I need a new automatic coffeemaker
September 11, 2007 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Yes, it's another coffee-related question: Our old Krups 10 cup drip brewer is finally showing its age (it pre-dates our 14 year marriage), and I would like to replace it with something at least as good, if not better. Should be simple, but...

Replacement would be easy if I didn't care, but for better or worse I definitely care about our coffee maker. My wife and I like our coffee and like it strong, and no doubt would be coffee nerds if our schedules permitted it. Alas, with two small kids and two demanding jobs we're often very, very pressed for time in the morning. Our old Krups has given us fantastic value and still brews a decent cup of java, but it shows all the scars of 14+ years of near constant use, and I'd like to replace it with something better.

At first, I was convinced that one of the better grind-and brew machines would be a good choice, especially the Capresso 454 or 455, as it would allow us to automate the whole process, thus ensuring peace and happiness when our kids wake us up at the crack of dawn and we have to hit the ground running. However, after reading a slew of user reviews by some very picky people, I am less enthusiastic about this option: it seems these machines have a number of niggling problems and are hard to clean as well, and they don't work as well with dark roast beans. Furthermore, they require an autoclave to keep clean, and I don't want to spend several hundred dollars on a prima donna appliance.

Having accepted that I won't be buying a grind and brew machine, I did some reflection, went on a vision quest, consulted the augers, and now have a good idea of what I DO want in a new coffee machine:

1. It has to make a damn good cup of coffee.

2. It's gotta be well made.

3. It must be easy to clean.

4. It should be easy to use.

5. I don't need a ton of special features or bells and whistles. I won't be using it for espresso, and I don't need it to grind its own beans. I would like it to have a timer, but I suppose even that point is negotiable if the other points are covered; more on this below.

6. Glass carafe + warmer is fine; we don't leave the pot on all day, and we "only" brew about 7 cups in the morning, which we transfer to vacuum commuter mugs.

7. I know there are a lot of MeFi French press users, and if our morning environment were less hectic I'd be more inclined to consider one, but for purposes of this discussion a French press is not an option. I know, I know...I've read the other threads. But it's still not an option.

OK, so those are my "requirements," and the machines I keep coming back to are those made by Technivorm. Their machines seem otherwise perfect: well made, simple, and widely regarded as brewing an excellent cup or pot of coffee. My only hesitation is that none of their machines comes with a built-in timer, so I would need to add an external appliance timer if I want to live my simple dream of waking up to a freshly brewed pot of coffee. I would also need to grind my beans the night before and leave them in the basket, but I suppose I can accept this as well.

So...do any MeFites own a Technivorm? Given my list of wants, am I overlooking a better solution? There are an awful lot of coffee makers out there, but I want to buy a good one. From reading responses to other coffee-related threads I know that my love of coffee is positively pedestrian compared to some of you, so advise me: please recommend a coffeemaker that will meet my needs.
posted by mosk to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I will be watching this thread with interest! The only comment I have to make right now, though, is that you may get the cup of coffee you want out of something substantially less imposing than a hand-built import. I am a lot like you in my coffee-maker requirements at the moment, although my time in the morning is limited for different reasons, and I've got a $10 Mr. Coffee that makes a great pot of coffee while I'm in the shower. One cup goes into a travel mug and the rest into a battered Stanley thermos.

The point of this rambling being: consider just walking into a Sears and grabbing some $50 thing from whichever manufacturer, as long as it has a timer. They're astonishingly simple devices, and "well made" is pretty easy to come by. Will it last another 16 years or so? Well, I dunno. But probably, it's not as if they have moving parts, you know?
posted by kavasa at 4:24 PM on September 11, 2007

I really don't think that making an Americano (15 seconds of grinding, 30 seconds of extracting) or French Press (3 minutes of water boiling, 15 seconds of grinding, 5 minutes of steeping) are orthogonal to being busy in the morning. I have my snooty machine hooked up to a timer so it's warm when I wake up, and I can sling a double cap faster than it takes 8C of drip coffee to brew - way, way faster. And ye gods, an Americano from fresh quality beans is head and shoulders above any drip coffee.
posted by kcm at 4:35 PM on September 11, 2007

Once you grind the beans, they'll go stale in minutes. Smell that wonderful aroma? That's the smell of the oils going into the air, and hence not in your cup. You're better off grinding in the morning, just before you brew. If you agree with this, there would be no need for a timer.

Technivorms have the reputation for being the best from what I've read (though I haven't personally tried one). They are pricey though. All you really need to do other than get and grind up some good fresh beans is use water that is hot enough. Most drip machines do not produce hot enough water, so the resultant coffee is inferior.

