December 22, 2004

Still time to return this one before Christmas

My buddy Rich (hahaha, I made a funny), gives the lowdown on the trendy new Senseo coffee maker that they've been pushing hard this holiday season.

He's moving his blog, so I'm going to copy the whole thing in the extended entry, and I'll update his link as soon as I get it.


The Phillips Senseo Coffee Maker

I researched this item before I bought it. Take a look at these exciting excerpts from the various web sites where I found information and reviews:

"The perfect cup of fresh coffee."
"Douwe Egberts is the number one roast & ground coffee brand in the UK and they have worked in conjunction with Philips to produce the perfect blend of coffee & machine for the perfect taste."
"The brewing process guarantees a perfect cup of fresh coffee within a minute every time."
"Senseo allows you to enjoy a perfect cup of coffee in your favorite flavor at any time of the day."
"..the Senseo coffee machine makes the perfect gift."
"When I've used creamer (either in liquid or powder form), the coffee is the perfect temperature and doesn't need to be microwaved."
"The intregal heating element brings your fresh cool water to the perfect temperature..."
"Philips and Sara Lee have been working for ten years to perfect this sensational cup of coffee."

ehhh, (to the reviewers) I do not think it means what you think it means. Let's journey through my personal experience.

Intro to the machine:
The machine is well built, I definitely feel it is of better build and quality than the competing machine from Black & Decker that uses the Folgers and Millstone coffee (I checked them all out at Wal-Mart). So I bought it (nevermind the whole "you shouldn't buy things for yourself right before your birthday" thing), and mailed in the $20 rebate (which I got back in less than a month, sweet!). The easy-to-follow instructions state that you need to run it through a special cycle the first time, which I did. If you find the sudden sound of a jackhammer (complete with vibration) in your kitchen to be alarming be assured that this is expected and that normal operation will not be this loud (what better way to help you wake up in the morning?).

The selection:
You get a choice of 4 kinds of pods (I hope I didn't make that sound exciting). You get Mild, Medium, Dark, and Decaf. Okay. Now I enjoy a nice cup of black, I really do, but lately I've discovered this Toasted Almond creamer in the dairy section of the supermarket and am really hooked on it, especially for my first cup of the day (coffee snobs don't bother to comment). So I figure big deal, when I don't want Mild, Medium, or Dark I'll just add some flavored creamer and I'll be happy.

The brew:
Okay, I'm ready, this is exciting! I put in the podholder for a single cup and drop in a Medium pod. The machine is on, warmed up, and ready with my cup awaiting perfect delicious coffee. I press the button for single cup and there is noise, although thankfully not of the jackhammer variety, think more like hammerdrill. Did I run the special cycle correctly? After rechecking the directions I had. Okay, well the cup brewed quickly and my next disappointment caused me to snatch up the manual again. After some frantic reading I've found that a "cup" of coffee is 4 ounces (WTF!?). Whatever, next time I'll just brew the double cup.

The perfect cup:
I pour in a little creamer. I still need to throw the used pod in the trash but First, let's drink, me from my glass, and.. the flavor is exactly what I expected, delicious toasted almond. The first sip was tentative, I find it irksome to burn my tongue you see, and it wasn't HOT. In fact, I drank down the rest of the cup immediately. This just won't do, my coffee needs to at least stay hot for the first part of my ride to work in the morning. Even black the coffee is drinkable right out of the brewer. I whipped out a thermometer (a cooking thermometer, not one of the rectal variety) and measured the coffee temp right as it was dripping into my cup - 155 degrees (who knew the tongue was so mighty?). I'll have to get around to measuring the temperature of my regular drip brewer and update this for comparison I suppose.

The FAQ:
Something must be wrong. It's always possible to get a bad unit. I checked the FAQ on the manufacturer's web site and find the question "My coffee is not hot. Why?" (YAY! Someone has had the same problem and the solution is a click away!). Solution: "When you first turn on the coffee machine, we suggest that you run a one-cup brew cycle with an empty pod holder in place. This will ensure that the boiler is heated to proper brewing conditions and that you will have a hot cup of coffee. Another suggestion is to rinse the cup or mug with hot water a couple of times." WTF!? You're telling me that to get my perfect cup of coffee that is brewed at the perfect temperature with the perfect grounds I have to defeat some of the allure of this machine by taking extra time to run a cycle of just water or to heat up my cup first??

The complaint:
Time to write the company. Unlike some companies it was actually easy to find the proper link and write them an email. And also unlike some companies I got a quick response (very nice). The email I sent goes like:

"What should the temperature of the coffee be as it drips into the cup? I have measured mine at 155 degrees and that seems to be low, it is not quite hot enough for my ride in to work or even to drink at a leisurely pace relaxing at home without additional heating in the microwave.

BTW, the suggestion in the FAQ about rinsing your cup with hot water is not acceptable to ask of your customers and having to run a cycle with no coffee or pod holder is also poor advice and reduces one of the benefits of using your machine (speed). The low temperature is one of three disappointments I have with your product, the others are the lack of variety in compatible product for brewing, and the horrendous noise the machine makes as it brews my cup (yes, I have run the initial cycle as required in the instructions). For a product that is supposedly used by so many people I find these flaws surprising, unless the product sold in Europe is different than that sold here in the US."

The response:
The first response was to let me know that they were sorry that I was not satisfied with their product and that they would forward my email on to the proper people to help me. Okay, good. The next email I got was:

"The temperature range for coffee in the Senseo machine is 72 degrees C (162 F) to 90 degrees C (194 F). We are looking into the possibility of having Senseo coffee pods with flavored coffee. You are correct that there is a distinct noise and vibration during the brewing cycle."

Uhhh, hmmm. Okay. The perfect temperature appears to lie between 162 and 194 F. I just stared at this for a minute (and then stared at again when writing this blog entry). Maybe there is a way to get the upper end from this machine, so I wrote back. I told them I was good with tools and comfortable working with thing that are electrical in nature and would be willing to adjust the thermostat if they would explain how I could do this. The reply I got was:

"Unfortunately, the temperature is determined by the thermostat and the thermostat is not adjustable. Thank you for your interest in Senseo."

You've got to be kidding me. The perfect coffee maker's quality control allows a 32 degree (f) variance in the temperature of the brewed coffee!?! (And remember, "Philips and Sara Lee have been working for ten years to perfect this sensational cup of coffee.") TEN YEARS for a rumbling loud coffee maker that makes warm coffee (sigh). I do still use it, but only because it IS much faster than my regular coffee pot, even though I have to warm it in the microwave.

What I REALLY want is a Keurig machine, but they are a little out of my price range (another item on my "if I win the lottery I can't wait to buy" list). We have one at my office, and compared to everything else, it borders on being a magical device. No review on that one, but to put the Senseo up against it in a competition would be inconceivable.

Posted by Ted at December 22, 2004 06:02 PM
Category: Links

But you didn't copy the helpful embedded links! Hehe

Posted by: Maelstrom at December 22, 2004 08:58 PM

Gotta give folks something to look forward to when they head on over to your place. :)

Posted by: Ted at December 23, 2004 05:56 AM

The new address to my blog is:
(ntshma = nothing to see here move along)

Posted by: Maelstrom at December 23, 2004 08:34 PM
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