Archive for Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Perk up with these CR-rated coffeemakers

December 24, 2008


Every coffeemaker promises a pleasing cup of joe. But Consumer Reports’ recent tests show that not all models get hot enough to extract the best from the beans and avoid a weak or bitter brew.

Industry standards espoused by coffee experts and accepted by Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Starbucks and other roadside icons call for 195 to 205 degrees. Shoppers can spend $200 for a model that reached those temperatures in CR’s new brewing tests, but others brewed just as well for $40 to $50, and one from Melitta costs just $25.

Range of models

The 34 coffeemakers in CR’s Ratings include multicup carafe models, brew stations that pour directly into a cup, models with built-in grinders and to-go models that fill a mug or two per serving. Overall scores are based on brew performance, convenience and carafe handling.

For serving a crowd, eight- to 12-cup carafe models are easiest. CR’s top scorers are the Cuisinart Brew Central DCC-1200, $100; Michael Graves 40304, $40, a CR Best Buy; and Oster Counterforms 4281, $65.

For 12-cup brew stations, which can fill cups directly from the machine, the Hamilton Beach Brew Station 47454, $70, is the top scorer and a CR Best Buy. For eight- to 10-cup grind and brew models, which save the trouble of grinding beans separately, the top scorer is Mr. Coffee GBX23, $50, another CR Best Buy.

Tips for savings

• Skip the pros. KitchenAid’s heavy, die-cast Pro Line carafe model, $200, is to coffeemakers what “pro style” is to stoves. This multicup carafe model brewed impressively. But the top-ranked Cuisinart brewed as well for half the price and was easier to use. Nearly as convenient: the $40 Michael Graves, a CR Best Buy.

It’s also possible to buy a home version of the Bunn commercial coffeemakers found at neighborhood diners. The $115 carafe model CR tested brewed in just three minutes. But brewing performance was mediocre.

• Shop combos with care. Grind-and-brew coffeemakers let you pour the beans right into the machine. But their grinders require regular disassembly and cleaning. One from Melitta uses radio signals to set its clock for programming and even tells the weather. Brewing was only middling, however. And it can’t be programmed if it doesn’t get a signal, which happened in CR’s tests.

• Consider a separate grinder. It lets users save some or all of what they grind for later. Burr grinders, which crush the beans, tend to grind more uniformly than blade grinders, which chop them. CR tested the burr-grinding Capresso Infinity 565, $140; Cuisinart Supreme Grind DBM-8, $50; and Krups GVX2, $60; and the blade-grinding Black & Decker CB-G100S, $20; Mr. Coffee IDS77, $20; and Cuisinart Grind Central DCG-12BC, $30. The Capresso and Cuisinart burr models served up the most consistent results. But the $20 Mr. Coffee came close.

Choices to consider

When choosing a coffeemaker, consider trading the usual paper filter for a permanent metal one ($5 to $10), which can pay for itself in as little as a year. Here are other points to consider before buying:

• Match the model to your routine. Brew stations eliminate the carafe by pouring directly into a cup. But multiple cups require multiple trips to the machine. To-go models can fill a mug in less than three minutes, compared with more than six minutes for most multicup units.

• Weigh the features. Programmable coffeemakers can be set in advance to start when you get out of bed. A thermal carafe (about $20 to $40 separately) keeps coffee warm without heating so it doesn’t taste burned. Brew-strength control adjusts the brewing time or lets some water pass around the beans for milder coffee without underbrewing. A small-batch setting brews less coffee than the maximum amount without losing flavor.


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