Well, after 3 days of working with the Starbucks Utopia here are my initial observations:
The Utopia is a nice product. I‘m not sure why it‘s so expensive -- it‘s the rebranded Bodum -- but it comes in a nice box with a good instruction manual and a pretty good instructional video.
I sat down, watched the video, and got the idea pretty quickly. I‘ve never actually owned a vac pot -- but I‘ve used them at parties and tasted the coffee from them so I have a slight bit of experience for comparison purposes -- but from my initial few experiments with the Utopia, I can tell that it makes pretty damn good coffee, vac pot or no.
My first few batches were the Peets House Blend.
It‘s fun to brew -- fun to watch everything bubble up, brew, and then get sucked down. Makes a lot of noise, gives off a lot of steam, and is ... well, fun to watch.
My main concern (apart from the price) is that everything is plastic. I‘m not sure how this affects taste -- and maybe it doesn‘t -- but now I want to get a glass vac to compare.
The other concern is have is that the electronics for the whole gizmo are in the *base* of the carafe. The video is clear on that all the parts *except* the carafe are dishwasher safe.
But because there‘s a tangle of wires and other gizmos in the base (it‘s a clear base -- you can see everything) I‘m even a little leery about washing it by wiping it down. Obviously, the carafe needs to be washed carefully and dried thoroughly. I‘m not sure why they designed it this way since it comes with a plastic, plug-in base on which everything sits -- but I‘m assuming they had a reason for this.
My third and final concern is, well, everything is plastic. It‘s strong plastic, sure, but, ya know, the fact that it‘s plastic sort of earns it a strike or two in the presentation department. I‘m assuming it‘s plastic because it‘s a bit safer -- I‘ve heard about glass vac pots cracking and having other problems -- and I‘m okay with that -- the safety factor -- but plastic is and plastic does and there‘s no escaping the fact that the Utopia is *all* plastic. Or polycarbonate. Or whatever they call it.
Still I‘ve made enough batches over the past few days to realize that it *does* make tasty coffee. It‘s very smooth coffee -- slight bit of coffee oils on the top of cup -- but no grounds. The (plastic) filter in the vac top is a very fine (plastic) mesh, so those of you who like french presses but hate the grounds will be happy to no that you won‘t see any grounds here.
It also has a two-hour timer feature that will keep the coffee warm in the carafe for up to two hours. This changes the taste slightly, I imagine, and there‘s some complicated process that the unit does to check to see if the carafe is on the base -- once every two minutes -- and if it finds that the carafe is not there after 4 checks, it will automatically turn the base off.
Cleaning is pretty straightforward. Everything snaps apart and is easily rinsed or dishwashed.
Is it worth 169 bucks plus tax?
I don‘t know. It depends how fanatical you are about coffee. For me, yeah, it‘ll be worth it: it‘ll make great Sunday morning coffee for us, give us something cool to show off at parties, and will probably start a few conversations.
For these reasons -- and if you really enjoy brewing as well as consuming coffee -- I recommend it.
If you‘re a bit more pragmatic about your java and are simply looking for a way to churn out the coffee 7 days a week, 365 days a year, then, well, I‘d recommend you look elsewhere. (Maybe take a look at the Starbucks Barista. I wrote a review of it about a year ago. It‘s a real workhouse. It‘s the coffee-drinker‘s coffeemaker. The Utopia is the coffee-fanatic‘s coffee maker.)