Date: December 2005
Column/Title: A User's Survey: Single-Serve Coffee Brewing Systems
Author: Matthew Hill & Kenneth Davids------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Following are detailed reviews of a selection of most of the leading single-serve coffee brewing units on the market as of December 2005. By single-serve coffee brewing units we mean devices that produce single servings of freshly brewed drip-style coffee and related beverages on demand from individual cartridges of ground coffee.
Note that these devices are intended to produce individual, freshly brewed cups of drip-style coffee. Although some of these machines also produce a loose interpretation of drinks like cappuccino and caff? latte, with one exception (the Braun-Tassimo) they do not produce anything like a true café version of espresso beverages. They produce a drip-style coffee, which is lighter-bodied and less intense than espresso, and in the case of the hybrid cappuccinos and caff? lattes they produce, the "milk" part of the drink consists of a soluble creamer that is typically pre-sweetened. The Braun/Tassimo does offer a liquid milk product in a ?T-Disc? capsule that the user combines with a creditably full-bodied, concentrated espresso, produced from a separate T-Disc.
Our reviews of these new drip-style, single-serve machines aim at providing a general introduction to their capabilities: their ease of use, likely durability, coffee delivery format (pod, capsule, pouch, etc.), the range of coffees and other beverages available in these formats, and related issues.
The complex issues around the quality of the coffee produced by these machines are taken up by our main article, At What Cost Convenience: Tasting the New Crop of Single-Serve Coffee Systems.
A note on coffee delivery format: Currently, there are two broad formatting categories for the little packets that produce the coffees in these machines.
On one hand are devices like the Bunn, Mr. Coffee, Krups, Senseo, Melitta, Juan Valdez and Black & Decker that use paper pods that look like round, plump little teabags. These pods are in an open format; in other words, third-party providers can produce and sell them, and they afford some interchangeability between machines. For example, you can use Senseo pods in a Mr. Coffee machines, and visa versa.
However, compatibility issues remain. These little pods are produced in three sizes, 44mm in diameter (Melitta), 55mm in diameter (Juan Valdez), and 62mm in diameter (Senseo, Krups, Black & Decker, Mr. Coffee). The Bunn device takes all three sizes, and the Juan Valdez does as well, although with some fussing. With other machines, you can only use the size that the brewer was originally designed to take. Pod sizes used by the various machines are indicated in the reviews of each machine as well as in the Single-Cup Brewer Comparison Chart
It would appear that the 62mm size is most popular and most likely to prevail as the industry standard, and we would recommend purchasing either the pricy Bunn device, which takes all pod sizes and is a fine performer all around, or, if machine cost is important, the much cheaper but recommended Senseo, which takes only the 62mm size.
The other category of coffee delivery format in these single-serve devices is populated by patented, proprietary systems that use special designs of capsules, pouches or discs that fit only the machine they are constructed for. In other words, if you buy a Keurig, Flavia, or Braun Tassimo single-serve brewer, you can only use coffees and other beverages that are supplied in the little special-design containers that that are specifically designed to work with it.
This limitation would seem to make all of these devices poor choices, but it doesn't, particularly in regard to the Keurig, for which one can buy over seventy coffees from five respected roasting companies, with more on the way. No current competing machine, even the versatile pod-using Bunn, gives access to that many coffee choices.
The Keurig produces a delicate, sweet, caramelly cup, however, even at a short serving size, so those who want a more robust cup may want to go to a pod machine that has a double-sized pod holder, like the Senseo, or wait while the Keurig people continue to work on a pod design that provides a stronger dose of coffee. The Braun/Tassimo machine is intriguing and produced rather good coffee in our limited testing, but right now the coffee selection for the proprietary T-Discs this device takes is extremely limited.
In any case, evaluating these machines means evaluating the coffees available to use in them, and visa-versa. I attempt to negotiate through this difficult issue in my article At What Cost Convenience: Tasting the New Crop of Single-Serve Coffee Systems. Mathew Hill also touches on it in his reviews of individual machines and brewing systems.
The Senseo HD7810 (www.senseo.com) touts a coffee-brewing system that claims to automatically regulate the brewing process to ensure that the proper amount of water passes through the coffee pods quickly and evenly. Retailing at $69.99, the HD7810 can also be found on the Internet at prices ranging from $49.99 to $64.99. Available in blue, raven black or white, the HD7810 is the latest single-serve low-pressure filter coffee system from Senseo available on the market.
Removable 50 oz. water reservoir without a water filter option. Brews coffee at two serving settings: 4 oz. and 8 oz.
