Braun/Tassimo Hot Beverage System
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 and Reservoir Capacity
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.
Coffee-Pod Size and Format
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 ½-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.
Machine Quality and Ease of Use
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.
Range and Availability of Coffees
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 caffè 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.
Dimension and Style
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.
Notes and Other Features
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.