Large 12 cup carafe that doesn't drip when pouring. Controls and electronics are located above the carafe, instead of below, so it's not possible to spill coffee on them. 3 temperature settings for the warming platter. A safety bypass so the lid can be opened when the machine is brewing. Re-usable gold filter and one water filter included.
Negative Product Points
The carafe lid is slightly difficult to remove from the pot, as well as being slightly difficult to snap back into position. The programmable feature could be improved by including separate workday and off-workday presets.
The Cuisinart Brew Central Model DCC-1200 is one of the most intelligently thought out programmable drip type coffeemakers that I've ever owned. It may be that die-hard coffee aficionados won't use the programmable feature, but I find it invaluable, since when first waking, I "need" coffee already brewed!
The location of the electronic controls is above the carafe, which eliminates the danger of spilling coffee on them and it beeps gently several times when the coffee is done. I really like this audible alert, since I know when the coffee is ready, without needing to go visually check whether it's done. It also beeps when the warmer goes off, which is a programmable time period of zero to four hours, alerting me to the need to switch it back on, in the event that I want to keep any remaining coffee warm.
The carafe itself has a well-designed pour spout: in a matter of about one-month of use, I haven't spilled even one drop of coffee. This had been quite a problem at times with our previous coffeemakers, requiring frequent cleaning of the countertop and sometimes wiping of the bottom of a freshly filled cup. Even though the carafe only has markings up to twelve cups, there is room for a couple more above that in both the carafe and water reservoir in the machine. The maximum capacity for ground coffee is 15 tablespoons, according the instruction manual; but, in my tests, explained at the end of this detailed commentary, I found that you may be able to use more than that. The Brew Central uses No.4 cone style paper filters, or an included gold tone filter for a deeper flavor.
For brew cycles of only one to four cups, there's a button you press that turns on a function to double heat the drip water. The double heating feature can be used with a full pot, if you so desire. The manual states this is to give a higher temperature to the water at the beginning of the brewing cycle, before the element is likely to be fully heated.
The Brew Central has a rotary control knob that allows you to change the warming plate temperature, a versatile feature. There are three settings: low, medium, and high.
A separate rotary function knob is normally used in either the "auto on" or "brew" position. This function knob is turned to other positions for setting the built in display clock, the time of the automatic on, and an "auto off." This auto off feature can be set from zero to four hours, and when the time is elapsed the warming tray and coffeemaker turn off.
The function knob could be improved in a couple of ways. For one, the "auto on" feature is not right next to the "brew" feature, it has the "clock" setting feature in the middle. So, when making a second pot of coffee for the day, it's necessary to click it twice to the right to get to the brew function: when going back to the auto on mode, it's two clicks to the left. I believe the two positions should be right next to each other, for ease of use. Additionally, the programmable feature could be improved by having two programmed times for automatic brewing--one for the workdays, and a second one for offdays. We usually wake up a bit later on offdays and even though it's not difficult to do, it's tedious to manually change the programmed "auto on" time at the end of each week.
The toggle "flip switch" is what actually turns the functions on or off, and it is centrally located between the two rotary controls. I find that I really like the way it works. Push it up for on, or down for off; the toggle always returns to the middle neutral position on it's own volition. I like this better than the push buttons on other machines I've owned: the push buttons don't always seem to switch on the first press. This toggle "flip switch" does.
The long distance and different color of the two "on" lights from each other, which go on or off when the flip switch is operated, gives my mind a redundant clue that the function knob is in the correct position. There's a green light for programmed "auto" on, and a red light for immediate brew. This distance and color redundancy helps keep me from accidentally brewing a pot of coffee at bedtime, which I would sometimes do with other programmable machines I've owned!
While this machine doesn't have a water level indicator, I've never found that I would use one with my other coffee machines, since I always brew the entire measured amount of water that is poured in, without turning the machine off mid-cycle. However, I do find it difficult to see the water level in the reservoir, because of the black color on the inside.
Included with the purchase is a replaceable water filter that fits into a holder in the reservoir. Since I have, for years, only used reverse osmosis water in my coffee machines, I don't use the water filter. However, it's a nice feature if your tap water is of questionable flavor, and you want your coffee to taste as robust and clean as possible.
I decided to test some temperatures with a scientific bulb type glass thermometer with etched-in-the-glass markings that reads in degrees Fahrenheit. One test is the water temperature that comes out of the showerhead (the mechanism that sprays the heated water into the filter). Since the thermometer bulb is not immersed fully all the time, this may not be a correct reading, and the reading oscillated with spikes as pulses of hot water flowed and paused. I attempted to record the average of the peak of each temperature spike that occurred as the maximum amount of water was flowing around the bulb.
