Pros: Inexpensive, works as advertised, doesn't take up much space
Cons: Reminds me of a kid's tea party set
Being a newly empty nest family, it was time to mothball our MegaMammoth coffee maker that had served us so well when all the kiddies were still around. (It was actually a Mr. Coffee 12-cup deal, which worked fine. OK, so it dripped a little when you poured the coffee, but that's genetic with Mr. Coffees. It was cheap and effective and never broke. But you always made more coffee than you could drink, and you had the joy of cleaning it after using it, which wasn't onerous, but was still just one more thing to deal with at the start of the day.)
So we thought we'd get out of the traditional coffee maker neighborhood and see if we could move up to the trendy suburbs of a K-cup machine. It seemed like a good move, since these things make one serving at a time for your very own self, and there are many universes of different flavors to choose from. And there was no clean up involved. Turn it on, load it up, push a button, and voila, coffee magically appears in your cup. We looked high and low to find the right machine, and settled on the Cuisinart Single Server Brewing System because it looked like the most reliable. And, hey, you could use your own coffee in it!
But, reality is often not the same as the marketing hype for these trendy devices, and this machine was no different. Sure, it was more convenient, and the selection of coffee was great so long as you didn't mind paying a half a buck for a small cup of weak joe. And when you used your own grinds in the special holder, you got the chance to scrape out the layers of compressed bean flakes from the inside of the permanent filter. And with a septic tank, it's a no-no to flush this stuff down the sink. So, the Cuisinart wasn't exactly the premium experience we had expected to go along with its premium price.
And, to top this off, of course this opinion wasn't universal in our house. Oh no, the machine was great for one of us, whose identity shall not be revealed... but I really missed the truly wonderful French Roast that we used to get at our local farm market. And I also missed the amount of coffee our old maker would make. See, I have this mug which is my favorite. I got it from the way overpriced college that one of our kiddies went to, sort of like a "My kid went to the most expensive college in the galaxy and all I got was this lousy mug" kind of thing. But it's sturdy and holds the right amount for me, so I like it. Even at the highest setting, the Cuisinart never came close to filling this puppy up.
But could I go back to our old coffee maker? Nay nay nay, the counters would be way too cluttered up for that, and we spent SO much on this K-cup machine, yadda yadda.
So I decided to conduct a stealth operation.
I figured if I could get one of those brewers that made just one cup in the traditional way, which means NOT with these little specimen cups from Keurig, I could maybe hide it among the forest of other things we have on the counters, and "no one" would notice. Great plan, except that guess who was walking out into the garage when I got home right after I bought this thing? "Oh, what's that" I'm asked. Real stealthy.
So I had to fess up and explain that I really missed the old coffee we used to have. And, yes, dear, I promise to wash this out all by my lonesome, and you'll never even know we have the thing. But I want my old coffee back.
Now, I have to say that there isn't a plethora of traditional one-cup machines out there. I saw a Black and Decker Brew ‘N Go on the web, but just try to find it in a store. (When I want something, I want it NOW, not after it takes 3 days to get shipped here.) Brookstone had one, which wasn't big enough, and Cuisinart had one that got really truthful (i.e., awful) reviews.
Then I saw this 4-cup brewer from Mr. Coffee. For all of 18 bucks at Kmart. This one wasn't programmable, so there's no clock to go out of sync with the ones on the stove and radio and all the other electronics in the kitchen. (For me, that was goodness. I like simple.) It has the Brewing Pause 'N Serve feature, so you can pull the pot out from the machine if your caffeine level needs recharging before the full pot is done brewing. It has this little light on the switch to tell you if you've turned it on, in case you can't remember (hey, lack of caffeine can do that). The one thing it lacks is an automatic turn off, in case you forget to, well... turn it off. For that, you have to get the mucho more expensive programmable model (like a whopping 8 bucks more, which starts to get it out of the disposable category). And, of course you have to push the little switch to actually turn the thing on, because you can't program it to do that. Oh, well.
I figured, wow, we have a winner. Off to the Kmart I go, which was next to our local farm market, and I got both the machine and a pound of my old favorite French Roast. And, I picked up the paper filters, too. (It turns out that they did have the Brew N' Go, but it looked a little, well... unsturdy, shall we say, so it was out of the running.)
I got home and unpacked the thing (took a whole 30 seconds) and ran a water-only brew through it to clean it. The next morning, I brewed my first pot of real, honest to goodness, high-octane java. Yum.
One thing about this machine, though. Being only 4 cups, it's a miniature version of a regular machine. It looks like it was run through the hot cycle on your clothes dryer and it shrank a few sizes. Compared to our old 12-cup machine, this 4-cup brewer is like a kid's tea party set to me. I mean, I'm not a small guy, and I can only use 2 fingers on the handle. It's like I have to remember to stick my pinky out when I pour the coffee. Oh, so dainty. And, I have a small dispute with Mr. Coffee about how much a "cup" is. This thing is not 4 cups by MY standard. I fit 3 of their cups into my mug. That's not so much a loss, really, because I can fill my mug up, and then top it off later on. But, the coffee grinds soak up almost a whole Mr. Coffee-sized cup of water, so you get only 3 cups of coffee for 4 cups of water. Bingo, this machine is my own one-cup brewer when I use my favorite mug.
Being the investigative genius that I am, I wanted to find a way to get this thing to make more than the 4 cups Mr. Coffee says it does. So I played around with it, and figured it out. Here's how: (WARNING - Professional driver on a closed course. Don't try this at home...) First, fill the water tank up to the top of the plastic window, above the "4 cup" line. There doesn't seem to be an "overfill" hole, so it won't spill all over the counter if you do that. Then put an extra tablespoon or so of grinds into the basket. Then brew. Real tough, right? And you get coffee almost up to the top of the pot's rim, not just to the 4-cup indicator. And THAT gives me 2 mugs of coffee. Or, one for me, and one for the K-cup queen... (Just kidding, dear!)
Overall, this is a nifty little machine. It does just what I want it to. It's so cheap that it's essentially disposable if it breaks. It makes hot, delicious coffee. And it gives me a chance to revisit those wonderful childhood tea parties my sisters used to make me go to.