however, it’s hard to see any concrete benefits to these machines, and they’re also less widely available than our top picks.

The Ratio Eight costs $495, and the Chemex Ottomatic $350. They don’t just brew coffee similarly to pour-over, they brew pour-over. The difference is only that they’re automatic. And pour-over coffee tastes better than the stuff regular drip coffee makers brew.

The “concrete benefits” to these machines is that they make better-tasting coffee and they look better on your kitchen counter. Yes, $350/495 is significantly more than $200, but many coffee lovers gladly spend $5 a cup every day for pour-over coffee from a good coffee shop. Many people pay close to that for drip coffee from not-so-good coffee shops.

I was recently at a friend’s house who owns the Ratio Eight and it’s a splendid device. Me, I’ll stick with my manual pour-over method, if only for the ritual, but if I were going to buy a machine to automate it, I don’t think I’d consider anything other than a Ratio. Also, Ratio makes the best thermal carafe I’ve ever seen — I ordered one of those. I expect to use it for a decade, if not longer.

And what’s the deal with using “less widely available” as an excuse not to recommend them? A list of “The Best Coffee Makers You Can Definitely Get Delivered This Week” or “The Best Coffee Makers You Can Find on the Shelf If You’re Reading This Review While Standing in the Coffee Maker Aisle at Target” is very different from a list of “The Best Coffee Makers”. A coffee maker is the sort of item I’d research the heck out of, and get on a waitlist to buy, so that I could get one that would most delight me every morning for years to come.

Wirecutter’s description of these two coffee makers is criminal. But at least they did mention them. In many other categories, superior but more-expensive products don’t even get a mention from Wirecutter. I think there’s a huge market opportunity here for a quality-and-design-first rival.

Friday, 3 September 2021