I'm somewhat of a coffee aficionado, I'll admit it. I can totally appreciate the difference between Sumatran and Colombian coffee. I have an old hand-cranked burr grinder and a French coffee press, and I can turn out a phenomenal cup of coffee when the mood strikes.
But on the average Tuesday morning, I just don't have time for that nonsense. I throw Folgers in the Mr. Coffee, douse it with cream and sugar, and off I go. I'd really like to have a fresh-ground mug of coffee...but that extra bit of sleep-time is precious to me.
Reason and purchase
So, when my wife came back from a visit to my dad's house, and raved about his coffee pot, I listened. Seemed he had a pot that ground the beans and dispensed them right at the time of brewing, and it also seemed that the coffee was magically delicious...or at least she said so.
So, the summer passed, and every morning as I yucked through my Folger's the thought of a grind'n brew pot stayed in the back of my head. Then through a combination of coupons and sales, my wife came home with a Cuisinart DGB-550 coffee maker that she'd gotten for half-price...in the neighborhood of $60. Not too bad, especially since our current pot had been on life support for a month or so.
The DGB-550 has a grinder in its top half -- not a fancy burr grinder but the standard whirling-blades type of grinder. It has a 12-cup glass carafe, and your choice of eternal mesh filter, or paper basket-style. There is a clock, and a programmable bit to start coffee in the morning, and another one to keep the stuff hot for however long you need, from zero minutes to four hours. There's a water filter the size of two pieces of gum, as well.
Using this pot is relatively straightforward, except where it isn't. I'll explain. Basically, you put beans in the grinder, water in the reservoir, a filter in the basket, and you hit "go." Specifically, you open the top, remove the grinder, remove the top half of the grinder, put beans in, and reassemble all of that. You then pour water in the top. Okay, you can close the top. Now you pull out the basket. Wait, you push a button hiding flush on the left side, and the basket springs out at you and whips around a corner. You then remove the basket...then the basket lid, and you put in a filter, replace the lid, replace the assembly in its carrier, and rotate-then-push the whole shebang back in until it clicks into place.
Then press the start button.
Then you take cover, because an air-raid siren goes off in your kitchen. I'm not kidding, it's that loud. If you program this thing to start at 6:30am, you're waking up at 6:30am. The actual grind only takes a few seconds, but then I think that the pot uses the whirling blades to blow the ground beans up and over a ledge and into the basket. Whatever, it emits a rising howl that lasts seemingly forever before it winds down.
Then the pot brews the coffee as any other pot would, and it beeps a few times when done.
After brewing, drinking, going to work and coming home again, one comes to the best part of the experience: cleanup. This coffee maker needs to be cleaned out after every pot -- something I generally did before, so not a big deal. Or at least, not a big deal with the old pot. That one had, let's see, the carafe, the carafe lid, and the basket. That's three parts to clean. The DGB-550 has seven. Yes, seven. The carafe, the carafe lid, the basket, the basket lid, the filter (if you use the mesh forever-filter), the grinder cup and the grinder cup lid.
I'll bet you're thinking "yeah, sure, the manual says to clean it, but forget that, I never cleaned my old pot, and it made the coffee taste better." First of all, that's gross -- mold doesn't taste better. Second of all, one look inside this pot after brewing will tell you otherwise. As other reviewers have said, the steam from brewing condenses inside the grinding cup, and turns the leftover coffee powder into a mush caked on the moving parts. On the good side, all of these pieces can be chucked into the dishwasher.
What's more, the manual specifically cautions against letting water get into the grinder motor...but the high point of the coffee maker where steam naturally collects and condenses is in the clear dome over the grinder.
After all of the foregoing, you might wonder if any of it is worthwhile. I say it is, because the coffee that comes out of the DGB-550 is really good. The beans are ground to the exact coarseness that is needed for this pot, and with a consistency that I can never achieve with my hand grinder. Also, in about the same time as it takes to make Folger's, this pot makes fresh-ground premium coffee -- and it makes it piping hot. In fact, it cools down to optimum drinking temperature about halfway to work, and I have a 20-mile drive. I've been using this coffee maker daily for about three weeks, and I haven't had a bad pot of coffee yet.
So overall, I would say this: If you're fine drinking Maxwell House or gas station coffee, or if you like to let your pot go unwashed until the glass carafe is black, this coffee maker might not be for you.
If you value the taste of a cup of fresh-ground, fresh-brewed coffee in the morning, and you are a tad-bit obsessive-compulsive about cleaning your coffee pot, and you can get a good deal on it, this pot is for you.
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