What Does The 1-4 Button Do On A Coffee Maker?

Cuisinart 1-4 ButtonI’ve had a Cuisinart side-by-side coffee maker for since Christmas of 2010. It’s been a workhorse for me over the years too. For handful of years I used it daily for 6-8 cup carafes but I rarely made small pots of coffee with it, until I started working on this blog way back in 2013.

On occasion though I did make small batches of coffee, but never less than four cups. For those few times that I did make small pots of coffee I always pressed the 1-4 button because the coffee maker instructions told me to do so. I didn’t however really know why I was doing it.

After doing a little coffee research in the Spring of 2014 I came to learn why the button was there and how exactly it helps your coffee maker perform better during the brewing process on smaller pots of coffee.

Basically it’s a lot like the Strong button on coffee makers made popular by Keurig & Hamilton Beach. It brews those smaller pots of coffee with a slightly slower stream of water to help the coffee extract a more balanced flavor profile.

Take a look at this post describing the strong button for comparison.

You can also see this post to see some of the best coffee machines made today that include a strong, bold, or 1-4 setting.

What Happens When You Push Your Coffee Maker’s 1-4 Button

A normal coffee maker is designed to heat up roughly 10 cups of water at a time to brew a full pot of coffee, but when you only put two cups of water in the reservoir the drip cycle is too simply fast for a good brew.

When the water drips over the grind it passes through to quickly resulting in weak acidic coffee. The 1-4 button ensures the machine drips hot water over the coffee grind slower, giving it enough time for better extraction.

See this post for an explanation on how fast brewed coffee ends up acidic.

In some models the water is paused during the short cycle as a way of extending the brewing process and reheated before finishing the brewing cycle ensuring a slower brew at the correct temperature so that the final batch of coffee tastes it’s best.

If you have a K-cup coffee maker with a Bold or Strong setting they operate exactly the same way. They pause or slow down the brew cycle to ensure better extraction from the grind.

Keurig Strong Brew Button on K-Mini Plus

This is also similar to making pour over coffee or French press coffee where you initially wet the grind (create bloom) before fully brewing your coffee with a slow pour-over technique.

With pour over coffee the post-bloom water is poured slowly over the grind in two to three pours to ensure the coffee is not brewed too fast and to enhance flavor extraction. With the French press you bloom the grind in the carafe and then after breaking the crust you add the remaining hot water for the full 3 1/2 to 4 minute steeping.

If you think the 1 to 4 button on your coffee maker helps your smaller pots of coffee taste stronger (better) then you are not alone.

The vast majority of people use this feature for smaller portions so if your coffee maker doesn’t have one of these buttons then you should really consider getting one.

In fact one of the newest Keurig models will make either full pots of ground coffee or single cup portions k-cup style and both brewing methods have a slow-brew option labeled with the Strong button.

I highly recommend you take a close look at the Keurig K-Duo Plus for the small portion strength control and versatility in portion size.

Here are some more affordable options that do have a 1-4 button or a “strong” setting for small pots of coffee.

You can also see a comparison between the K-Duo, K-Duo Plus, and K-Duo Essentials machines here. Each of these were released in 2019.

Now, let’s get into more detail on how the 1-4 button actually works and what what to button does to strengthen and slow the brewing cycle.

How the 1-4 Button Works

Coffee makers are fairly easy to operate. You add the grounds in the filter, fill the water container up to the desired level, and hit the button. Wait until the brewing process finishes. Voila! You have brewed coffee in 5-10 minutes.

However, there’s no stopping manufacturers that are trying to improve their coffee maker models by either making them better or cheaper. They frequently do this by provide consumers with more features, more options, and more designs while altering the physical appearance and using different quality materials in the actual build.

Have you encountered a coffee maker feature that seems a bit too complicated? Probably.

First of all a drip coffee maker relies on a heat source to heat up the water to an ideal brewing temperature, preferably before dripping the water over the coffee grounds.

The 1-4 button function is common to all coffee makers. But definitions of its use and function seem to vary, depending on the model and type of coffee maker. Still, there are some consensus among long-time users.

One user of Cuisinart DC – 1200 coffee maker asked the question in a coffee Geek coffee forum. But he also did his own research by using the machine and learning the use of the button by experience.

What does it do? The instructions say it “double heats” the water, whatever that means. In actuality, it appears to slow down the output of water to about half, however, the temperature of the water is no hotter. So I guess this would be useful for 4 cups so that it doesn’t brew too fast, but it does nothing to make the water hotter.

In that same thread, another user shared their experience with a similar unit.

I have a similar Cuisinart, but with a built in grinder, and found that the “1 to 4” cup button made the coffee too weak. This was using approximately 40 grams of coffee beans for 20 ounces of water poured in. A better result, with the least amount of coffee and water used, was 60 grams of coffee beans with 32 ounces of water poured in, and just hitting the regular “on” button to brew.

