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Selecting an Automatic Drip-Coffee Maker

by Rosemary Furfaro

It may surprise many readers, in this age of cafe lattes and espresso ristrettos, to find there still exists quite a number of coffee aficionados who prefer to brew their coffee with an electric filter drip machine instead of with the sleek, state-of-the-art espresso devices that are now widely available. I must admit, I am one of those individuals.

Although I do love the intensity and quick lift of a cup of espresso or even the special mellowness that comes with the pleasurable sipping of a latte, I find making a plain cup of "joe" with my beat-up automatic drip pot is a comforting and soul satisfying experience, particularly before I start a busy day. The trickling of water through the freshly ground beans and the aroma of strong coffee as I read my morning paper set me in a positive frame of mind as I wait for that first cup. It's no wonder that coffee is an addictive beverage -- the whole process from start to finish is steeped in ritual and pleasure!

Most drip filter coffee makers operate in the same simple manner: a paper filter sets in a basket (usually plastic) which holds the finely ground, almost powdery coffee beans. Cold water is poured into a chamber where it is heated and poured over the grounds. The coffee is quickly extracted into a waiting carafe. Simple, reliable, and very efficient compared to many other coffee making processes.

Some people claim automatic drip coffee provides "off-tasting" flavors in the cup. To those I suggest you either clean your coffee maker and carafe (refer to manufacturer's instructions), use a better quality coffee, use paper filters (no reusable cloth filters since they are difficult to keep clean), or try a gold filter (cleaned well after each use, please).

Too many models of household automatic drip coffee makers exist on the market today to include all of them in this writing. Since Krups is represented far more in department and appliance stores than any other brand of household coffee makers, an abundance of this company's models are listed. All coffeemakers reviewed have carafe lids designed to keep in the coffee aromas, but I found that not all work well. Of course, you should use this information solely as a guide to help you make a more thorough, educated evaluation before buying a drip coffee maker. Prices are approximate.

Braun

Flavor Select Coffeemaker (10 cup)
Cost: $60
This German-made model made a nicely robust cup of coffee. It offers the "pause and serve" feature, a 1-3 cup and a 4-10 cup brew switch, a top button to select flavor strength from light to strong (with many levels in between), a "multi-path brew system that disperses water more evenly and faster, assuring all the grinds get saturated evenly. They advertise this as providing fuller coffee flavor with no bitterness. I tried a cup. It was delicious and snappy and just the perfect strength (I used the strongest setting). The control panel has two toggle switches for on/off and cup capacity. The carafe had a nice heaviness to it. The body housing comes in an attractive, slightly slimmer design black or white plastic and offers a swing out filter basket and a side water level indicator. This one was my second choice for a smaller 10 cup model.

Aromaster Coffeemaker (10 cup)
Cost: $40
This is the smallest and most compact model I reviewed and is built by Braun who has a very reliable reputation for small appliances. It offers very simple features: an on/off toggle switch, a top filling swing out filter basket and water container with the option of a gold filter basket. No visible water level indicator. Comes in black or white plastic. What can I say about this one? Well, it makes a decent cup of coffee if you are not too finicky and is perfect for a small counter area. Besides, the price can't be beat.

Cuisinart Classic Coffee Bar Coffeemaker

Cuisinart offers three versions of this model, each with added features to reflect the increased cost. I found I enjoyed these cups of coffee a lot more than most of the others that I had tried.

Model DCC-100 (10 cup) and Model DCC-240 (12 cup)
Cost: $50 and $60 respectively
I didn't find the hourglass shape of the cabinet and rounded design of the carafe visually appealing. The cabinet is a bit smaller than other coffeemakers so it may fit more easily on your counter. I liked the sturdy, comfortable feel of the ergonomically designed carafe handle on this and the other Cuisinart models. Cuisinart touts a commercial style coffeemaking system by setting the number of cups needed. Even if you may have mistakenly added too much water, the water is automatically metered into the brew basket by the setting. The control panel is not programmable and offers toggle switches for on/off and 1-4 cup and 5-10 cup brew selections. The carafe lid is designed to capture all the coffee aromas. The filter basket swings out and has a removable liner. All models come in black or white plastic, are top-filling with large, easy-to-read side-view water-level indicators.

Model DCC-270 (12 cup)
Cost: $115
Offers all the same features of the above models with the exception of the following:
has a 24 hour programmable control panel with a digital clock/timer and a two hour automatic shut off after brewing, has a self-clean system with a "time to clean" indicator that takes the guess work out of cleaning by alerting the consumer when the machine needs cleaning, offers a 1-4 cup setting along with a 12 cup total capacity setting which is a very nice feature for those who have a small household but find they entertain a lot.

