Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Entrepreneurs Need To Drink…

Coffee, that is!

Our current coffee pot at home is a Melitta Mill & Brew. It has the following problems:

  1. Doesn't brew coffee hot enough, so the full flavor is not achieved; it's blah

  2. Pot is made of glass, so the coffee doesn't stay hot after brewing

  3. Warmer under the glass pot continues to cook the coffee after brewing, which quickly detracts from the flavor over time

  4. A plastic piece which holds the grinder in place broke off some months ago, but that has not affected the brewing, until...

  5. Another plastic piece broke off that holds the coffee filter in place. I "fixed" it, temporarily, but we knew the time would come to replace it.

So, I spent the day, well, really, almost the whole day on Saturday researching coffee pots. One day of my life consumed in the quest for better coffee. Such as it is. Results of my hard work gladly shared with you below.

Core requirements were:

  1. Brew temperature of 195+ degrees F (ideal is 195-205)

  2. Quality construction

  3. Thermal carafe (with vacuum seal ability)

  4. Automatic timer to start the brew going in the morning

  5. Under $200 (the Melitta can be had for $60, so we were willing to spend more)

Having a grinder was a nice-to-have, but not required. We also didn't need some fancy $3,000 espresso, cappuccino, latte, fancy-shmancy unit. We just wanted good, basic coffee that brewed at the right temperature and stayed hot for a few hours (while I blog and drink!). For espresso, we would just buy a dedicated espresso machine later. For the other stuff - well, we don't care.

After reading a ton of reviews, I determined that there was no perfect model. Everything had quality control issues. Also, the addition of the Thermal Carafe apparently causes a number of design problems in these units, resulting in coffee spilling out onto the cabinet and the floor if you don't place the carafe perfectly back in the unit. This seemed to be universal among all the models. I chose to accept the risk so I can have my coffee hot in the pot and not cooked to crap in the glass.

Under $100, there were two that caught my eye:

  • Zojirushi EC-BD15
    The Zojirushi looks to be the best value. You can find it for $75 on NewEgg. Most of the complaints surround the spilling problem I mentioned above, and the fact that the unit seemed to fail in some way after 9-12 months of service (lots of quality problems). On the plus side, it seems to brew at the (correct) hottest temperatures, and the carafe appears to hold the heat. Ignoring the quality complaints, this appeared to be a really good "value" coffee maker. I was tempted by this one, but chose to pass because of the rampant quality problems and reports of spilling.

  • Cuisinart DTC-975
    The Cuisinart also had plenty of spills reported. I could not get any feel for whether the coffee brewed at the proper temperature. However, the Cuisinart received very high marks for the Thermal Carafe itself - they may have the best one out there. Unfortunately, quality problems plagued the lid on the carafe, making it very hard for folks to line everything up perfectly - spills galore. I felt good about the carafe, but without confirmation of the brew temperature and the quality issues, I decided to pass on this one too.

Above $100, the following didn't make the cut either:

  • Cuisinart DGB-600 Grind-and-Brew
    This one runs about $148. It does include a coffee grinder, whish would be a nice plus. However, 2 family members already owned it. After talking to them, this one was quickly removed from the list. Doesn't brew at the right temperature and doesn't keep the coffee hot. We didn't hear any spilling complaints.

  • Capresso CoffeeTEAM Therm
    This one runs about $299. Also includes a coffee grinder. However, the grinds are fed into the filter through an elaborate swing-arm motion of the filter basket. It looks cool, sure, but that's way too many moving parts. And, the reviews confirmed my instinct. Keep it simple, guys. Good reports on coffee quality, however. And, it was well beyond what we wanted to pay. TWIT Review here.

  • Capresso ST600
    This one runs about $230. It's beautiful looking, no grinder, and a bit beyond our price limit. I would have given it serious consideration, but there just weren't enough reviews posted to make me comfortable spending that much for a coffee maker. Capresso does seem to know how to brew coffee at the correct temperature, however, so i feel like I would have gotten a decent coffee maker. I just had no way to know. Pass.

So, who won the business?

We decided to purchase the Capresso MT500 (Model 440.05).

Capresso seemed to consistently make good coffee. This unit seemed to have fewer complaints of spills and quality problems (but it certainly did have its share). It runs about $169, so it is certainly not cheap, but it is in our price range. The Thermal Carafe does not appear to be as good as the Zojirushi or the Cuisinart DTC-975, but I think it will be such an upgrade compared to what we have now, that I am not worried.

The coffeegeek site included a nice review on this unit, but the review is a bit dated.

Placed the order on Amazon on Saturday evening. It arrived today. I will do a follow-up report with full stats on brewing temperature and carafe thermal capabilities.

Venture Capital Note: The process of finding and reading user-generated product reviews is really painful and time consuming. Nobody has found a way to build a great social networking site around reviews which attract, rate, build a reviewer's reputation, and rewards them for their contributions. Or, a site that aggregates the reviews of the hundreds of shopping sites with proprietary review engines. Add a note in the comments if you think I should try and comment on a better review engine for consumer products.

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  1. Let me know when you find the best beer.

  2. Any updates on the performance of the Capresso MT500?

    I have been using the Zojurushi EC-BD15, but I only measure a brewing temperature of 180F with mine. I am looking for something that actually achieves a 200F brewing temperature, preferably with a thermal carafe with 10 cup capacity.

  3. Hi mezspw,

    Thanks for asking. I've got the review just about done - should be available later this week. Short response is that I have been pleased with the brewing temperature on the Capresso. I'll be sharing some actual measurements of the coffee brewing as well as the heat retension of the thermal caraffe.

    Stay tuned just a bit longer!


  4. [...] We purchased the Capresso MT500 (Model 440.05). I did a long write-up of the process for how we chose the Capresso MT500. Now, the results. Did the Capresso live up to the expectations? Did it brew great coffee? [...]

  5. It's now three weeks later. I am trying to make a decision between the Capresso MT500 Plus and the Zojirushi EC-BD 15. You will probably be the deciding factor!

  6. Hi cidblue,

    I wrote the follow-up article on Oct 31. The Pingback is below. Here's the link. Enjoy!

    Entrepreneurs Need To Drink... Part 2


  7. "Nobody has found a way to build a great social networking site around reviews which attract, rate, build a reviewer’s reputation, and rewards them for their contributions."

    That's not entirely correct. My preference for reviews is ePinions, a division of Shop.com that has been around for years now. You'll obtain more comprehensive product reviews there because members are permitted to rate the review, and short reviews that don't provide much info. don't obtain a "Very Helpful" rating. Hence, the site rewards regular contributors who write well because the review itself is rated by readers more specifically than the yes/no other sites. In addition, it is possible to comment on those reviews, unlike some of the price comparison websites out there that do not. For sheer quantity of reviews, Amazon is the next good source. Trailing those two, Target and Walmart sites have a greater-than-average numbers of product reviews.

    Although you are correct that there is no aggregate site that collects all the reviews and centralizes them to one spot, I see many sites "borrow" Amazon reviews (reproduce them as their own content). Technically, these sites are breaking copyright since the reviews users submit to the originating sites become their property. This is also a reason there is no aggregate site —— companies that permit users to write reviews don't wish to share them.

  8. Great post. I especially found it useful where you stated...

    capresso coffee maker

  9. [...] in August, I wrote an article (Entrepreneurs Need To Drink…) about how painful and time consuming it was to find a coffee maker that matched my needs. I ended [...]

  10. [...] purchased the Capresso MT500 (Model 440.05). I did a long write-up of the process for how we chose the Capresso MT500. Now, the results. Did the Capresso live up to the expectations? Did it brew great [...]


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