The Wigomat: World’s First Automatic Coffee Machine

The Wigomat, not to be confused with the word laundromat was the very first automated coffee machine created by German inventor, Gottlob Widmann in 1954. How we ever survived before the era of an easy cup of coffee I will never know, but at least we had the coffee filters invented from 1908 to get us through the coffee making process. It’s incredible that it took close to 40 years for us to switch to the automated process and now many households depend on making their coffee this way.

Up until the late 1950s people were dependent on making coffee either by hand or in a percolator but in most cases the temperature would be too high—resulting in a bitter, tasteless flavor. The Wigomat’s redeeming quality and its marketing strategy relied on its ability to have the best brewing temperature. In the 1970s many companies tried to replicate the drip coffee process used by the Wigomat, but even as late as 1975 magazines in New York featured the Wigomat as one of the best:

“The people at Zabar’s tell us that their Wigomat Coffee Maker is one of the best of the currently popular instant-drip coffee makers.”

It was then that our love affair with instant coffee would begin to blossom.

What Makes the Automatic Drip Coffee Machine Unique?

The best part of the machine is its convenience—not everyone has a lot of time to prepare a cup of coffee and the automatic drip coffee machine solves this nuisance. I think that many people may not find the sort of meditative state that you get from making your own coffee sans electric worth the time it takes to produce a cup of delicious tasting coffee. If you’re like most households around the world you probably own some type of automated machine to get a fast fix for your caffeine cravings, and we’re not one to judge based on what you enjoy.

In fact, in a survey done by Time Magazine the world is split between instant coffee and its fresher alternative—it’s just as split between these two choices as it is between tea and coffee. It’s believed that the market in Asia prefers something that’s a bit less bitter and harsh tasting than its Western counterparts. I believe another reason that we may have to factor in our love in the West for fresh coffee is it’s easily accessible and if we aren’t interested in making it ourselves then we can hit up any of the local coffee shops to have it for a price. I know that most American households have either an automated coffee machine or more than one option to create this staple item.

What are Some Cons of Switching to the Automatic Drip Coffee Method?

If you’re like me you may have started out by using an automatic machine for coffee and as your interest peaked you began to explore coffee alternatives. Now, here’s one thing I’ve found that occurred with my switch the coffee from an automatic drip coffee machine doesn’t have the taste quality as coffee made using other processes. I’m not sure if I’m biased now—which could be a possibility or if it’s actually true, but I’ve found that when I take a sip from coffee produced by an automatic machine it’s a bit lackluster. I get a strange sort of enjoyment and exhilaration from creating my own cup of coffee that an automatic machine just can’t deliver.

Another thing that you’ll have to factor into buying an automatic drip coffee machine is cost. Great automatic drip machines come with a hefty price tag up front and you’ll also be paying for filters, unless you can find an alternative machine with a reusable filter, but you’ll still have to factor in replacement costs for the filter. If you have a set budget then you should be okay with an automatic drip coffee machine. You might have to sacrifice the coffee bean budget for it, but you’ll be adding an extra few minutes to enjoy the morning routine.

How Are the Brewing Techniques of Other Machines Different?

The automatic drip coffee machine is most certainly the easiest way to brew a quality cup of coffee, although the brewing can vary from machine to machine. The best part of the automatic is that it does all the difficult parts for you like temperature setting and an even drip dispense. You won’t have to do any of that by hand, and you’ll still be able to enjoy your cup of coffee.

The similarities between the pod and capsule coffee machines are the most similar to the brewing technique of the automatic drip coffee machine. In these machines you’re going to want to add water into the side compartment to a certain level—in most cases there’s a line that tells you the maximum level of water that should be added. The machines know what temperature to heat the water to for the perfect brew, but they both have their variations. In the automatic drip coffee machine you’ll have to place a filter and coffee grounds into the top compartment—while in the pod and capsule machines there’s a place to insert a pre-measured pod or capsule. On both machines you push the power button to begin the brewing process, but with the capsule and pod you’ll be able to choose from different cup sizes and with the automatic drip coffee machine it will go into the pot and you’ll be able to pour the desired amount.

