If you want a drinkable cup of coffee waiting for you when you get up this machine will do nicely, if you want coffee nirvana you probably shouldn't be looking at a drip machine anyway.
Positive Product Points
Coffee is ready when I get up in the morning and is decent Grind the machine produces suits my tastes Thermal carafe works very nicely Can bypass grinder
Negative Product Points
A few more parts than an ordinary drip machine No control over grind No choice of colors--with the thermal carafe it's stainless only Need good light to determine how much water you've put in
Mine appears to be different from the the others that I see reviewed here both in that has the newer mechanism and a thermal carafe--the machine with the thermal carafe is about $50 extra.
The grinder is pretty straightforward--it's a simple blade grinder. The basket is about the same size as on a typical standalone blade grinder--they say not to put more than 14 of their measures in it--their measure is 1 tablespoon liquid measure. There's a clear lid, the grinder basket, a screen (metal plate with holes about 2mm in diameter), and a straight chute that leads into the filter compartment. So far hasn't retained any significant quantity of coffee in the basket--for some reason a small amount sticks to the lid of the grind chamber and a little more to the upper surface of the chute--I don't think it's enough to affect the quality of the brew though. There appears to be no control over the grind--you take what they get. Fortunately for me what I get is about the same as what I do with an ordinary blade grinder--maybe a little better as the screen keeps feeding the biggest chunks back into the blade until they're small enough to go through the holes.
They suggest that 1 measure of beans be used for each 5 ounce cup, 1-1/2 if you're only making 1 or 2.
The filter compartment is pretty much like any filter compartment that takes a #4 filter--round basket with some ridges on the bottom and sides. I like this one better than the #2 basket in my Krups--the ridges in the Cuisinart are positioned so that you can clean between them without special tools--at the bottom in the Krups the spacing and the dimensions make it difficult to get between the ridges to clean and it ends up with a buildup. On the other hand the valve that releases the coffee into the carafe seems a bit more complex--I haven't used the machine long enough to figure out if that's going to be a problem.
There's a bypass button that turns off the grinder so you can use preground coffee--they recommend using not more than 16 of their measures if you do that. There's also a preheat button for small quantities--they suggest it be used for 1-4 cups--supposedly it recirculates the water a few times before it starts pumping if you use that setting. I don't usually make a quantity that small and haven't played with it yet so can't comment on how well it works. With 6 cups the temperature is fine near as I can tell--someone with more experience or different tastes might disagree.
The water container is the only real weakness I find--you have to look straight down into it to see how full it's getting and if there's not a good light shining in there it's difficult to tell. Easier to use a measuring cup if you've got one that holds enough--I've started using the glass carafe from another machine as a measure.
There's a charcoal filter in the water compartment--they say it's good for about 60 uses--haven't investigated the availability of a replacement yet. Putting it in is simple--there's a plastic stick with a snap-open compartment at the bottom--only way you can screw it up that I can see is to snag the filter on closing.
The thermal carafe is lovely--it's well worth the 50 bucks extra. Seems to be an all-stainless (except for the lid) vacuum design with insulation in the lid. I haven't timed it but it seems to keep the coffee hot for a long time--like I make coffee at 7 AM and at 2 PM it's still hot. They recommend preheating it but I haven't done that and it doesn't seem to make a difference--maybe for a small quantity it would though. The lid locks down solidly with a partial turn and so far hasn't dripped or caused any other problems. It's fairly thick and I'm not sure if cleaning it is going to become an issue over time.
Use is almost intuitive. Toss in beans, pour in water, make sure there's a filter in the basket, push the button, wait a bit and it's done. Programming equally so--to set the start time hold down the button until the numbers flash, set the hour and minute with the hour and minute button, wait until they stop flashing. When you're ready to go push the program button once, and at the appointed time there's coffee (assuming of course that you put in beans and water). The grinder is a bit loud and has a touch of civil defense siren in the tone, but it has never awakened me, not that that would be a problem--I have it set to go off just a little before the alarm. I haven't investigated whetherit will retain the time and programming across a power outage.
Cleaning isn't really a problem--there are 7 parts to clean, the grind chamber, the lid to the grind chamber, the filter basket, the lid to the filter basket, the gold filter (if you use it--use paper filters and it's down to 6 parts), the carafe, and the lid to the carafe. When you get right down to it it has 3 more parts that need cleaning than an machine that doesn't grind. Washing in the sink takes at most 5 minutes. I've typically washed it and filled it just before bed, drying the grind chamber and lid with a paper towel and so far that's working fine. The only finicky little bit is the valve on the filter basket that allows the carafe to be removed before the brewing is complete--I suspect that that could get some buildup and it's not obvious how to get it apart for cleaning (I'm sure I'll figure it out--20 years of mechanical engineering and such things hold few mysteries).
What can I say--walked into the store, took the machine off the shelf, carried to the checkout, chatted up the clerk (lovely eyes, way too young for me alas), gave her money, she gave me receipt, I walked out with the machine. Couldn't find an online price for the machine with thermal carafe that was enough lower when shipping was figured in to be worth the effort.