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the first look - capresso st600
Capresso ST600 Coffee Maker
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: December 5, 2006
First Look rating: 8.8
feedback: (21) comments | read | write
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Capresso is a company founded back in 1994 by an ex-Krups executive, Michael Kramm. His stated goals and vision are to bring something better to the market than what was available at that time. Kramm has a pretty deep understanding of certain things in the world of coffee: a good grinder is a must; brewing temperatures are something far too long neglected; and (good or bad), his main market (the USA) loves its gizmos and conveniences.

This is one of the reasons that Capresso is so big in the super auto world - not so much because there's a deep understanding of true artisan espresso (though I will say, Capresso makes super autos that generally are better than all the other models); but because of the gee whiz, super convenience factor.

And we see this in their coffee maker lineup too - the CoffeeTEC with its built in milk frother, the new CoffeeTEAM Therm, and even the machine looked at here - the ST600 Coffee Maker. Feature rich, gizmo laden, buttons, dials, design.

The thing is, Kramm and Co. haven't lost vision on the two other things I pointed out above - a good grinder is a must (their super autos and the new CoffeeTEAM Therm have kick-butt grinders), and brewing temperatures are important and need to be proper, according to North American standards for brewing a good cup of coffee. In our labs, we've seen this first hand with the CoffeeTEC and the MT500 (and also in a private testing of the EleganceTHERM). Now, the company claims the new ST600 brews at an optimal 200F (93.5C) and does so with some striking features and looks.

While we won't be doing any true evaluation or testing of the ST600 for this First Look, I can't help but stick the Fluke dual probe into it later on in this article just to check that claim out. Now, on to the unboxing!

Out of the Box

Capresso never goes half on the boxes for its coffee makers. Modern, lots of images, lots of box writing showing the features, the works - definitely designed for the store shelf, and designed to appeal to potential buyers. I consider this a good thing when the box information promotes actual good features that lead to good coffee (or espresso) - I'm not so much a fan of the hyperbole that proclaims things like "18BAR!!! BEST IN CLASS!!". Thankfully, Capresso's promo information on the box generally promotes good for the cup features.

The box itself is pretty big - not as big as KitchenAid's box for their Proline Coffee Maker, but close (and the KA has a second warmer station in the box). It measures 55 cm long, 32 cm wide, 27 cm tall. (22"x12.5"x10.75") The ST600 is packed very well with a nice styrofoam cocoon to protect it on its way, and our sample came double boxed.

Inside the box, you see basically two parts - the big tower station and the carafe. There's also a well-written product manual (RTFM!). The brushed steel casing on the body is gorgeous, but can pick up oily fingerprints pretty quick.
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Big Box
Big, image-heavy box with lots of info about the product
Inside
The machine is packed in a styrofoam cocoon, keeping it very safe.
Box Details
..."This bold but simple stainless steel sculpture..." as the box says.
Styro Cocoon
Should survive even a UPS beating... probably ;)
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Plastic too
I guess to keep greasy little fingers from mucking up the metal.
Pretty Simple!
Not a lot to unpack, that's for sure. It's a "good thing".
Assembled Machine
The lines are very stark and quite unusual for a home coffee brewer.
Goodies Inside
A few goodies inside - the gold-tone (not gold plated) filter, scoop, water filter.

Opening up the top lid on the tower shows the included charcoal-based water filter, its holder, a measuring scoop and the gold-tone filter.

The ST600's brewing tower measures 35 cm tall (13.5 inches), which makes it pretty tall for a coffee maker. The width is 28 cm (11 inches) and the depth without the carafe measures at just over 17 cm (6.75 inches). The carafe sitting out in front brings the total depth to 35.5 cm (14 inches) out to the handle. It's big, and big on purpose - it's meant to make a design statement as well as work well.

The ST600 is a completely "finished" product in that it is designed to look good from any angle, front, back, sides. It's a piece of sculpture, really.

Aesthetics and Design

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Controls, Lid Closed
Pretty simple (and definitely requires a read of the manual)... power button is "on" in this picture - hence the red glow.
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More Controls
Two more buttons are evident when the lid is up. Note the power button when off.
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Carafe Lid
The carafe's lid is pretty simple too - no complex gaskets or flanges - but note the cutout - it has to be at the spout to be inserted into the machine.

