Tuesday, January 07, 2014

iCoffee Review

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iCoffee machine review
I was sent an iCoffee innovative coffee maker to review. The iCoffee is a hot new product and named by Consumer Reports and other leading publications as a must-have for coffee lovers. But how does it hold up for less picky (and less thirsty) coffee likers? As the main coffee consumer in our house, my husband provided this review.

At home, our Tassimo brewer (it’s like a Keurig one-cup machine but with far fewer choices in coffee varieties available) brews just the amount of coffee I need. It cleans up easily, although each cup contributes another plastic pod to a landfill. A weekend morning java costs less than a store-bought cup but more than if I ground my own beans. However, if I want a dark roast and a guest wants decaf, it’s a breeze to satisfy the both of us. Because there’s no carafe, only the cup needs cleaning.

At work, the industrially brewed coffee is free for employees, and although generic, contains caffeine and does its job well enough. Every employee has the same brew available all day long. An outside service maintains the equipment and keeps the supplies coming, so we avoid the bitter tang often associated with frequently used equipment that goes without regular cleaning.

My weekday alternative is to walk to any of a dozen coffee shops within three blocks (half of them are Starbucks). I enjoy the freedom of choice and the tastier product, but it makes for a pricey habit.

The good folks at Remington provided Kim with an iCoffee machine, with the I standing for innovation. The big innovation is that steaming water circulates the grounds instead of H20 dripping through a densely compressed wad of beans. The higher water-to-surface-area contact allegedly eliminates the bitterness that accompanies traditional drip brewers.

I brought the machine to work for a taste test. My neighboring co-workers offered to host the device in our area and offer their opinions on the results.

Long review short, the coffee it produces IS less bitter. It’s also the hottest coffee (my preference) I've drank and the hot plate keeps the carafe at a perfect temperature for quite some time.

iCoffee wastes less material than my Tassimo or a Keurig, using a rinseable mesh filter instead of paper. However, to brew a decent cup, we found that we had to make at least 6 to 8 cups at a time. At work this is fine because there are plenty of volunteers to drink it. At home, this would translate into a lot of leftover coffee.

Klatch Result Notes:

  • One Coffee Klatch member said the Starbucks Breakfast Blend we brewed tasted better than the cup he bought at the Starbucks across the street.
  • Another noted that the coffee oils, which traditionally absent in drip brewers, clearly gave it a more complex and robust flavor.
  • The iCoffee leaves a residue of fine coffee grounds at the bottom of each cup, although it’s nowhere near as thick as, say, Turkish coffee. The grounds in no way detract from the flavor or mouth feel.
  • The Klatch member on whose desk the iCoffee sits said the resultant coffee is similar to French-pressed drinks, which is a gold standard for coffee to many drinkers.
  • The device plays a Mozart tune to signal the start and end of the brewing process. Disabling this beeping quelled complaints from a neighbor who does not imbibe.
  • A head-to-head “drip-vs-iCoffee” test against a co-worker’s machine failed because we could not match the exact strength in both machines. A rematch is set for after Christmas.
  • The proper water:grounds ratio is a matter of taste that is left to the user. Therefore, there are no fill levels marked. On two occasions, this resulted in the machine being overfilled with water which in turn caused a messy coffee volcano eruption.

A helpful feature feature in future versions of icoffee would be notches in the mesh filter to indicate how much grounds to put in for each measurement of water, as well as suggested water fill lines.

When brewing for a crowd, this is a better solution than a drip coffee maker. The end result is a tastier, more interesting beverage.

Much as I enjoy the results, I’m keeping the iCoffee in the office to share with my neighbors and keeping my Tassimo at home for my own weekend enjoyment.

The iCoffee retails for roughly $170 and is available at stores like Sur la Table and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

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