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Best bread makers 2020: Quality fresh bread the easy way

Get your fresh bread fix the way you want it, from white and wholewheat to sourdough, with one of our best bread makers, all expertly tested.

There’s nothing quite like the smell and taste of freshly-baked bread. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the pain of kneading and proving, as one of our best bread makers will do the job for automatically. Any of the models below will help you avoid the need to buy bread, with the right ingredients to hand.

We’ve reviewed the top-selling bread machines, putting each one through a range of recipes, so that we can bring you this list. Take a look at our summary below or scroll down to find out more information/ read the full review.

  • Best for options: Panasonic SD-ZX2522
  • Best on a budget: Swan SB1041N Quickbake
  • Best for crusts: Panasonic SD-ZP2000
  • Best all-rounder: Panasonic SD-ZB2502BXC
  • Best for size: Cuisinart CBK250U Automatic
  • Best for value: Kenwood Bread Maker BM260

How we pick the best bread makers

For bread makers, there’s one clear goal: producing excellent quality bread with minimum intervention. To see how the models stack up, we run each machine through a series of recipes, seeing how good they are for wholewheat and white loaves.

We test the crust (it should be firm, but not overbaked), and the quality of the inside to ensure that the bread is cooked all the way through. Where bread makers have special functions, we also test these. These can include how they cope with loose ingredients (seeds and fruits), sponge cakes and sourdough.

We evaluate the quality of the instructions, plus ease of use too, letting us separate the quality bread makers from those not up to the job.

At the bottom of the page, you’ll find full buying advice if you still aren’t sure where to start.

1. Panasonic SD-ZX2522 Breadmaker

The ultimate bread maker with a wide variety of options

Panasonic SD-ZX2522 Breadmaker

Pros:

  • Great range of programs
  • Consistently excellent results
  • Yeast and seed dispensers
  • Quiet

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • No viewing window

High-end bread maker, the Panasonic SD-ZX2522, is the best choice if you want to create a variety of loaves, and even tackle bakes that are traditionally more complicated and tough.

The SD-ZX2522 certainly isn’t fast, but its methodical pace means that you get the best-quality bread. With our white test loaf, we got the best bread that we’ve seen. Switching to rye, we achieved a moist, well-cooked loaf; our only issue is that there’s no blade-removal tool, so you have to handle this by hand.

All further bakes were excellent, with a panettone, sourdough and a wholewheat olive loaf all handled perfectly. For the latter, the ingredient dispenser distributed the whole pitted olives through the finished bread.

Although a little expensive, the Panasonic SD-ZX2522 is an outstanding bread maker that can handle all types of bread, consistently outputting delicious loaves.

Read our full Panasonic SD-ZX2522 review

2. Swan SB1041N Quickbake Breadmaker

A great budget model for those who only make the occasional loaf

Swan SB1041N QuickBake Breadmaker

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Simple to use
  • Quiet

Cons:

  • Some programs need manual adjustment
  • Instructions aren’t very thorough
  • Short cable

The Swan SB1041N Quickbake proves that bread makers don’t have to be super-expensive. If you’re on a tight budget and want something that’s easy to operate, then this is a great choice.

There’s no seed-and-fruit dispenser, so anything more complicated has to be handled manually. But if you want a bread maker that can create basic loaves quickly, the Swan SB1041N is up to the task.

Testing with a simple white loaf, the finished loaf had a golden-brown crust. Cooking was a little uneven on the outside, although the inside was consistent and strong enough not to be torn by a cold buttery knife.

We’d avoid using the fast-bake option: we found that the bread was pale on top and almost burnt on the underside; the longer cook programmes do a far better job. Provided you’re not looking for anything too fancy; the low-cost Swan SB1041N Quickbake is a good choice.

Read or full  Swan SB1041N Quickbake review

3. Panasonic SD-ZP2000

A great machine if you want a crusty loaf

Panasonic SD-ZP2000 Breadmaker

 

Pros:

  • Great hard crust
  • Produces consistently good bread
  • Quiet

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • No yeast or seed dispenser
  • No sourdough or rye programs

Most bread makers tend to deliver bread with a soft crust; that’s great for many styles of loaf, but what about those times when you want something with a hard crust for that extra bite? Step forwards, the Panasonic SD-ZP2000, the first bread maker to deliver a true hard crust.

In terms of delivery, there’s little that we can fault with this machine. Both wholemeal and white loaves came out with a nice colour and hard crust, with a fluffy interior. This machine can also churn out a decent soft-crust loaf, too. The downside is that this model has fewer other programs, so you may want to look elsewhere if you want sourdough, rye and extra gluten-free options. For those that want a hard crust, this is the model to buy.

Read our full Panasonic SD-ZP2000 review

3. Panasonic SD-ZB2502BXC

A good all-rounder with integrated yeast and seed dispensers

Panasonic SD-ZB2502BXC

Pros:

  • Bakes superb bread
  • Yeast and seed dispensers
  • Quiet

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Slow programs
  • No custom program

If you want the absolute best bread maker out there and hang the cost, the Pansonic SD-ZB2502BXC is it. This advanced machine costs over £100, but it makes outstanding bread and has all the features you need to make a wide variety of bread, doughs and jams.

A few things make it stand out. First, it has a seed and dried-fruit dispenser, plus a yeast dispenser that perfectly separates the yeast and water. Second, it comes with a rye kneading blade, so you can make 100% rye loaves as well as mixed loaves.