Hamilton Beach

Aroma Elite (12 cup)
Cost: $50
The positive features about this model were the 2-12 cup capacity of the coffeemaker, the "pause and serve" feature, and an accelerated brew cycle due to the use of 1050 watts of power. This particular feature is designed to deliver a fresher, hotter cup of coffee. (I didn't find it any hotter or fresher than the other models tested.) The negative features of this model were the unwieldy, flimsy feel of the carafe handle (not enough grip area), there was no visible water level indicator, the lid didn't seem to seal too tightly, and replacing the carafe to the warming plate was cumbersome and difficult due to the design of the coffeemaker. It comes in white or black plastic with a top fill water container and a top fill, two part filter basket with a removable liner. The exterior has a very simple design with all dials for programming hidden behind a panel that flips open from the bottom front of the coffeemaker. Overall, I do not recommend this machine.

Krups

Coffee Time Plus (12 cup)
Cost: $100
This machine, like all Krups models, offers a patented "deep brew technology" that heats water to the ideal brewing temperature. Water is pulsed rhythmically through coffee grinds for maximum exposure of water to the grinds, giving you a better, fuller tasting cup of coffee. The control panel has sensor driven pads which light upon touch. This seemed like it would offer an easier cleanup than protruding buttons. Features the standard Krups "stop n' serve" which allows you to remove the carafe for up to 20 seconds and pour a cup while coffee is brewing; a nice feature if you are an impatient coffee drinker. Krups also offers an "aroma savor system" on all it's carafes that features a lid that forms a flavor seal to preserve coffee aroma in the pot. Sounds good, right? I didn't find the aroma lasted very long nor did the flavor. My cup of coffee was a bit thin. Also offers a 24 hour programmable, digital clock/timer. The machine automatically shuts off two hours after brewing. Comes in black or white plastic with a non-stick warming plate, a swing out, removable filter holder basket, a top filling water chamber with easy read side view water level indicator and an optional gold plated metal basket.

Pro Aroma Electronic (10 cup)
Cost: $90
Offers the Krups "deep brew technology," "aroma savor," and "stop n' serve" features as in all Krups models. Two special features that I liked were the three brewing cycles that enable you to select the brew amount and strength (1-3 cups; 4-10 cups light; 4-10 cups strong) and the pre-warming carafe feature which assures you of hot coffee for a longer period of time. I tried the strong setting and was pleased with the results. Certainly not a cup of coffee from my favorite coffee house but it was a flavorful cup of coffee. The control panel has a programmable digital clock/timer with a two hour automatic shutoff. The housing comes in black or white plastic, offers a swing away two part filter basket, a non-stick warming plate and a side magnified water level indicator.

Compact Therm and Compact Therm Deluxe (Both are 10 cup)
Cost: $100 (Compact Therm) and $120 (Compact Therm Deluxe)
Standard Krups features of above models offered on both these models. These were unique in that they offered double-insulated thermal glass carafes with all-around drip-free stainless steel pour spouts in lieu of the standard glass carafes seen on most drip coffeemakers. These keep the coffee hot (steaming, but not as hot as one gets it when first made) for up to five hours. Both models have a top filling magnified side view water level indicator and come in white or black plastic. I found the cabinets to be larger than most other coffeemakers. The Compact Therm model offers an automatic shut off control panel with toggle switch. The Compact Therm Deluxe has a control panel with sensor pads and a digital 24 hour programmable clock/timer plus allows from 1-3 cups of coffee to be made. I've had freshly made coffee from these models and coffee that has sat in its carafe for four hours. The freshly made coffee was flavorful and delicious. The older coffee was a bit less enjoyable but certainly did not have that characteristic broken down, bitter taste that so often comes with coffee sitting on warming plates. I'd recommend this one if you tend to make a pot of coffee and drink it through the morning. The coffee fares far better in these devices than in glass carafes.

Crystal Aroma Time (10 cup)
Cost: $115
This was my favorite of all the models I reviewed because of the quality coffee it made, the added features plus its simple operation. Aside from all of Krups standard features, this model boasts a water filtration system designed to provide a richer tasting coffee. It works by preventing bitterness in coffee by passing water through a charcoal filter, destroying chlorine taste by up to 82%. It also has an orange indicator light for replacing the charcoal filters and decalcifying the machine. The round glass carafe almost looks like a fifties style water pitcher and is hermetically sealed to lock in the flavor and freshness of your coffee so each cup from first to last is full of coffee aroma. (This worked the best of all the carafe-sealing lids.) The control panel has a frontal dial for 24 programming of the digital clock/timer which can automatically shut off from 1-5 hours after brewing. The sleek black plastic housing offers a frontal view water level indicator and a two part removable filter basket which sets into a top holder.

Oster

Designer Coffeemaker (12 cup)
Cost: $100
This model had a large cabinet but I liked the design of the carafe which appeared more like a well-balanced tea pot with a comfortable grip handle. The very tight sealing lid kept the aroma of coffee very well and the spout was easy and spill proof. This also offered the feature of making 1-3 cups of coffee with a small quantity setting plus a "pause and serve" feature which is similar to Krups "stop n' serve." The control panel has a 24 hour programmable digital clock/timer that offers a two hour automatic shut off after brewing. The model comes in white or black plastic and has a top filling, easy to read side water level indicator, a removable filter basket (with an option for a gold plated metal basket), and a light to let you know the coffeemaker is on. I found the lid did indeed keep the coffee aroma in the carafe but I found the coffee to be lacking in character.



Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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