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Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Coffee Blogging 060516

This morning, my good friend, Glenn Reynolds, did this post, apparently because a lot of people would be interested in his opinion on coffee makers. Glenn, buddy - you know I love ya'. But please, stick to what you know. It sure ain't coffee makers. Here's his post, reproduced in full:

MORE COFFEEBLOGGING: Various people wanted followups on my earlier coffeemaker post, and, anticipating requests for more consumer-blogging, I have undertaken an actual in-home coffeemaker test.

I ordered this cheap Black & Decker model, which was warmly endorsed by many readers. And, at about the same time, someone from Starbucks offered to send me this more expensive DeLonghi that Starbucks sells. I've tried 'em both out for a few days, and even had some blind taste-testing at the Mother's Day bash here on Sunday.

Both are good. The Black & Decker wins hands-down for price and for its easy and uncomplicated user interface. (Yes, it's the 21st Century and coffee pots have user interfaces.) It's easy to program and use, and the "Perfect Pour" carafe doesn't spill or dribble. It keeps the coffee hot enough, but doesn't burn it.

The DeLonghi has a thermal carafe. It's not hard to program it or set the clock, but it's not as easy as the Black & Decker. Any idiot can figure out the Black & Decker, while some folks might need to look at the manual to figure out the DeLonghi. It has a thermal carafe, which also doesn't dribble or spill. It keeps the coffee hot enough for two or three hours; after that it's a bit cool for my taste, though it takes a while longer to get down to lukewarm. It's easy to fill with water and coffee, too.

So how's the coffee? It's good from both. The Black & Decker -- as seems common with the coffeemakers that use basket-type filters -- tends to come out a bit on the weak side. You can make up for that by adding more coffee, but if you do that you may find that the savings on the pot is offset by the expense of extra coffee.

The DeLonghi makes excellent coffee, stronger and more full-bodied on the same amount of coffee than the Black & Decker. In our blind taste tests, everybody -- including my brother-in-law Joe Smith, a former coffeehouse mogul here in Knoxville -- pronounced coffee from both pots good, but the coffee from the DeLonghi richer and fuller-bodied, with more coffee flavor. (I used identical amounts of Starbucks Sumatra for the test).

Conclusion: You can't go wrong, really, between these two. The Black & Decker is good, and cheap. The DeLonghi is better, but more expensive, though you might make that back via using less coffee, especially if you like expensive beans. And neither one dribbles or leaks, something that you ought to be able to take for granted in a coffeemaker but, alas, can't.

Well, if throwing your money away could be considered "going wrong," yes you can...

Let's get this straight here, I have not used either of these two. But what we have here are two simple drip coffee makers - no great technological mysteries here. And in this Glenn exposes his innocence on the subject. His judgment on how long coffee in the De'Longhi's carafe is acceptably warm is also in question - read on.

De'Longhi uses Melitta-type cone filters, which always have been, and always will be, more efficient than the Mr. Coffee-type used by Black & Decker. However, most supermarkets only have name-brand Melitta filters, which are VERY expensive, relative to generic Mr. Coffee-type filters. But you can get generic Melitta-type filters at Target or Wal-Mart.

As well, the De'Longhi has an integrated water prefilter. This might be of great value, particularly in Tennessee, where that lime-rich water seems to be great for making whiskey, but lousy for everything else. However, these prefilters need to be replaced every two months or so. So any economy realized from the efficiency of the design will be evaporated by the extra filter expense, even with cheap Folger's.

As for myself, I use bottled water. So the above is a moot point. What is more important is that, all other things being equal, a Melitta-type drip coffee maker will just always make fuller, richer coffee than a Mr. Coffee-type.

But then there is that "all other things" problem. J.D. at CoffeeGeek says of the De'Longhi DCM485, that the brew temperature (175 to 180 F) is just too low, and: "I ended up taking the DeLonghi DCM485 back to Starbucks." Couple that with a thermal carafe, and not only do you have weak coffee, in an hour or so you've got cold coffee. Personally, I don't like thermal carafes, for drip coffee (which I pretty much consider bulk consumption, rather than gourmet), as I like my coffee hot three or four hours later. So this is especially bad for me. Give me a well-regulated hot plate.

The Black & Decker isn't even in the same league - cross-shopping wise, as the $120 De'Longhi, I won't even bother with it. But the fact that it made weaker coffee than the cool-brewing De'Longhi (only so much can be accredited to the Melitta cone's natural superiority), doesn't speak well for it.

But why does any coffee maker, particularly a stupid drip coffee maker, have to cost a fortune? About two years ago, at Target, I bought a 12 cup Philips machine (Melitta-type), for about $40. It has been delightful. Both the brewing temp and hot-plate temp are spot-on. My only beef is that the hot plate shuts down in only an hour and a half. Here's CoffeeGeek's reviews on its current equivalent:

Jason Johnston: "All the top end drip machines really don't measure up to Philips! They do 'make things better.'"

Scott Burton: "Best auto-drip I've ever had."

Linda Langille: "Looks good on the kitchen counter - very good coffee too."

J Gabel: "Superb coffeemaker especially at $39.99!"

If you pay $120 for a stupid drip coffee maker, you are at least an idiot. And likely also something of a pretentious snob. You will never get gourmet coffee from a auto-drip - whatever the price. But you don't have to get lousy coffee.
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A blog dedicated to the personal musings of Kevin L. Connors - a pragmatic libertarian, engineer, businessman, and journalist.

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