As mentioned in the preamble, Krups went through some major restructuring in 2005 and 2006, and part of that change was a bit of the old ďwiping the slate cleanĒ. The company previously had several lines of auto drip coffee makers, from the Pro Cafe line (several models), to the Pro Aroma (again, several models), the Premium (looked wicked cool, didnít brew very well), to the Aroma Control (again, several variants), Crystal Arome, and so on and so forth. Basically a big catalog of machines to choose from.
All were put out to pasture, though, with the companyís restructuring and the introduction of one new line (though with two different naming structures), called the FM line. Two subvariants, FMF and FME, exist and the major difference between the two is that the FMF models have thermal carafes, and the FME models have glass carafes (and the dreaded pot warmers)! The other main difference is the FME models brew 12 ďcupsĒ, whereas the FMF version brews 10.
At CoffeeGeek, we believe that glass carafes and carafe warmers are ultimately bad for coffee, so I wonít be talking much about the FME models. But we do have a FMF5, the current top of the line auto drip from Krups, to put through the wringer, and it has all the things we love in an auto drip coffee maker, including a very well constructed thermal carafe - the only way to go these days.
Hereís your walk through for this product from Krups.
Out of the Box
The FMF5, like all Krups products, is packaged for retail space and has the long standing ďKrupsĒ look of dark blacks and gleaming metals in the photographs. The box is quite descriptive of the productís features, but fortunately doesnít go into too much hyperbole or marketing fluff. Itís also designed with a carrying handle for easy handling. If you buy it online, it usually comes double boxed.
The machine itself is packed "okay" inside - styrofoam cutouts form braces, though the machine is not completely encased in styro, which would have been more secure.
Inside the box, you find the brewer, the stainless steel carafe, a built in water filtration kit, product manual, and some fresh filters. Krups doesnít include a permanent filter with this machine, but one is optionally available.
Since it is a digital auto drip, it does require some minimal setup before using, especially if you want to use the auto-on feature. (Come on, though... who wants to do that? Stale grounds, sitting overnight? OK, OK, I know, this isnít a review!)
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| Krups FMF 5 Box |
Standard fare for most retail shelves.
| Packing |
Not a full styro cocoon, but adequate.
| Plastic |
Plastic protects the metal parts.
| Out of the Box |
Styro in place to keep the carafe safe.
| Reservoir |
Showing the red max indicator and water filter.
The FMF4 and FMF5 models are both the same MSRP, so whatís the main difference? The FMF5 has brushed steel accenting the front and top of the filter area. And it looks pretty cool. The FMF4 model is all black plastic. Iíd go with the FMF5. It's also available with a white body and steel accents, and is called the FMF5-11.
Starting with the top of the machine, the brushed metal forms a rough oval for about 75% of the machineís top, and the back portion, in a quarter moon shape, is a black plastic lid that covers the water reservoir. The lid doesnít flip up too high, making it ideal for under-cupboard use, even with the lid up (though pouring water in there may be a challenge under a cupboard). Inside the reservoir, you can see a very visible red piece of circular plastic indicating the maximum fill level - nice touch.
The brushed steel portion of the lid has two cutout vents for excess steam and heat once the brew is done.
Moving down the front of the machine, youíll see a little lever on the right side near the top. This releases a spring loaded front panel that swings out to your left (the machineís right side), taking the removable filter basket hold with it. It holds standard #4 cone filters, but a Swissgold permanent filter (#4 size) will do nicely too. The filter basket is fairly easy to remove and reinsert.
I took a peek at something that is a growing concern for me in auto drip coffee makers - the brew headís dispersion pattern. This is one area where I think Capresso machines, which are generally very good, tend to drop the ball. Krups has made great strides with this FMF5 though - thereís an ďarrayĒ (for lack of a better description) of seven small holes, one medium sized hole, and one large central hole that look like they have the potential to do a good job dispersing the brewing water over a greater surface of coffee grounds. When this machine gets tested, this is one specific area Iíll look into more.
The front panel is finished in the same brushed steel as the top and, as mentioned already, looks very nice.
