Proper brewing time and temp, can't go wrong for $30.
Positive Product Points
Proper brewing temperature and time. Doesn't look horrible sitting on the counter. Thermal Carafe for non-burning coffee goodness. Super cheap.
Negative Product Points
Carafe drips when pouring. Water distribution over coffee grounds is non-existant. Feels cheap.
I spent the last 2 weeks trying to find a decent coffee maker for a decent price. I looked at the Capresso MT500 and the Technivorm stuff, but $200 was more than I want to spend right now. My fiancee was complaining and I gave up and told her to buy one that was cheap and didn't look horrible, and I would just stick to my french press.
She brings home this thing from Target, it was $30.
Here's the great part about the machine, brew time takes about 4 to 4.5 minutes, about the perfect time. I measured the temperature in the basket with a thermocouple attached to a Fluke multimeter. The temperature starts out at 199.4 degrees, maintains 201.2-203 for most of the brewing cycle, and then spikes at about 206 for the last 20-30 seconds.
One note here, for those of you using a meat/kitchen thermometer to measure your water temps, they are inaccurate. My kitchen thermometer read 165 during the whole brewing process. It wasn't until I got suspicious and grabbed the thermocouple/fluke setup that I actually got real temps.
Two things I am going to change about the machine:
Replace the included plastic mesh filter with a swiss gold filter. The one it comes with seems to work fine, but the water drains from it more quickly than I would like.
The place where the water drips into the basket is a single hole. Coffee grounds get pushed up to the sides of the basket and it makes a big hole right in the middle. There is plenty of space around that water outlet, and it's more or less a compartment in there. One could easily drill some holes to give more of a showerhead type effect, although you'd have to plug the center hole and then drill it out again to make it smaller.
I'm thinking this may be the best $30 coffee maker on the market.
Argued with fiancee on the merits of buying a Technivorm. I got tired of trying to convince her and told her to just go buy whatever one she wanted. My buying experience was worse than yours will be, and I didn't even buy it.