***Several week follow up***
I took this machine's temp - literally. Stuck my digital probe thermometer into the water spurts and got a 185 F reading. Seems that the temp it should have is closer to 200 (or so the internet tells me, I wasn't able to find a definitive answer), so I would say the Fresh Brew is a little short in this regards. Other than that it is still performing great.
***This is a 1 week followup.***
Wanted to update this review for 2 things - first - coffee flavor produced by this machine and second - carafe temp.
I was hesitant after my day 1 review to comment on the flavor of the coffee this machine made. Was switching from another machine, etc. After using it ever day for a week (granted with only 1 type of coffee) I would say this machine makes good towards great coffee. Just can't say plain old great - which bugs me - but I have to be honest. Now over time, I'll try different blends and we'll see...
Second, the carafe performs quite well. After 3 hours (with the little "extra" lid on) the coffee was still hot enough to drink. One of my last todos is to take some temp measurements (drip nozzle temp, starting and ending carafe temp). Stay tuned!
***This is a "1 day of usage" review. I will post more as time passes.***
After I broke my second glass carafe on my Krups AromaControl, I was in the market for a new machine. I really really liked the AromaControl, it was 5-6 years old and the steeping mechanism truly made better drip coffee (tasted a little more like press than drip). Anyway, I wanted another one but they do not make them anymore, but there are some new and used ones on eBay. I got a used one that was damaged during shipping, but on arrival I didn't like the looks (it was a flat black and stainless steel thermal cafe model). The carafe wasn't designed very well either. Plus the damage during shipping didn't help, so I decided to give up looking for another AromaControl...end of an era and all.
Anyway enough of the backstory. This drip was one of the higher rated ones on this site so I read the reviews here and other sites (Newegg, Amazon, etc) and made my decision. I ordered it and got it 2 days later.
The outer shipping box didn't look well on arrival (UPS - we need to talk). But the second box inside was unharmed. The unit was packaged securely in 2 molded foam halves , plus wrapped in that foam paper stuff and plastic. It came out easily and gleaming. There was a small instruction book that I flipped through quickly and 2 other random pieces of paper I haven't looked at yet (registration, etc).
Setting the clock
I plugged it in and set the clock. Easy, just push the Min or Hr buttons. One thing to note is that as far as I can tell, the Min and Hr buttons are always active, so you in theory could accidentally bump them and change the time. I don't use the clock or timer (who would leave ground coffee unsealed over night???) so no big deal for me. I know some people really use this feature though, so it would be something to think about.
The control buttons are placed on the right hand side of the unit. You can't really see them (or use them) when you are looking at the machine straight on. I am used to controls that were angled towards the front so you could see/use the dials with out turning the machine to one side. I'll probably get used to this over time. I do like the push buttons over a dial that I had before.
1st cleaning cycle/brew basket
I ran a full tank of water through with a filter to clean the unit. I immediately noticed what people have said about the brew basket side (#4 cone doesn't quite fit). I see what they are saying, and here is my opinion. #4 paper (unbleached of course) will work, but to make them fit nice you need to kind of mold the filer to the basket. My old machine had a more narrow but taller basket which didn't require this. The Z has a little more broad basket that is just a bit shorter, hence the not quite perfect filter fit. The gold filter I have seemed to fit ok however. It takes 10 seconds to "mold" a paper filter in, if that, so I don't think this will bother me too much.
The Z was pretty quiet during the cleaning cycle and the first brew. While my old machine made a gurgling/whooshing sound, this makes a low, rumbling sound. Different but quieter. You also can't hear the coffee dripping into the carafe, which was interesting, since on the AromaControl that was kind of the signal that it was almost done (coffee that was steeping was released and poured quickly into the carafe).
I made my first coffee this morning and noticed the Auto Off feature. Didn't see that in the manual, but that's a feature I didn't have before. Sweet! The little handle on the filter basket makes it nice to remove the filter and grounds while everything is still hot. Again I like how it opens up on the top allowing access to all the internals, basket, tank, etc.
Water arm thingy...
There is this little arm that swings out over the filter basket where the water comes up and out from the tank. I don't have strong feelings either way with it. It seems to work, be easy to clean, etc. It doesn't get in the way too much - but I will report on more after some time using the machine.
I like the carafe (much better than the Krups). Good looks, sleek, simple design. Good weight. Nice pouring spout - even works without the lid on if you are in a hurry (though to be safe you are not supposed to do this, so don't!) The lid goes on easily, just don't tighten it too much. A) you don't need to and B) if you do it makes it a little bit harder to get off, since there is just a little edge to grip when unscrewing it. There is a little extra lid that goes on top of the main lid. You are supposed to put it on for maximum heat retention - I will have to experiment and see what the ramifications of not are (i.e. decrease in performance).
The filter basket housing is removable, which was a cool surprise. It probably wouldn't have to be, but anything to make cleaning easier is good. A few, big, simple parts with no small crevices make cleaning easy, and this machine is designed that way.
So. What else... Oh I almost forgot..what's the dang coffee taste like?
Well I've only made 1 batch so far, and I am coming from a different type of machine so please don't put a huge amount of weight on my opinion quite yet. My first batch was "ok" to "good". Not bad, not great. But here's a couple thoughts to pay close attention to. First, I know I have to get used to not having the AromaControl...I know I am very accustomed to how it made coffee. So that's one thing. Another more important thing is that I think I need to run about 25 - 50 more batches to get this thing seasoned and get rid of what I think is some plasticy taste that is coming through to coffee. (does plastic get "seasoned"? Not sure, but it's my theory).
For those interested in the process:
I ground the coffee this morning (Starbucks...ummm I forgot honestly...I think it was Komodo Dragon Blend) (6 heaping tablespoons of beans), used a nonbleached paper filter (I'm not using my gold one until I get a burr grinder and can avoid the sludge that the blade grinder creates) and brewed about 4 cups/25 ozs. The strength was close, but the taste was a little less deep than I'm used to), and there was a hint of...well I'm not sure how to describe it. Just something a bit off, that made it an ok cup of coffee not a great one.
I plan to keep using this machine and will post updates on the coffee and machine quality. I will experiment on a couple things, taste after several batches, water temp from the nozzle, carafe temps over time, etc. I hope someone finds this review helpful. I wanted to "give back" to the site where I have learned a lot about something I really enjoy.