Truly great cup of coffee, piping hot, but the effort required to clean the carafe may be too daunting for some people.
Positive Product Points
Brews a full pot (10 6 oz cups) in fairly short order. Because the grounds are steeped in hot water for approximately 3-4 minutes, the coffee is full-bodied, well-rounded, complex--the next best thing to French press in flavor. And--let it be noted--hot! (unlike many drip machines.)
Negative Product Points
If you like drip coffee of the insipid American variety, you won't be particularly happy with this machine. French press lovers will like this coffee--while those who don't care for French press may find it too strong. The worst feature about this device is that it's impossible to clean. Literally! See review below for more detail on this.
Those who like their coffee somewhat richer (i.e., European style), and find that drip pots often produce an insipid brew, should be quite pleased with the full-flavored brew of the Black and Decker Infuze. I have to cheat--I can't focus on making coffee first thing in the morning, so French Press is out, and I have to set up an automatic machine of one type or another before going to bed. If my wife (a surgeon) doesn't start an i.v. caffeine drip on me first thing in the morning, I need to have a cup ready to go at the instant I wake up. This machine is quite easy to program; once the clock is set, two button pushes and the coffee was ready right on time.
And here's the scoop--it does make a really fine cup of coffee--rich, full-flavored, well-rounded--fairly close to a french press coffee. The operation is astonishingly quick. A heater in the base heats the water fairly rapidly and it rises to the top chamber where it remains in contact with the grounds for a full 3 to 4 minutes. Then, with a great whoosh! the coffee drops down to the bottom carafe. Just pull off the top (you may have to work a bit to break the seal) and pour yourself a first-rate cup of coffee. We made two pots in parallel--one in the Infuze, the other in an electric drip pot, using the same amount of water and coffee for each. No question about it--the coffee produced in the Infuze was definitely richer. (as it ought to have been, given that it doesn't pass through a filter as the drip coffee does. (yes--there's a plastic mesh filter to keep the grounds out of the bottom carafe, but it's not the same as a paper or gold-tone filter.)
Like French Press and other unfiltered coffee, the finished product has very poor keeping qualities, so you'll want to pour the brew into a thermal carafe if you're not drinking it immediately. Unlike French Press, the flavor had degraded only slightly over the next two hours and the coffee was quite acceptable.
Is there a down side? You bet there is, and it's a biggie! Despite the fact that the catalog says "dishwasher safe," this device is quite literally impossible to clean. The heating element is permanently bonded to the carafe and it is therefore not immersible. You have to run soap and water inside, scrub it (but not too hard, as it's plastic and the instructions caution against using anything rough on it--so we used a teflon sponge.) With all that, and with a great deal of elbow grease, the darned thing never did come clean. Not really. And, if you're one of those people who believes that coffee must be made in really clean utensils, then you'll be frustrated in fairly short order. By the third pot, my machine had developed some permanent scale, and looked rather unsightly on the counter. (and this with filtered water, no less.)
I phoned customer service at Black and Decker and was told that in order to clean the device, you need to put a denture cleaning tab in the carafe after each pot. "You're joking" I said. "Not if you want the carafe to be really clean," she replied. I calculated that it was taking me about ten minutes to clean the carafe, and then rinse it carefully repeatedly to get all the soapy water out without sloshing any water over the side. Far too labor intense for my liking.
Bottom line--your call. It makes a really fine cup of coffee. Not as good as a French press, but a close second. However, spending ten minutes to clean it after each pot could get old after a while.
Hope this info is helpful. Eric A. Silver, always in search of that great cup. And I simply must have an automatic machine for that first cup of the day--so I'm still trying to find the right one
Purchased from TechnoScout.com--item arrived about four days later, well-packaged. shortly after placing the order, I received an e-mail confirmation, and a notice the following day that the item had been shipped. All in all a positive experience with the vendor.
Three Month Followup
The quality of the coffee remained quite good, although there were a few times when the top separated from the carafe despite my having thought I had hooked it up correctly. Big mess. The cleaning issue remained the biggest problem, and I ultimately sent it back to TechnoScout, which issued me a full refund. They had enough complaints on the product that they quit selling it. Presently it is available only at some Wal-Mart and K-Mart stores. Doesn't appear that the idea caught on very well. A similar product, the Starbucks Utopia, (made by Bodum) also bit the dust, as too many of them came back to the company. So--we're back to drip coffee in a thermal carafe for those mornings when we have to have it available the instant we wake up, French Press on those other mornings, and, of course, espresso throughout the day. As for vacuum pots, I believe that there's a market out there. Why? Because flavorwise it's the next best thing to French Press. What would it take?
A thermal Carafe
Easy and thorough cleanability
Some way to ensure that the top doesn't separate from the carafe. The company that can manage this will be able to sell a lot of coffee makers, and consumers will be much better off.