For $69, the Melitta 10-Cup Thermal might seem like a coffee maker bargain, but its brew is far too bitter and weak.
The urge to score a deal is a strong one, especially when it comes to the world of pricey automatic coffee machines. Unfortunately, the $69 Melitta 10-Cup Thermal Coffeemaker proves once again that you get what you pay for. While this appliance is less expensive than premium drip brewers that cost $200 or even $300, the coffee it makes is thin and bitter.
If saving the most money possible is your ultimate goal, then you're better off buying a cheap $20 Mr. Coffee machine, or any one of its clones. That's why we can't recommend the Melitta 10-Cup Thermal Coffeemaker unless you're on a budget and you truly have your heart set on a machine with a fancy thermal carafe.
Measuring a rangy 14.5 inches tall and 10 inches wide, the Melitta 10-cup Thermal Coffeemaker isn't a small machine. It weighs a scant 6.5 pounds, making it easy to move around on your counter, but unfortunately Melitta achieved this lightness by using mostly plastic in the machine's construction.
While the appliance's front face consists of brushed stainless steel, specifically the funnel-shaped filter holder and the carafe base, the rest of it is glossy black polycarbonate. It feels cheap, and the way its lid flexes doesn't inspire much confidence about its durability.
Opening the lid reveals the water reservoir ,which at first looks like it could hold much more than the 10-cup capacity of its stainless steel thermal carafe. That's because the halfway mark on the water indicator (on the right side of the appliance) tops out at "10". Closer inspection, however, reveals a pair of overflow holes on the back side of the water tank that sit just above the 10-cup line. Regardless, it's best to use the supplied carafe to fill the reservoir, or at least never pour in more than the carafe can hold (10 coffee cups, 52 fluid ounces).
A smaller, circular lid caps the filter holder, which accepts Type 4 paper filters. You can also remove the filter holder and swap in a permanent gold filter. Below the filter well sits a tiny LCD screen, flanked by two large buttons, one to select "brew strength" and another for power. Underneath the display are minuscule keys to set the hour and minute values for the clock as well as to program automatic brewing times. Another build quality issue I noticed was that the clock keys felt loose and even jiggled within their settings if I tapped or flicked their edges. However, one component Melitta didn't cut corners on is the thermal carafe. Not only is it crafted from solid steel, its lid swivels tightly in place and even features a thumb tab for mess-free pours.
Underneath the Melitta's steel-and-plastic skin is merely a basic automatic drip brewer. It doesn't feature any fancy water delivery methods like specially-designed spouts or spigots.
Likewise, the 10-Cup Thermal Coffeemaker lacks both a charcoal filter to remove water impurities, and a permanent gold filter -- attributes the Capresso MT600 offers. Melitta didn't even bundle a coffee scoop with the machine, so you'll have to supply one yourself. Another usability annoyance is the previously mentioned water-level indicator, which features just three markings, for 6, 8, and 10 cups. Needless to say, it makes measuring a precise amount of water a bit tricky.
What the 10-Cup Thermal can tackle are day-to-day coffee making tasks and the occasional programmed brew timed to your morning alarm. It also has a steal-a-cup feature to let you pause the brewing cycle (for 20 seconds) so impatient drinkers can grab a quick cup, a trick the MT600 also pulls off.
Like Breville coffee machines, Melitta has a built-in function for setting your coffee brew strength. You activate this feature by tapping the "brew strength" button on the coffee maker's front face to toggle through Standard, Bold, and Robust brewing modes. Melitta also provides instructions in the manual for whipping up a pitcher of iced coffee, the first drip machine I've personally seen to claim this ability.
After brewing a few pots of coffee in the Melitta 10-cup Thermal Coffeemaker, it quickly became clear to me that this appliance simply doesn't live up to its premium product aspirations -- and that's putting it mildly. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (a group that takes quality brewing very seriously), there are three main factors to that determine coffee quality: brewing temperature, brewing time, and ratio of coffee grounds to the water that passes through them.
Melitta recommends to use one level tablespoon of ground coffee for each cup of water. Using medium coarseness, this translated to a total of about 1 ounce, which is far under the 3.75 ounces (20 tablespoons) most coffee aficionados say is ideal for creating a high-quality 10-cup batch.
That's why I wasn't surprised that the coffee from the Melitta was much lighter than I'd like and had a thin, watery mouthfeel. Worse, every pot I made with the machine had a very bitter aftertaste and left a stringent (almost tannic) dryness that lingered on my tongue. One possible reason for these results could be due to a lack of heat. Temperature readings I took within the filter well during the brew cycle typically hovered in the 180-degree (Fahrenheit) range, only reaching 195 to 198 degrees at the very end of the process.
Time also wasn't a friend to the 10-Cup Thermal. The machine usually took a long 8 minutes, 30 seconds (sometimes as much as a 9 minutes) to fill its carafe. This definitely exceeds the 8-minute maximum commonly thought of as the limit before coffee grounds begin to be over-extracted.
Using a refractometer, a tool that measures the percentage of total dissolved solids (TDS) in a liquid, I confirmed that the Melitta 10-Cup Thermal does indeed make a weak brew. I logged coffee the machine created (at the "standard" brew strength) to 0.94 TDS, on the thin side compared with an ideal value of 1.25 TDS.
There is one positive aspect to this coffee maker's performance. Its thermal carafe definitely kept the coffee hot (above 150 degrees) for over four hours. Don't expect the device to preserve a steaming cup for morning enjoyment, however, since its pot cooled to lukewarm overnight.
The Melitta 10-Cup Thermal Coffeemaker highlights just how difficult it is to buy a satisfying automatic-drip brewer for less than $150, let alone under $100. For an appliance designed to fulfill one primary purpose -- providing pleasing batches of coffee, 10 cups at a time -- this gadget falls short. The brew it creates is too bitter and too thin. You'll get the same caliber of beverage from a $20 Mr. Coffee machine.
Another option is to go with the $130 Capresso MT600 which is more expensive but at least has the power to whip up a higher quality, if not quite ambrosia-like, pot of coffee. For truly delicious java by the potfull, your best bet is still likely the $180 Bonavita BV 1800TH or one from the Technivorm Moccamaster line of devices -- both of which are specified to meet the SCAA's rigorous coffee-brewing guidelines.