After removing it from the box, we set up the Capresso ST600 on our test bench and plugged it in. The display panel has a nice soft-white glow with black LCD lettering. With the top panel down, there's only two buttons visible - the power button (bigger of the two) and an unmarked button which is for activating the machine's auto timer. If you lift the lid, you see two additional buttons marked H and M.

The #4 cone filter holder is in the middle of the machine and is pretty deep - it looks like bloom problems may not be an issue with this machine (bloom is the result of using fresh coffee, freshly ground - a lot of CO2 is released from this kind of coffee during brewing, forming a froth on top of the coffee, or "bloom"). It's an interesting design - this particular cone filter holder dispenses from the bottom front instead of the bottom middle like most cone filter holders on coffee brewers. The lid above the filter area looks like it has a wide variety of dispersion holes, but I'm not sure they are actually used to disperse brewing water over the entire bed of coffee - they may be for venting purposes. I'll investigate this in the QuickShot Review.

On the left is the water reservoir. The top part is quite narrow and shaped like a half moon - if you look into the water chamber, you would see it expands a bit inside the machine - following the shape of the filter chamber immediately to its right side. The charcoal filter fits in this chamber via a plastic handle assembly, which is very easy to put into place (or remove).

Down the upper left side of the tower is a water level indicator that starts at the 4 cup mark - the smallest amount of coffee Capresso recommends brewing with this machine. The numbers are easily viewed if you look at the left side of the machine, though they are a bit more difficult to see if you're looking from the front.

The right side of the machine features the controls up top and a plain exterior. The 3-pronged, heavy duty plug can be completely hidden inside the machine right up to the plug itself.

The machine's carafe is different from the other stainless steel carafe design that Capresso sells with machines like the MT500, CoffeeTEC, and CoffeeTEAM Therm. This one is designed to accept the brewing coffee directly through the spout (most carafes take in the brewed coffee through the lid). It is also straight walls instead of curves like the other carafes. The lid design is extremely simple (a good thing), featuring a tightly closed position (though not leak proof), and a "accept brew" and pouring position that is indicated by a shallow half-moon cutout on the lid's edge. You can also "feel" when the lid is in the right place because of a subtle indent on the carafe itself - when the lid is turned to the right position, it gently locks into place with a noticeable touch.

Usability and Operation

Now that the aesthetics tour is over, it's time to see how the Capresso ST600 operates. Again, I need to stress this is not a review, and I'm only providing a product walk through at this time. CoffeeGeek will do a full Quickshot review on this product and cover usability, operation, and comparisons much more in detail at a future date.

Once the machine is plugged in, the nice soft-white display flashes waiting for input. Programming the time, auto timer, and other functions of the machine (including 4-6 cup brew, filter warning, descaling warning, etc) are not intuitive at all since almost nothing is marked on the machine, but a read of the product manual shows how to do these things.

The display shows "AM 12:00" flashing, so to set the machine's clock you need to hold down the H button for a second - then continue pressing it until you get to the hour you want to set. Then press the M button and you can begin changing the minutes. NB - the clock is a 24 hour clock, but indicated by AM / PM. Once you're done dialing in the time, the display will flash five times (during which you can still change the hour or minute), then go solid, and the new time is set.

I hesitate to say how to set the auto-on time, because, well, we don't like timer-driven coffee machines here (except for one - the CoffeeTEAM Therm, which grinds and brews). But what the heck - setting the auto timer requires pressing and holding the H button until the display reads 11:11 - then you can set the time you want the machine to automatically turn on.

The machine will have an "auto on" time programmed and resident in the brewer's microchip from this point on, but to activate the auto-on feature, you will have to press the secondary button that is visible when the lid is closed. Doing so will illuminate the power button in green. This is a great feature that lets you decide the days you want to use the auto-on function, and not have the machine turn on every morning whether you set it up or not.

The ST600's clock does not auto-adjust for daylight savings time, nor does it remember the time or any settings (including filter expiry) if the machine is unplugged. In the QuickShot review, we'll talk more about using the filter and descaling programs within the machine.
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Slot Diagram
From the manual, note how the spout goes into the machine.
Cord Management
The cord is heavy duty, and can completely (up to the plug) go inside the machine.
Lid Design
Note the cut out - the lid has to be in this place for brewing to work.
Closed Lid
It may be closed, but it's not leak proof.

