By September 11, 2006

Melitta FastBrew coffee maker review

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/439-2/IMG_3780.JPG I’m going to state up front that the outcome of this review may not make sense. I mean, less than they normally do. I’m going to rave about a product that I’ve replaced four times already, and will be willing to replace again.

Dollar for dollar, the Melitta FastBrew is the best coffee maker on the market right now for drip coffee. The top feature of the FastBrew is the stainless steel heating element. Conventional coffee makers use brass or copper heating elements. The stainless steel element results in a higher brewing temperature: a finished pot is 200° Fahrenheit. According to the coffee preparation Wikipedia entry the ideal brewing temp is 199.4° F. The FastBrew has a cone filter, a Gibberish necessity. The machine can make twelve cups, but we always make ten. The FastBrew also features “pause and pour,” wherein the machine stops the flow of brewed coffee into the carafe if you remove the coffee pot during the brewing process. I don’t use that feature, but if you really love it, the FastBrew is there for ya. The Melitta is supposed to brew coffee in half the time as conventional machines (we’ll get to that in a moment). The best part: it retails for $30 from Target.com.

The Melitta FastBrew is about as bare-bones of a coffee machine as you can get. There is no clock, no brew timer, no thermal carafe, no special “pod” coffee pillows, no reusable brass filter, and no built-in coffee chopper. There is a big, single, rubberized button on the front of the machine. You push it once and the FastBrew turns on and makes your coffee. You push it again, and the FastBrew turns off. This is a big step up from the previous models of the FastBrew, which had a digital clock and brew timer. That shit always failed on me within the first six months of owning the machine. I never used the automatic brewing anyway, as I am loathe to let the coffee sit on the burner any longer than it has to.

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Keeping with the spartan theme of the machine itself, the FastBrew ships with just a few accessories: a manual and five cone filters. The filters are actually pretty nice. We buy #4 cones in bulk from Costco and the ones provided by Melitta are much thicker and seem to be a higher grade of paper. The carafe is well made; as you’ll see later, they are quite sturdy. I’ve never broken one, despite being pretty fucking clumsy.

I always thought the Melitta was quick to make ten cups of coffee. Melitta says 35 seconds per cup. I decided to put that claim to the test. I threw a ten cup pot with the Melitta and then a ten cup pot with my uberghetto Toastmaster backup machine. The results were surprising: 8:32 for the Melitta, 8:14 for the Toastmaster. I think I bought my Toastmaster for $9.99 at Wal*Mart or equivalent. Granted, the Melitta makes a hotter, and better tasting pot of coffee, but still, to get pwned by a Toastmaster? For shame. I’ll have to test some of my friends’ machines to see if the Toastmaster is also a speed demon, or if the FastBrew name is just marketing hype. At the very least, I know it wasn’t 35 seconds per cup, as claimed.

I mentioned I’ve gone through some Melittas before, and they all died in the same fashion: that fucking pause-and-pour function. I don’t use it, but the mechanism required to make it work on the FastBrew has lead to a very obvious design flaw. The carafe lid has a plastic nipple that makes contact with the spring-loaded bottom of the cone filter basket. As long as the carafe is perfectly set on the burner and the nipple is in line with the filter basket, all is good. However, placing the carafe even slightly askew on the burner keeps the filter from draining efficiently. The next thing you know, 200° coffee dregs are backing up over the top of the cone filter basket and into the water reservoir. The coffee grounds adhere to the stainless steel mechanism, and probably clog up the water pump. Next thing you know, you have another spare carafe and a junked Melitta.

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The Melitta FastBrew, surrounded by his haven of carafe mistresses.

Piping hot pleasure

  • Cheap. Like, a fifth as cheap as other machines with their built-in gizmos that won’t help them throw as good of coffee.
  • Simple. Push one button.
  • Stainless steel heating element brews coffee at its optimal temperature.
  • Sturdy carafe features an ergonomic handle that makes pouring easy and spill-free.
  • Allegedly makes coffee faster than other home units; hopefully we’ll have more information about this soon.

Bitter truths

  • Whomever designed the pause-and-pour system should be nutpunched by a midget on steroids. I’ve lost four machines already. If you buy the FastBrew, don’t let anyone else make a pot for you, just in case they don’t position the carafe correctly. I lost one at work this way due to a good Samaritan.
  • The FastBrew is tall. I didn’t want steam a few inches underneath my cabinets, so I have to put the FastBrew in the middle of the counter. Being lazy, I often forget to push it back when I’m done. If you are a counter neat-freak, this could be an issue.

In spite of the fatal filter flaw, I keep going back to the FastBrew. You can’t find a cheaper machine that makes such a hot pot of coffee. With the digital clock removed, there’s even less to go wrong. As long as we keep the carafe firmly set onto the burner, I expect the FastBrew to crank out pot after pot of 200° goodness. I have to give it four and a half out of five STFU mugs.

full STFU mug full STFU mug full STFU mug full STFU mug half-full STFU mug

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5 Comments on "Melitta FastBrew coffee maker review"

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  1. So having read your review, my solution seems obvious:

    If you don’t use the pause-and-pour, hack that sucker!

    30 seconds and a Dremel should have that spring-loaded nipple out of your life for good.

  2. Duke says:

    I think I found a contender for your champ and guess what, its made by the same company.
    Melitta Momentum 10-Cup High Speed Brewer and claims a 4 min brew for 10 cups. Check it out.

  3. drfaulken says:

    Is that the one on Woot.com today? If so, it has a lot of extra junk on it that I see as a weakness on the already touchy Melitta brand. I don’t want a clock, a timer, a GPS, or whatever on my coffee machine. Just a big ass ON/OFF button and an indicator light.

  4. vjharris says:

    You nailed the review of that coffee maker perfectly! I used to sell them at an outlet mall in Oregon, and owned one myself until I relocated to another state. Now I’m looking for another one because I miss the steaming hot coffee and I’m impatient. Who needs a clock on a coffee pot? I’m not too lazy to go to the kitchen and push a button for excellent coffee.

  5. dave says:

    as i understand all melita makers use aluminum.

    may i suggest that you take one apart when it fails and take photos ?