Finally, it comes with a comprehensive recipe book of more than 100 recipes. Sure, you can find more online, but all these recipes are tuned to work perfectly with the Panasonic bread maker. It’s a great all-round package that you’ll love to use.

Read our full Pansonic SD-ZB2502BXC review

4. Cuisinart CBK250U Automatic Breadmaker

A great choice for anyone that wants big loaves

Cuisinart CBK250U Automatic Breadmaker

Pros:

  • Looks great
  • Makes big loaves
  • Can create your own program

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Dense loaf
  • Loud

If you want something a little more stylish for your kitchen, then the Cuisinart CBK250U Automatic Breadmaker is a great option. Although it features a seed and dried fruit dispenser, it looks like a sleeker, more modern appliance.

It makes very good bread, too, of course – and it also makes the largest loaves of any bread maker we’ve tested. Its biggest loaf is a whopping 700g, which is a 100g more than the Panasonic can manage.

One final interesting feature no other machine has is a programmable setting. This lets you create your own recipe, setting the baking time, rest time, and so forth to your own preferences. It’s a nice option if you want to fine-tune your efforts to get the perfect loaf.

Read our full Cuisinart CBK250U Automatic Breadmaker review

5. Kenwood Bread Maker BM260

A decent budget option with a few neat touches

Kenwood Bread Maker BM260

Pros:

  • Nice styling touches
  • Eco mode
  • Affordable

Cons

  • A bit loud
  • No window in the lid

If you’d rather not spend upwards of £100 on a bread maker, the Kenwood Bread Maker BM260 is a good compromise. It lacks extra features such as dispensers for seeds and yeast, but it isn’t short of a trick or two itself.

Our favourite feature is the supplied adjustable spoon. This makes it easy to measure out ingredients perfectly, so you don’t have to get the scales out. The breadmaker is also fan-assisted to help speed up the baking process.

We also rather like the provided recipe book, which includes some unusual recipes such as a caramelised onion loaf and even a chocolate loaf. Yum.

Read our full Kenwood Bread Maker BM260 review

How to buy the right bread maker for you

What main features do I need?

It’s worth keeping an eye out for a few key features in your hunt for a breadmaker. For instance, most machines offer three loaf sizes, but some compact models offer only one or two. Your breadmaker should also have a minimum of around a dozen programs including white, brown and wholemeal loaves.

Many bread makers offer ‘fast-bake’ programs but make sure you keep an eye out when considering these since some only have fast recipes for white loaves – not very helpful if you only eat wholemeal bread. Also, check out the timings of such programs, as some machines can make a large white in less than an hour, while others take longer.

What about a timer?

Avoid any bread maker that doesn’t have a timer delay. These are handy for baking bread that’s ready just in time for breakfast or your return from work. Other extra perks can include a seed dispenser to drop in seeds at just the right time, a yeast dispenser and a kneading blade for loaves that use rye flour.

Do I need a seed-and-nut dispenser?

A seed-and-nut dispenser is a great way to create filled bread, with the bread maker releasing the ingredients at just the right point so that they don’t sink to the bottom of the loaf. These aren’t just for seeds and nuts, either: many models can use the same dispenser for fruit, too, which is great if you want to make something different or tackle a sweet, rather than savoury, bake.

What else should I look out for?

If you’re gluten-intolerant, look out for one with a special program designed for gluten-free bread mixes. More advanced models might also have dough programs for everything from pizza to ciabatta and croissant dough.

Do I need to use bread flour?

It can be tricky to buy bread flour all of the time, so can you use normal flour in your recipes? The answer is, maybe. Bread flour, usually called strong bread flour, has a higher percentage of gluten (typically 12% to 14%). Gluten is important in the breadmaking process, creating the elastic texture in the dough. As the dough proves, the yeast produces carbon dioxide that causes the bread to expand and hold its volume; without enough gluten, the bread won’t rise as much. Most all-purpose flour in the UK has a gluten content of only around 10%, which won’t hold volume as much. So, you can make bread with all-purpose flour, but you’ll find that it won’t rise as much and you won’t get the best results.

Can you make rolls in a bread maker?

You can’t bake bread rolls in a bread machine, as they are designed for baking loafs whole. However, this doesn’t have to restrict you, as the hardest part of making bread is in the mixing and proving, which the bread maker does automatically for you. So, to make bread rolls, you can first use your machine to make and prove the dough. At the end, you can remove the dough, cut it up into roll-sized chunks and then bake yourself in the oven to get perfect results.

What kinds of bread can I make?

You can make loads of different kinds of bread in most bread makers, ranging from traditional loaves to those with added seeds or nuts. There are some limitations with some models, but for a better idea on what you can and can’t do, check out our guide to the best bread maker recipes. You can also find more information on getting the most out of a machine by reading our bread maker tips and solutions article.

Is the bread better than shop-bought?

It depends on what you mean by better. In terms of cost, when factoring in the price of a bread maker, you’ll most likely find that store-bought bread comes in a little cheaper, particularly for budget loaves. However, with your own bread maker, you can decide what goes into each bake, giving you more control over the final product. This also means that you can tweak recipes to your liking, producing results that you’re happier. And, let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly-baked bread, and you just don’t get that if you pop down to your local supermarket. For more information, check out our article, breadmaker vs store-bought.

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend, using industry standard tests to evaluate products. We’ll always tell you what we find. We may get a commission if you buy via our price links. Tell us what you think – email the Editor