This morning, I had a note from a friend on Facebook, asking my opinion of a coffee maker he was thinking of buying. It was this one:
So as not to keep you in suspense, I’ll jump to the conclusion: save your money.
Now allow me to elaborate.
As you might imagine, in this business I get to evaluate a lot of coffee products. The usual case is that a manufacturer contacts me, and if it’s something I think is interesting, I’ll allow them to send me an evaluation unit. Sometimes they want it back. Often for items that are less than a hundred bucks, it’s not worth their time and money to have me return it. If I like the product, sometimes we’ll stock it. Sometimes we don’t, just because the economics don’t work, e.g., wrong price point for my customer base, minimum order too large, ties up too much working capital, etc. Sometimes I don’t like the product. Usually when that happens, I share feedback with the manufacturer/master distributor, but rarely do I make my opinions public. I figure, just because I don’t like the thing, doesn’t mean somebody else won’t. And it just takes too much energy to talk about things I don’t plan to sell.
Such was the case here. And I would have kept quiet in this case, too, but for the ad referenced above. There seems to be at least one blatant untruth in the buy.com ad linked above, and that irritates me. This is not a “German design”. It’s Chinese. At least that’s what they told me the first time. I hate it when people blatantly lie to sell things.
About two years ago, I received an email from a Chinese manufacturer, Hyco. They told me of a coffee maker THEY DESIGNED (So, Hyco, were you lying then? Or is buy.com lying now? I think the latter has the higher probability.). And wanted me to resell.
So let me give you the actual review. In all honesty, it wasn’t a terrible machine. Certainly not the best I’ve ever tested (that would be Technivorm). But definitely not the worst, either. It made a decent cup of coffee. Here were its fatal flaws:
1. The capacity was HALF of what they advertised, i.e., an “8-cup” coffee maker was, literally, 4 cups, that is, 32 fluid ounces. Now, Americans expect that, to some extent. But not to this extent. I know that Hyco was offering me an “8-cup” and a “12-cup”, and that seems to still be consistent with their web site. I can only imagine that what buy.com is offering as the “Kalorik 10-cup” is actually the Hyco “12-cup”. Confusing.
2. The built-in grinder clogs. I probably made 3 dozen pots of coffee with the thing. It clogged at least twice.
3. There is no bean hopper. Literally, you have to add beans EVERY TIME you want to make coffee.
4. The fill tank is in the rear. The natural inclination the way the machine is designed is to push it against a wall. That’s the way you will want to use it, trust me. And every time you make a pot of coffee, you will find yourself pulling it away from the wall. And not a short distance. You need like 12-18 inches of clear counterspace for this to work. It’s a PITA. Stupid design.
5. There are too many adjustments, they are rather “delicate”, and they completely lack a calibration reference point for users. To a coffee geek, lots of adjustability sounds like a good thing, for example, this machine allows you to adjust the dose of coffee. But when you don’t know what a setting actually means, it’s confusing. Staying with my example, it’s not like the charge is labeled in grams, or cups, or scoops, any other meaningful unit of measure. It’s just “adjustable”. And as a former manufacturing and reliability engineer, I can tell you these adjustment mechanisms are not designed to last a lifetime. Knowing it’s a Chinese design and manufactured machine, that’s not surprising. But if you believed it was German, you would be surprised. And disappointed.
6. The pricing was too high. The wholesale price they offered me was nearly double what buy.com is retailing it for in the ad linked above. I complained to the manufacturer that this was too much, and I doubted the cost was that high, having disassembled it myself and saw it really was a cheap POS inside. I didn’t push the point because the problems above were enough to disqualify it from our inventory. But it appears that they actually had a LOT more headroom than they claimed. Which makes them dishonest.
This is the part where I tell you what you already knew: you get what you pay for. I am not trying to categorically discredit Chinese products. We actually sell a product made in Taiwan that is a fine product. But this is one that fits the “cheap Chinese POS” stereotype. You may not need to spend as much as you would on a Technivorm and Virtuoso. If you are on a budget, I recommend a Bodum and a Maestro. And if you don’t buy them from us, at least get them from somebody else you trust. Which is no longer buy.com for me.
Oh, and to my friend A., who asked the original question: I gave the Hyco to Seth. Ping him to see if his opinions agree with mine.
Interesting follow-on comment:
I went to the Kalorik website, and this coffee maker is not in their line-up. Wonder why? About the only other place I could find it was on Amazon – looking like a blowout sale. So as kind of a PSS: they wanted me to buy what I thought would be a 2-year supply of these machines at nearly $200 each (wholesale!). If I had done so, I would now be competing with Amazon (more like getting my a$$ kicked by) @$79?? Looks like I did one of the things I do best: made the right decision for the wrong reason.