Though merely a dilettante when compared to the seasoned coffee veterans who frequent this site, I have often consulted these pages before making a coffee-related purchase and now feel compelled to post a review of my own.
My coffee odyssey began roughly three years ago when I received the Capresso CoffeeTec as a Christmas gift. At that time, I understood how coffee was supposed to taste, but had little concept of the dynamics that go into properly brewing it. With this base level of knowledge as my guide, the CoffeeTec seemed like it would be a solid machine - after all, it had a stainless steel carafe; the ability to froth milk (which was nice, I must admit); and a score of buttons, some of which I then believed were necessary. I soon discovered that the machine made above average coffee, but nothing close to the quality of coffee at several of the finer restaurants in town. My first inclination was that perhaps their coffee was of a higher quality than mine - which was indeed the case - but even when using their coffee (I believe it was illy) with my CoffeeTec, I still found the taste to be second-rate. The disparity, I concluded, must be in the process - i.e., the machines. That is, despite having no empirical data to support my hypothesis, I decided that the CoffeeTec must be one of the vast majority of coffee machines that are unable to brew coffee at the proper temperature or in the proper amount of time. I had also become frustrated with having to heat the stainless steel carafe with hot water before brewing so the coffee would not immediately cool to a less-than-ideal temperature. (I know that many folks prefer a stainless steel carafe, but I've decided that between pre-heating & being more difficult to clean, it's simply too much work for me.)
It was at this point that I consulted CoffeeGeek.com and narrowed my replacement decision to the Krups Premium & the Technivorm. It was also at this point, however, that I decided to up the ante & purchase a grinder. Having decided on a fairly nice grinder & not wanting to spend too much money, I ultimately purchased the Krups Premium, which I had found online for $60 (at full retail, however, I probably would have sucked it up & gone with the Technivorm). The Premium appealed to me for its quality design, its lack of buttons (which had come to suggest higher quality to me due to the implied focus on brewing - not useless auxiliary functions), its use of some stainless steel (though it is still surprisingly light, as much of it is constructed with plastic), its glass carafe (see above), and its apparent ability to brew coffee at the proper temperature. Once in my kitchen, I found the Premium to brew better coffee than the CoffeeTec, but still believed the quality to be somewhat shy of commercially-made coffee.
Only weeks after purchasing the Krups Premium, I received a Bodum French Press for Christmas. This quickly became my preferred coffee brewing device, due to my discovery that I could now control both temperature (just shy of a boil) & brew time (4-5 minutes). I still used the Premium from time to time, but only when I was pressed for time or feeling overly lazy (although the French Press coffee was so much better, I was usually able to overcome this).
A short while later, I developed an itch to try the Technivorm and purchased the Clubline KB741 model (glass carafe). In short, the machine has exceeded all expectations thus far and is plainly superior to both automatic machines discussed above.
It has been proven to brew coffee at the proper temperature by several specialty organizations, as well as by several members of this site. Unlike most coffee makers, which approach peak temperatures as cup 5 or 6 pass through the grounds (and thus the last few cups might approach the proper temperature, but the average remains poor), the Technivorm brews at the proper temperature throughout the cycle due to its unique brewing method, which only allows water to rise through the system once it has reached a boil (think percolator). This allows the user to brew only a few cups without degradation of coffee quality & without needing a special "small batch" button, as is found on many other coffee machines. Moreover, the Technivorm has two heating elements - one for heating the water & one for the burner plate - thereby overcoming an obvious deficiency in most coffee machines (i.e. in single heating element machines, a heating element hot enough to allow water to reach the proper temperature for brewing would create too hot a burner plate & burn/boil the coffee; at the other end of the heat spectrum, a heating element cool enough to keep the burner plate at an ideal temperature would not get water nearly hot enough for brewing & result in poor coffee quality; most machines with one burner thus employ an "optimum" average, but one which is in fact not optimum for either heating function).
In addition to brewing at the proper temperature, the Technivorm also brews coffee in the proper amount of time. Experts believe that 4-5 minutes is the optimum length of time for water to interact with the coffee grounds (thus the 4-5 minute recommended brew time on any French Press). Using room temperature filtered water (I assume refrigerated water would take longer), my Technivorm brews an entire 10-cup pot in about 5 minutes. This is a huge advantage over both of my previous automatic machines, which took 8-10 minutes for a full pot. As a side note, if one is ever having a dinner party & needs to make multiple pots of regular & decaf, the brewing time becomes even more important.
Some reviewers have expressed disappointment that the machine does not have a “spray-head” to disperse water evenly across the coffee grounds. This does not bother me, as the grounds are easily accessible and therefore easily stirred. An alternate, hands-free solution is to grind finely enough so that water passes through the filter more slowly, thereby ensuring adequate saturation. It seems to me that if anything, a spray-head would be a slight disadvantage, as it exposes more of the hot water’s surface area to the cooler air before it reaches the grounds.
In terms of ease of use & maintenance, I find that the Technivorm is comparable to any other automatic coffee machine – it takes no more than 10-15 minutes to understand. The instruction manual is delightfully brief & straightforward. Several nice features are that the water reservoir’s top comes off entirely (making it easy to fill), and that many parts (top of reservoir, steel pipe that delivers water to the filter basket, filter basket & top of filter basket) are removable, making the machine simple to clean. The machine may look different, but its straightforward design & lack of buttons makes it arguably more accessible than the average automatic machine.
For those concerned about the high price of the Technivorm, I believe its construction quality alone makes it an excellent value. The machine is built like a panzer tank (i.e. metal everything) & has only two simple buttons (on/off & 2-level burner temperature switch), suggesting years of trouble-free use. While it would appear that the average American consumer is more interested in price & buttons than robustness of construction, the Technivorm will likely outlast 3-4 poorly-constructed, $60 machines. In the meantime, you’ll enjoy much better coffee.
In short, the Technivorm beats the pants off any other automatic coffee machine I’ve ever tried. And while one could convincingly argue that the French Press and/or other manual preparation methods are inherently superior to automatic preparation, the Technivorm is a very good approximation what one might do when making coffee manually, in terms of both brew temperature & brew time. In fact, the Technivorm makes such high-quality coffee that I now use my French Press only rarely, preferring the ease, speed, and capacity of the Technivorm on most occasions.