Along the left side of the brewer, thereís a sight glass tube showing the level of water in the reservoir. It shows the water level via magnification - where there is water, the numbers are bigger than where there isnít water. Some brewers use a float ball, but the ďmagnification routeĒ, while a bit more difficult to read, is more reliable, especially if you live in an area with hard water - sometimes the float balls end up being stuck to deposit buildup.
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| Filter basket & Lid |
Showing the removable filter basket, and if you look closely, you can see the two positions on the carafe lid.
| Magnified |
This shows how the numbers "get bigger" in the water reservoir indicator, thanks to water!
| Dispersion Screen |
A step up from most brewers, though not perfect - this disperses brewing water over a wider area of the coffee.
| Warming Plate. |
Carried over, no doubt, from the FME line to save production costs. I don't like these things.
Moving further down the machine, thereís the cavity for the stainless steel carafe and what suspiciously looks like a warming plate (oh no!!!). It may be just to save on fabbing different parts for the FME and FMF lines - Iíll test it to see if it heats up.
As an aside, and more on a educational tangent for readers rather than as a review of this product, I donít like seeing warming plates on coffee brewers for several reasons. One is that typically, the same heating system that heats the brewing water up is also used to keep the hot plate hot. Because of this, some sort of balance has to be struck - does the manufacturer make the heating coil system hot enough to produce 200F water at the brew head and risk having a hot plate that is so hot, it bakes the brewed coffee in a few minutes? Or do they make the heating coil system with a balance towards making water hot, but keeping the hot plate not too hot - which often results in brewers delivering water that is 185F, 180F, or even colder to the coffee.
Sure, there are a few machines on the market that have two independent heating systems, one for the water and one for the hotplate, but the vast majority donít. So when I see a hotplate on a thermal carafe brewer, I worry that the product may not achieve ideal brewing temperatures. But again, weíll find out in the testing.
OK, back to the product walk through - one thing that really stands out on this brewer is the thermal carafe. Itís easily the best Iíve seen from Krups, well, ever, and just by visuals, it looks like it could rival the Capresso thermal carafes. I was so curious, I did do some testing of the temperature retention, starting with 208F water in three models - a Capresso thermal carafe, the Krups FMF5 carafe, and my current test champeen, a Thermos Nissan TGB1000 NSF-rated model. And without giving away the numerical results, Iíll say this - the Capresso and Krups were almost identical through the four hour test - and barely lagged behind the Nissan model. Thatís impressive.
The carafe lid is a bit funky in design but very functional. You donít really unscrew the lid - you move a ďdialĒ over about one inch to an unlock position and remove it. Thereís a wide button placed at the top of the handle to press when you want to pour coffee; otherwise, the spout stays shut. Itís not leakproof, but it does the job.
As you move down to the business part of the machine, you find a control panel with four buttons and a very bright blue light background LED readout that handles all the machineís programming.
| Programming |
The Krups is fairly easy to program, with lots of bells and whistles (literally!).
When first plugged in, the machine reads out 8888, indicating it needs some help. At this point, you can press the upper right button, marked O/I, and just use the machine sans any auto timer features. Or you can set up the timer and other things:
- Setting the clock: pretty easy. Press and hold the ďprogĒ button for 3 seconds, and the hours start blinking 88_ _. Press the lower right button, marked h/min, to get to your current hour. Press the prog button again, and repeat for minutes.
- Setting the timer: once the machine has the time set, pressing the prog button briefly will bring ďprogĒ up on screen, then the time set for your auto on time. If you havenít set it yet, itíll read 8888. Set the hours and minutes the same way you set the time. You can confirm the auto on time anytime by pressing the prog button. Not pressing it for a few seconds gets you out of programming and displays the current time.
The digital panel takes care of other indications too. The machine will tell you when it is time to descale, and you can program it for hard or soft water. It will tell you when to replace the included water filter (a feature you can also disable). It will also indicate if you tried to start the machine with an empty water reservoir by showing a symbol of a bowl on the display (and it wonít turn on the heating element either!). You can program the machine for normal brewing or a 1-3 cup option. And the machine also has an audible bell for when your coffee is ready to drink, and you can turn this on or off.
