Coffee Makers

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 23 brands of coffee makers.

We also look at coffee machine repairs, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Koç Holding and give our recommended buys.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying a coffee maker:

  • Is it simple? The process of making coffee is thousands of years old and there are many simple contraptions available for doing so. Buy a non-electronic one that involves as few materials as possible.

  • Is it second hand? There is a healthy second hand market in electrical coffee machines. If your coffee sensibilities demand a machine, make it a pre-loved one.

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What not to buy

What to avoid when buying coffee makers:

  • Is it a pod machine? Coffee pods use unnecessary resources and produce waste (unless biodegradable). If made from plastic, they add to the vast amounts of plastic damaging ecosystems around the world. The plastic in our oceans could already circle the planet 400 times, so avoid adding to it by staying well away from machines reliant on plastic coffee pods.

  • Is it new? Electrical coffee machines made of steel and plastic can weigh as much as 10kg, which is unlikely to be from recycled sources, so avoid buying a new machine.

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Score table

Updated live from our research database

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Brand Score(out of 20) Ratings Categories Positive Scores

Our Analysis

In the last decade coffee has become less of an everyday commodity and more of an ‘artisanal’ product, with many drinkers considering themselves connoisseurs. Companies have cultivated and capitalised on this trend with aprofusion of devices to enable people to supposedly make the perfect cup of coffee at home. 

When we investigated coffee makers in 2010, the fanciest machine on offer was an espresso or cappuccino maker and about 5% of people had one, while 17% had a filter machine. Today, around 22% of British households have an espresso or filter machine and a third have a pod coffee machine.

After several years of explosive growth driven by pod devices, the coffee machine market has plateaued. This is probably due to a combination of factors: market saturation, dawning awareness of the environmental impacts of pods, lack of space in kitchens for yet another small appliance, and moneyed connoisseurs seeking to liberate themselves from the Nespresso capsule menu by upgrading to bean-to-cup machines.

Image: coffee machine in cafe ethical consumer product guide

Table highlights

Given that many coffee makers are electrical appliances, companies manufacturing these were rated for their policies on the use of conflict minerals and toxic chemicals. The picture wasn’t pretty: every company that was assessed received a worst rating, except Braun, which managed a middle. Bialetti and La Cafetière/Le’Xpress were not rated as they do not make electrical appliances. Indeed, ‘highlights’ is a misnomer for this section given that all companies performed so poorly across the board and the top scorers only scraped double digits because their products weren’t electrical appliances.

There was nearly a clean sweep of worst ratings for the management of workers rights in supply chains, with only Lavazza bucking the trend with its top rating whilst Miele, Cookworks and Nespresso got a middle rating. Only Nespresso managed a best rating for environmental reporting, while six other companies managed a middle (Miele, Krups/Groupe SEB, Beko/Arçelik Group, KitchenAid/Whirlpool, Russell Hobbs/Spectrum Brands, Cookworks/JSainsbury). Everyone else received a worst rating.

Many companies lost marks in other categories by dint of being owned by large conglomerates. Beko, for example, lost a whole mark under climate change because the brand is 40% owned by Koç Holdings, which is involved in fossil fuels and has an airline subsidiary. Beko, Bosch, Sage and Breville also lost half a mark each under Arms and Military Supply because other companies in their group sell equipment, vehicles, communication systems and other services to armed forces around the world.

Which brands make which coffee machines?

Table: Coffee makers and products

Environmental problems with coffee machines

Quite apart from the environmental problems with coffee pods, which we cover in our guide to coffee, complex coffee machines consume lots of materials in their manufacture.

A compact pod machine, such as the Krups Dolce Gusto Oblo is mostly plastic and weighs around 2.5kg, while a larger De’Longhi pod and ground coffee machine uses steel and plastic to the tune of 4.1kg. An espresso machine like the Sage Barista express bean-to-cup machine comes in at a whopping 10.6kg of steel and plastic. In contrast, a Bialetti Moka Express stove-top coffee maker is around 700g of aluminium, plastic and rubber.

Because of this excessive use of resources, we recommend that if you’re interested in buying an electric coffee machine and reducing environmental impacts then second hand will be better than buying new.

Repairing and recycling coffee machines

Fortunately most machines are repairable, either within warranty via the manufacturer or out of warranty through a third party servicing company. Replacement parts are also often available online. If your machine is beyond repair, you can return it to the manufacturer or take it to the small appliance section of your local recycling centre.

Replacement parts are also available for most cafetières and stove-top coffee makers. Note, however, that glass cafetière parts cannot be put in your normal glass recycling, rather you should take them to your local recycling centre. The reason is that the glass will be heat-proof borosilicate glass, which doesn’t melt at the same temperature as regular bottles and jars. If borosilicate glass gets mixed up with regular glass it can lead to that batch of recycling being rejected.

Company behind the brand

Koç Holding which owns 40% of Arçelik Group (Beko brand) is one of Turkey’s largest companies and is controlled by members of the obscenely wealthy Koç family. It is involved in three high climate impact sectors: automobiles, airlines and fossil fuels. It also has subsidiaries providing armoured vehicles and information technologies to the Turkish military and other armed forces, with its products promoted as having been used under UN and NATO flags

Koç Holdings has operations in seven countries considered by Ethical Consumer to be governed by oppressive regimes: China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Swaziland, Thailand and Vietnam. It has multiple high risk subsidiaries in jurisdictions on our tax haven list and it is a member of the World Economic Forum and Bilderberg Group, lobby groups which have been criticised for exerting undue corporate influence on policymakers in favour of market solutions that are potentially detrimental to the environment and human rights.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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