I covered the carafe a bit in aesthetics and design, but it's important to stress how its design also is part of the machines usability and function. The carafe's lid is designed so that you cannot insert the carafe fully into the front of the tower unless it is in the open position. It's a nice design feature. The ST600 will not brew unless a bottom pressure button (Capresso calls it a safety switch) on the tower is pushed into the machine by the carafe. The only way for the carafe to do this is if the lid is in the correct position, and the spout is inserted into the machine. If you remove the carafe for any reason, the machine stops brewing and shuts off. It's a rather drastic "pause and serve" feature, but pressing the power button again once you reinsert the carafe continues the brewing.

Brewing is pretty straightforward. The process is: measure out the coffee (we use 8 grams per "cup" or per 5oz of water, ground to just slightly coarser than paper drip consistency - this is to allow for less sludge to pass through the permanent filter) and pour the water in the machine up to the indicated level matching your coffee (ie, if you use 40 grams of coffee, that’s 5 cups on the mark). Thermal carafes should always be preheated with hot tap water, so once this is done, dump the water out in the sink and insert the assembled carafe into the machine with the lid in the proper position, then hit the big brew button on top.

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Fluke Measured
Machine gets up to the 200F mark pretty quick.

The machine begins brewing pretty much immediately and takes about 8.5 minutes to brew a full 10 cup pot at maximum volume on the machine's normal setting. There is also a 4-6 cup setting that slows down the water flow for the first half of the brew (it goes to normal speed in the last half); doing a full 10 cup pot at this setting takes about 11 minutes.

We ran the Fluke on it within the first few brews and saw that the machine indeed gets to 200F - and then some. In the QuickShot review we'll have the full details on the Capresso ST600's brewing temperatures.

Once the brew is done, the machine will stay on for a few minutes to let any last minute coffee to drip out, then it automatically shuts off (usually 11 minutes after initiating a normal brew). Remove the carafe slowly to allow for a few drips from the filter before the filter's pour spout closes completely.

We then close the carafe lid completely and give the carafe a bit of a "slosh" to fully mix the brewed coffee inside. You can then pour slowly with the cafe lid completely closed or pour normally with the lid open. The pour stream from the carafe takes a bit of getting used to - it "chutes" the brewed coffee out a bit, but the design also prevents drips.

The carafe does a great job of keeping coffee hot - in the sole measurement we did for this First Look, the brewed coffee was still over 180F after one hour.

Wrap Up

Capresso ST600

As with more and more products coming onto the coffee and espresso market these days, this is definitely a "love it or hate it" product in terms of design. I think it looks fantastic - and a few people I've shown it to agreed, but others thought it was ugly and too stark. Some concerns were raised about it fitting under cupboards, and while it does fit under our standard ones in our kitchen, you have to slide it out to lift up the lid to pour in water and add coffee.

This machine definitely makes a design statement and is ideally suited for an open, modern kitchen design where it can stand out on the counter.

As for operation, it works great - I've read some reviews that talked about major dripping problems with the carafe and insert "spout" area on the machine, but I have not experienced these problems - at most, one or two drips will float down the front of the machine once I've removed the carafe. The carafe itself has rubber feet and sits nicely up against the brewing tower.

This coffee brewer isn't for everyone. It would look completely out of place in a "country meadows" style kitchen. But it could possibly be another big hit from Capresso, a company that almost consistently produces good drip brewing devices. We'll be able to tell you for sure when the full review is done in a few months.

We would like to once again thank JL Hufford for providing us with this test unit. We highly recommend them as a source for all your coffee and espresso related purchases.

About the coffee we use for testing

We exclusively use Intelligentsia Coffee for all the product evaluation and testing we do on CoffeeGeek. As one of the United States' best artisan roasters, Intelligentsia features a wide range of ever changing, Direct Trade coffees, limited edition award winning beans, organics and highly respected blends designed for great espresso and brewed cups. They ship throughout North America, so give them a try today.

First Look rating: 8.8
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: December 5, 2006
feedback: (21) comments | read | write
This first look and all its parts are ©2001-2011 CoffeeGeek.com and the first look in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author or this website. This includes all photographs. For information on reproducing any part of this first look (or any images) or if you would like to purchase a printed version of this first look for commercial or private use, please contact us at info@coffeegeek.com for further details.
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