These filtercones are a very simple way to make excellent coffee. And damn easy to clean. That would be my first recommendation.

If you absolutely must have a "machine" for whatever reason, like having the timer, then look on coffee geek and make sure you buy one that brews at the correct temperature.

On preview: I have to disagree with kavasa: if you grab a random whichever thing, chances are that it won't brew hot enough.

In recent years I've owned the following two drip brewers and they were both very good (but without a timer): Bunn and Zojirushi. I'd recommend either one (basically whichever one you can find cheaper). But I don't use either one any more since I just make espresso or french press when I'm at home and use a filterbasket at work.

On second preview: also what kcm said!
posted by jclovebrew at 4:38 PM on September 11, 2007

Response by poster: kcm, I appreciate your position, and yeah, I guess I'm asking how to make a better microwave pot roast, but you are sort of missing my point: I would love to obsess over my coffee, but my mornings are busy and I have two SMALL children (ages six and three) who need a lot of attention/coaxing/encouragement to eat, get dressed, use the potty, and hopefully get out the door on time. I just want to wake up to a freshly brewed pot of coffee. Years from now, when my children can feed and dress themselves, I'll no doubt develop an elaborate 20 minute ritual around my morning coffee, but for now, my needs are both simple and sharp: I want to wake up to a freshly brewed pot of coffee. And I want it to be good, etc., as noted above. That's it.
posted by mosk at 4:49 PM on September 11, 2007

Get a Keurig machine. I have two small kids (6 and almost-5) too, and I love the convenience. It makes good coffee, if you get good K-cups (I love the ones from Coffee People), it's incredibly easy to use and to clean, and several models have timers.
posted by cerebus19 at 5:23 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have a Cuisinart Brew Central that works great for busy mornings. I bought it because all of the grind & brew products were so poorly reviewed. It's easy to clean, has an auto on, and gives a pleasing beep to let you know when it's ready. I have a friend who swears by the Toddy cold brew system, but I can't get over a pitcher full of what appears to be chewing tobacco spit in my fridge.
posted by B-squared at 5:25 PM on September 11, 2007

I have one of these. It makes an quite possibly the best cup of drip coffee you can get from a machine, when filled with freshly ground beans.

I, too, had an old Krups that finally quit on me a couple years ago, which is when I bought the Cuisinart. For the price, it's incredible.
posted by toxic at 5:26 PM on September 11, 2007

For the benefit of anyone else who might be reading for coffee advice, and not necessarily the OP (who has indicated that they want a machine and zero work), you can go from nothing to coffee in your cup in about 4 minutes with a French Press, plus whatever amount of time it takes to boil your water.

I manage the whole thing for 3 cups of delicious coffee, including grinding the beans, in about 5 minutes. It's the first thing I do every day. I can't even speak coherently in the morning, but I can make the best coffee you ever tasted.

Keep your drip machines - I'll do it by hand, and probably in less time, thanks.
posted by ellF at 6:01 PM on September 11, 2007

have you had any luck with cleaning out the resivoir/water passages? What exacly is wrong with the one you have? there is cleaning solution you can buy and/or make to reduce the amount of scale buildup that may be slowing down your coffee machine.

I understand where you are coming from here. unlike the coffee snobs, there are people (like us) that don't really care what form the caffeine comes in, as long as we get dosed. 6 years of navy 'coffee' taught me that.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:18 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

If your desires don't stretch to a superautomatic, which are the ne plus ultra of convenience and flavor IMO, then consider a Bunn drip machine and use a Swiss Gold or similar filter. Paper filters somehow work less well than these gold filters. As for the timer, I use a kludge with a wall-type dial timer, but superautomatics raise steam and are ready to go in two minutes.
posted by jet_silver at 8:30 PM on September 11, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies so far. I appreciate all of the recommendations and will look into the models suggested. I recognize that coffee is a subject that arouses much passion within otherwise quiet people, and that my insistence on a drip machine when other methods are likely to produce a superior cuppa may mark me as a dolt; so be it. All I can say is, if you had to navigate the waters around our place early on a weekday morning, you, too, might choose methods that were more industrial than artistic.

ArgentCorvid, the main complaint is from my wife, who feels that the old Krups is just getting a little too gross to use. It's a once-white machine that's now heavily stained, and no amount of cleaning can improve its appearance. Functionally, I think it still works well enough, and we already use a Swiss Gold filter so the output is generally OK, but I've been told my tolerance for dirty kitchen appliances is too high, and the truth is the quality of the coffee has become inconsistent. My own opinion on these matters is that if we're going to replace what we have, we may as well get a good replacement, as we tend to keep things until they fall apart.