Of the 44, 55 and 62mm-sized filter paper pod formats currently available in the single-serve pod brewer market, the Senseo HD7810 takes 62mm-sized pods, each containing about 8 grams of coffee. The Senseo pod holder has one small hole in it for the brewed coffee to pass through. This single brewing hole creates a distinctive layer of froth atop Senseo coffee, doubtless a feature important in some parts of Europe, where coffee without proper froth is like dinner without wine. The HD7810 comes with two pod holders: a single pod holder and a double-pod holder for producing long drinks or stronger drinks.
The Senseo HD7810 is composed primarily of plastic, but looks sturdy enough to last. The priming and first-brew were easy and quick to execute. The brew lid shuts easily and is secured by a simple up/down lock lever that makes a reassuring audible "click" when securely in place. This machine generally appears to aim at simplicity. It has an uncomplicated design and the control panel on its cup-tray base is intuitive and performs exactly as one would expect it to: no techno curve balls.
The Senseo line of coffee pods, produced by Douwe Egberts, is as straightforward as its machine design: four choices, Mild, Medium, Strong and Decaf, plus three flavored options. However, the 62mm size of the pod holders allows for use of coffee pods from other well-known brands, as well as third-party roasting companies. However, I found postings on the Internet in which people reported needing to hold the top of the machine down while brewing with a paper-formatted pod that didn't properly fit the HD7810. If you should find yourself in a similar situation, you can try brewing the larger pod in the double-pod holder. Senseo-brand pods currently cost about $0.28 per pod.
The Senseo HD7810 is not designed to brew teas or other specialty drinks.
The HD7810 weighs 8 lbs. and has a fairly small footprint AT13 ? inches high, 8 ? inches wide and 12 inches deep. It has an odd if distinctive curved back design that makes it look as though it is hanging its brew head over the cup tray in expectation of its next target. Notes and Other Features
The Senseo HD7810's simplicity and ease of use made it a pleasure to use. It is worth noting that a refillable plastic-and-mesh coffee pod is available under the name Presto MyPod that fits the HD7810 perfectly, in theory making it possible to brew any coffee. Unfortunately, when we tried this pod it brewed a terrible coffee: simultaneously watery and thin and bitterly gritty.
One complaint: the coffee pod in the pod holder invariably was soaking wet after brewing, making removal a rather dribbly procedure. If this is a consistent characteristic of the HD7810, then quick and easy clean-ups may be one feature this coffee pod brewer doesn't provide.
A good price, simplicity of use, and a versatile 62mm pod size makes the Senseo an attractive choice for those looking for an inexpensive single-serve option. Melitta One:One MES2B
Built by the Salton Appliance Corporation, the Melitta One:One?(www.1to1coffee.com) has a suggested retail price of $49.99 and currently can be found on the Internet at prices ranging from around the list $50 to $70. The One:One?is available in five colors: black, red, white, lime green and orange, providing more color options than its competitors, most of which lean toward appliance white or hi-tech black.
Removable 28 oz. water reservoir without water filter option. Brews coffee at two serving settings: 5 oz. or 8 oz.
Of the 44mm, 55mm and 62mm diameter filter-paper pod formats currently available in the single-serve pod brewer market, the Melitta One:One?takes the smaller, less common 44mm-size.
Priming the machine is simple; I encountered no confusing directions or mishaps. The brewer is ready for use within 2-3 minutes, takes about 30-45 seconds to brew a cup, and appears sturdy.
The brewer's pod holder is located under its pointed top lid and is closed by pressing the lid straight down over the pod holder and then pushing in the lever located on the front of the lid, which should result in an audible "click" indicating that the lid is securely closed. Unfortunately, closing the lid and hearing that reassuring audible "click" takes some effort. Coffee pods have to be completely fitted (stuffed?), edges and all, into the pod holder to avoid leakage when brewing, so it's important that the lid be held down completely flat when securing it. However, the lid moves both forward and backward, as well as up and down, on springs that are always attempting to push it up.
It would seem this tricky lid problem might grow annoying, particularly if it's faced immediately after hauling oneself out of bed.
Melitta offers a limited assortment of coffees: a dark, medium and light roast, a decaf and two flavored coffees - hazelnut and vanilla. The brewer can be used with similarly sized filter paper formatted pods, but owing to the pod holder's 44mm size, the One:One can't brew the more widely available 62mm-sized sized pods intended for use with the Senseo and the Home Café lines of single-serve machines. True, some Internet sites report users managing to brew larger pods after stuffing them into the holder and standing over the machine manually holding the lid closed. OK ? it's your coffee, your hand, and your kitchen counter.
