Caffeine Levels to Maximum!

Remember my recent coffeemaker containment breach? Well, as I stated, my replacement coffeemaker was to be a Cuisinart. And I promised to write a review once I took it for a spin around the quadrant a few times.

I’m a wolf of my word, denizens.

I ended up going with the Cuisinart DCC-1200 Brew Central 12-cup programmable coffeemaker. I chose the black matte finish because I don’t understand the concept of getting appliances in strange colors or stainless steel (especially when those things cost significantly more than the plain version). I don’t need it to look pretty; I need it to do its job. Besides, the black matte doesn’t show fingerprints or smudges. This is highly important to someone with anal-retentive cleaning habits (coughcough me coughcough).

Even without the bells and whistles exterior, it’s quite a handsome machine:

It also makes, to quote Agent Dale Cooper, “a damn fine cup of coffee. And hot!” Let’s have a closer look at the control panel, shall we?

Here’s the breakdown of what this beauty can do. The “1-4” button alerts the machine if you’re making a smaller pot of coffee. It then switches into “double heat” mode to compensate for the shorter brew time, which doesn’t allow most coffeemakers to heat the water to the same temperature as if you were making a full pot. I’m going to be honest and say I haven’t tested this option yet. Why would I ever not make a full pot of coffee?

The first knob is for programming the time and the functions that are controlled by the time such as when the coffeemaker turns itself on and how long before it turns itself off.

The second knob controls the temperature of the warming plate on which the carafe rests. This is kind of nice, since it takes into consideration those people who like to use a lot of milk or cream in their coffee. Or freaks who sometimes like their coffee black and screaming hot (coughcough me coughcough). The warming plate includes a small sensor that helps to maintain whatever level of heat you choose.

The last button is for self clean. Self explanatory.

I love several things about this control panel. First, I haven’t had a programmable coffeemaker in years, so to have one again is quite a delight. Also, I love the intuitiveness of the options provided by this machine. People who know and love a good cup of coffee made this coffeemaker, and it shows. I’ve tested it with pre-ground coffee (like the Trader Joe’s seasonal pumpkin spice blend you see in the first photo) and I’ve tested it with whole beans that I have ground to various consistencies. It has yet to fail me with its level of tastiness.

It doesn’t even take that much longer to brew a pot of coffee than my “instant gratification” Bunn machine (plus, it has the added “brew pause” feature that allows you to remove the carafe while the machine is still in brew mode so you can get your fix without waiting). Also, I’ve noticed that it makes a hotter pot of coffee than the Bunn did, and the coffee actually tastes fresher. This might be attributable to the fact that the machine includes a slot for a charcoal filter (and I also use filtered water to begin with). I also think, though, that after a while, the build-up within the Bunn’s reserve tank begins to filter into the coffee and taints its flavor.

Ew.

All that aside, though, one of the things I love most? The knobs and the on/off toggle switch. I know it’s silly, but I love their vintage kitsch feel. They make me feel like Tom Paris designing the control board for the Delta Flyer.

Wow. Of all the Voyager characters, I never thought I’d be comparing myself to Tom Paris. Of course, we all know who I’m most like, what with this worrisome coffee obsession of mine:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0NnpJb0NwY&w=640&h=480]

Oh, but I do love Captain Janeway. That transformation you see her go through as she takes in that first swallow of coffee? I know that transformation very well.

So, there you go. This is a wonderful coffeemaker. It’s not fancy or high-end, but it’s solid and has impressed me so far as a reliable machine that I hope will last me for many years.

Oh, and since I’m in such a rare non-surly mood at the moment, I’d like to also give a little praise to Renata Mastroti Pottery. See that gorgeous mug waiting for me to fill it with a fresh cup of coffee? I purchased it recently from a local craft fair at which Ms. Mastroti was selling her creations. It is a stunning piece, isn’t it? It’s beautiful and sturdy; the glaze is a soothing blue mottled through with the reddish undertones of the clay; and the band around the center is actually unglazed, carved clay that she somehow embedded around the mug. It’s one of the most delightful purchases I’ve ever made at this craft fair and, as you can see from her Web site, she offers quite a lovely selection of mugs and other stoneware.

