This is supposedly the ugly duckling of coffeemakers. O, what rare beauty in th' cup, but man, what the heck is that thing on my countertop???
I bought Presto as a present for my wife, because although she loves my painstaking concoctions from the french press and espresso machine, she sometimes needs coffee prepared really fast, in the rushed mornings before work. So, I opted for this one because of its reputed capability.
Out of the box, it looks cheap, even sitting next to the very basic Mr. Coffee espresso machine on our counter. Manufacturer should have just gone with black plastic- silver looks like something inexpensive that wants to be fancy.
It has this weird, kind of angular-mod design that looks very out-of-place in my kitchen. Maybe it will look better in yours.
Parts are light and thin. I have my concerns with durability, but I'm warrantied up the kazoo (see buying experience) so I'm not too worried.
But here's the bottom line: You're buying quality in coffeemaking here, not design. There's only one way to approach quality of a Technivorm in a $25 machine, and that's to make some serious cuts in external attributes. (By the way, those who paid $50 for this machine must be quite annoyed at the feel of the materials) Nonetheless, the machine is pleasantly light, and easy to move about, when filling it and setting the auto-timer. If you care more for looks than taste, go elsewhere.
- The plastic smell
It's nose-smackingly present the moment you open the reservoir or get near the carafe. I got rid of 80% of it within about an hour's time, total. Here's what I did:
- Ran a standard-issue coffee-machine cleaner through it (beware, this produced a strong, though brief dose of literally throat-burning gas when I added water to the powder in the carafe and it reacted with something on the glass... stand back from it and aerate your kitchen if you can when you brew that first batch. If you have a pet bird, now is not the time to have him/her near the kitchen... just stand back and it dissipates in moments.)
- Ran 2 cycles clean water. Odor slightly weaker but very present.
- Thanks to the wisdom of the internet (recipe for removing odors from plastics): Mixed 2c water, 4 tbsp baking soda, and the juice of one lemon (okay a bunch of long squirts from the plastic "lemon".) Ran that brew through the machine, which really took out the a majority of the odor,then ran the recycled brew through.
- Again, 2 cycles clean water. Noticed baking soda residue in the reservoir that was dissolving in the water and then recalcifying during the brew cycle.
- Mixed a bunch of lemon juice into a carafe of water. Ran it through. Baking soda deposits gone. 2 more cycles clean water- success! Odor seemed gone, and no more deposits.
Upon first coffee brewing,I did detect a plastic odor mixing with my coffee smell. Taste was unaffected. By second coffee cycle I could not smell plastic any more.
- The coffee
You've seen the other glowing reviews on here for temperature. I don't have a thermometer, so I have to trust that the brew temp is right. My first extraction was with some old-ish whole beans (A Celebes Kalossi batch). I did them up in my whirligig and brewed. The coffee was hugely bitter, and I blamed it on the grind and quantity it was my first time grinding for drip, and maybe I ground too finely. Also, for the 1st time, I tried the Mark Prince recommendation of 2 tbsp coffee per 4 oz water. I usually do two-per-six oz. Anyways, yuck.
The second time I used a preground Ghirardelli flavored blend that was vac-packed and sold for a buck at Target. In my old Krups, this used to produce a very underextracted brew and I rarely, if ever could taste any of the "flavor". In the Presto...
Despite opening a brand new vac-pac with consistent grind, and going back to my two-per-six, I got a brew that was both bitter and sour. The "chocolate hazelnut" was a dirty lie, or else some variable murdered it. I drowned the blend in steamed milk, threw in some sugar and after that neutering, it was... well it was palatable caffeine, and that's all.
So, I'm heading down to my local roastery, and I will try again with some fresh beans. I'll get a small amound preground and use them immediately so that I have a reliable sample of grind consistency and freshness, even though not newly ground.
I will report back. I'm thinking that it was the crappy coffee and grind issues that caused my problems, rather than the Presto. TO BE CONTINUED....
--UPDATE 2/8/07--The Presto will bring out the flavor of your beans, good or bad. I have purchased a Capresso Infinity burr grinder, but I'm still trying to dial in a setting on my grinder/gold filter combo that maximizes taste and minimizes slurry. Still. the Presto produces a very good cup that beats the pants off my old Krups drip. --
- Ease of operation
Brewing is like falling off a log. I use a measuring cup to be precise about water proportion, so I don't really worry about the accuracy of the water-level indicator (a red ball-float) but it seems ok.
Forget about a permanent filter if you brew 10 cups at a time. If you do less, you might be able to fit a cone-shaped #2 permanent in there, but at least in my area that means an internet order, because it's not a common product.
-- UPDATE 2/8/07-- I got a full-size gold cone-shaped filter that fits the Presto! It's made by Braun, and you can get it through Bed Bath & Beyond for $9.99.--
Careful with pause-and-serve. As the instruction manual warns, the machine keeps brewing during the pause. After about a minute, the brew basket, by intentional design, will overflow. So get your carafe back where it belongs, or you'll be mopping. I don't know if fancier coffeemakers have the same issue, but it does seem like you need that continuous brewing to ensure the coffee quality that Presto advertises, so just be careful.
Clock very simple to set.
Auto-timer not yet tested. No backlight, just a few buttons.
--UPDATE 2/8/07-- The auto timer feature is simple and intuitive. I set the clock and timer, and had fresh coffee at the specified time the next morning without reference to the manual. Now the bad news: when water sits in the Presto! overnight, it tastes like...
We currently do not use the overnight timer for this reason. Maybe by the time the three month update rolls around I will have tried a new strategy to banish the plastic odors forever, but for now, we are only brewing right when we want the coffee, and that avoids the problem.
I appreciate that the instruction manual is short, sweet, and to the point. Also included is an order form for a replacement carafe ($14.99 plus $4.99 ship) but this product is discontinued so I don't know how long that offer will remain valid.