Whilst looking to buy a four cup coffee maker should be an easy task, there is some trade-off in the quality of both the coffee maker and the coffee they make when compared to more expensive, larger brewers.
A common problem many people encounter is spillage. Sometimes the design of the spout is poor, resulting in coffee spilled all over the bench when trying to pour a cup. If the spout is small, as it seems to be with the 4 cup coffee maker designs, the only solution here is just to pour more slowly, or pour over the sink if you're in a hurry or half asleep in the morning.
In other instances, the coffee basket retains a lot of moisture. This leads to moisture dripping on the hot plate after you remove the carafe. Whilst not a big problem, this can be annoying, and means a little extra cleaning.
Some four cup coffee makers have a delay brew feature which you can set up to 24 hours in advance. This can be great if you want to wake up to an already brewed cup in the morning. Be aware, though, that there can be problems with the timer. Some customers who have used Mr. Coffee's 4-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker found that the timer lost a few minutes each day, although others have reported no problems.
Many 4 cup coffee makers don't seem to hold up to heavy daily use. This could be because they are generally cheaper, in which case, simply updating your coffee maker every year shouldn't pose too much of a problem. But if you like to use the brewer more than once a day, you may want to invest in a bigger model and just use a smaller amount of water. This can also solve the problems of coffee quality that many people find is sacrificed when using a smaller model.
If you start by using about 1 tablespoon of coffee per cup of water, you can easily tailor smaller quantities of coffee to the larger models.
One thing to be aware of is that often the cup sizes specified by manufacturers is smaller than the average sup of coffee we drink. So, a 4 cup coffee maker may actually only be a 2 to 2.5 cup.
Four cup coffee makers are compact, and can look stylish. They offer an advantage to students in dorms, and those with very small bench tops. But if you're serious about the taste of your coffee, these cheaper models often taste a little metallic, or like plastic. The strength of the brew can be difficult to control, and the additional features don't always work as reliably as the manufacturers claim. Some models don't even have a warmer, meaning you'll have to either microwave your coffee or store in a thermos to keep it hot. Other problems can lie in whether the portable coffee cups actually don't spill in the car. Decide what is most important to you - size of the maker, the quality of the coffee, the price of the model, certain individual features, or the availability of things like filters. Once you know what is most important to you, it becomes easier to narrow down the decision.
Rebecca Prescott presents http://www.CoffeeCaper.com with articles on the features of the best coffee makers and more.