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Bells and whistles, but a very uneven toasting pattern
on 20 September 2012
Of all the things to buy for the home, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the toaster was one of the easiest to decide on. But when you see just how poorly many premium-brand toasters perform and how low many are rated by consumers, all delusions of a quick and easy purchase go out of the window. And so it was with me; I needed a new toaster that did more than just toast bread, but the ones I looked at either looked naff or received bad reviews. I did eventually settle on the Bosch, partly because of the brand name, partly because of the reviews, and partly because it just looks so darned cool.
As soon as you take it out of the box you can see that the Bosch is a quality piece of kit; regardless of how well is toasts, at the very least it will look superb sitting on your kitchen worktop. It's decked out in a cool-to-the-touch shiny plastic / brushed stainless steel casing that looks fantastic but that does attract fingerprints, so if you're pedantic about such things then you may be cleaning it as much as you're actually using it to toast. A removable crumb tray slides out from the bottom of one end of the machine, so at least you can keep the inside clean even if you can't do the same for the outside. Cable clips integrated into the base hold the just-about-long-enough power lead in place when the machine isn't in use. A manual lever on one end pops the integrated bun warmer - a fancy term for two curved metal loops - out of the centre for (you guessed it) warming buns, rolls, croissants, and pretty much anything else that will sit there.
With the exception of the toast raising/lowering lever, the Bosch's other controls are all located on the top of the machine. There are actually four individual controls - a push-button to turn the machine on and off, one to select the defrost function, one to cancel the current setting mid-toast, and a rocker switch to scroll up and down through the various heat settings. The controls are positive yet not hard to press and solid; all in all, typical Bosch. As you move the heat settings rocker switch, numbers from 1 to 5 above it light up, showing you which setting is currently selected. Even better, the numbers flash in sequence during toasting as a form of timer countdown.
But Bosch appliances aren't just about solid looks and controls; they're also about gadgetry, and the Bosch has quite a bit built-in. The ordinary heating element you'd find in other toasters has been replaced with what looks like a ceramic element like you get in some electric fires. According to the manufacturer, these elements and mirror reflective panels on the interior distribute the heat much better for more even toasting. However, as I'll detail later in my review, the benefits of this system might be lost on me somewhat.
As well as the variable browning control (which, I admit, all toasters have), the Bosch has a very handy setting for re-heating cooled toast. All this really does is to apply a gentle heat to warm toast, rather than to grill it, but it's one of the features I use quite a lot and it works pretty well; if nothing else, it does at least take some of the guesswork out of reheating cold toast which you would have to use a low setting on other toasters to do.
Given that the Bosch has all this tech built into it, I was very disappointed to find that it produces one of the most uneven toasting patterns I've ever seen - on some slices of bread one side is well done while the other is almost untouched, while on others one end is burned yet the other is just right. The ceramic elements, for all their modernity, leave a striped pattern across the bread that seems indicative of the mirror plating not distributing the heat evenly enough. Thick brown bread seems to fare better than thick white, but it still isn't as good as I was expecting from such a modern toaster or, indeed, from Bosch. I tried various different types of bread of differing thicknesses but the results I got only went between bad and mediocre, the only saving grace being that brown bread (due to its colour) shows the unevenness of the toasting less.
Before buying one I saw the Bosch's product video on YouTube and this worried me slightly as the toast looked quite under-done at the top and sides, and my own findings appear to have mirrored this quite well. Yes, it is one of the most tech-filled toasters out there and yes, it is made by one of my favourite manufacturing companies, but I really couldn't recommend it if you favour good toast over bells and whistles.