Finally, the can of beans right next to the Cuisinart is Cattail, the dark roast blend offered by the Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company. I discovered this hometown brand while wandering in a lost, overwhelmed stupor at Whole Paycheck Foods recently and decided to give it a go. Last night was the inaugural pot, and it was amazing.

See? We’re not always surly and grumbly at the lair. We just need to be properly caffeinated 🙂

Containment Breach!

I love coffee. Anyone who knows me, knows this truth. Don’t try to communicate with me before my initial caffeine intake has had time to reach my blood stream. Bad things might happen to you if you do.

It’s no surprise, then, that I would invest in a coffeemaker that’s a little more high-end than your average Mr. Coffee. It’s not that Mr. Coffee makes bad brew. It’s just…I’m a coffee snob when I’m at home. There, I said it. I am a coffee snob. I rarely buy pre-ground coffee. I buy whole beans, which I store in vacuum-sealed containers and grind per my own various specifications for the perfect cup to fit my varying coffee moods. I have been known to pay top-dollar for specialty selections, like 100-percent Kona beans. I use only filtered water. I tear down my machine for regular cleanings and decalcifications.

I succumb to very few personal indulgences in this life, but coffee is one of them. My coffeemaker of choice for more than a decade has been Bunn. My dad (another coffee fiend) purchased our first Bunn machine when I still lived at home. It was such a magnificent machine that when I finally moved out, my parents bought me my very own so that I would always have a decent cup of coffee to make everything better. The sprayhead on these machines disperses the water over the grounds in such a way that, to me, the end result is a pot of coffee that’s stronger and more flavorful than a conventional Mr. Coffee brew.

The primary reason I have long preferred Bunn machines, however, is because of their “velocity brew” line. These particular machines have a water reservoir that keeps a potful of coffee constantly at a brew-appropriate temperature. The reward for this? All I have to do is grind my beans, place them in the filter, pour in a pot of fresh, filtered water, and 3 minutes later, I have a full pot of perfectly brewed coffee.

It’s coffee nirvana for the terminally impatient.

The downside, of course, is the fact that these pots do expend a significant amount of energy, keeping that tank constantly at brew temperature. Also, if you go through a stretch of time in which you don’t drink a lot of coffee, you still have to remember to either switch off the reservoir or refill it regularly so that it doesn’t evaporate all the water and burn itself out.

The ultimate downside, however? When the reservoir seal fails and the tank leaks all over your counter.

This seems to be the intrinsic failing of the Bunn velocity brew line. And it’s gotten worse over the years. My first machine, the one that my parents bought for me when I moved out, actually lasted me a little more than 8 years. In that time, however, my parents went through three Bunn machines. Subsequently, others in my family (we are a long line of coffee snobs, apparently) went through even more of these machines. Almost every single one ended up suffering the same containment breach.

And now, the Bunn machine that I bought to replace the one my parents gave me has done the same thing. It’s not even 3 years old.

This is unacceptable. And so ends my relationship with Bunn. Obviously, some corporate douche in a suit made the decision to skimp on materials in order to make more money available for their own year-end bonuses. Fine. But you can no longer expect my money to add to that bonus level. Nor the money from my family. And, as far as I’m concerned, from this point on, I’m going to discourage people from wasting their money on anything from the Bunn coffeemaker line.

Hell hath no fury like a coffee snob who can’t make her own coffee at home without threat of electrocution from a leaking reservoir.

After some research, I have decided to give Cuisinart a try. Several of my family have already embraced this brand, including my dad. The problem was, I couldn’t find the machine that I wanted locally, so I had to order it online. It shipped today. I shall report back once I have had it and tested it out. Photos may be included.

Until then, though, you might just want to steer clear of me while I’m un-caffeinated…