If we’re comparing the automatic drip coffee machine to something like the French Press—they’re not even remotely similar. The automatic requires nothing from the person making the coffee—it has a controlled temperature and water amount. The French Press is completely reliant on the person that makes the coffee—the user has to measure the coffee grounds, the temperature, the amount of time for the brew and the amount of hot water being put inside the press. That gives a cup of French Press coffee a lot more variables to work with, but if you don’t mind having everything handed to you in a delicious cup then you’ll enjoy every ounce of coffee that the automatic drip coffee machine can produce for you.

Is the Flavor of Automatic Drip Coffee Different?

The automatic drip coffee machine provides the most consistent taste profile out of all the other coffee machines, but it’s consistency is what also makes it a bit lackluster in my opinion. I enjoy having the ability to create my own custom drink completely dependent on how I decide to brew my coffee in the morning. The automatic drip coffee machine does all the hard work for you, and if you don’t mind not having as much variety in taste than you’ll probably enjoy all the benefits that come with using this machine.

Is an Automatic Drip Coffee Machine in My Budget?

The automatic drip coffee machine has a variety of choices ranging in prices for every budget. I like to think that the more money you spend on a machine the better the coffee that it produces will be, but that’s not always the case with the automatic drip coffee machine. There are some that cost thousands of dollars that are on par with machines that cost around $30. It’s up to you at the end of the day though if you’re willing to spend a lot of money you may be able to get a little more variety out of your machine.

Is the Automatic Drip Coffee Machine Truly a Coffee Machine for Everyone?

If the automatic drip coffee machine is anything, it’s most definitely a great choice for just about anyone looking to purchase it. It’s convenient, reliable and quite often more cost-effective than some of the other alternatives. If you’re a beginner the automatic drip coffee machine is a great choice because it does all of the difficult parts for you. You don’t have to worry about temperature setting, brew time or how much water to use since it’s all part of the benefits of the machine.

Our fast-paced world makes automatic a wonderful choice, but for the real coffee snobs that prefer to be in charge of their own variables when it comes to making coffee there are plenty of options out there. I will say that if you’re looking to create a unique flavor with your coffee machine the automatic drip isn’t going to be the best choice for you. You’re going to want something that takes a few extra steps and time so that you can be in charge of the flavor of coffee you produce, but that doesn’t mean the automatic drip coffee machine doesn’t deserve a place in our kitchens for a quick and easy caffeine fix.

Top 3 Machines

Best Budget Choice

Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Coffeemaker (1688)

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Price: Ranges in price from $17.15 to $38.46.

Lowest Price: $17.15 on Amazon

Features: Brews 12 cups of coffee and has a pause n’ serve feature that allows you to pause the brew to pour yourself a cup of coffee

Cons: The removable filter basket is difficult to clean

Colors: White or Black

Mr. Coffee has been around since the invention of coffee machines—okay, probably not that long but it has been a quality brand since the 1970s. Many people choose it as a reliable machine to buy that will be budget-friendly and produce a quality cup of coffee. The simplicity of this machine doesn’t make the coffee it produces any less appealing, and in fact knowing you saved money should allow you to feel good about the coffee you’re sipping.

I like that this machine has an on and off feature so you won’t be concerned if you accidentally leave the machine on—the coffee pot is a cheap replacement if anything should happen to it. It costs somewhere between $15 and $30 for a replacement coffee pot, and it also has the Pause ‘N Serve feature which is worth the cost alone. I’m impatient and when I’m ready for my caffeine fix the machine will pause itself so I can pour a cup and then it will continue to do its magic.

Best Overall Choice

Bodum Bistro Automatic Pour Over Machine

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Price: Ranges in price from $89.10 to $149.99

Lowest Price: $89.10 on Amazon

Features: Thermal carafe and a cup of coffee is ready in under 6 minutes.

Cons: If you use too small of a grind setting for the grounds it will cause the water to leak out of the machine.

Colors: Black (other colors are available in the premium models)

Bodum is a leader in the coffee industry for good reason—so is it any wonder that one of their machines would make our list? There’s this myth that you can’t get a good cup of coffee by using an automatic drip coffee machine, but what if it used the brewing technique of a pour over. There’s nothing too fancy happening with this machine—no timer, dials, switches or touch screen and yet it still produces an amazing cup of coffee every time.

You have two things to worry about adding water and quality coffee grounds to the machine, and it’s guarenteed to take care of the rest. People have compared the taste of the coffee produced by this machine to that of the Chemex. Anything that comes even remotely close to tasting like what the Chemex can produce I will give a chance, especially if it’s as convenient as an automatic machine.