Another test is the water temperature in the coffee filter holder. I measured two US cups into the water reservoir, which is eight US ounces per cup, and I removed the lid from the carafe, which holds the water in the filter area. I also made sure that the lid was kept closed until I heard the percolation steam surge that indicates the water reservoir was almost dry. Then I lifted the lid and quickly placed the thermometer in the water retained in the filter cup. I performed both of these tests without grounds in the filter holder.
Both of these tests I repeated several times, but I would like to note that they are theoretical tests, since coffee grounds were not used, and I believe there is a temperature loss as the water is fully retained in the filter cup.
Not using the 1-4 cup feature, with the warming tray set to "H", and measuring at the showerhead exit, gives water temperature spikes to 194. Measuring at the filter cup temperature results: 190
Using the 1-4 cup feature, with the warming tray set to "H", and measuring at the showerhead exit, gives water temperature spike readings of 195. Measuring at the filter cup temperature results: 190
I repeated the above measurements with the warming tray instead set to "L" and all results appear the same.
These measurements appear to have about 1 degree of variance, probably due to my unsophisticated equipment. One safety feature that I noted while taking these temperatures is that there appears to be a bypass valve on the plastic pipe leading to the lid's showerhead, which diverts the water from the showerhead when the lid is opened. With the lid opened and the water bypassed, it's not traveling through the grounds; it's probably a good idea to keep it closed during the entire brewing cycle.
I decided to perform another set of tests that were hopefully more reflective of the real world by making some coffee. I measured 15 US tablespoons of freshly burr-ground coffee into the included gold tone filter. The fineness of the grounds is a number eleven and a half on the inexpensive Braun burr-grinder that we purchased about seven years ago. Then, I filled the carafe so the water was level with the seven cup line. At the end, when I heard the steam surge at the end, I quickly lifted the lid and placed the thermometer into the middle of the grounds before all the water had drained from them. I measured 194 degrees two times. The grounds are always evenly wetted.
I also noted when lifting the lid, the water does not come anywhere near the top of the filter. It appears that with this fineness of grounds, more than 15 US tablespoons can be put in the filter cup. That probably varies with the grind, and we haven't yet experimented with varying the coarseness for this new machine, it is set where we liked it for our previous machine.
I wanted to time the seven-cup brew cycle, as well. I decided to start the stopwatch when the water first began to hit the ground coffee, and I stopped the stopwatch when the brew water was drained from the grounds as determined by watching for the coffee stream into the caraffe to become a slowly repeated drip. The entire brew cycle lasted 6 minutes and 8 seconds. Changing the amount of water in the machine will vary the brew time.
Ooh, what a day! Our previous Braun Flavor Select unit gave up the ghost and there was no coffee for us when we woke up, one otherwise fine Saturday morning. Fortunately, we keep a spare Melitta Manual Drip in the cabinet, and it saved the morning from disaster! So, our plans for the next hour or two were set--buy a new coffeemaker. Well, that seemed to be a simple enough task. We drove the 20 miles to the nearby largish city, and fully intended to be able to buy one at the large discount chain store, the same store where we had purchased our previous coffeemaker. It was our intent to replace it with a similar or identical machine.
Much to my dismay, most of the coffee machines were now ten-cup capacity units, and that wasn't a large enough carafe for the two of us. We often make a second pot of coffee on the weekends, and going to a smaller ten-cup unit would probably require us to make as many as three pots on some days ... no thank you! So, on to the next store, then the next, and so on, and we kept finding the same story. No Brauns or Krups could be found in any of the larger stores, and it was difficult to find any twelve-cup coffeemaker with a programmable feature, period. There was one that did, but it used a flat bottom filter design that we prefer not to use. By the sixth or seventh store, this search was taking too much of our time. It seemed that all the stores seemed to have the same coffeemakers that the other stores did, and we almost decided to go buy the one that had most of the features we were looking for, the one with the flat bottom filter. My wife didn't want buying a coffeemaker to turn into a several day process, and neither did I!
We were getting tired and discouraged. As a last resort, we decided to try Smart and Final, a grocery chain that we shop at from time to time. Well, here was the Cuisinart Brew Central! It had everything we both wanted, at a slightly higher price than we were expecting to pay. Even though in recent years quality coffeemakers had decreased in cost, my wife and I discussed it and recalled that our first Braun cost us around eighty dollars twenty years ago--and it wasn't even programmable! This one was about ninety-nine dollars, and it looked kind of nice with all the brushed stainless steel, too. So we bought it, glad that three-and-a-half hours later, what should have been a simple quest to find a quality coffeemaker was finally over. By the time we got home, four hours had passed--and we were ready for a fresh cup of coffee!
In hindsight, we were glad that we persevered, and didn't just buy "whatever" coffeemaker the first store had for sale. This coffeemaker was worth the search ... and what a robust and flavorful cup of coffee it makes!