Approximate cost for coffee pods for this brewer range from roughly $0.25 to $0.27 per pod. Third party coffee-pod providers are becoming more common on the Internet and tend to offer a wider variety of coffees to choose from, including some in the Melitta 44mm size.
The Melitta One:One is also designed to brew teas in appropriately sized and formatted pods. Currently there are no specialty with-milk beverage pods available for brewing with the Melitta One:One.
Weighing 8 lbs. and standing 13 ? inches high, 7 ? inches wide and 10 inches deep, the brewer's retro-modern looking bullet/artillery shell shape makes it taller than it is wide, so it should fit easily on most kitchen countertops.
As previously noted, the coffee pods need to be completely inserted into the pod holder (edges and all) to avoid leakage when brewing. In response to customer demand, Melitta will begin offering a pod holder that takes larger formatted pods for use on all of its existing and future brewers early in 2006. This option should make this simple, relatively sturdy, inexpensive machine considerably more attractive to coffee lovers by making the full range of podded coffees available to its owners.
Built by Salton Appliances, the Juan Valdez (www.esalton.com) closely resembles the Melitta One:One in look and design. The brewer has a suggested retail price of $85.99, but currently can be found on the Internet for around $55 to $65. It comes in black or white and incorporates an adjustable spout to accommodate both short and tall coffee mugs. In terms of business model the Juan Valdez is unusual, in that it is co-branded and marketed by the Colombian Coffee Federation, the world's largest and most influential coffee cooperative. Reservoir Capacity and Serving Size
Removable 40 oz. water reservoir without water filter option. Brews coffee at two settings: 5 oz. and 8 oz.
Of the 44mm, 55mm and 62mm diameter filter-paper pod formats currently available in the single-serve pod brewer market, the Juan Valdez takes the middle 55-mm size. This mid-sized pod holder option apparently is intended to make the Juan Valdez brewer more universally compatible with 44mm and 62mm formatted pods. We were able to brew one of the more widely available 62mm pods in the Juan Valdez with as good a result as we obtained using other machines specifically designed for the 62mm size.
The brewer is easy to prime, but use is complicated not only by the need to have pods, regardless of size, completely inserted (stuffed) into the pod holder, but also by difficulties with closing its tricky, omni-directional-moving top lid. The lid must be held completely flat when securing it. However, when open it moves both forward and back, as well as up and down, on hinged springs, making the closing operation tricky (especially in the morning before breakfast).
Another problem: After brewing, the coffee pod was sopping wet and made what should be a quick and easy clean up a messy and time-consuming activity. Using the larger, third-party 62mm-sized pods made the wet-coffee-pod cleanup even more difficult.
Finally, the brewer gives a general impression of fragility, perhaps owing to the tricky lid and the prevalence of plastic in its construction. Nothing broke when we used it, however. The Juan Valdez is ready for brewing within 2-3 minutes and takes about 30-45 seconds to brew a cup.
Juan Valdez offers four choices of coffee pod, all, of course, consisting of coffee from Colombia: Colombia Light, Medium, and Dark roast, as well as one decaf. The brewer also can be used with the 62mm-size pods offered by Internet third party coffee-pod providers, which would permit the Juan Valdez owner to roam beyond the borders of Colombia when choosing pods and coffees. Juan Valdez pods currently cost roughly $0.28 to $0.44 per pod.
The Juan Valdez is not designed to brew teas or other specialty drinks.
The brewer stands 14 inches high, 14 inches wide and 14 inches deep and weighs 6.7 lbs. The brewer's shape and size make it taller than it is wide, so it should fit easily on most kitchen countertops.
Notes and Other Features Its potential versatility in accepting a variety of pod sizes plus its modest price makes the Juan Valdez an attractive budget single-serve option, although the clean-up issue may be a deterrent.
The Mr. Coffee AT13 (www.mrcoffee.com) is a member of the Home Café?family of pod brewers and beverage pods that includes the Krups 1010 and Black & Decker HC100 together with compatible pods produced by Procter & Gamble under its Folgers and Millstone brands. The Mr. Coffee AT13 is available only in black, has a suggested retail price of $79.99 and can (supposedly) be purchased first-hand at Target department stores nationwide. Strangely, searches for this brewer on the Internet produce few direct hits and even the AT13's page on the Mr. Coffee website didn't have a "BUY NOW" link. Perhaps even more disturbing was the Product Locator page on the Home Café?website, which provides no retail listings for purchasing the brewer.
Removable 32 oz. water reservoir with no water filter option. Brews 7, 9 and 14 oz. serving sizes.