Finishing off the product walkthrough, thereís the bottom, and the cord. The cord can feed into the machine, shortening it to whatever length best suits your kitchen setting, and I mention the bottom because this is another tiny area where Krups paid attention - thereís nice grippy rubber feet at the back of the unit (though plastic feet at the front), and I found it kept the brewer sitting nicely on the counter, without much movement. A small touch, but a nice one.
The Product Manual
I was quite impressed with the Krups FMF / FME manual. I mentioned some of it in the preamble to this First Look, and hereís a link to the PDF of the manual on Krupsí site (let me know if that link doesnít work). Itís about time someone really got the core points on making good coffee right in a mainstream manufacturerís product manual. (Thatís not entirely fair - KitchenAid did it last year with their Proline machines).
Hereís the best part, and my apologies to Krups for taking such liberties in reprinting several paragraphs:
Making the perfect cup of coffee is something different for everyone. It is an art and a science, that is not only affected by the coffee that is used, but also the equipment. The water, the water temperature, the time the water is in contact with the coffee, the grind, the type of filter, all play an important role in determining the flavor. Fine tuning these aspects is the art of making the ultimate cup of coffee.
The three main principles :
1- The Water: It is important to use fresh water that you like. Since coffee is 98% water the taste of the water will come through in the coffee. The Duo Filter system removes chlorine taste, but the better the water you start with the better the flavor of the coffee.
2- The Coffee: Choose premium fresh whole beans suited to your taste. There are two principal species of coffee: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are the choice beans with more flavor and less caffeine. Robusta beans have more caffeine and are more ę robust Ľ and are usually used in blends. The origin of the beans and the roast will determine the flavor. Roasts vary from light to very dark. Light roasts have a smooth, delicate aromatic taste, medium to medium dark roasts are slightly stronger, with a full-bodied balanced taste, and dark roasts are bold with smoky undertones.
3- The Grind: Use the proper grind finesse and grind just prior to brewing. (ed note - I bolded this, cuz it rocks!) The variation in the grind depends on the type of filter you use. We prefer paper filters because they allow you to use a finer grind, thus allowing a full extraction and more contact time with the water. Permanent filters require a slightly coarser grind therefore the extraction rate is reduced. A general rule of thumb for grinding is the longer the brew process the coarser the grind.
Listen - the above stuff may be old hat to you and me, but to the average consumer? Itís earth shattering. They had no clue. Grind fresh? Pay attention to your water? Arabica and Robusta? Grind is actually important? Holy crap!
Kudos to Krups for doing their part to educate the consumer. And more kudos for telling it like it is, and not just using this verbiage to push their line of coffee, or their grinders only.
You know, itís getting damn hard to just give an objective walk through on these products for the First Look. Itís my fault, Iíve already put this product through some tests, but not enough to write the QuickShot review yet.
Iíll say this much. This is by far and away the best drip brewer from Krups that Iíve tested (I donít include the Moka Brew in this comparison, because that brews a different way). It totally beats the roughly half dozen previous Krups auto drip machines Iíve used and tested in the past, especially in three ways - water temperatures, dispersion pattern of the brew head over the coffee, and thermal carafe quality.
Can it rival Capresso and their industry leading line of 200F brewers? Iíll have to save that opinion for the QuickShot review, including detailed testing of accurate temperature measurements, side by side with two competing brewers.
In the meantime, I will say this is a very promising machine from Krups. Itís a great leap forward from the performance of previous models, and to be frank, I like the simplification of the product line. And it is easily one of the best looking compact drip brewers Iíve seen in quite some time.
QuickShot review WILL be coming - free espresso cups to all if I donít have this posted within, letís say,
three four months! Max!
About the coffee we use for testing We exclusively use Intelligentsia Coffee for all the product evaluation and testing we do on CoffeeGeek. As one of the United States' best artisan roasters, Intelligentsia features a wide range of ever changing, Direct Trade coffees, limited edition award winning beans, organics and highly respected blends designed for great espresso and brewed cups. They ship throughout North America, so give them a try today.