Pros: Great for smaller servings needs, good construction, easy-to-clean, affordable
Cons: Users Manual is incomplete; may not accomodate odd sized mugs.
*** As with all my reviews, this is a Cruelty Free product from a maker that does NOT use animal testing.***
I seem to go through coffee makers every couple of years. Part of the issue is I'm the only coffee-drinker at home. And, like most serious coffee fans, I'm not settling for instant - ICK!
As the only coffee-drinker in my house I had originally bought a Bodum Chambord 1923 3-Cup Coffee Maker. The glass container cracked within a few months. Next I went to the Bodum Brazil French Press Coffee Maker. Eventually I tired of the work to get a good cup of coffee out of it, in addition to too many grains winding up in my cup.
At a regular Wal-Mart trip a few months ago, I checked out all the small serving coffee makers; meaning ones that would allow me to make as few as 2 cups. After comparing the Mr. Coffee and Black and Decker traditional coffee makers, I went home with the Hamilton Beach BrewStation 6-Cup Coffee Maker.
What you get
The Hamilton Beach BrewStation 6-Cup Coffee Maker includes retails around $30. When purchased it, Wal-Mart was selling closer to $25 before sales tax.
The BrewStation has a clock and programmable timer. I don't usually use these as it's unplugged when not in use. But I have used them without trouble.
How to use
To get started you will need some coarse-ground coffee and appopropriate sized filters. The trick is, while the user's manual warns you must use the right sized filters, they don't tell you what size that is! I suspect they use the same directions for the larger BrewStation. Well, luckily it's not too difficult to figure out. Coffee filters usually have a size number - 3 in this case, which corresponds to the 3" basket base size. Also, the filter package will probably state something like "for 1-4 cup coffee makers". The problem is that not all stores carry these. My Wal-Mart certainly doesn't. I was able to find 2-6 cup basket style filters at Giant Food.
Just like any other coffee maker, you will need to give the BrewStation an initial cleaning. Preparing the coffee maker is the same as a traditional one. The difference is that instead of the coffee dispensing into a pot or cup, it's held in an internal resevoir. The BrewStation will keep the coffee hot for up to two hours before automatically shutting off.
Under the lid, the BrewStation has a small plastic arm that swings over the basket. Again, the manual doesn't explain what this is or when to use it. I assume it helps keep the filter in place, and that's how I'm using it.
The coffee takes at least 5 minutes to brew - another thing the manual neglects to tell you. The BrewStation would benefit from a Ready indicator in my opinion. Now you simply take your coffee mug and press it against the dispenser button. Hot coffee is poured directly into the cup.
You should know in Coffee Maker World the standard for "a cup of coffee" is about 4oz. I know this because Bodum was nice enough to explain it, although Hamilton Beach isn't. The first time I brewed "2 cups" of coffee I was able to fill only one mug.
If you have an unusually large container, like a big latte mug or especially large thermos, be aware you will have some difficulty dispensing directly from the BrewStation.
My Personal Experience
It took me a few weeks to overcome the shortcomings of the BrewStation user manual. Hopefully, some of my tips will shorten this learning curve for you.
To keep the BrewStation clean, I simply rinse out the basket and resevoir daily. About once a month I use the instructions laid out in the manual - hey, here's one thing Hamilton Beach does explain well.
This is a simple process of running plain water plus some white vinegar through the machine. Easy Peasy.
Quite a few other reviews complain about the coffee not being brewed hot enough. I have to admit the BrewStation does not give out the hottest coffee. But the tempurature is just fine for me. I actually do wait a couple minutes for it to cool off before consuming.
I was a bit wary of the mostly-plastic construction. The BrewStation seems top-heavy to me. But we have not experienced any accidents, spilling or other problems.
Now, is this something I would give as a gift? Not unless someone specifically asked me for it. It's just not special enough, and a bit quirky. But I am glad I bought it.
Hamilton Beach Custom Grind 15-Cup Coffee Grinder - 80344
Bodum Brazil French Press Coffee Maker
Bodum Chambord 1923 3-Cup Coffee Maker
Mr. Coffee 2-Quart Iced Tea Maker
UPDATE: I found out what the small plastic arm does...It dispenses the water from the tank to the basket.