Of the 44, 55 and 62mm-sized filter paper pod formats currently available in the single-serve pod brewer market, the Mr. Coffee AT13 brews 62mm-sized paper formatted pods, each containing 8 to 10 grams of coffee. The AT13 comes with three pod holders, one for single pods, one for two pods for taller drinks, and one for proprietary Home Café specialty drink pods which provide pod interpretations of with-milk drinks like cappuccino.
The AT13 has a number of convenient benefits and features. All three serving sizes can be brewed with one or two pods to vary the cup strength, the brewer has an adjustable dispensing spout to avoid splashy messes when brewing into shorter cups and mugs, and the machine turns itself off after each brew.
Unfortunately, Coffee Review was not able to benefit from these benefits and features as much as we would have liked owing to the sensitive nature of the buttons on the brewer's control panel. The initial priming of the AT13 is initiated by simultaneously pressing the "7 fl oz" and "Specialty" buttons. As it turned out, this little manipulation is tricky. After several tries and a second machine from Mr. Coffee, we realized that we were required to touch both buttons precisely at the same time, not too heavily but not too lightly, and release them immediately. Anything else (touching one button slightly before the other, or holding the two buttons down too long, for example) results in a blinking red "STOP" button and nothing more. Neither the directions nor the troubleshooting section in the user manual gave any indication on how to resolve this issue. Nor did they warn the user about the precision necessary for this crucial operation.
Once the sensitive nature of the AT13's control panel was resolved, however, the AT13 operated according to specification, brewing multiple cups of coffee without further difficulties. Range and Availability of Coffees
Like other Home Café brewers, the AT13 is specifically marketed for use with Folgers and Millstone coffee pods: Classic Roast, Classic Decaf and 100% Colombian from Folgers, and Colombian Supremo and French Roast from Millstone, plus four flavored coffees. Certainly this is a limited menu for the aficionado, but the AT13 will brew other filter-paper formatted coffee pods of similar size, including those sold for the Senseo brewer and those produced by third-party providers like www.podhead.com. Home Café brand coffee pods range from around $0.24 to $0.28 per pod.
The Mr. Coffee AT13 currently produces two specialty drinks using Home Café proprietary plastic pods: a cappuccino and a "Skinny Vanilla Latte." No teas are listed on the Home Café website.
Standing about 11 inches high, 6 inches wide and 8 inches deep, and weighing less than 10 lbs., the AT13's cylindrical shape makes it an easy fit on most kitchen countertops.
Why is the AT13 so hard to find at present? Could be that it is too new to have achieved much market presence, or it could be that the priming peculiarity we noted has pushed the pause button back at the company headquarters. At any rate, the current version needs a sensitive touch, but beyond that peculiarity it seems as reasonable a choice of single-serve pod-format brewer as any of the competing brands with similar pricing. Krups KP1010
The Krups KP1010 (www.krupsusa.com) is a member of the Home Café?family of pod brewers and beverage pods that includes the Mr. Coffee AT13 (www.mrcoffee.com) and Black & Decker HC100, together with compatible pods produced by Procter & Gamble under its Folgers and Millstone brands. The Krups KP1010 carries a suggested retail price of $150.00 and can be found on the Internet at prices ranging from around $100.00 to $120.00. It is distinguished from its competitors by its twin, side-by-side brew heads permitting the user to produce two beverages simultaneously, a feature shared by no other single-serve brewing device available at this writing. The 1010 is available only in serious black and has a comfortable, modern yet unpretentious look to it, with rounded corners, smooth sides, and no awkward protruding parts.
Removable 40 oz. water reservoir that includes a double-action anti-chlorine and anti-scaling water filter. Brews three serving sizes: 6.0, 7.5 and 9.0 oz.
The water filter is not required for using the 1010 but, depending on the hardness of local water, could potentially help improve cup character and flavor. The filters are available on-line and at several bricks-and-mortar chains that sell household appliances. They typically need recharging every 4 to 6 months, depending on use level.
Of the 44, 55 and 62mm-sized filter paper pod formats currently available in the single-serve pod brewer market, the Krups 1010 uses 62mm-sized paper formatted pods, each containing around 8 to10 grams of coffee. The 1010 comes with three pod holders, one for single pods, one for loading two pods to produce taller or stronger drinks, and one for proprietary Home Café specialty drink pods that produce pod interpretations of with-milk drinks like cappuccino.
In setting up the 1010 for brewing, I found the required initial priming and first-brew neither intuitive nor familiar, and needed to rely solely on the user manual for directions on how to go about it properly. Safe to say that pod-brewing may require us traditional coffee brewing veterans to reacquaint ourselves with actually reading a user's guide.
