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If there is anyone alive who enjoys a nice cup of strong, hot, flavoursome, fragrant coffee more than I do, I’d love to meet them. Unfortunately my java addiction - running to several cups a day - would cost a small fortune should I go down the convenient route of getting my fix from Starbucks or Costa coffee. Clearly something had to be done to manage my coffee consumption for fear of bankrupting me on a sea of cappuccino. I needed a way of recreating that ‘just ground’ taste without needing to take out a second mortgage. I knew there were a good few coffee filter machines about - indeed I’d owned a few myself - but the process of buying filter papers and ground coffee meant that inevitably I had plenty of one but none of the other in the cupboard. Plus the whole process of making a cup of coffee turned into a messy time consuming chore with damp coffee and soggy filter papers hither and dither. I’d heard plenty of positive talk about the newer kind of machines available, those that delivered the steaming elixir I craved by way of a pod, carton or cartridge. A quick browse on the internet threw up a smattering of such machines; I quickly ruled out the Braun Tassimo (too expensive) and the Nescafe Dolce Gusto (too expensive and looks like a squatting duck), before I stumbled upon an appliance that would not leave too big a dent to my wallet, or offend my sensibilities by looking like an ugly behemoth on the kitchen counter. The coffee machine I eventually decided upon was the Philips Senseo - a fine looking pod based machine that sounded easy to use, simple to clean and the pods were not overly expensive but were readily available. A little price comparison work and I found one ready to take home for little more than thirty pounds.
What is in the box?
Firstly – and of course most importantly – you get the machine itself; measuring a touch over twelve inches in height it takes up little more counter space than a conventional kettle. The model I decided upon is finished in finest black plastic and metal, although there are silver, blue and red variations available to match personal taste and colour schemes. Next out of the box comes the water tank, easy to fill via the tap it holds one and a half pints and slots effortlessly onto the back of the unit. A couple of pod holders come next, the first deep enough to hold one pod while the second is designed to accommodate two pods – ideal for that extra strong cup of coffee. A plastic drip tray is the last of the accessories save for an intuitive instruction booklet in seemingly every language known to man, and two year warranty card. A small sample of coffee pods would have been nice to test out, but I guess you cannot have everything!
Setup and Use
From box opening to enjoying that first steaming mug of coffee should take little more than five minutes thanks to a very easy to follow instruction booklet and virtually no assembly work. Plug the machine in and fill the water tank before fitting it to the unit. Then it’s just a matter of pressing the power button to heat the water to the desired temperature. When the water is ready – usually around thirty seconds – the power light stops flashing and becomes solid, it is then simply a matter of placing a Pod in the holder and pressing the one or two cup buttons situated either side of the power button. The one cup button delivers a small cup of beverage while the two cup button is better suited to a mug. Once finished the light will flash fast to signal the water tank is empty or that it is warming the water for another cup – depending on whether you wish to produce more coffee or turn the unit off you press the power or one/two cup buttons again. All of the detachable pieces of the machine are dishwasher safe and all seem well constructed and sturdy, with no flimsy parts to inadvertently break or degrade.
It is all about the Pods!
It all sounds very futuristic and hi-tec - little pods producing hot tasty coffee at the push of a button. In reality the pods are little more than thick sachets of coffee, not dissimilar in appearance to fat round tea bags. The effect is achieved by forcing hot water through the bags under pressure producing a deliciously fresh and strong cup of coffee with a unique Senseo froth atop. All of the pods available for the Senseo are produced by Douwe Egberts, who bring over two hundred and fifty years of coffee production to the brand in nine delightful and diverse blends. All tastes are catered for – from decaffeinated and mild Brazilian to the rich and strong flavours of Dark Roast and Columbian Blend. Oh, and in this ever greener world we find ourselves in it is good to know the spent pods are fully compostable, meaning every cup can be enjoyed with a clear environmental conscience.
By far the best facet of the Senseo is that it delivers a delicious cup of coffee in around sixty seconds. The machine is also idiot proof – if you can switch a plug on and run a tap then you are over qualified to make a cuppa with the Senseo. The variety of coffee available is good, while the unit is compact and ergonomically designed with no unnecessary levers, switches or garnishes. The machine itself doesn’t appear to get overly hot in use either, meaning it can be stored in a cupboard after use if that is your preference. Also, during the task of heating the water and then forcing it through the pod the machine is fairly quiet, a far cry from those machines that grind the coffee beans and in the process sound like a mangle stuck in a jet engine! A quick look on sites like eBay and Amazon also shows me that spare parts – new pod holders or water tanks for example – are readily available and cheap, so if there ever are any problems with loss or breakage you won’t have to worry about buying a whole new machine.
I have to report that the machine does not deliver a steaming hot cup of coffee; rather a very warm offering dribbles into the cup. This is easily remedied though by filling the water tank with hot rather than cold water. The Pods can also be on the expensive side if purchased from supermarkets, Tesco and ASDA sell bags of sixteen pods for around £3.30. Far better to pick them up in shops such as Poundland or the 99p store, or as I do on the internet on eBay – this gives far better value for money, plus a far great range than the decaffeinated/normal that supermarkets carry. Also, because this is a machine that produces cups rather than jugs of coffee, the process could get a little time consuming if – for example – you wish to produce more than a couple of drinks. Plenty of pod changing and water tank refilling will keep you away from your dinner guests, although there is the option to purchase a larger water tank to alleviate this issue.
Having used the Senseo several times a day for around the last four or so months I can categorically declare I am delighted with it and do not regret purchasing it for a moment. Once I realised using hot water rather than cold to fill the tank would produce a steaming hot cup of drink I was away. The machine is quiet, it’s clean and it looks good. But above all else it makes a really good cup of coffee, and when all is said and done that is all that matters. Four stars out of five from this coffee aficionado.