I had been looking for the right thermal coffee maker for months. My wife, the coffee fanatic in our household, hates the taste of coffee that has been sitting on a burner/heating element for too long. I tend to agree with her but my standards are lower than hers in regards to coffee. She had gotten into the habit of turning off the heating element on our older Krup non-thermal maker as soon as brewing was finishing. If either of us wanted to pour a cup later in the morning, we had to heat it up in the microwave. Therefore, it seemed like a thermal coffee maker would be perfect for us.
I researched models online. The Capresso thermal model seemed to get good reviews but many owners seemed to complain about the quality of construction and the clumsiness of handling the lid for the carafe. Both of those lines of comments concerned me.
I found a positive review of the Phillips version online so decided to give it a try. I could not be more satisfied.
First, a thermal carafe is definitely the way to go. The coffee tastes much better after 5 or 10 minutes than any glass carafe with a heating element. We like to drink coffee throughout the morning.
Second, the Philips model seems to be a very well designed coffee maker. It is actually quite simple. It has 2 switches: an on/off switch and "Flavor Select" lever. We always keep it to the right for a "full, robust flavor". Therefore, the only switch that we ever use is the on switch
The carafe is stainless steel inside and out with a screw on top. The carafe is labeled as "Thermos" brand. I guess that suggests that the Thermos company built the carafe. This carafe appears to be unbreakable. That is good for the clumsy husband in this household. The top should be screwed on fully at all times except for pouring. It is easy to use the thumbhold to keep it screwed on properly. Very simple and intuitive. I've read that the top on the Capresso model carafe requires some special, non-intuitive handling.
Water is poured into a reservoir on top back of the unit. The reservior is not removable. You have to raise the lid and pour water directly into the unit. This is a bit tricky, at least for us. There is a single lid, hinged on the back, that covers both the reservior and the brew basket. Therefore, the lid raises fairly high. We keep the coffee maker on a counter under a cabinet. We have to pull out the unit from underneath the cabinet in order to raise this lid. Minor inconvenience. Using the carafe to fill the reservoir is also a bit clumsy. The carafe is fairly tapered, probably to help keep the coffee hot. Therefore, one has to practically turn the carafe almost completely over in order to empty it. This is not as easy as our previous straight sided glass carafe. We may eventually use another container to fill the reservoir.
The water level indicator has 2 sets of numbers, one for "large cups, 8 oz" and one for "small cups, 5.5 oz.) Nice touch, I think. I've always been curious what constitutes a "cup" of coffee to coffee maker manufacturers. It is NOT an 8 oz cup for most.
The brew basket is removable and will stand on it's own on a counter and includes a small handle. This is nice. One can remove the basket from the unit, put it on a counter, place in a paper or permanent filter, add the coffee, and replace the brew basket back into the unit. (I wish the water reservoir worked like this.)
Once the water and coffee have been added, just turn on the machine. While the coffee is brewing, a heating element comes on to heat up the carafe. Sort of a pre-heat, I suppose. Then when the brewing cycle is finished, the heating element automatically turns off. This is a nice feature. I can start the brewing process and walk away. I can come back whenever I want, even several hours later, and pour a hot, fresh tasting cup of coffee. Some units, including the Starbucks version, have no heating element at all. This is probably OK but I like the fact that the Philips model has one. I think this preheating helps keep the coffee warmer longer.
My only complaints:
I wish the carafe was larger than 8 cups. This is definitely smaller than glass carafe models. They are generally 10 or 12 cups. Remember, these are 5.5 oz cups, not ordinary 8 oz cups. This carafe therefore can only hold about 5 8 oz cups. But, in fairness, a larger carafe would probably not keep the coffee as warm as long as a smaller carafe.
I wish the water reservoir was easier to fill. Very minor nuisance. (By the way, the reservoir has a little cradle for a removable water filter. The unit comes with one filter that is supposed to last 1 year. There is thoughtful little switch to track the month that the filter was installed and therefore would need to be replaced.)
The unit itself is all white (black is available). The carafe is brushed stainless steel with a light green plastic collar and handle. This plastic collar and handle is not very attractive. Very, very minor complaint.
Some folks might want a timer for delayed brewing. This is not an issue for us. We would not use a timer even if we had one. We like to grind our beans right before brewing and keep the beans refrigerated.