Nevertheless, the directions in the Krups 1010 user manual are clear and easy to follow. The 1010 is ready to brew within one minute after being turned on, a faster time than most competing pod machines.
The 1010 has a sliding lock-lever that holds its upper lid securely tight during the brewing process. Some may find the use of this locking lever a little awkward because it can be stiff and difficult to slide open and shut. The lever on the machine used by Coffee Review was sufficiently tight to require the use of both hands - one to slide the lock-lever open and closed, the other to steady the brewer to prevent it from sliding or tipping over.
The 1010 appears solid and durable in construction. Total brew time was under one minute and the 1010 allowed for a quick and easy clean-up: Used pods were easy to discard with little mess and a quick rinse of the pod holders got the brewer ready for its next use.
Like other Home Café brewers, the 1010 is specifically marketed for use with Folgers and Millstone coffee pods: Classic Roast, Classic Decaf and 100% Colombian from Folgers, and Colombian Supremo and French Roast from Millstone. Certainly this is a limited menu for the aficionado, but the 1010, theory at least, will brew some other filter-paper formatted coffee pods of similar size, including those sold for the Senseo brewer.
We did encounter some trouble using third-party purchased from Internet providers, however. Occasionally using one of these pods would pop open the lid that secures the pod holder, spewing coffee-tinted water all over the counter. The resulting mess was significant enough for us to stop experimenting with third-party pods in the 1010. Interestingly, however, the other two brewers in the Home Café family, the Mr. Coffee AT13 and Black & Decker HC 100, both took third-party pods without problem.
Home Café brand coffee pods range from around $0.24 to $0.28 per pod.
The Krups 1010 currently produces two specialty drinks using Home Café proprietary plastic pods: a cappuccino and a "Skinny Vanilla Latte." No teas are listed on the Home Café website.
The 1010 weighs 7.25 lbs. and is 9.25 inches deep, 11 inches wide and 12 inches high. It has a medium-sized footprint and should fit easily on most countertops.
I liked the Krups 1010's double side-by-side pod brewer feature. The look and feel of the brewer's design is sturdy, unobtrusive and business-like. The tendency of the unit we used to pop open and create a mess when used with third-party coffee pods is disturbing, however, given that the Home Café line of coffee pods is very limited for anyone interested in coffee quality and diversity.
The Keurig B60 (www.keurig.com) Special Edition is the latest single cup brewer to come from Keurig. Joining its predecessors, the B40 Elite and B50 Ultra, the B60 Special Edition adds glowing blue backlit lighting to its LCD panel and water reservoir for a very impressive techno look. It also arrives with additional features, some unique not only to the Keurig line but to single-serve brewing devices generally, like a brew-temperature control (197F-203F) that permits the user to produce a somewhat smoother, sweeter, more delicate cup at the lower temperature or a punchier cup at a higher, and a programmable automatic-on feature that will turn the machine on at an appointed time to eliminate waiting three minutes for warm-up.
These features don't come without a sizeable price tag, however. The B60 can be purchased at a base price of $199.95 from Keurig and can be found elsewhere at similar or higher prices depending on the size and variety of included packages of assorted K-Cup coffee choices. The B60 currently has limited retail availability at William-Sonoma outlets and will have wider retail distribution through William-Sonoma and other retail stores over the next six months.
Removable 48 oz. water reservoir with a blue backlit lighting feature for easy monitoring of water level. The B60 has 3 brew settings: 5.25 oz., 7.25 oz. and 9.25 oz. servings.
The Keurig K-Cup is a distinctive design and can only be brewed in Keurig machines. In general size and shape K-Cups resemble a single-serve coffee creamer container and usually contains about ten grams of coffee inside a tiny paper coffee filter. K-Cups can be found on the Internet selling at a considerable range of price, currently from roughly $0.35 to $0.56 per K-Cup.
The B60 is a striking, modern-looking machine that seems sturdy and well-built. The directions for priming, programming and using the B60 are extensive but easy to follow. The machine did what it was supposed to, and the more time I spent with the machine the more I felt that I was able to personalize my cup of coffee. The machine is ready to brew 3 minutes after being turned on and needs about 15 to 30 seconds to recharge itself between brews.
Currently, five companies produce coffee in K-Cups for brewing in Keurig machines: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Timothy's World Coffee, Gloria Jean's, Van Houtte, and Diedrich Roasters. They produce an extensive range of coffee choices, including single-origins, blends, decafs, and flavored coffees, considerably more than are available for use with competing single-serve systems.