There is also an interesting reply by an expert coffee maker user in Quora, discussing the same inquiry on the function of the 1-4 button.

Most better large coffee makers have this setting. What it does is to slow down the brewing, often by pausing for a short time after the grounds are initially wet. You see, the machine will be designed for a cycle when full or nearly full, where the hot water flows at a particular rate, and so the coffee grounds are being extracted for a particular amount of time which is optimal for good coffee. Problem is, if it’s a 10-cup coffee maker, and you are only brewing 2 cups, you’d get weak coffee that’s only partly extracted. So, the solution is to add in a button that will keep the coffee brewing longer, to give it a chance to extract the full flavor from the grounds.

Most of the answers to the question share three important elements: temperature, coffee taste and number of cups. Therefore, the 1-4 button in the coffee maker helps maintain the right temperature to get a consistent coffee taste and flavor even if you are brewing 1 to 4 cups of coffee.

From my own experimentation the 1-4 button tells the coffee maker to slow down so as to ensure the water in the reservoir is fully heated before showering it over the coffee grind.

The slower speed also helps ensure the coffee is not brewed too fast resulting in a weak cup of Joe.

For small batch of coffee (4 cups or less) the brew time is typically extended but not enough to really be very noticeable, a couple of extra minutes at most.

Why Put a 1-4 Option Anyway?

Most large coffee makers are designed to brew 10 to 12 cups of coffee at a time. What if you want to brew just 2 or 3 cups of coffee? The large coffee maker is designed for a full cycle. If you put just a bit of water, it does not read the amount of water you put in and it heats it differently.

The mechanism will just hose up the water, heat it, and drip it through the coffee grounds before it’s ready.

As a result, the brewed coffee has a lesser taste and a bit lukewarm.

To ensure that you get the same kind of brewed coffee even if you are not using the coffee maker for a full cycle, the 1-4 button is added to your convenience and benefit.

Of course you could also opt for a single serve machine instead of running small pots through a drip coffee maker. Those are much faster and tend to brew very good tasting coffee because they are almost always heated to the proper temperature before the first drip is released.

You can see this post for my reviews of the best small K-cup coffee makers on the market today.

The Most Efficient Process of Brewing Coffee

Here is a step-by-step guide to make the perfect brewed coffee using a coffee maker, particularly the Cuisinart models with 1-4 button.

  1. Fill the water container with the number of cups you need to brew. Most new Cuisinart coffeemaker models have an easy-to-read fill gauge that helps you see the water level as you fill it. The water to coffee ratio is always important so you can maintain the rich coffee taste and avoid diluting the coffee into water.
  2. Most coffeemakers have a 1-4 cup button to press if you are brewing a smaller pot.
  3. Add a paper filter to the coffee grounds basket or use a gold-tone reusable filter.
  4. Measure and place the ground coffee directly into the basket if you have ground coffee, or place the whole beans into the hopper if you are using a grind & brew coffeemaker. The general rule is one level tablespoon per cup you are brewing, but more on that below. For automatic grind & brew coffeemakers, be sure there are enough beans in the hopper before brewing.
  5. Turn the coffeemaker on and be sure it’s plugged in. Turn the knob to brew and press start. This will vary according to the coffeemaker. The machine will beep once the coffee has completed brewing.

Now, you are ready to serve a delicious coffee with just the right temperature to enjoy its aroma and bittersweet goodness.

Related – Ever thought of hooking a water line into your coffee maker? It’s super awesome and way more convenient than you may realize.

One Other Thing to Keep in Mind

Your coffee maker will brew better coffee no matter if you use the 1-4 button or not if you put hot water into the water reservoir before brewing.

Even in the best coffee makers it’s difficult to bring cold water (or even tap) to 190 degrees or more. By pre-warming your water or running a water cycle only through the coffee maker first the brew will be at a much better temperature resulting in better taste.

How Do The Bold, Strong and 1-4 Settings Work On A Coffee Maker?

Coffee makers these days can include a number of features we may not all be familiar with.

As a result, it can help to reach out for a little extra information on certain settings.

For those with bold, strong (or robust) and the 1-4 settings on their coffee maker, this article will be very useful.

We’ll help you to understand what these features are and how they can benefit you.

By taking a deeper look into these settings, you’ll be able to discover how you can use them for the most delicious coffee beverages.

Especially if you want more control over the coffee-making process overall!

Continue on to learn about these great coffee maker settings!

What Are These Settings?

The bold, strong and 1-4 settings are able to make changes to the resulting coffee that you may appreciate.

If you’re interesting in finding ways to brew a stronger, more flavorful cup then the bold and strong settings are of particular use.

Meanwhile, the 1-4 settings are helpful for when you want a flavorful brew in a smaller setting.

Knowing how to correctly use these settings can improve beverages that may seem watered down or don’t quite give you the boost you need.

