Fresh bread in the morning is one of life's true pleasures, but ask anyone who's tried and they'll tell you just how painful the effort of making it yourself, from scratch, can be. Baking in your own oven can be time-consuming and error-prone, with no guarantee on your first umpteen tries that you'll produce anything tasty at all.
There is another way, though — breadmakers have been around for decades, but as with most kitchen appliances they're improving all the time. There are now countless models out there to help you produce delicious loaves of all types, including gluten-free variants, exactly when you need them with a minimum of fuss.
Get that fresh-bread morning whenever you want with any of the great breadmakers we've featured on our list below.
Our pick of the best bread makers to buy today
Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus
If you're looking for a breadmaker that can churn out big, well-finished loaves, this Zojirushi is a stormer. With two kneading paddles to turn the dough around, and a 2-pound oven for the bread itself, it's a pretty sizeable unit, but that's true to slightly different degrees of most breadmakers.
A range of pre-set options for certain loaf types takes the complication even further from your hands, letting you simply press a button, insert the ingredients as directed and turn up later for delightful bread. The Virtuoso Plus is solidly built, with quality components evident throughout, and should last a good length of time without breakage.
Oster 2-Pound Expressbake
Right at the other end of the price spectrum is the Oster Expressbake, which actually boasts many of the same features as the Zojirushi above, but also has some clear drawbacks for being several times cheaper. It's a lot louder, and a bit slower, and you'll likely find that your loaves aren't quite as uniformly even in their finish.
If those drawbacks aren't an issue, though, you'll be getting bread maker at a very reasonable price, even if you might have to make sure it doesn't walk itself off your counter-top in more intense moments of its kneading.
Morphy Richards Fastbake
If you're reading from the UK, you might have noticed that the two machines above are only available to US customers, so we've got a couple of makers that should cater to you, as well. Morphy Richards is first up, with a machine that matches the Oster Expressbake for its low price, as well for its relatively healthy set of features.
Its fast bake mode, as the name suggests, can even get you a completely baked loaf in 50 minutes, the sort of turnaround that means you don't have to leave it on overnight or plan around it too much. Of course, if you do want to, a delay timer means that you can leave it overnight for bread in the morning. You also have the option of three loaf sizes, to make sure that you're not throwing away unused bread in a couple of days' time.
Russell Hobbs 23620
An alternative option at the exact same price-point is offered by this Russell Hobbs maker, which has a really similar set of options but might suit you if you're a fan of the brand, or if you want a black unit in particular.
Its own fast-bake option takes 55 minutes, in comparison, and smart touches like a keep-warm setting and the option to select how dark you want your crusts are welcome. Up to 13 hours of delay also mean that the all-important "wake up to the smell of fresh bread" test is passed. A dishwasher-safe bread pan and kneading blade will also make for easy cleanups.
Our final spot goes to Panasonic, for a bread maker that looks a bit less like one than we're used to — and it packs a baffling ability to make jams and compotes that goes some way to explaining that. If you're into making jam to spread on your home-made bread, then this is an all-in-one machine that's perfect for you.
17 pre-programmed bread options meet a range of loaf size choices to leave you with a wealth of choice as to what to bake, and an automatic ingredient dispenser means you don't need to remember to come back to put raisins in later. The odd uneven finish aside, it's a great little (okay, quite chunky) machine, with that added bonus of adaptability.