While the best bread maker probably won't turn you into Paul Hollywood overnight, it does still present the easiest way to getting a daily loaf of bread at home. Indeed, breadmaking doesn’t have to be some artisanal skill - with the right bread maker anybody can be the breadwinner of the family! (sorry, we had to go there).
The best bread makers are truly coming into their own now. Following the last few years of self-isolation, more and more of us have turned to home baking to save going to the shops, and the fresh loaves churned out by home bread makers are going to be far fresher and more delicious than something you can pick up at your local supermarket.
But which bread maker should you choose? While you may not find every model below in stock online, this selection should offer a good starting point for budding bakers.
When bread makers work well, it really is as simple as chucking in a load of ingredients and then going away to do something more productive, like home-schooling your kids. There's no kneading, no stirring, no pouring in of mixed seeds: the best bread makers do it for you.
When it's available, we think the best bread maker you can buy is the Panasonic SD-ZB2512. It's reliable, advanced, and incredibly simple to use. We love it, but it might not be right for you, so we've collected, reviewed and ranked five other excellent bread makers.
How to choose the best bread maker for you
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Obviously, the most important thing to look out for when buying a bread maker is how well the machine can actually bake bread. Luckily, we've done that part of testing for you, and ranked the machines on how reliably they pump out a quality loaf.
You'll also need to decide what type of machine you want - most on this list are pretty simple to operate, just add the ingredients, press a few buttons and let the machine do all the work for you. Some, like the Custom Loaf Pro, are a little more complex, and aimed at more experienced bakers.
Bread makers have health benefits as well, don't ya know: a number of our selections here have gluten-free modes. And weirdly, you can usually use them to make jam, giving you an entire breakfast from one device. What's not to like?
With fresh, healthy loaves on demand and the waft of a boulangerie in the T3 test room, we tried out six of the best baking 'bots to discover the ultimate all-in-one miniature bakery.
Stop loafing about, it's time to meet your (bread) makers…
The best bread makers you can buy today
The stainless steel Breville The Custom Loaf looks better than the competition, costs somewhat more, and is that bit more serious – a tool for the keen baker who wants to perfect their own artisan loaves.
Going by the brand name Breville in Australia but Sage in the UK (we're not sure, either) this model comes with 13 automatic settings – from basic white, wholewheat, sourdough and crusty to gluten free, sweet and yeast free – plus nine custom settings and three crust options, from light to dark. It will also make bread and pizza dough for oven use. You also get a glass window allowing you to peer inside and see the magic happening, something not all bread makers can lay claim to. Finally, there's a collapsible kneading paddle included that doesn't leave as big a hole in the bottom of the loaf.
With Breville's customary intuitive interface onboard, the Custom Loaf is a breeze to use – simply load in the ingredients, turn the main selection knob and press it on the setting you want. If you wish to add extra ingredients like nuts, seeds and raisins during the bake, simply pour them into the automatic dispenser and they’ll be added during the bake.
When using the standard ‘basic’ mode and a packet of bread mix, it takes about 30 minutes for the machine to warm the ingredients to room temperature at which point it starts two kneading processes followed by a lengthy three-stage proofing session and a short ‘Punch Down’ sequence to rid the dough of excess carbon dioxide before starting the baking sequence. The entire kneading, proofing and baking process takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes for a large 1.25kg loaf.
The Custom Loaf excelled in all the disciplines we presented it, producing a tranche of different loaves with a level of consistency that many of its competitors couldn’t match. If you’re prepared to fork out a little more on a machine that not only performs exceedingly well but is equipped to handle a variety of breads, the Sage Custom Loaf may be the model for you.
Read our full Sage (Breville) The Custom Loaf Bread Maker review
If there's one brand that's pushing the ancient science of machine bread making forward, it's Panasonic. This model comes with more features than most, including a two-stage, rustic sourdough function. We tried our hand at this most artisan of bread-types and some of the other 28 main programs on offer.