Keurig machines also brew teas using the K-Cup method. Celestial Seasonings, Timothy's, Bigelow, and Gloria Jean's produce K-Cup teas in black, green and herbal varieties. Gloria Jean's also offers a cappuccino K-Cup.
The Keurig B60 weighs about 12 lbs. when empty and about 15 lbs. with a full water reservoir, with a fairly substantial footprint AT13 inches high, 10 inches wide and a little over 13 deep. It is sleek in profile without awkward protruding elements.
Along with the programmable water temperature feature, the B60 also allows for programming specific automatic on and off times, as well as a feature that automatically turns the machine off after a set time following the last brew. The B60 is a bit pricy and, if we assume the 62mm paper-formatted pod becomes the industry standard for single-serve, the patented K-Cup design and brewing technology eventually could constrain coffee variety and choice. Currently, however, the Keurig B60 is the king of single-serve coffee variety and availability. Given that edge, its impressive menu of special features and its heat-turning design, it is clearly a category leader, and, along with the Bunn and Senseo, one of our recommended choices for single-serve brewers.
Flavia, a brand of the Mars Corporation, recently introduced the Flavia Drink Station (www.myflavia.com), a consumer-oriented offspring of the well-established Flavia office-service hot beverage systems. It can be purchased in black, red or ice blue for at Sharper Image stores at a suggested retail price of $119.95 or online for (currently) around $100.00.
Removable 52 oz. water reservoir with activated charcoal filter. Five brew settings: 3.0 oz, 4.3 oz, 5.7 oz, 7 oz, and 8.3 oz serving sizes.
The Drink Station uses a proprietary filterpack specific to its design. Shaped like a small envelope with a plastic strip affixed to the top, this pack also contains a filter that opens automatically when hot water is pumped through the pack into the cup. Flavia filterpacks contain about 5.5 grams of finely ground coffee and cost around $0.42 to $0.47 per filterpack.
The Drink Station has a convincingly futuristic look to it and seems durable, if rather heavy. The brew head is on the front of the water reservoir and can be adjusted in height to accommodate cups of varying shape and size. Priming the machine and its first use is simple. The filterpacks snap easily into place, though it takes two hands to secure the sliding filterpack door - one to steady the machine and the other to close the door. The drink size selection control is intuitive once you know the available drink sizes, as they are not listed by number but by sequentially sized marks.
The first drink is ready for brewing about 90 seconds after the machine has been turned on, and subsequent drinks can be made at intervals of about 35 seconds.
Since the Drink Station uses a proprietary design for its filterpacks, the user is limited to the sixteen coffees offered by Flavia: Sumatra, Italian Roast, French Roast, Colombia, Costa Rican, Sidamo Gold, House Blend, Breakfast Blend, Roasted Safari Nut, Hazelnut Noisettes, French Vanilla, Irish Cr?me, French Roast Decaf, House Blend Decaf, and Hazelnut Decaf. It seems unlikely that Flavia will expand this selection, given that it has not changed substantially since Coffee Review last reviewed a Flavia single-serve device in 2003.
Flavia offers a relatively large assortment of other hot beverages in filterpack format, including four teas, five "Wellbeing" drinks, four "indulgence" (with-milk) coffee and chai drinks, and two chocolates.
The Flavia Drink Station stands 13 inches high, 9 inches wide and 14 inches deep and weighs about 8 lbs. empty. The machine is constructed primarily of plastic with some metal parts, and looks sleekly and rather originally modern. The control panel is located on the flat top of its height-adjustable brew head.
Small point, but the Drink Station's water reservoir fits almost too snugly into its base and requires a strong pull to remove it for filling.
In the larger picture, Flavia has gone out of its way to not only come up with a unique design for its brewer, but also to provide a rather robust selection of drink choices. Unfortunately, the coffee lover interested in quality and variety will be frustrated by the limited and rather drab coffee choice part of that selection and those concerned with value may be put off by the rather stiff per-serving cost of the filterpacks.
The Bunn My Café (www.bunn.com) line of pod brewing machines is available in two models, one for individual home use, the Pourover (MCP), which is reviewed here, and the Automatic (MCA), which can be plumbed to a water line, eliminating the need to manually refill the water reservoir. Both brewers come with drawer-style pod holders compatible for pods ranging in size from 45mm to 61mm. With a suggested retail price of $245.00, the My Café can also be found on the Internet for prices ranging from $194.00 to $230.00.
Removable 46 oz. water reservoir with an easy-slide lid for refilling. The My Café's control panel employs a sliding control tab that allows for brewing cups ranging from 4 oz. to 12 oz.
