Pros: Very convenient; quick and easy to operate and clean
Cons: A tad expensive; the Douwe Egberts coffee is exceptionally bitter, acidic, and caffeinated; the water reservoir is a little clumsy to fill; slightly messy
Rating: 3 out of 5
Review item courtesy of Philips Senseo.
Also published on Epinions.com
The Senseo isn’t for people who want to drink their coffee in bulk. It’s meant for folks who want that experience of a single cup of hot, frothy coffee–like they might get in a cafe–but in their own home and without the hassle of a big espresso machine or other appliance. It’s designed to produce a single 4 oz cup of coffee, two 4 oz cups of coffee, or one 8 oz mug at the touch of a button.
How it works
It’s easy to take the removable parts off, and they can all be washed in the dishwasher (yay!). Obviously you’ll want to do this once before running your Senseo. Next you follow the directions for flushing the appliance with water, which also serves to fill the reservoir inside. This, too, is simple and quick.
In order to use the Senseo you need your coffee to be in little “pods”–not loose. The major source of these is the Douwe Egberts brand; I tried their medium roast coffee. You can also buy refillable, dishwasher-safe pods such as the EcoPod, which allow you to use your own coffee with the Senseo. (I’ll come back to that in a moment.) You assemble the Senseo and, based on how much coffee you want to make, place either the two-pod or one-pod holder into it. Then you place the pod(s) inside and gently tamp down. You close it until it clicks, make sure there’s enough water in the reservoir, press power on, wait for the light to stop blinking (indicating that the water is hot enough), and press the button for one or two cups.
The Senseo gets a tad noisy at this point (but not too bad), and produces a very frothy and quick cup of coffee (30 seconds for 4 oz, 60 seconds for 8 oz). There’s a drip plate under the cup to catch any mishaps, with a further cup under that. If you remove the used pods and rinse the spout and pod holder right away, there’s very little other cleaning that you need to do (other than once a week or so).
How the coffee came out
Normally I drink cold-brewed Toddy coffee, and even though I’m sensitive to bitterness and acid levels in coffee, I can drink that with just dairy, no sugar. I immediately needed quite a bit of sugar for this coffee–and then I had to start drinking half my usual amount of coffee. It was so bitter I almost couldn’t drink it. It was so acidic it made my stomach hurt. And it was so caffeinated I got the shakes that first time.
The problem was, I had no idea if this was a result of the process (the Toddy’s cold-brew method does result in a less bitter, less acidic, less caffeinated coffee than normal) or the coffee brand. So, I ordered the EcoPad refillable pods (2 to a pack, very inexpensive) and tried it with the same coffee I use with the Toddy. It tasted slightly weak, oddly, and you can only make a single 4 oz cup at a time when using the EcoPad because of the way it fits in the holder. However, it was enough for me to realize that the main problem was the Douwe Egberts coffee. If you really love the harsh Starbucks types of coffees, which I pretty much can’t stand, you’ll probably enjoy it. But if you have acid stomach problems or just don’t like bitter coffee, I do not recommend using DE coffee pods with your Senseo.
The EcoPad pods
The snap-close lids of the EcoPads come completely off, so it is possible to lose them if you aren’t careful. Try to keep them someplace safe. The EcoPads are dishwasher-safe. You shouldn’t use them when they’re wet, so you can’t make more than two cups of coffee in an afternoon or so unless you buy multiple packs.
Supposedly they retain the froth, if you care about that, but I found they didn’t really (the froth dissipated almost immediately, which it didn’t with the normal pods). I also found the coffee tasted slightly weaker than I’m used to. They do recommend using the pods with a fine or espresso roast, however, so doing that would probably correct that problem (and possibly the froth issue–I’m not sure).
Senseo vs. Toddy
Overall I still prefer my Toddy, but I do enjoy the Senseo. In particular, since brewing a new carafe of Toddy concentrate takes 12 hours, I expect I’ll keep using the Senseo at those times when I need to brew a new batch of Toddy but don’t have the energy or time to get to it just yet. Also, the one potential drawback with the Toddy is that if you don’t have the patience to layer the coffee and water slowly and gently, the filter can get clogged; the Senseo is much more resistant to being botched up when you’re in a rush or feeling lazy. The Senseo does take up more counter space than I expected, although no more than your average coffee maker, I think; I prefer the Toddy’s ability to simply take up a carafe in the fridge, but if you lack fridge space then you might prefer the other way around.
Senseo vs. Drip Coffee Makers
If you live on coffee by the potful, or have a bunch of coffee drinkers in your house who all want their coffee at once, a normal drip coffee machine is probably better. You can only make a maximum of two cups at a time with the Senseo, and that’s if you’re having the 4 oz cups and are using pre-made pods rather than refillable (the pre-made pods could get a tad expensive in bulk).
If, however, you only want a cup at a time, or everyone in your house likes to have their coffee at different times, then the Senseo could be a great solution. No more making a pot and having it burn while waiting for the rest of the house to get up. No more having to wash out a pot, a big filter basket, and so on just for a single cup of coffee. All you have to do is rinse out a couple of easy things and you’re done. I do find the water reservoir slightly more awkward to fill than normal, although for 4 oz cups you can fill it with enough water for several cups at once, and there is an expanded reservoir available. There tends to be a little spattering or dripping around the place where the coffee pod fits in, but this is very easy to wipe up. Unless you wait a few minutes after making your coffee to toss the used pod, however, it can drip—so I recommend giving it a couple of minutes first.
The Senseo is also a great solution if your family members all enjoy different varieties of coffee–it’s like teabags in that it’s easy to make each cup a different flavor.
A few extra features
The Senseo does have handy little features. It’ll auto-shutoff after one hour if you forget. The little power/ready light blinks very quickly when the water reservoir gets low, so you won’t forget to refill it. It can be cleaned and descaled very similarly to normal drip coffee makers. And I still love how easy it is to toss the parts and pieces in the dishwasher and be done with them.
Note added 3/30/2007: Since discovering the Senseo flavored coffee pods, I admit I’ve switched entirely to Senseo. They don’t have the chemical taste I associate with some overly-flavored coffees, and they don’t have the bitterness and acidity of the medium roast. So if you find the basic medium roast pods to be not quite right for you, then try some of the other options out there!