It's an unusually tall machine because built into the hinged lid is a dispensing compartment with two hatches, one for nuts, seeds and raisins and another for yeast. The latter ensures the active ingredient is on a timed-release for maximum effect. That means there's no room for a window through which to peer at your dough, but it seems a sacrifice worth making if using yeast as opposed to a pre-packaged bread mix. On average it took about four hours to complete the process from warming and kneading to proofing and baking. Our test results using two standard bread mixes weren’t quite as good as the bread produced by the Breville Custom Loaf – the Panasonic’s top crust was much paler even after selecting a darker crust – but the internal structure was spot on.
The sourdough feature is welcome, too, but only if you know what you’re doing because this process requires a fermented dough starter to rise. Thankfully you get a plastic container for the starter and a specific setting that heats it up before storing in a fridge overnight ready for baking the following day. This writer managed to turn out a pretty decent sourdough but, if I were honest, it wasn’t in the same airy league as a San Francisco from Gail’s bakery.
Nevertheless, despite being more complicated to use than the Breville Custom Loaf, the Panasonic SD-YR2540 is a mighty fine baker with a few extra functions that also happens to sell for a few quid cheaper.
Read our full Panasonic SD-YR250 review
The Morphy Richards is massive and strikingly ugly to look at but, hey, it’s cheap and it produces loaves of better appearance than some models at three times the price. Features are thin on the ground, with no nut dispenser and only 12 preset modes – basic white, French, wholewheat, quick, sweet, dough, jam, cake, sandwich, extra bake, two fast-bake settings but no specific gluten-free option. Its maximum size loaf is 900g which is perfectly acceptable for couples and soloists.
The MR’s clunky, cheap-looking interface is quite awful, it has to be said, and a millions miles from the likes of Panasonic and Breville. It’s noisy when kneading the ingredients, too.
This might all sound pretty negative, but it must be said, the quality of the crust on the white loaf we baked in it really surprised us – it had a shiny, uniform appearance and the bread itself tasted marvellous, too.
A non-stick coating in the bread-pan makes this bread maker particularly easy to clean, but the Sunbeam BM2500 Compact Bakehouse’s best trick is that it’s dead simple to use. Just toss in your ingredients and you can leave overnight to do its thing.
This is also one of the cheapest bread makers you’ll find in Australia, but it does come with caveats. For one, results can be a little inconsistent compared to more expensive machines, and it is rather noisy during operation.
If you’re looking for a relaxing bread-making time, it might be worth your while spending just a little bit more.
Kogan’s bread maker offering has been on the market for over five years now, but in that time it’s made a name for itself as being one of the easiest models to use you can find. An internal light makes it easy to track how your load is going, and the bread it produces is as good as anything you’ll find on supermarket shelves.
You can even turn the bread maker to use as a jam or yoghurt maker, and a timed delay of up to fifteen hours means you can set it to come home to the delicious smell of freshly baked bread.
One of Breville's two offerings in this buying guide, and easily the over-achiever of the class. Not only can it make bread, this multi-function cooker can serve as a deep-fryer, steamer, or even sauté pan.
Loaves can be baked in three different sizes, and 12 programs let you choose between normal bread, yeast-free, French-style, and more. The 9 in 1 may be versatile, but being the jack of all trades it does tend to be the master of none, and it can be tricky to clean. But with a bit of effort, you’ll never visit the bread aisle again!
No, it's not as good as the Panasonic SD-YR2540, but this is cheaper, and another really tech-fuelled machine that delivers high-quality loafage.
A tray ensures the yeast is not entered into the cooking process before it's suitably ready – another dispenser adds fruit and seeds - and Panasonic's gently maturing bread maker is also capable of churning out three sizes of loaf, as well as jam.
Again, there's a 100% gluten-free setting and the Speciality Mode helps you experiment with a variety of interesting grains. Lovely.