Top positive review
A damn fine cup of coffee!
18 December 2017
When deciding on a drip coffee machine I did a lot of reading of reviews, by professionals and customers. It had to be approved by the European Coffee Brewing Centre; coffee machines are expensive and I wasn't prepared to shell out money for a machine that had a lot of mixed reviews on a gamble that I might have one of the better experiences, so this really narrowed down my options. The Technivorm Moccamaster would have been my ideal choice but I couldn't bring myself to pay approx. £160 - £200 for a machine that makes coffee, no matter how good that coffee may be. When it comes to coffee machines Melitta has been in the business for sometime so I felt like they were a safe bet. So here's my experience with the Aroma Signature Deluxe model.
Appearance: It looks amazing. Ok, so the important thing is whether or not it makes good coffee, considering this is something that's going to be out on display all that time, we want it to look good too.
Build quality: The machine is made from a combination of brushed stainless steel and black plastic, with a clear plastic water compartment. The machine feels solid and even the plastic components feel sturdy and capable of withstanding a lot of use. At the time of purchasing I was new to the world of coffee machines so when I first felt how light the glass carafe was it took me a while to feel confident that it wasn't going to shatter each time I put it down. However, this is how most glass carafes feel and after a couple of months I was used to it.
The brew: The most important part. What can I say, it's a dream. As expected, it makes consistently beautiful coffee. Be sure to go by the golden rule for the ratio of coffee to water. In the case of this machine it equates to 3 tablespoons for half a pot or 6 tablespoons for a full pot. I usually only make half a pot seeing as it's just for myself, and don't forget to press the aroma switch. Now on the subject of this aroma switch let me explain what I understand. On a Technivorm Moccamaster there is (or at least was, last time I checked) a physical switch on the brew basket that you click to halfway position that physically altered the size of the hole through which the coffee dripped out. This meant that the water stayed in the brew basket for a bit longer and gave the resulting brew a richer flavor, and is often used when brewing small quantities. I have never used one myself, but this is what I have read. Melitta's answer to this is the aroma switch. Now the aroma switch doesn't physically change the size of the aperture on the brew basket so I was intrigued by how it purports to achieve the same intended effect. Melitta, when I contacted them, were unable to explain the precise step-by-step cause and effect science of it, but here is what I am led to understand: Activating the aroma switch slows down the speed at which the machine adds the water to the brew basket and the less water that's in there means the slower it filters through. If there was a larger volume of water in the brew basket then it would create a greater force and it would filter through faster. Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong, please feel free to offer your own thoughts. Anyway, perhaps I've digressed here, the outcome is simply that it appears to do what it's supposed to and the coffee tastes great. It doesn't take long for the coffee to brew and the aroma is delightful. Looking into the brew basket afterwards reveals a good saturation of the coffee grounds, which is achieved by the shower head design of the. Once it's finished brewing and is ready to pour the temperature of the coffee is nice and hot. This is a common cause for concern when people purchase coffee machines. I've ready many a review of other machines where the temperature just hasn't been sufficient to provide an enjoyable brew. Rest assured, this machine won't fail you on that. Even if you don't end up buying this model it's worth getting one that has ECBC approval.
You can program when you want it to alert you to the need to descale it. I use mine every weekend and sometimes during the week and I'm yet to descale it. The coffee tastes as good now as it did when I first bought it.
Now, onto minor criticisms, and these really are minor.
The hotplate can be programmed to stay on for 30, 60 or 90* minutes. It's nice to have this option available and I usually have it set to 90 minutes, but I do usually drink the second mug not long after I've finished the first and I suspect that if you're serving a few people and you're all drinking from mugs the whole pot isn't going to sit on there for that long anyway. If you're serving in cups then maybe so. As noted in reviews of other coffee machines and in the forums of coffee enthusiasts from across the world, if you leave a pot of coffee on a hot plate, or if you leave a percolator switched on to keep coffee hot, it will eventually cause the coffee to taste bitter. And that happens even with this machine. Which is why more and more models are now available with a thermos, rather than a glass carafe and hot plate. According to many enthusiasts these really are the way to go, but I'm a sucker for things that look classy, and it's got to be said that old transparent glass carafe looks more attractive, plus you can see how much is left. I drink my coffee black, but what I do with my second mug in order to neutralise that bitterness is to add just a small drop of milk. I add so little that wouldn't know the coffee had milk in it but it just takes that bitterness away and it's no trouble at all. But what Technivorm did to address this issue is they developed the hot plate to pulse on and off to retain the desired temperature without tainting the coffee. Apparently this really works well so it's unfortunate that Melitta didn't follow suit.
The machine has a nice drip control system to so that when you remove the glass carafe from the stand the hole at the bottom of the brew basket closes and doesn't continue to drip onto the hotplate. Essentially this works just as intended. However a small quantity of condensation can form on the bass of the brew basket owing to the small hole on the lid of the carafe (a necessary requirement for the functioning of the coffee machine, and most other drip coffee machines), so don't be surprised if you hear the odd drip onto the hotplate whilst you're pouring your coffee, but this is forgivable. The more annoying issue is this: the carafe enables the coffee to be poured most gracefully into the desired cup/mug/vase and it manages to do it without causing a flood, but as you return the carafe to it's upright position a small drip of coffee does run down the side to the base. It's not a deal breaker but just be aware to give a small wipe before placing it back on the hot plate.
If I could give the product 4 and a half stars then I probably would, purely for the control over the hotplate. It would have been nice to have the pulsing effect of the Moccamaster. And also it would have been nice to have a separate switch for the hotplate; a few times I've switched the machine off at the mains or using the side switch as soon as it's finished brewing, thus resetting the hot plate so it will only activate again after another brew.
Last but not least, the filters for this machine work out quite cheap. And be sure to get some good coffee of a roast and blend that you know you like, and keep it fresh. Don't blame the machine for weak coffee if you've been using the same bag for 6 months.
So there you have it. My experience with this machine has been excellent and if it should ever break I wouldn't hesitate to buy the same one again.
NB. This review is for the AROMA SIGNATURE DELUXE model. I emphasise this because I have come across a page on Amazon purporting to be for this model, showing a picture of this model, but then only providing a purchase selection for Aroma Elegance model (which is likely to be equally fantastic but I wouldn't want to be misleading people).
* If you live in the EU you might find it difficult to seek out another machine with a 'keep warm' function that will stay on for this long. From the articles I've read most machines by EU law have been limited to 40 minutes for purposes of safety, the same applies to electric percolators. It was about a year ago that I read this and I can't remember exactly where so if you have proof to the contrary then by all means correct me.