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Capresso MT 500 - Erik Midtskogen's Review
Posted: December 14, 2005, 2:04pm
review rating: 8.0
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Capresso MT 500
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More About This Product
Arrow The Capresso MT 500 has 46 Reviews
Arrow The Capresso MT 500 has been rated 6.88 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since February 23, 2002.
Arrow Capresso MT 500 reviews have been viewed 232,390 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Sam Graves 9.33
Bill Womack 9.33
Don Smith 9.25
Trisha Neimi 9.12
Tim Brunson 8.20

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.0
Manufacturer: Capresso, I think Quality: 10
Average Price: $159.00 Usability: 7
Price Paid: $160.00 Cost vs. Value 5
Where Bought: Warren Cutlery, Rhinebeck, NY Aesthetics 9
Owned for: 3 months Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Braun Flavorselect or something like that
Bottom Line: If you are a die-hard Melitta/Chemex funnel user, this machine might be the one to finally break your habit.
Positive Product Points

Brews coffeehouse quality drip coffee for more than just the first week you own it
Brews relatively quickly
Does not burn the coffee on a hot-plate

Negative Product Points

Thermal carafe lid can be hard to remove
This unit has a reputation for malfunctioning and making a mess, although I haven't seen any such problems yet

Detailed Commentary

My attitude towards coffee is that if it has not been properly brewed, then I'd rather drink something else.  American-style thin, tea-colored, bitter, caffeinated water is of absolutely no interest to me.  For this reason I have usually had to resort to a Melitta funnel and plenty of patience to get the results I want at home.

I have bought a couple of mass-market automatic brewers over the years.  What usually happens is that they do a decent or even an excellent job of brewing for about a week, but then they soon start pumping out increasingly weak, sour coffee.  Attempts to descale them yield a slight but very short-lived improvement, as the calcium deposits quickly build back up on the aluminum heating element.  Eventually, it becomes impossible to get decent coffee out of the machine no matter how many descalings you give it.  Apparently some other substance or corrosion eventually covers the heating element, and the descaling acid can't get it off.

The Capresso MT500 has a stainless steel heating element that stays cleaner much longer than conventional ones.  After more than three months of use at least once a day with no descalings, the coffee still tastes like freshly-brewed coffee from Orens Dailyroast or Phillip's.

Other people have reported various problems.   Some have said that the machine brewed the coffee too weak.  I also had this experience at first.  I found that I needed to adjust the grind to make it finer than what I used to use for my previous auto-drip coffee makers.  But once I did that, the coffee was perfect.  Those of you who are attempting to compensate for insufficiently strong coffee by adding more grounds may want to try grinding a bit finer and reducing the amount of grounds.

And then there's that lid.  The lid is somewhat difficult to get on (it misthreads easily) and even more difficult to get off if you tighten it down too much.  Once it's screwed on, it lies nearly flush with the top surface of the carafe, and all it has by way of finger-grips are two itty-bitty little baby tabs that stick up not even a quarter inch.  I have very good hand strength, but even for me, getting the lid off can require an annoying amount of effort.  In addition, you are supposed to pour the coffee from the carafe with the lid turned to a pouring position, and yet the only indicator of how far you are supposed to turn the lid is a nearly invisible little bump on the lid about the size of a small mosquito bite.  If you don't notice this little bump (my wife didn't) and turn the lid too far, it either poors only at a dribble, or the lid pops off and spills everything.  Even when you get it right, the pour rate is a bit slow.  I can think of no good reason for this lid to be so poorly designed.

Some have reported problems with the coffeemaker overflowing or dumping coffee/grounds all over the place.  I haven't had any issues at all.  Again, if you are filling your coffee filter up "3/4 full for 7 cups" (the way one previous reviewer reported), then I suspect you aren't grinding fine enough.  Grind finer but use less coffee, and I think your issues with the filter overflowing will go away and you'll get better coffee, as well.

A few other things about the design of this maker are basically accidents waiting to happen.  For starts, the thermal carafe, wonderful as it is, won't warn you if you have forgotten to empty out a previously made, stale pot of coffee or the hot water you put into it to pre-warm it, because, unlike a glass carafe, you can't see inside it without removing the lid.  If you brew a full pot of coffee into a non-empty carafe...voilá--a big mess.  Absent-minded professors will need to develop a routine to make sure they don't make this mistake.

Likewise, if you forget to close the water tank cover and then turn the machine on, something other than what you want will occur.  This is because the water tank cover also contains the tube that is supposed to sprinkle the coffee over the grounds.  It connects with the main riser with a little silicone gasket that only forms a good seal when the lid is completely lowered.  If you leave the cover open or even just slightly ajar, the hot water will just pour back down into the reservoir.  I don't know what would eventually come of this situation, but until some sort of end point to the process was reached, you would be running a $160 room humidifier.

This coffeemaker is a bit of a diva.  If you are willing to work with it and put up with its quirks, you will get results that put the mass-market coffeemakers to shame.  And even with its usability defects, it's still far easier and more convenient to use than a Chemex/Melitta filter, which is, as far as I know, the only other way to brew good drip coffee at home, day after day, month after month.

Buying Experience

Walked into Warren Cutlery in Rhinebeck, New York.  Bought item.  Went home.  The hardest part of the process was resisting the urge to buy all the other enticing goodies in that shop.

Three Month Followup

I originally cited as a potential problem the fact that heated water can be made to pour back down into the reservoir from the main riser if the lid is not closed while the machine is turned on.  It later occurred to me that this is not so much a problem as it is a feature that allows me to increase the brewing temperature slightly.

Normally, my MT500 brews somewhere in the low 180's Fahrenheit, according to my thermometer.  Some types of coffee do better if you get the water temperature closer to 190 or so.  To accomplish this, I just run the machine with the lid raised for a moment and stir in the heated water before dropping the lid down to start brewing the coffee.

One Year Followup

I've had the MT500 now for well over a year, and it's still going strong.  I descale regularly and clean the carafe and filter parts with DipIt from time to time.

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review rating: 8.0
Posted: December 14, 2005, 2:04pm
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