Capresso MT600 review: Get your morning coffee fast, at a resonable price, and with style
Editors' note, August 20, 2014: We conducted additional and more accurate brewing temperature results. This review has been updated accordingly.
For most people, a cheap $20 Mr. Coffee or any one of its countless clones is all they require to tackle their day-to-day coffee needs. If you'd like to take a step up from those machines, however, the benefits are huge. First, you don't have to endure fresh-brewed java that tastes bitter, harsh, and grows even more noxious the longer it sits on its electric warming plate. Second you'll be enjoying your first cup in no time, typically less than eight minutes.
Best of all, thanks to a thermal coffee pot, if you don't polish off the whole pot right away, it will still stay piping hot hours after it was brewed. For $130, the MT600 from Capresso offers all these abilities plus is wrapped up into a snazzy brushed-metal-and-black-plastic frame. Sure, the MT600 won't deliver a truly sublime cup of drip-brewed coffee. For that there's no getting around splurging at least $200 and up for a more capable machine.
Standing 14 inches tall and a stocky 9 inches wide, the 8-pound Capresso MT600 is certainly large enough to make an impression. The coffee maker also uses an attractive two-tone black-and-silver color scheme that's both handsome and sure to blend tastefully into modern kitchen decors.
I also like how the MT600 departs from the typical square-block shape of most coffee makers. Instead, the machine's main water tank is thin, rounded, and almost wing-like. Furthermore, this tower unit is clad in premium-looking brushed metal, which greatly helps to spruce up an otherwise drab, black plastic exterior.
In front of the water tank sits a large cone that holds either the machine's permanent gold filter or reusable Type 4 paper filters. Below that is a sturdy stainless steel thermal carafe to accept and decant your brew. On the left side of the metal coffee pot, you'll find a small keypad complete with tiny LCD screen and minuscule membrane-style buttons. The display also includes a digital clock for checking the time and programming automatic brewing cycles.
Usability and features
Aside from the flexibility of using either the supplied gold filter or store-bought paper ones, the Capresso MT600 sports other thoughtful extras. For instance, the right side of the water tower not only features a graduated water indicator which is a staple for these type of products, but its tank fluid gauge boasts a floating red bead that makes it a cinch to see exactly where the water line is in relation to its 10 cup capacity. Frankly, it's a trick I wish other coffee makers employed.
Flipping open the tank lid reveals a plastic wand that houses a charcoal water filter pod (one is provided in the box). The filter setup sits within a special receptacle on the tank's interior left side. According to Capresso, the gadget will remove up to 82 percent of "the chlorine and other impurities found in tap water, and will do so for about six weeks, assuming you make one pot (10 cups) daily. It's a nice option to have, especially if you live in an area with substandard water, although remembering to swap in a new filter can be a drag.
To that end, the MT600 will attempt to keep track of when you last dropped in a fresh charcoal pack. Just press the "filter" button on the control panel, and after six weeks an associated green light will begin blinking. If you unplug the machine, however, all bets are off, as the clock and internal filter replacement timer lose track when power is lost.
Another slick feature, one I especially appreciate, is that you don't have to wait for the MT600 to finish its brewing cycle to enjoy a fresh cup of joe. Indeed the machine is designed to detect when you remove thermal carafe from its base and will pause the drip for 20 seconds. Plus while the stainless steel coffee pot is very stable when resting on its circular and indented pad, I found it a breeze to remove and return it. Just don't forget to swivel the lid between brew and pour positions (and back again) to continue brewing or keep your coffee warm.
Operating the MT600's control panel isn't as easy, since its membrane-style keys are tiny and don't provide much tactile feedback. They have a decidedly old-school feel, akin to a Speak & Spell or perhaps a 1980s VCR.
According to Capresso, the MT600 is built to achieve one primary task: to brew a "full-flavored" pot of coffee in less than 8 minutes. I'm happy to say it reliably lived up to its stated mission goal every time I asked it to do so. It typically took the MT600 about 7 minutes and 45 seconds to create a 10-cup pot of hot coffee. I can also vouch that the thermal carafe kept its contents hot for almost 5 hours, specifically 4 hours, and 56 minutes. After which the coffee inside dropped below 150 degrees Fahrenheit, what we consider the minimum temp for hot java.
Additionally, while I wouldn't say the MT600 produced the most delicious mug of java I've made at home, the coffee it made was definitely drinkable and not noticeably bitter or harsh. That said, neither was it as rich, silky smooth, or complex as other pots I've brewed at home -- from the same Costco medium roast beans, I might add. And yes, I did grind them myself using a fancy burr grinder set to medium coarseness.
To understand why the MT600 made acceptable, but not stellar, drip coffee, I hooked the machine up to a fancy thermal analyzer while it was brewing. As I expected, while the MT600 could whip up a pot in under 8 minutes, its water temperature was anything but consistent. Instead of beginning its brew at the recommended 200 degrees (Fahrenheit) right off the bat, the MT600 took its sweet time to ramp up properly. Indeed I observed that its brewing cycle typically started out at 176 degrees (when water initially hit the grounds) then slowly increased until the temperature inside the filter reached 200 degrees (or higher) at the tail end of its coffee creating process.
Professional coffee researchers such as the Specialty Coffee Association of America will tell you that, besides taking no longer than 8 minutes to brew, the optimal water temperature is 200 degrees (plus or minus 2 degrees). What this statement doesn't mention is the extreme importance of temperature consistency. Sadly the MT600 lacks this level of brewing finesse, essentially to keep water hitting coffee grounds at 200 degrees consistently throughout its entire brew cycle.
Another annoyance is the sheer volume (noise, not fluid) that this coffee machine makes while in operation. This is especially true toward the end of its 7.5 minute brew cycle, when the device wheezes and gurgles like (as one CNET appliance lab tech put it) Darth Vader blowing bubbles through chocolate milk. Also odd is how the water tower's lid often belches excessive clouds of steam and pops up slightly during the last gasp of the brewing cycle.
If my budget for a new automatic drip coffee maker was $150 or less, then I'd have no qualms at all recommending the Capresso MT600. Priced at $129.99, the appliance has what it takes to reliably brew a drinkable pot of coffee in short order. It'll also keep that coffee hot for hours, thanks to its fancy stainless steel carafe. I will concede, though, that its innards lack what it takes -- namely consistent heat -- to create a truly delicious cup of joe.
Folks who seek a kitchen gadget capable of delivering the pinnacle of drip need to spend $200, or even $300 on a gizmo that's more powerful. For example, Technivorm Moccamaster products are well-known in coffee-enthusiast circles for their uncanny skill at making truly delectable coffee. The trouble is, they cost $300, which is a bitter swill to swallow if money is tight. Of course another option is the Bonavita BV 1800TH, which, for a more reasonable $180, promises SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America)-approved performance for less.