Very recently, my beloved Breville single-cup coffee brewer started exhibiting strange behavior. It was making peculiar sounds and it was dispensing less and less coffee with each brew.
In a fit of do-it-yourselfishness, I watched a few YouTube videos and decided that a filter was clogged and I could fix it.
How hard could it be? I used to fix computers for a living.
I unscrewed a bunch of screws, took out the filter, cleaned it (and there were little bits of stuff in there that looked sort of like very fine coffee grounds) and put it all back together.
I reassembled it, filled the water tank, plugged it in, and pressed appropriate buttons.
It spewed a little bit of water, and then nada. No more water pumping at all.
I took it apart several more times, trying to figure out what I had botched. I watched more YouTube videos and followed more advice. Then the menu buttons didn't work. That wasn't an improvement.
The next morning, after drinking some instant coffee, I toddled off to find a new machine. Most of them proclaimed that they only worked with Keurig cups. Nope, that's not going to do. I like using my own ground coffee and sometimes I get samples of non-Keurig brands of coffees and teas.
When I can afford the really good ground coffee, I splurge. Otherwise, the cheap stuff will do - and that's a heck of a lot cheaper than those K-Cups, so it's very budget-friendly.
I had a couple of choices of coffee makers, and picked a mid-priced machine that looked fairly sturdy. When I got home I set up and tested the machine - a Mr. Coffee model - by running water through it - and hot water came out of it. It took quite a while for the water to heat and the water to dispense, but it wasn't a super-expensive machine, so I figured it wouldn't kill me to be a tiny bit more patient in the morning.
I wasn't planning on drinking more coffee that day, so I let it rest until the next morning.
But then I thought, gee, I like those folks at Breville and every product of theirs that I own has been really solid. Even the coffee maker. Other people complained that their Keurig machines were lucky to last 6 months or a year, but I'd had the Breville for ... well, a long time.
I wasn't looking for a replacement machine, but I thought Breville might have some tips on fixing the problem. They did have a troubleshooting page on their website, but it didn't have any more information than the videos I watched. And we know how helpful those were.
I chatted with a very friendly person at Breville who gave me a few tips, but finally we concluded that the pump must be malfunctioning or some other deep internal thing had gone bad. Which makes sense. It pumped a lot of water over its lifetime without any problems.
She said that the model I had was discontinued "several years ago" and that even the newer model of single-cup brewer had been discontinued for some time. See, I told you my machine was old.
So, she couldn't offer a direct replacement, but she did offer a discount on anything else of theirs that I might want to buy. Anything else ... not just a coffee maker. That was a pretty good offer. Unfortunately, they only had full-pot coffee brewers, and I needed a single cup model.
Oh well. At least I had Mr. Coffee to keep me company in the morning.
I joked with my husband that I had fixed the coffee machine, and I only replaced one part - the part that starts at the outlet and ends at the mug. I crack myself up...
But apparently I didn't fix it well enough, because the morning cup of coffee was tragically weak. And the amount brewed wasn't huge. This didn't bode well for happy, perky mornings.
Weak coffee bolstering my shopping savvy, I wandered off to another store, determined to find a single-cup brewer that didn't require K-Cups. Again, that narrowed down the search considerably. I found a few models that shyly said that you could use any brand of cup-thing, and some that whispered about using your own ground coffee, but then I found one that very prominently proclaimed that you could use all the third-party products with no problem. It even came with its own refillable filter thingie (a technical term, right?), but I could also use the filters and holder that I already had.
The coffee maker that caught my eye was called the iCoffee Opus, and it also boasted a swirl technology that allegedly brewed the coffee better. There was another iCoffee model, the Express, but it didn't have a water reservoir, so you had to add the water for each cup, and I imagine the brewing time would be longer.
Call me skeptical. Swirling water sounds good, but would it make a difference? I got online and found a review on a coffee-lover site and the iCoffee Opus was highly praised. It was rated better than a Keurig.
That was enough. I grabbed the Opus box, dragged it to the register, and brought it home. Sorry, Mr. Coffee, but you're being returned.
While the iCoffee Express was a little less expensive than the Opus, I decided that I didn't want to add water for each cup of coffee, and a faster cup of coffee was a good thing, too.
I set it up as soon as I got it home, and ran some water though it. One nice feature is that you can set the amount of coffee you want to brew in half-ounce increments from 4 to 12 ounces. I chose 12 ounces, because I use a big coffee cup and I wanted to see how full it would be. That worked just fine. And then I decided that since my first cup of coffee that morning was insanely weak, it would be fine if I brewed a supplemental cup of coffee.
For testing purposes, of course.
And ... what do you know? It wasn't weak.
I've been drinking K-Cup-like coffee for a while, from a company that sent me sample for review, and I have to say that this cup had more flavor, more layers of flavor, more depth of flavor, more coffee flavor ... than I had noticed before.
Well, wow. That's interesting. Apparently the swirling-water technology makes a difference.
Later, I tried a tea product that I had. It had more flavor with the iCoffee than I'd tasted before.
The swirl-technology reminded me of a device called CaliX that I saw on the TV show Food Fortunes, but that device was just the coffee-holder-thingie rather than a whole machine. I haven't tried it, but if you've got a single cup brewer that's functioning but not brewing a great cup of coffee, it might be worth looking into.
So - I usually don't review anything until I've used it for a while, but in this case, I thought a "first impression" post would make some sense, since the machine is made to do one thing - make coffee - and there's no learning curve in operating it.
Besides brewing a nice cup of coffee, the iCoffee is also a rather attractive machine with pretty blue lights. And, if you need a visual cue that the brewing is done, a blue light shines on the cup when the coffee is dispensing. The light turns off when it's safe to remove the cup.
The one thing this brewer doesn't have is a clock. Which is great. A coffee maker isn't something that needs a clock, and I have plenty of other clocks in the kitchen.
Of course, only time will tell if this coffee maker lasts as long as my last one. I certainly hope so, because I like my morning coffee, and I'm really happy with the way it brews.
Who's it for: People who want a single-serve coffee maker.
Pros: It makes a good cup of coffee. It looks good on the counter.
Cons: Not the cheapest machine in the world. It's also not the most expensive.
Wishes: So far, nothing. It does what it's supposed to do, and it does it well.
Source: I bought all three of the coffee makers that I wrote about; one is being returned to the store.