The My Café pod holders are constructed to accommodate coffee pod sizes ranging from 45 mm to 61 mm in diameter, in other words, the full range of paper-format pod sizes. The My Café brewers come with two same-size pod holders (one for use with flavored drinks and one for use with non-flavored, for example) designed to fit its distinctive drawer-style pod holder.
Priming and using the machine for its initial brew was surprisingly simple and straightforward. The machine is a sturdy blend of plastic and metal. Though it doesn't have an adjustable height feature for brewing different sized cups, it is tall enough for use with most mug sizes, including travel-sized mugs. The control panel is easy to use and allows for brewing both coffee and tea drinks as well as specialty coffee drinks. The pod holders are released by pressing a Pod Holder Release Button and fit securely into place with an audible "click" when reinserted. The brewer is ready to brew in about 2 minutes after being turned on and brews a beverage in about 30 seconds.
Bunn does not market a line of pods for use with its My Café brewers. Instead, its generously versatile pod holders are designed to be used with all three sizes of paper-formatted pods currently available on the market. This universality allows the user an open field in choosing which pods to brew. (Keep in mind, however, that we are referring to paper-format pods, not to the specialized capsules, filterpacks, discs, etc. used by the Keurig, Flavia and Brain/Tassimo systems.) The My Café brewers also can use pods from the third party coffee-pod providers that are becoming more common on the Internet. A buyer of the Bunn machine probably should anticipate spending about $0.28 to $0.30 per pod.
The My Café brewers tout a Pulse-Brew?technology for brewing teas. My Café brewer pod holders come in pairs, one for coffees, for example, and the other for teas, to prevent transfer of flavors.
Additionally, the My Café brewers dispense hot water for making hot chocolate or soups.
The Bunn My Café brewers weigh a little over 10 lbs. and stand 12 ? inches high, 8 inches wide and 10? inches deep. They have a vaguely Flintstone retro-futuristic look, vase shaped, wide at the base, short around the middle, and then wider at the flat top. The control panel is located on the base just below the cup/brewing stand. Notes and Other Features
The My Café brewers incorporate a thermo-block heating system that is designed to deliver water at a constant 200 degrees. The flexibility in the pod sizes it accepts and serving size/brew strength, together with its sturdy feel, no-hassle drawer-style pod holders and general simplicity of operation, have made it a favorite on Internet coffee blogs, chat rooms and review sites. An expensive choice, but our favorite among the current crop of single-serve machines that use paper pods.
On the tails of a successful initial product launch in France, the Tassimo Hot Beverage System (www.tassimo.com) is making its debut in the US market at an initial suggested retail price of $189.00. It can be found on the Internet for around $144.00 to $163.00. Like the Keurig K-Cup and the Flavia systems, Tassimo uses a patented technology to brew its coffee. The Tassimo system is comprised of two components: the machine itself and the Tassimo discs, referred to as T-discs. Each T-disc is labeled with a bar-code that the brewer reads and which determines water volume and brewing time and temperature for the particular beverage contained in the disc.
Serving size is determined by the bar-code on the T-disc that instructs the machine how much water to use. Eight-ounce servings seem to be the norm for coffee. This would allow eight cups of coffee to be brewed from the 64 oz. removable water reservoir. The machine incorporates a water filter that requires changing roughly every three months depending on use level.
The T-discs used by the Braun/Tassimo incorporate a design and format specific to this machine. About the same size around as a silver dollar and about ?-inch thick, the T-disc has a foil cover where the bar-code is printed that transmits brewing specifics to the machine. Each T-disc contains roughly 8 grams of coffee. The most common price for T-discs is $8.99 per 18 discs, or $0.50 per disc.
Owing to the technological sophistication of the machine, the priming and first use should be performed when you are relaxed and have enough time to seriously settle down with the user's manual. In other words, setting this machine up and brewing a first cup of coffee is not something you would want to do while, say, cooking or watching television.
Once the brewer is primed and the first cup brewed, the most noticeable element to the brewing process is the amount of noise the brewer makes, somewhere between quiet lawn mower and muted machine gun. The Tassimo also produces a considerable amount of vibration when it brews.
However, the machine is mess-free and easy to use once set up. The control panel offers a manual control for overriding bar-coded automatic brewing instructions and personalizing the amount of water dosed for a drink. The same can also be accomplished by simply pressing the Stop/Start button to abort a pre-programmed brewing cycle at any moment in the process. The Braun/Tassimo is ready to brew in 1.5 minutes after turning it on, and produces a cup in anywhere between 40 and 60 seconds.
