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Cuisinart Automatic Cold Brew Coffeemaker

Published July 2018

How we tested

Coffee aficionados swear by the cold-brew method for making the smoothest, most nuanced iced coffee. Cold brewing works on the theory that using room-temperature water to brew coffee results in a balanced, less acidic brew because many of the chemical compounds responsible for coffee flavor (including harsh, bitter, and acidic flavors) dissolve most readily in hot water. In cold or room-temperature water, these solubles dissolve more slowly (and some never dissolve at all), resulting in coffee that is smoother, less bitter, and less acidic than coffee prepared with hot water. However, traditional cold-brewing methods come with one big drawback: They usually take between 12 and 24 (hands-off) hours to brew, which is why most home brewers—for example, our favorite, the Toddy Cold Brew System—yield large batches of concentrate that can be stored in the refrigerator and diluted with water when ready to serve. So we were intrigued by the Cuisinart Automatic Cold Brew Coffeemaker ($99.99), which promises to make cold brew in as little as 25 minutes.

Is Quick Cold-Brewed Coffee Any Good?

The machine looks like an automatic drip coffee maker, with a water reservoir and reusable filter that sit atop a carafe. You fill the filter with ground coffee, set it inside the water reservoir, and fill the reservoir with room-temperature water. Once you press the “brew” button, the filter spins on and off in 10-second intervals, agitating the water for a total of 25, 35, or 45 minutes for “mild,” “medium,” or “bold” coffee, respectively. When the cycle is done, you press a lever to release the coffee into the glass carafe below. The machine makes up to 35 ounces of ready-to-drink coffee that doesn't need to be diluted.

We started by trying out the three brew strengths—using filtered water and high-quality coffee beans, which were freshly ground to an even consistency in a burr grinder—but all of them were far too weak. Even on the darkest setting, “bold,” the coffee was pale and thin, like “coffee tea,” said one taster. And despite the machine's three filters (one holds the ground coffee, a second is in the water reservoir, and a third one is on the carafe lid), the coffee emerged cloudy, with a film of bitter sediment that our tasters called “dirty.”

Cold Brew: Traditional versus Automatic Brewing Systems

These issues were amplified when we tried the Cuisinart's cold brew against concentrate we made in the Toddy and diluted with cold water. The Cuisinart coffee was wan, sooty, and unpleasant to drink, while the Toddy cold brew was dark, smooth, and crystal clear. We tried brewing with more coffee and less water than the Cuisinart's instructions recommend, but the coffee was still unpalatable: oily, sooty, bitter, and thin.

While the interface was dead simple to use—just three different strength selections and a “brew” button—the Cuisinart was a pain to clean. It had seven removable parts that had to be disassembled and scrubbed after each use (which was often, since it makes only a few servings of coffee at a time), and once we almost lost a small mesh filter down the sink drain.

For now, cold brew in 25 minutes is too good to be true; the coffee just wasn't up to par when compared with that produced by our favorite overnight cold-brew coffee maker. We'll be sticking with the Toddy Cold Brew System ($34.95). Though it takes a minimum of 12 hours to brew, it's simple, hands-off, and easy to clean, and it produces a concentrate that results in clear, smooth coffee.

Methodology

We tested the Cuisinart Cold Brew Coffeemaker ($99.99), sampling each of its three brew settings against coffee from our winning cold-brewed coffee maker, the Toddy Cold Brew System ($34.95). We used a timer to measure each brew cycle, length of agitation, length of rest, and time to dispense coffee. We used a scale to measure the amount of coffee produced after each cycle. We calculated the machine's water-to-coffee ratio and attempted to make coffee in the Cuisinart using the Toddy's water-to-coffee ratio. Throughout testing a panel of tasters evaluated coffee flavor.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*