The Mr. Coffee brand automatic coffee maker by Sunbeam Products Inc. is probably the best known, if for no other reason because it just sounds so friendly. Mister Coffee. You think he cares about you, that he wants you to have a good cup of coffee. He's there to greet you in the morning and help you wake up.
Compare that to Krups or Braun. Nope... cold, unfeeling, corporate. No wonder Mr. Coffee is the Kleenex of automatic coffee makers.
Mr. Coffee was launched in 1972 by North American Systems, Inc. and was endorsed by baseball legend Joe DiMaggio starting in 1974. In 1979, they started adding automatic timers to the coffee makers. The spin-off product, Mrs. Tea, was introduced in 1995 (presumably because the name Mr. T was taken). The brand become part of Sunbeam Products, Inc. in 1998. In 2003 they even decided to market their own Mr. Coffee brand of coffee grounds. Today it's still one of the top-rated brands in coffee makers, available in almost any store that sells small appliances.
Despite the friendly personality inherent in the Mr. Coffee brand name, it's basically an automatic coffee maker like any other. I personally have never noticed a difference in coffee quality due to the maker, it's all in the grounds. Mr. Coffee comes in your choice of black and white, both basket and cone style filters, and sizes ranging from 4-12 cups. Other options like pause-and-serve and programmable start timers are available. And if you'd like to take your coffee with you, thermal-style carafes will keep your coffee hot without the need to transfer it to a thermos.
To make a cup of coffee, pull out the filter basket, drop in a filter, fill with the appropriate amount of grounds, slide the filter basket back into position, add the appropriate amount of water, and hit the start button (or my favorite: program the timer to have a pot ready for you when you wake up). A standard coffee scoop is 1/8 of a cup, and I find one scoop per three to four 8 ounce cups of coffee is about right, depending on how strong you like it. A large scoop is 1/4 of a cup, and a rounded scoopful is good for a 10 cup coffee maker. These sizes are misleading, however. A standard coffee mug holds more like 10-12 ounces of coffee, not 8 ounces. Those little 6 ounce coffee cups and saucers are for old women and dinner parties. If you want a cup that actually holds 8 fluid ounces, you're pretty much stuck with styrofoam.
Automatic coffee makers have a hot plate under the carafe to keep it warm. Some versions have a timer, typically 2 hours, to prevent you from leaving it on all day while you're gone. To do that would be expensive in electricity and a potential fire hazard1. Of course, the coffee maker at work is a different story, you don't want that one to have a hot plate timer. It's typically going to be used for most of the day by various people and a timer would result in the abomination that is cold coffee. Interestingly, the hot plate performs double duty in brewing the coffee. The underside of the hot plate is the part that heats the water, forcing it up to the filter basket to drip through the grounds.
I'm no coffee connoisseur. To tell you the truth, I don't even like coffee (too bitter). I add so much sugar and cream to it some people wouldn't really consider it coffee anymore, it's just a caffeine delivery medium. So for the average person who doesn't want to spend a lot of time pampering his coffee maker, here's the big things that can ruin coffee:
- Too much coffee grounds2: One small scoop per 3-4 cups is good.
- Dirty carafe: For goodness' sake wash the thing out every month or so.
- Adding new grounds to used grounds: Called a "cheater pot", tastes like a cigarette.
- Leaving the used grounds in the filter overnight3: Tends to grow mold in the filter basket.
- Reheated in the microwave: Gross. Just gross.
- Old grounds: Granted, it takes a long time and the air-tight seal must be broken, but old grounds eventually lose their flavor4.
http://www.howstuffworks.com - How Coffee Makers Work
1. Ouroboros says leaving coffee on the hot plate too long also tends to concentrate and scald the coffee, ruining it.
2. interrobang adds that the grounds will spill out of the filter and into the carafe if you overload it.
3. shaogo recommends removing the grounds from the basket immediately, since the steam trapped in them will release bitter oils into the fresh pot below after about 5 minutes.
4. randombit says storing the coffee grounds in the freezer helps them retain their flavor longer.