Published on February 26th, 2013 | by Greg1
Capresso’s Coffee a la Carte: Cup Or Carafe
There are as many ways to make coffee these days as there are days in the month. We’ve tried many or most of them- from the classic French press to the modern Aeropress, from Turkish-style to Chemex. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, but from our perspective, there are a few critical questions that must be asked about any coffee maker. Is it fast and easy to clean? Does it product great, consistent results? And is it easy to use?
Single-cup coffee is perhaps the most recent innovation to have come into wide acceptance (we wish that we all had Clover machines). But, as much as we like various single-cup options like those from Keurig, they typically have a couple of downsides. Foremost amongst them: they can’t serve groups very well. If you want more than a cup of coffee, you need to wait and repeat the entire process. This allows for a lot of individual preference, but sometimes you really just need a pot of coffee. And while we have a basic drip filter coffee maker, they have the reverse problem, where rarely do we need an entire pot.
The Capresso Coffee a La Carte steps in to the arena, offering to resolve the issue once and for all. Capable of brewing a full pot at a time (42 ounces), you can also add the interchangeable stand, and make a single cup instead. No pods are supported, but that means you can use any coffee you like, and we tried beans from a few local roasters including Roasting Plant. The filter is reusable, which means no extra trips to the store to buy filters. The unique filter system takes some getting used to, but makes sense. And the buttons are simple- choose from small, large, or carafe, or even tea.
That last option surprised us, and it’s something we suggest treating as a bonus. There was clearly some thought put into how to support tea, like the included separate tea filter, but it’s not quite a good fit. Loose leaf teas require one thing that coffee really does not- steeping time- and the heated water simply doesn’t sit in the leaves long enough to absorb the flavor. Also, water temperature needs to be adjustable- delicate white and green teas require much cooler temperatures than black tea, a difference of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit! Lacking any of these custom options, we weren’t thrilled with the tea results- black teas were passable, others too weak.
The coffee results, though, were excellent. We followed their directions, using a medium grind, and four tablespoons of coffee for a strong, larger cup and around 10 tablespoons for a carafe (though we definitely recommend using a kitchen scale for consistent results). Each time, we turned the machine on from a powered-off state and were happy to see the fast start-up time, with a “first cup” ready in a bit over a minute. Water was impressively hot, better than most other systems that cool the water down during brewing to under 185 or so, leading to less satisfactory results. The design and appearance of the machine are also top-notch- it looks vaguely similar to single-cup solutions and is much nicer looking than most drip brewing machines. Granted, there is a bit more to keep track of and clean (the extra tea filter, as well as the stacking drip tray)- but thankfully everything is dishwasher safe, including the glass carafe. One note: if you regularly want more than a cup, but less than a full carafe, then this model might not be the best choice- the cup sizes are somewhat programmable, but there is no way to brew, say, half a pot.
For those who really only need a single cup, this is overkill, and a little complicated. But if typically brew by the pot and still want to have the ability to brew a solo mug, this one is the perfect compromise. It doesn’t take up much counter space, and is fairly quiet. Espresso and cappucino fans should look into the Jura ENA Micro 9 One Touch, which is the smallest fully automatic machine around. Otherwise, the Capresso Coffee a la Carte will set you back about $180, a good value for a sleek and flexible coffee and tea maker.