Pros: many improvements over older model
Cons: still has a flat basket, huge coffee waster until you fine-tune
I spent over five years with my Cuisinart Grind and Brew Coffeemaker DGB-500BK, I was fed up. What had seemed like a godsend at first had become a nightmare. The grinder parts got so difficult to remove that I would just wipe out the grinder in the machine, and finally, gave up on it altogether. So now I had a regular grinder next to a coffee maker that had promised to do it for me. To add insult to injury, the machine had started leaking, and would often cover my counter in water, leaving me a huge mess to clean up. On extra-special days, as the coffee was brewing, the basket would pop open, spewing grounds everywhere (including into my coffee). It was time for a replacement.
A friend offered me her Grind and Brew, but I was so annoyed with the leaking and the grinder, I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice, even for free. I lusted over the Capresso model with a Burr grinder, but it was only 10 cups, and still out of my budget. So, when I spotted the Cuisinart Grind and Brew DGB900BCU 12-Cup Coffee Maker in one of those "daily deal" emails for a mere $100 (with free shipping), $40 less than the cheapest online price I could find, I jumped on it.
::: Features List :::
Like it's less expensive cousin, the Cuisinart Grind and Brew DGB900BCU 12-Cup Coffee Maker has a ton of features: even more, in fact. It comes with a charcoal filter for removing the taste and odor of chlorine and other chemicals from your tap water, an integrated Burr grinder set to the typical consistency for an automatic drip coffeemaker, and a "hopper" for your coffee beans that holds up to a half-pound of whole coffee beans. The carafe capacity is 12 5-ounce cups, and it's the same as my previous model, so I was able to salvage the pot from my old coffee maker for use as a spare (or to start a new pot before the old is completely empty, in case of company.
The Cuisinart Grind and Brew DGB900BCU 12-Cup Coffee Maker comes with a combination measuring scoop/cleaning brush, the aforementioned charcoal filter (only one, so you'll be buying new), and a few paper filters. I was disappointed to see this model didn't come with a gold filter as my previous one did; mine is getting a little worn with age and frequent use, and it looks like I'll be replacing it. The control panel is more complicated than my old model, but very easy to understand using the enclosed quick-start guide. A 24-hour digital clock is provided for the timer (with clear display for PM... AM is assume), as well as options for a no-grind brew (for using pre-ground coffee) and a 1-4 cup brew for smaller pots.
Using the Cuisinart Grind and Brew DGB900BCU 12-Cup Coffee Maker is fairly simple: place the charcoal filter in, fill the reservoir with water using the carafe (a handy window is provided in the side of the machine to verify how many cups you've poured in if you are forgetful like I can be if setting up in the morning before caffeination), place your beans in the hopper and your filter in the basket, and press all the buttons for your brew: number of cups you're grinding for, strength of the coffee (mild, medium, strong), then "power" to brew. Options are available to program the machine to brew at a particular time (for instance, so you have coffee waiting when you wake up), or brew a small pot (1-4 cups).
The Cuisinart Grind and Brew DGB900BCU 12-Cup Coffee Maker also features a brew stop function just like its cousin for those who can't wait for the coffee to finish brewing. Pull out the carafe, and the basket will hold the water until you replace the carafe (within reason... if you forget to put it back, expect a mess) so you can pour those first few sips to get yourself going.
::: Not as Simple As My Stove-Top Espresso Maker :::
The Cuisinart Grind and Brew DGB900BCU 12-Cup Coffee Maker seems more intuitive to me than the older version. For starters, the grinder isn't extra pieces you have to insert into the machine. As long as you make sure the hopper is snapped in, the coffee maker will start to brew with no issues, whereas I had to make sure everything was placed perfectly with my old machine or be greeted with incessant beeping until I got everything put together correctly.
The grinder is also MUCH easier to deal with in cleaning. The biggest problem with the older version was that steam would condense in the grinder, leaving a sticky mess, especially if you ever used flavored coffee beans. It was also a tight fit, and by the time you got messy, damp grounds involved, taking the grinder apart to clean it was next to impossible to get it done. Now, the beans are completely separate from the coffee brewing, and the top to the basket has a neat "spin" top that locks everything off after the brewing is complete. It's much easier to deal with clean-up afterward with the improved set-up.
As with the old version, the Program function is confusing, because the same button is used both to set the brew time as well as tell the machine you want it to brew at a certain time. However, the Quick Start guide was great for a quick, helpful reminder, and I was able to have freshly brewed coffee at my selected time the first morning I used it, unlike the previous version, which took me over a week to figure out.
The Cuisinart Grind and Brew DGB900BCU 12-Cup Coffee Maker requires some fine-tuning when it comes to coffee strength and amount of coffee used. I'd read reviews that complained it used too many beans, and based on the first pot of coffee I made, those reviewers were dead on. My first pot brewed coffee I could eat with a fork, and when I dumped the grounds, I was shocked to find that the basket was nearly 3/4 full of grounds. When I grind my own, I usually grind super-fine and fill the basket maybe 1/3 to 1/2-way for a pot of coffee. By tinkering with the coffee strength setting (I'm using mild now) and the dial for number of cups to grind for (I set it for 8-9 depending on the type of roast I'm using), I'm able to use far fewer beans than that first pot, and brew a much more palatable pot of coffee. The bad thing is the learning curve, but it's nice to be able to refine how well each type of bean can be brewed. I'd recommend making yourself a cheat sheet of best settings if you change bean types often (as I do).
The grinder still makes noise, but all grinding does. I think the Burr grinder is quieter than the older version, and about on par with my Krups stand-alone grinder. My sister once compared the older version to an airplane taking off, based on the whoosing sound the machine made as it sucked the beans into the filter basket while grinding, and the Burr grinder is certainly not as bad.
In terms of brewing, I'm a bit disappointed that they stuck with the flat-bottom basket as they had in the previous version. Obviously, I was able to reuse my gold filter from my old coffee pot, but I really prefer the cone-shaped baskets for a better pot of coffee.
Clean-up is much better than the old version, as I mentioned earlier. I can still toss my filter basket pieces and the carafe in the dishwasher, and I find much less mess in the filter, and none whatsoever in the hopper, which I can occasionally wipe a small amount of dust out of with a paper towel.
::: Final Thoughts :::
As with the previous version, any do-it-all product forces you to make a few sacrifices made in quality of one function or another in order to get everything in one small package. The Cuisinart Grind and Brew DGB900BCU 12-Cup Coffee Maker does a much better job at minimizing those sacrifices at an affordable price. It may not be true coffee-snob caliber, but it does a nice job making a freshly ground cup of coffee without all the effort.