By the way, I'm still curious about the Technivorm machines: yes they are pricey, but the folks over at CoffeeGeek.com really rave about them. If anyone here has one or has used one, please speak up.

posted by mosk at 8:47 PM on September 11, 2007

For the record, I have a Capresso 454. Had it for several years. Aside from water filter changes every few months and running some Durgol through it to keep it happy, I've not had to do a thing with it. It has never given me any problems. Toss the carafe and filter in the dishwasher occasionally, and they're fine.

Don't know who's telling you it's a "prima donna" machine, but they have it wrong in my book. Can't beat the Swiss burr grinder. I never actually clean out the feeder channel, and it hasn't clogged yet. I run dark roast beans through it all the time (I do avoid flavored though, as they are bad for the grinder, and besides who drinks flavored coffee?). Multiple adjustments for coffee strength and fineness of grind. Different settings for the morning automatic run and the manual runs (I leave it at 6 cups for the automatic setting, and use the manual settings to run it at 8 cups on weekends when my wife likes to grab a cup as well).

Who the hell is telling you that you need an autoclave to clean the damn machine? Seriously. Ignore them. The coffee it makes is just fine. I'm pretty picky about my coffee, but I have no complaints with my 454.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:17 PM on September 11, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, caution live frogs. The picky comments on the Capresso came from Amazon, and referred to the 455, which has the thermal carafe. Sorry for unfairly lumping those review in with the 454, which generally got excellent reviews.

Do you have any complaints about the 454? Does it brew a strong enough cup of coffee?

posted by mosk at 11:08 PM on September 11, 2007

Would you consider getting another Krups? We got one a year or two ago, and it's great. Ours is mostly stainless steel and black plastic, very easy to keep clean and it doesn't show its stains

With the amount of coffee you're going through, if you get a fresh-ground bag every weekend, you should still have yummy coffee every morning of the week.

Although french presses do add a nice extra to your brew - I use one on the weekends - I think the real secret of great coffee is in the beans. If you're buying good beans and not letting them go stale, most functional coffee makers will give you good coffee.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:22 AM on September 12, 2007

Just FYI, I have a Cuisinart DCC-1200 Brew Central, and I'm not at all happy with it.

After about 3.5 years of normal use, one of the hoses in the bottom recently failed, I'm guessing from high temperature, and disintegrated. I tried to order a new hose from the company, but after multiple calls and e-mails, learned that they don't supply non user-serviceable parts for their $80 machines. (I had taken the unit apart and removed the remains of the offending hose).

I have since fixed it with a cobbled-together mess of replacement hose, electrical tape and pipe clamps (to make things worse, the broken hose contains a one-way valve that I had to graft into the replacement). But I'm not happy.

It also requires that you buy and occasionally replace a "water" filter, which I suspect is designed instead to keep coffee out of the inner works. This machine has lots of nooks and crannies that eventually get all gummed up with coffee.

It does look nice, though...

Good luck. If I were you, I'd stick with Krups.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:57 AM on September 12, 2007

Why is a french press off the table?
posted by electroboy at 9:11 AM on September 12, 2007

Here's another vote for the Cuisinart coffeemaker. I've had it for 3 years and no problems. It makes a great cup of coffee. I also have an espresso maker, a French Press, and every other coffee gadget known, but I use my Cuisinart every morning. I like the fact that there's a temperature setting for the carafe.

One note about the Keurig (yeah, we have one of those too - my husband's favorite, actually): it makes really weak coffee. No, really. Even the new "stronger flavor" cups they have out - not strong. You can of course vary the strength of your cup with a coffeemaker like the Cuisinart.
posted by Flakypastry at 9:32 AM on September 12, 2007

Best answer: Thanks for all the feedback on this question. After talking with my wife we decided to make this our anniversary present to each other, which opened up the budget a bit.

We read reviews of the coffee makers recommended in this thread on CoffeeGeek.com, Amazon, and epinion, and after some thought and discussion we chose the Technivorm KBT741 and a Capresso 560 burr grinder. I think the Technivorm reviews on CoffeeGeek were especially persuasive: there was a lot of love on that board for this device. I think this will be a great setup for our needs and should give us years and years of excellent coffee.

Thanks again for all the help with this decision.
posted by mosk at 11:34 AM on September 12, 2007

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