To continue, let’s take a look at exactly how each settings work.

That way, you know which to use and when to use them for the ideal effect overall.

How Do They Work?


Many of us might be familiar with the style of coffee makers that allow you to add water and coffee, push a button and go.

However, those that offer a “bold” setting are becoming more and more popular.

This setting tells the coffee maker that it needs to adapt the brewing process to create a stronger, more flavorful brew.

Essentially, the water in the machine spends a longer time extracting the flavor and benefits from the grounds.

It is important to be careful with this feature, because it doesn’t always result in the best flavor.

In some cases, the brew can end up with a burnt taste.

As a result, it’s ideal to keep a close eye and do some experimenting with the setting.

You may find that using cooler water initially can improve the bold flavor.

Meanwhile, water that is too hot can scald the grounds.

You can also choose to play with the ratio or grounds to water that you use.

If you’re interesting in something that can brew stronger flavor, make sure to check out reviews to make sure it’s good flavor.

That way, you’ll know what to expect when you make use of this setting for yourself.


The use of this setting can depend on the specific model you have.

In some cases, it might be another word for “bold” while in other cases, it may be more like “robust”.

Essentially, the latter is an option that allows for an even stronger brew than the “bold” setting creates.

This allows for even more time spent extracting from the beans.

You will want to be extra careful with “strong” or “robust” options, as they can result in a very bitter cup.

As a result, there may be some other options you’ll want to try out if you want a very strong brew that avoids some of the extra bitterness.

1-4 Settings

Some coffee makers can also include a 1-4 setting that you can use for your brewing.

What this does, is set the expectation that the coffee maker will be brewing a smaller amount of coffee.

However, it also seeks to ensure the best possible extraction so that you can get great flavor.

As a result, the machine will drip more slowly than it might otherwise.

That way, the small amount you’re brewing will be able to get the ideal amount of flavor and extraction for a perfect brew.

How To Get The Most From These Settings

Depending on your preferences and the machine you have, you may want to explore with all the options.

Try them all out and see what you think of the resulting flavor.

Then, you might also try adding in water at different starting  temperatures to see if that effect the results in some models.

In others, you may decide to select a higher or lower brewing temperature.

You may find that a combination of any of these options can result in your perfect brew.

Otherwise, you may decide to just stick with the standard brewing option available.

It’s completely up to you and your unique tastes!

Other Methods For Getting a Stronger Brew

In addition to making use of the settings on you coffee maker, there are some other things you can try out to get a stronger brew.

Take a look at these methods and feel free to try some or all out as you explore the coffee possibilities!

Trying a Different Type of Bean

Largely, there are two different type of coffee beans that we tend to see on the market.

These include arabica and robusta beans.

The difference between these two kinds of beans is that robusta beans tend to contain more caffeine, while arabica beans tend to be more pleasant-tasting.

If you want to learn more about the differences between these types, you can check them out here.

For those who are looking for a bit more strength in their brew, trying out robusta beans is an option.

However, keep in mind that they may not taste as good as the arabica beans you’re likely used to.

To some, this might not be a big deal as long as it provides results.

On the other hand, others may have trouble accepting the flavor.

Choosing a Lighter Roast

Another option you can try out is going for a lighter roast.

Basically speaking, the lighter the roast, the more caffeine available in the beans.

This can often go against the thinking of many who think darker roasts are stronger.

The good news is, if you want to try something a little more powerful, there are some gradients in strength.

You won’t have to go all the way to a light roast for a bit more of a boost!

Having a deeper knowledge of the different roasts out there can be very useful, especially if you don’t want the same amount of caffeine every time.

Using a Different Brewing Method

There are some brewing methods that can result in stronger coffee than others.

One such example is trying out a French Press, or a cold brew when you want something chilled.

Many can also find that coffee made with a percolator can be stronger and more flavorful than other options.

However, not all of these may effect the caffeine content as well as the flavor.

As a result, you’ll want to do your research to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want from a brewing method.

That way, every cup will taste right and provide the boost you need.

Grinding Your Own Beans

For those who are looking for a solution that can improve the freshness of their coffee as well as the strength, grinding your own beans is a perfect way to go.

Many people find that using fresh beans and grinding them up as needed can really improve the taste.

You will have to look into getting a grinder, if you don’t already have one.

However, there are plenty of different options out there that can easily suit your needs.

Overall, it’s a great option in a lot of ways, worth trying out!

Using More Grounds

One of the most basic options you can try out is changing the ratio of water to grounds you use.

In other words, using more grounds per cup can result in a bolder flavor.

There are also options to use finer grounds, which can work better for some brewing methods.

With all the options available, it’s hard to fail in finding the perfect cup of coffee!

It just takes a little exploration, and you’ll surely have the ideal brew in no time.

Don’t be afraid to try out a number of options, as that will give you the experience to know what flavor combinations you like best.

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

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