The PR machinery is running full tilt! It’s single-cup coffee machines — or, pod machines — everywhere you look… Phillips’ Senseo, Melitta One, Black & Decker Home Cafe, and the Keurig Brewer, to name those most buzzed about at the moment.
The Senseo reigns at the top of the buzzheap by a large margin, and you can easily find reviews of all stripes, from the usual tech “news” flaks, to geeks with laser-guided temperature probes… even fellow coffee blogger Randy Glass gets in on the game with his own hands-on review.
Given the mass-marketed hype, and being a skeptic, I was fully prepared to dislike the Senseo. A lot.
Turns out, I don’t dislike it all that much. But keep reading.
The Senseo is a smartly-designed and smart-looking home coffee machine. It’s fabulously simple to use, and it appears to be built to stand up to frequent use [the same can not be said of some of its competitors].
I have lingering concerns about its brew temperature. While Randy notes a brew temp of a respectable 190 degrees F. the folks at GadgetMadness record brew temps of a mere 138 to 140 degrees F. which is nowhere near acceptable. I have no particular reason to doubt either report, so I’m left to wonder if there might be a really high temperature variance from machine to machine… that would be a serious problem.
Temperature issues aside, it’s not the machine I have a problem with at all. It’s the quality of the coffee — and the source of that coffee — that leaves a bitter taste.
Currently, the only coffee pods for the Senseo available in the U.S. are those made by Douwe Egberts [whom you may know better as Sarah Lee] which developed the machine with Phillips. Sarah Lee is one of the Big Four, and together with Kraft, Nestle and Proctor & Gamble, they buy and sell half the coffee in the world.
These organizations are not known for the caliber of their coffee, but instead for their volume, and, more unfortunately, for their collective efforts to reap the benefits of historically low coffee prices, further contributing to the continuing coffee crisis.
So far as I can tell, there are no Fair Trade coffee pods for the Senseo. No organics. No shade-grown coffees, either. If you’re considering the Senseo, and you also want to consider sustainability, you’re in a bit of a bind. You might try to make your own coffee pods, or buy a reusable coffee pod adapter.
If these devices take hold, there will certainly be a number of independent roasters who will produce pods for them… and it’s just as certain that some of those roasters will offer coffee that’s more palatable all ’round.
Meanwhile, if you want to brew a single cup at a time, try some fresh beans, a grinder, and a Melitta filter cone.
Author’s Update: You may also be interested in reading The Senseo Crema Mystery which explores some of the more finicky issues of pod coffee makers… and the Senseo in particular.