May 17, 2006

MORE COFFEEBLOGGING: Various people wanted followups on my earlier coffeemaker post, and, anticipating requests for more consumer-blogging, I have undertaken an actual in-home coffeemaker test.

I ordered this cheap Black & Decker model, which was warmly endorsed by many readers. And, at about the same time, someone from Starbucks offered to send me this more expensive DeLonghi that Starbucks sells. I’ve tried ‘em both out for a few days, and even had some blind taste-testing at the Mother’s Day bash here on Sunday.

Both are good. The Black & Decker wins hands-down for price and for its easy and uncomplicated user interface. (Yes, it’s the 21st Century and coffee pots have user interfaces.) It’s easy to program and use, and the “Perfect Pour” carafe doesn’t spill or dribble. It keeps the coffee hot enough, but doesn’t burn it.

The DeLonghi has a thermal carafe. It’s not hard to program it or set the clock, but it’s not as easy as the Black & Decker. Any idiot can figure out the Black & Decker, while some folks might need to look at the manual to figure out the DeLonghi. It has a thermal carafe, which also doesn’t dribble or spill. It keeps the coffee hot enough for two or three hours; after that it’s a bit cool for my taste, though it takes a while longer to get down to lukewarm. It’s easy to fill with water and coffee, too.

So how’s the coffee? It’s good from both. The Black & Decker — as seems common with the coffeemakers that use basket-type filters — tends to come out a bit on the weak side. You can make up for that by adding more coffee, but if you do that you may find that the savings on the pot is offset by the expense of extra coffee.

The DeLonghi makes excellent coffee, stronger and more full-bodied on the same amount of coffee than the Black & Decker. In our blind taste tests, everybody — including my brother-in-law Joe Smith, a former coffeehouse mogul here in Knoxville — pronounced coffee from both pots good, but the coffee from the DeLonghi richer and fuller-bodied, with more coffee flavor. (I used identical amounts of Starbucks Sumatra for the test).

Conclusion: You can’t go wrong, really, between these two. The Black & Decker is good, and cheap. The DeLonghi is better, but more expensive, though you might make that back via using less coffee, especially if you like expensive beans. And neither one dribbles or leaks, something that you ought to be able to take for granted in a coffeemaker but, alas, can’t.