[Prerequisite for reading this review: Open a new browser page, bring up a Google search box, and punch in "CoffeeTEC: leaks." Check out the links, then come back and finish this review. The experience of the non-CG world re the CoffeeTEC has been far more mixed than that documented here thus far and provides important context for the comments that follow. ]
It looks as though I will be among the first to interrupt the litany of mainly "rah-rah" reviews here for this maddeningly flawed machine, but interrupt it I must, and with what is for this machine the "800 lb. gorilla" issue. To begin, I will concede, without further elaboration, nearly every wonderful thing that has been said previously about the CoffeeTEC, with the exception of reliability and trouble-free operation. Yes, out of the box, it begins brewing first-rate coffee quickly and quietly—hands down the best autodrip machine I have ever owned. However, for me this initial impression was, alas, confined to an all-too-short honeymoon period, followed by a true product-from-hell nightmare.
I first became interested in the CoffeeTEC after reading the favourable Coffe Geek First Look review Mark gave the similar Capresso MT500. In the course of further research, a dealer revealed results of his experiments showing the in-the-basket brew temp of the CoffeeTEC to be about 5°F higher than the MT500. Thus I refocused my investigations, eventually buying a heavily-discounted, reconditioned CoffeeTEC (with full warranty) from Capresso USA's Web site. Normally, I am a great fan of elegant simplicity in product design; I avoid needless complication and kitchen-sink engineering and design. However with the CoffeeTEC, my eagerness to get the ultimate auto-brew on the cheap caused me to violate the KISS principle. The combination of discounting and great reviews here tempted me into buying a more elaborate machine engineered around two key features I neither needed nor wanted: the milk frothing capability and the removable water tank. Big mistake.
After six months of auto-drip heaven came the morning that I filled the machine with water only to see it begin inexplicably leaking out from under the removeable tank all over the counter. Capresso customer service insstructed me to ship the unit back to them in New Jersey—not a fun thing to have to do from Ontario, nor was paying the return shipping, normally free within the U.S. but not for cross-border returns. Canadian warranty service not available—not a suprise, but what a pain! I received the unit back repaired, and I am told a seal has been replaced. FIve months later, the same thing happens, and back it goes. This time they claim that they could find nothing wrong with the machine; since it was working again when I got it back, I didn't pursue this. And finally, three months out of warranty, leaking again.
To their credit Capresso USA offered to take the machine back and deal with the latest recurrence as an unresolved under-warranty issue. At this point, I felt this was not a satisfactory resolution: "strike three," this machine is out. Take back the unit and issue me a refund, end of sad story. But this they would not do. They wanted me to return the machine yet again at my expense so they could "evaluate" it. This would not have seemed quite so unreasonable had I not already Googled "CoffeeTEC: leaks" and carefully combed through the results. Throughout my saga, I have repeatedly asked Capresso what may have been causing the leaking and whether the it was something they have seen before. They always tell me that gee, the leaking is new to them and that they have no idea what causes it. Now I no longer believe them. Post Googling, it is obvious that leaking is a documented issue (what percentage of units sold are involved, I have no idea) and that Capresso's responses are disingenuous and a form of corporate damage control. Neither the CoffeeTEC manual nor Capresso customer service suggest a need for any special care or maintenance apart from regular descaling.
Unwilling to risk another time-consuming, expensive, and ultimately frustrating return to Capresso USA, I instead brought the machine in to Faema Canada's repair department, the authorized Capresso service centre here in the Toronto area. This resulted in an expensive repair job involving replacing a broken boiler (internal leak), the good old tank seal again (external leak), and the steamer pump (not leak-related, but underpowered and malfunctioning). At least I had the unit back in week this time and got to talk to the service tech there personally.
Now it may be that I have a lemon. But it is also clear from Googling that there are some undocumented issues affecting at least a certain percentage of these machines in the field, something which Capresso refuses to acknowledge; they certainly offer no explanations or remedies. And if my machine isn't a lemon, then I have serious doubts about Capresso's design engineering; a boiler and pump failing after only a year of sporadic use is unacceptable.
After speaking with the Faema tech, and from little hints dropped by Capresso customer support over the phone, I have some preventative maintenance advice for any who have bought or are considering buying the CoffeeTEC. Shame on Capresso for not providing similar information to its customers clearly and directly. Would following these suggestions have prevented the problems I experienced? I don't know, and for lack of cooperation from Capresso, I will never know for sure:
— Use it or lose it: The milk frothing function should be used regularly: Idle parts stiffen up and cease self-lubricating. Mechanical atrophy and leaking can result. Turn on the steam once in a while when you are not frothing milk regularly, just to purge the system and keep everything running smoothly.
— Use the whole unit regularly, and drain thoroughly before allowing to sit idle for extended periods.
— Don't buy this unit unless you need and want the frother.
— Use only very soft water. Recommended regular use of descaler is apparently sometimes not sufficient to prevent the acceleration of reservoir tank issues through mineralization around the seals.
— Do not leave water in the steaming sump at the bottom of the tank for extended periods between brews.
— As the machine leaves the warranty period, obtain extra tank seals and learn how to install them should this be necessary.