Pros: Great cup of coffee, no burner, and significant design improvements from previous model.
Cons: Small volume per pot compared to other brands and reusable filter not included.
I've just replaced one Black and Decker Thermal Coffee Maker (reviewed by me on Epinions and not recommended) with a newer model. At first, I tried a different brand of a traditional coffee pot with a burner. I have decided I like thermal coffee makers better because coffee made with the traditional burner coffee makers tasted bitter and burned within an hour of brewing. Coffee made in a thermal pot stays fresher for longer. I returned the traditional pot back in favor of the Black and Decker DE790B Thermal.
The Black and Decker Model DE790B is a basket style (as opposed to cone shaped filter) electric coffee maker with a thermal carafe. The thermal carafe negates the need for a burner plate. It brews "8 cups" but that is relative to the number of ounces they consider equivalent to a cup for coffee. For us, one pot equals 5 1/2 servings. The method of brewing is fairly standard--measure ingredients, pour in appropriate places and press start.
Design: Features described and compared to previous model's flaws.
Coffee is brewed directly into a thermal carafe that sits on a metal plate, which is not a warmer or burner. The only heat source is that which heats the water. Once the coffee has finished brewing, the coffee pot automatically shuts off. The stainless steel thermal carafe maintains the temperature without the need for outside heat. This is significant for a couple of reasons. First, automatic shut off happens immediately after the brew cycle ends, not two hours later. Second, coffee, whether beans in a grinder or brewed beverage on a warming plate, continues to cook when in contact with any heat. This is why freshly brewed coffee tastes better than that left on a burner beyond thirty minutes. Coffee stored in this carafe does not continue to cook beyond the brewing process because it is not kept on a burner. As a result, the cup that's an hour old tastes the same as the first cup collected immediately after brewing. Finally, the coffee made in a thermal pot can be reheated with only slight deterioration of flavor.
The thermal carafe keeps coffee very hot for about 1 1/2 hours and reasonably hot for 2-2 1/2 hours. This model makes no time claim for how long coffee will remain hot in the carafe, but I think more than 2 hours without an outside heat source is significant, especially if the coffee can be reheated without much compromise in the taste.
The brew basket for coffee grounds is basket shaped rather than cone shaped. In my opinion, it requires more ground coffee than the conical versions to yield similarly flavored cup of coffee. A reusable coffee filter is not included, but the price dropped $5.00 from the previous model, which makes up for it. This basket is easy to align properly and does not have to be "locked" down. The lid that closes over the brew basket and water reservoir will not close if the basket is not correctly placed. This is a noteworthy design improvement because it allows for a misalignment to be corrected without risk of a huge mess. In the previous version, the reservoir lid would close even if the basket was improperly placed, and the result was coffee volcano.
The DE790 has a carafe with a wide pouring lip which prevents spillage and enables you to measure and pour water into the reservoir with the carafe. The previous model's pointed lip, bad lid and awkward handle made it impossible to measure water and pour it into the reservoir with the carafe.
The lid fits the carafe snugly and aligns properly with ease. Lids for traditional carafes that rest on a warming plate are generally optional, unless the machine has a brew pause or sneak-a-cup feature. For thermal carafes, they're a necessity. A 1/2 turn of this lid allows for pouring without spills and eliminates having to remove the lid completely for pouring coffee. On the previous model. the lid had to be completely removed. Otherwise the coffee didn't pour smoothly and made a mess, or the lid fell off entirely. This version works as advertised. While a 1/2 turn to open slightly for pouring is inconvenient compared to optional lidded carafes, the feature works on this model.
Because the lid can actually be left in place while pouring a cup of coffee, it is possible to take advantage of the sneak-a-cup feature and not risk a coffee volcano on your counter. The sneak-a-cup feature allows you get a cup of coffee before the brewing cycle is complete. There is a spring mounted valve (?) that touches the carafe lid and allows brewed coffee to flow into the carafe when it is in place. When the valve is not in contact with the lid, brewed coffee collects in the basket until the carafe is replaced. When the carafe is replaced, the valve is released and liquid flows into the carafe. The cumbersome nature of the previous design made it impossible to take advantage of the sneak-a-cup feature. It took too long to remove the lid completely, pour a cup, replace the lid and replace the carafe before the basket overflowed with coffee which then ran all over the machine, out the top and on the counter--what I've previously described as a coffee volcano
A word of warning: I have been well-conditioned to put the lid on tightly and properly place the carafe before pressing start. The sneak-a-cup feature and past experience with a similar model lead me to assume that forgetting to put lid back on the carafe and replacing it on the carafe plate without the lid will result in a huge mess when the brewing starts and too much coffee has accumulated in the basket. When the basket is unable to drain into the carafe because the value is closed, the coffee overflows the basket.
My top criteria for evaluating a coffee maker is the quality of coffee in my cup after the gurgling stops. Black and Decker continues to brew a good cup of coffee. In spite of the design flaws causing much frustration with a previous product, I still bought a Black and Decker for my replacement. I am glad I bought this model. Black and Decker has taken a reliable machine and eliminated most of the design flaws. The result is a great cup of fresh coffee (even after 2 hours) from a simple and reasonably priced machine.