October 18, 2005

Kitchen Appliance Review Time

Because the carafe on our old coffeemaker decided to break, last week the husband and I were forced to go out and buy a new coffeemaker. After much research, a bit of making fun of Marshall Field employees and dodging Mr. Coffee counterfeits at JC Penneys, we purchased this model from Le Boutique de Target for $49.50.


That is one sexy coffeemaker, no?

If you want to read what will undoubtedly be a longwinded review from someone who used to be in the coffee industry, take the jump. If you're not interested, well, gaze in wonder at the joy that is my kitchen counter.

This is the Mr. Coffee FTX29 Coffeemaker, and this bad boy has some neat features, such as:

  • A timer feature that lets you know exactly how long the coffee has been sitting there.
  • You can adjust the temperature on the warming plate
  • you can select the strength of your coffee
  • An audible ready signal---meaning it beeps loudly when the pot is ready to go

Some useful stuff there, no?

These, however, are the features that I couldn't care less about:

  • Dual water windows: do you really need to be able to see how much water is in the resevoir from both sides of the pot?
  • Water filtration system: use bottled water or get a PUR or Brita pitcher and you'll get the same effect for a lot less money.
  • You can pull the pot out and take a cup without it spewing coffee all over the warming plate before the pot is actually done brewing: yeah, go ahead and do this if you want one really strong cup of coffee and the rest of the pot to be weak.
  • Non-stick warming plate: woooh. Color me impressed with their thougthfulness.

I don't mean to be overly snarky about the features I couldn't care less about...well, who am I kidding? Of course I mean to be snarky. I can't really help myself. They advertise that "dual water windows" are a "feature" on this model. This is a selling point? What the fuck? It comes to the point where, in the middle of Le Boutique de Target, whilst you're searching in vain for the blessed UL label---which will, honestly, tell you pretty much all you need to know when it comes to purchasing a coffeemaker---you want to scream: I am Mario Goddamn Andretti! Are you going to show Mario Andretti the nifty, but completely irrelevant, cup holders on his Indy Car? Or are you going to show the man the engine? Because I guaran-frickin'-tee you that's what Mario wants to see!

You see, coffeemaker makers don't market their product toward me---the person who knows what the hell they're doing when they walk into that section of the department store. They market them toward you: the hypothetical urban hipster who has no idea what they want or need and who is more than willing to shell out $250 for a machine that looks like something their uber-cool gay neighbors would have on their kitchen counter. This hypothetical urban hipster feels it necessary to keep up with the Smith-Joneses, even though they'll never realize the sad truth of the situation: no straight person---male or female---can keep up with gay men in the kitchen appliance department. It just doesn't work that way and anyone who keeps on trying is doomed to failure.

But I digress...

This hypothetical urban hipster probably doesn't even know that you can use white vinegar to clean out your coffee pot every other month. Or that you should clean out your coffee pot bi-monthly.

Oops. I digressed again.

Anyway, this hypothetical urban hipster (hereafter referred to as "HUH" because that's just plain tiresome to keep typing out) is dazzled by shiny new toys. They have more money than sense and they are just begging to be suckered in by dual water windows when it comes to buying a coffeemaker. The HUH is not Mario Andretti. The HUH wants to see the cup holders in the Indy Car; they do not want to see the engine.

Do you want to know what you really need to know when looking for a coffeemaker? You do? Ok, here it is.


You don't want any coffeemaker that's rated at more than 900 watts. Why? you ask. Well, it's because of the way you would prefer your coffeemaker work. You do want good coffee, don't you? Because if you're just buying a three hundred dollar coffeemaker to sit on the kitchen counter in your overpriced house on which you took out a mortgage where just gazing at the interest paperwork would kill a horse, you, my dear sir or madam, are an idiot and you deserve what you get. If, however, you are a coffee conoisseur, and you would like the good stuff, but also like a bargain as well, simply knowing the wattage will allow you to separate the wheat from the chaff, and here's why: you do not want the electrical guts to push your brewing process along too quickly, or to keep cycling the warming plate at a pace that would burn your coffee. 900 watts is the optimal. Anything above this and and your coffee will be in mortal danger of being poorly brewed or scalded.

Simple, no?

And it is simple, too. All you have to do is look for the UL label on the bottom of the demo coffee pot and see what it says. Some of the most expensive coffeemakers out there are listed at 1200W. They will brew through too quickly, and their warmers will cycle through to the point where they scald your coffee.
I hesitate to mention it, but coffeemakers with a wattage of 1200 generally also die a quicker death, too.

As long as your coffeemaker has 900W, you can pick and choose the features you would like from there on in. If you choose to go for the dual water windows, well, I suppose I can't stop you, but please do realize that that's not a reasonable feature for the manufacturer to be advertising.