The coffee producing partner for the Tassimo system is Kraft Foods. Although Kraft's Gevalia and other coffee brands produce an impressive array of coffees, precious few are currently available in the T-disc format. There is, however, an espresso choice, unusual for the category of single-serve machines reviewed here.
Currently there are a total of nineteen beverages varieties available for the Tassimo machine: twelve coffees, two teas, two cappuccinos, two caff? lattes, and one hot chocolate. The with-milk drinks are produced using a liquid milk product rather than powdered creamer of the kind used in competing machines.
The Tassimo is about 12 inches high, 11 inches wide and 12 inches deep, and weighs 7.5 lbs. The Tassimo brewer has a sleek though unpretentiously modern look and comes with an adjustable cup stand that will fit travel mugs, regular-sized coffee mugs and even espresso cups.
Although the T-discs we tested produced as good a coffee as the best of the Tassimo's competitors (though still not nearly as good as one can achieve with fresh coffee and ordinary brewing methods), the small range of choices currently available should make any committed coffee lover cautious when considering buying this device. If the Tassimo does sound attractive, I would recommend waiting to see whether it achieves enough popularity to encourage Kraft to produce more coffees for it. And even then, it appears that if you don't favor Kraft bands like Gevalia you will feel constrained in your choices.
The Black & Decker HCC100 (www.blackanddeckerappliances.com) is a member of the Home Café family of pod brewers and beverage pods that includes the Krups 1010 and Mr. Coffee AT13, together with compatible pods produced by Procter & Gamble under its Folgers and Millstone brands. The HCC100 comes in either black or white, has a suggested retail price of $59.95, and can be purchased at retailers such as Target, Walgreens, and Rite Aid Drug. It can also be found online at modest discounts from the list price.
Removable 34 oz. water reservoir with no water filter option. Brews three serving sizes: 7 oz., 9 oz. and 14 oz.
Of the 44, 55 and 62mm-sized filter paper pod formats currently available in the single-serve market, the Black & Decker HCC100 brews 62-mm sized pods with a coffee weight of 8 to 10 grams each. The HCC100 comes with three pod holders, one for single pods, one for loading two pods to produce taller or stronger drinks, and one for proprietary Home Café specialty drink pods that produce pod interpretations of with-milk drinks like cappuccino. Machine Quality and Ease of Use
The most distinguishing feature of the HCC100 is the three-inch handle for opening and closing the lid that secures the pod holders. It sticks out at a right angle from the top of the machine like the handle of a motorcycle.
Another distinguishing feature of the Black & Decker HCC100 is plastic - lots of it. I am sure that there are non-plastic components inside, but the only external metal components are the drip guard and rather flimsy-looking wire mesh filters in the pod holders. Like several of the other pod brewers reviewed by Coffee Review, the HCC100 requires the use of two hands to open and close before brewing, but for a somewhat different reason: The flimsy look and feel of the device had me worried that I might snap the handle or inadvertently tear it out of the machine.
Nor is the fit of the pod holders reassuring. They require some jiggling and twisting to fit into place, and still look a bit loose and not securely set in the brewer. And the specialty drink pod holder was a complete failure: I couldn't close the lid when it was in place.
Finally, the HCC100 makes a mess when brewing coffee. The coffee is dispensed from the pod holder at a height of over 5 ? inches from the bottom brew plate and a regular sized coffee mug allows just enough space for coffee to splatter the counter around the base of the machine. The spattering was particularly intense towards the end of the brewing process. The last sputtering of brewing coffee may be a sound that brings coffee lovers running, but with the HCC100 it's also a call for the clean-up crew.
Like other Home Café brewers, the Black & Decker HCC100 is specifically marketed for use with Folgers and Millstone coffee pods: Classic Roast, Classic Decaf and 100% Colombian from Folgers, and Colombian Supremo and French Roast from Millstone, plus four flavored coffees. Certainly a limited menu for the aficionado, but it will brew other filter-paper formatted coffee pods of similar size, including those sold for the Senseo brewer and those produced by third-party providers like www.podhead.com. Home Café brand coffee pods range from around $0.24 to $0.28 per pod. Other Beverages
The Black & Decker HCC100 currently produces (if you can get the lid closed on the pod holder) two specialty drinks using Home Café proprietary plastic pods: a cappuccino and a "Skinny Vanilla Latte." No teas are listed on the Home Café website.
The Black & Decker HCC100 weighs 3.6 lbs. and stands about 12 inches high, 7 inches wide and about 11 inches deep. The protruding lid handle may make this brewer difficult to tuck away in tight quarters.
Its modest price may make it attractive, but the HCC100 is messy to use, rather difficult to use, and flimsy in construction.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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