Best Premium Choice

Moccamaster KBT 10-Cup Coffee Brewer

 

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Price: Ranges in price for $308 to $375

Lowest Price: $308 on Amazon

Features: 5 year warranty and brews a full or ½ carafe of coffee in 4-6 minutes

Cons: It’s a simple machine for the price and should offer more functions

Colors: Black or Polish Silver

If you like a perfectly made cup of coffee every time and you’re willing to pay more than $300 for a machine the Moccamaster KBT 10-Cup Coffee Brewer is the perfect answer. If you like how quickly a coffee is delivered at a coffee shop than the Moccamaster is exceptional at that, and it can make a ½ carafe of coffee in under 5 minutes. The carafe also keeps your coffee really hot and you won’t have to worry if you can’t drink it quickly. This is one of those rare automatic machines that actually brings out the flavor of the coffee, which because of the filtration process and the water dispensing of most machines doesn’t happen often enough.

You won’t have to worry too much about which coffee brand you use here and that would be nice and potentially save you money down the road. Instead of relying on expensive fresh beans (I would normally always recommend this) you could get by with buying cheaper alternatives and have just as great a flavor. The machine itself has a great design that would make for a wonderful conversation piece to add to your kitchen.

Brewing Guide: Tips and Tricks for the Automatic Drip Coffee Machine

  1. The first step is to add a coffee filter to your filter basket—there are many choices for this but the most popular one is the paper filter. You can buy a machine with a removable filter that would probably save you money and eliminate this first step on any budget though.
  2. Measure out the coffee next. You’ll have to remember that the more coffee you want your machine to make, the more coffee grounds you’ll need to add in the filter. The ratio of coffee to water varies slightly from machine to machine, but the standard would be 2 tablespoons for every 6 ounces of water. If you’re concerned you can always double check in the manual that came with your machine.
  3. After you’ve measured the coffee grounds, now you’ll have to do the same with water if that needs to be a step. Some of the newer machine models just allow you to hold water in a separate place. If there isn’t a spot for the water you’ll need to pour the water into the open space either behind or above the filter. Do not pour the water directly into the filter basket.
  4. If your machine is older you’ll need to plug it in to turn it on but most machines have an on/off switch that you just click when you’re ready to start brewing. You may also have a manual time setting that will need to be adjusted depending on the age of your machine.
  5. Now all you have to do is wait for the coffee to completely brew before pouring unless your machine offers you a special feature that allows the machine to pause between pouring so you can enjoy a cup of coffee while you wait. Enjoy your warm delicious cup of coffee!

Pro Tip: My biggest complaint with the automatic drip coffee machine is that it’s well—automatic. For a very long time and many years of research I came up with this tasteless cup of coffee that was never quite as satisfying as making it myself. I discovered I had been doing a few things incorrectly to not get the best from my automatic machine:

  • If buying fresh beans from a local roastery matters then this is where it’s really going to make a noticeable difference. I used to use your standard Maxwell’s or Folger’s coffee to make in these machines because I never wanted to “waste” my good beans on the automatic process. I was entirely wrong because I learned that just because something is easy doesn’t mean it can’t produce something delicious and worthwhile like a great cup of coffee.
  • I wasn’t using filter water. You’re probably laughing as you read this but using filtered water also made a big difference and it kept my machines from constantly needing a good cleaning. The coffee that I used with tap water always had a strange aftertaste that I couldn’t place but after doing a bit of digging I found that many coffee shops and professionals had switched to using filtered water for a cleaner cup of coffee. You also can’t forget to use the correct ratio of water for your specific machine!

Conclusion

Don’t let the coffee snobs fool you because an automatic drip coffee machine can be just as great as making your own cup of coffee with half the work. There are still many things to take into consideration when using an automatic machine, but you’ll get to relax and let the automation process do all of the hard work for you. There is nothing better than actually getting to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee that you didn’t have to put much thought or effort into creating—the most difficult part of the coffee making process is hitting that perfect brew temperature and getting the timing just right.

The future has brought on so many new coffee machines to the market, and we’re just as excited to see what else is in store. Many of the machines allow you to pick the perfect filter and control the temperature and even the timing—we’re happy that the automatic process has also brought about the love that we have for controlling the variables of how our coffee is brewed.