What's the wattage on my Mr. Coffee? Why it's 900W, thanks for asking.

As far as the performance of my Mr. Coffee coffeemaker, well, other than the fact that I now have to buy special Mr. Coffee filters, it works pretty well. It makes coffee. What more do you want? But I suppose I should detail precisely what we like about it.

Okedokey then.

Since the husband always wakes before I do, and makes the coffee every morning, it's nice to know how much time is left before the warmer shuts off and I have to move the leftover coffee into the spare thermal carafe. The husband tells me he enjoys it when the coffeemaker beeps when it finishes brewing. This way he doesn't have to go back and forth between the kitchen and the office to keep checking. It's not like it's a long way between the kitchen and the office, but it's just far enough to make it an annoying journey when the coffee isn't done but you thought it was. The husband enjoys the color of the coffeemaker, and I will admit it's growing on me. I was originally not quite so keen to have a red coffeemaker, but I will admit, it jazzes things up a bit. I like the way it looks. But there is a potential problem that I'm afraid I did not consider when we purchased this model. Cookie Monster---yes, I have a Cookie Monster cookie jar---is a wee bit envious, it would appear. When he doesn't think anyone's looking, Cookie, his googly eyes taking on a laser-like intensity you honestly didn't think was possible, glares malevolently at the new coffeemaker. I've seen him do it, and it's just freakin' sad. It's obvious to all that he now has competition on the counter, and he's not happy about it. If there's a smackdown, I'll let you know about it.

Other than that, it's a decent coffeemaker. I would recommend buying one if you're in the market for an exceedingly sexy coffeemaker.

With dual water windows.

Posted by Kathy at October 18, 2005 12:30 PM | TrackBack

I have a followup question that should not be interpreted as a challenge to your mastery of the coffee. 900W is a measure of electricity, not heat. Is it possible that different heating elements may be more or less efficient at getting heat out of electricity, just as different light bulb technologies can vary so greatly in the output of light vs. heat or other energy, per watt? Or maybe they just all use the same heating element technology?

Posted by: Jack at October 18, 2005 05:00 PM

To heck with that last guys question. ets get the important on outta the way first. Is the coffee damn good or what? It may be a "sexy coffemaker" but if it don't put out properly what good is it except something nice to look at and make your friends jealous?

Posted by: The Wizard at October 18, 2005 05:31 PM

I'll tackle this one. A heating element is very simple technology. Basically it's metal with a current put through it. The resistance of the metal to the current creates heat. The only thing in a coffee maker that shuts off the heat are simple, solid-state temperature sensors.

The tube that heats the water in your coffee maker is passed around the same heating element that is in the base plate. Hence, extra wattage = faster brewing as the water is boiled more quickly and has less time to spend passing over the fresh ground coffee in the basket.

Extra wattage = faster cycles between when the warming plate heats and when the temperature sensors turn it off. When the heating element cycles faster due to the extra wattage, the temperature curve over time has a tendency to be larger. In other words, even though the the sensor shuts the heating element off, the temperature is still going up for a short time and the extra wattage makes that be more-so. Also, this makes for shorter cycles which equal a higher average temperature for the heating plate.

Ok, that was an overly windy explanation of that. I hope it made sense to someone.

Posted by: MRN aka "The Husband" at October 18, 2005 05:45 PM

I think I was mostly aware of that, but it's good to see it spelled out. But, with "Basically it's metal with a current put through it. The resistance of the metal to the current creates heat," my previous mystery lives on, therein. Is it the same metal / same resistance in all of them? What if they're not built the same size and shape? how much of the heat could escape from the sides of the coffee maker through points other than the hot plate (I imagine they all have that one taken care of, or it would be a fire hazard, but perhaps to varying degrees)?

I am starting to wish I hadn't asked though, and I am ready to accept that all hot plate mechanisms wattage:heat ratios are the same

Posted by: Jack at October 18, 2005 07:00 PM

Jack, you pose a good question and one to which I don't have the answer. I'm pretty sure most of them are made with aluminum and to some standards for fire prevention, as you mentioned. It is interesting to note that when we were shopping for the coffeemakers the other day, I noticed that regardless of the badge on the front of the machine, most of the electrical portions are made by Sunbeam.

There's some pictures of the aluminum connections on this page and a more detailed description of the heating element in a basic coffeemaker here.

Of course, I suppose we could carry the discussion here, but that might be going too far. ;)

Posted by: MRN aka "The Husband" at October 18, 2005 07:54 PM


Who says blogs ain't edjumakashunal?

Posted by: Margi at October 19, 2005 01:32 AM

it's very sleek; i like it.

Posted by: amelie at October 19, 2005 01:46 AM
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