GE CFE28USHSS review: GE's Cafe Series fridge dishes out K-Cup coffee on demand
GE's Cafe Series fridge brews K-Cup coffee right in the water dispenser.
GE's Cafe Series French-door refrigerators have always been capable of dispensing hot water for your coffee, tea or soup, but recent models, including the $3,300 CFE28USHSS, take things a step further by featuring a built-in Keurig coffeemaker that'll go ahead and brew you a cup.
It makes plenty of sense when you think about it. The fridge has its own dedicated source of filtered water, so you won't need to worry about keeping a reservoir filled up. It's a smart fridge, too -- pull up GE's app on your phone and you'll be able to heat the water remotely, or schedule it to heat up at a specific time. And hey, having a coffeemaker built into your refrigerator door helps you save counter space.
It also helps that the Cafe Series refrigerator is a very decent fridge in its own right, with solid cooling performance and plenty of space for your groceries. It's not as flashy as other smart fridges we've seen, like the Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator, which costs as much as $6,000, but at roughly half the price, I'd say there's a lot to like here.
Design and features
The team at GE didn't update the look of the Cafe Series this year like they did with the Profile Series models. As such, the CFE28USHSS is basically the same build as existing Cafe Series fridges, with the same 27.8 cubic-foot capacity (or 22.2 cubic feet if you're going with a counter-depth model). That also means that it isn't available in a slate finish like the new Profile Series fridges are -- with the Cafe Series, it's stainless steel or nothing.
What's new with the CFE28USHSS is that Keurig attachment. Its only real purpose is to hold your K-Cup in place as hot water passes through, so it's a lot smaller than you might expect. You'll pop a K-Cup in and slide it into position on the right side of the water dispenser, where GE plumbed a second line specifically for hot water.
Once you do, the LCD touchscreen will automatically jump to the hot-water menu, where you'll tell it how many ounces you want. The water will then take a few minutes to heat up (this is where preheating via the app really comes in handy). Once the water is ready, you'll turn a knob to start the flow of java into your waiting mug below. It's about as easy to use as any other single-serve coffeemaker, and the coffee tastes just as good (which really isn't saying a whole lot, given that this is single-serve coffee we're talking about).
Still, the point is that it's convenient. With this fridge in your kitchen, you can ditch your old single-serve coffeemaker to make room for some other kitchen gadget. And, unlike that countertop coffeemaker, the fridge has its own dedicated water connection, which means you'll never have to worry about filling up a reservoir. You can even use the app to create a schedule for the water heater, guaranteeing that the fridge will be ready to brew each morning when you wake up.
GE's high-end French door fridges
|Counter-depth model available
|Slate finish available
|Café Series CWE23SSHSS
|Profile Series PFE28KSKSS
|In-door, with hands-free Autofill
|Café Series CFE28TSHSS
|In-door, with hot water presets, LCD touchscreen, and Precise Fill
|Profile Series PFE28PSKSS
|In-door, with Keurig brewer
|Café Series CFE28USHSS
|In-door, with hot water presets, LCD touchscreen, Precise Fill, and Keurig brewer
In addition to the coffeemaker and the hot-water presets, you'll find a dedicated button for GE's Precise Fill feature. With Precise Fill, you get to use the touchscreen to tell the water dispenser exactly how much water you want it to dispense. You'll still need to hold the button down as it dispenses, though -- you can't just set your pot down, press a button, and come back to four cups of water for your macaroni supper.
For that reason, I think that I prefer the Autofill feature that comes with some of GE's Profile Series refrigerators. With Autofill, you can set your container down, tell the fridge to fill it up, then do something else in the kitchen while it works its magic. No such water wizardry with the Cafe Series.
As for the interior, it's essentially identical to what you'll get with other Cafe Series and Profile Series models in this price range. With 27.8 cubic feet of total storage space, it's exactly as big as the slate-finished Profile Series fridge that we reviewed earlier this month. As with that fridge, we were able to fit all of our test groceries and larger stress-test items inside, but the squeeze was tighter than average for a refrigerator in this price range.
The cool factor
The CFE28USHSS performed well in our cooling tests, coming in with acceptable temperatures in the body of the fridge at the default setting of 37 degrees. The only real hot spot aside from the butter bin, which is designed to be a hot spot, was the central shelf on the right door, just below the butter bin. It came in with an average temperature of exactly 40 degrees F, which means it only earned its orange tint in the heat map above by the slimmest of margins.
It's slightly better performance than we saw from last year's Samsung RF28HMEDBSR, which has the same $3,300 asking price, and significantly better performance than what we got out of the Electrolux EW28BS85KS, which retails for $3,350. However, it wasn't good enough to knock off our top-performing models, including the $3,600 LG LFXS32726S.
I also tested the fridge at its coldest setting of 34 degrees. Again, the temperatures were, on average, a degree or so higher than the target, but more or less consistent. During this second round of testing, I also made sure to brew a cup of coffee twice a day to see if the heat had any effect on performance. There were tell-tale spikes of 7 or 8 degrees in the door shelf just inside of the brewer each time I fired it up, but that's actually low enough to suggest some pretty impressive engineering, given that the water is getting heated to a near-boil.
I was also impressed with how accurate the water dispenser was. Precise Fill hit the bulls-eye in my tests, dishing out the correct amount of water each time I tried it out. As for the hot-water smarts, which let you dial in to a precise temperature using the app, things were always just as hot as I wanted. Precise Fill and the hot-beverage smarts are both marquee features for this fridge -- good on GE for getting them right.
At $3,300, this GE Cafe Series model isn't inexpensive, but it gets enough right to justify being priced on the high end. The cooling performance is sound, and the extra features built into the water dispenser are the sorts of practical "little things" that I could imagine using in my own kitchen day in and day out.
If the K-Cup brewer is all you care about, then consider GE's Profile Series variation of the Keurig-friendly fridge -- it costs $100 less, and comes with a more modern-looking design. If it's cooling power that matters most, then you'll want to take a cold, hard look at the LG LFXS32726S, a comparably priced French-door model that's one of our top performers. Still, the Cafe Series has a lot going for it, and likely belongs on your list if you're in the market for an upgrade.