With a competitive $199 retail price, the Cuisinart SS-700 is a handsome-looking kitchen appliance with thoughtful design and durable-feeling construction. It is designed to make single servings of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate in less than a minute by way of a K-Cup brewer design licensed from Keurig. If you're environmentally conscious, using the nonrecyclable K-Cups will likely not appeal to you, but unlike three of the five other brewers we tested, the SS-700 includes a reusable coffee filter. That fact, along with its sturdy construction and a generous three-year limited warranty make the Cuisinart SS-700 a sound choice if you're happy with K-Cup coffee. Serious coffee drinkers looking for convenience will prefer the $169 Bunn My Cafe MCU, which outperformed the Cuisinart SS-700 in all of our taste tests.
The first thing I noticed when I pulled this machine out of the box was how heavy it is. At nearly 16 pounds, the Cuisinart SS-700 is the heftiest brewer of the five we tested. This weight was a good sign, as one of our primary concerns about others was their seemingly light construction. The machine's metal pod receptacle lever also seems very sturdy and well designed, more so, at least, than the plastic versions of its counterparts. The Cuisinart SS-700 also looks attractive on a counter top, like it belongs there and will do its job well. You will appreciate the 80-ounce water reservoir, as it means less frequent refillings. You may also like the fact that all parts of the SS-700 that come in contact with water or coffee are BPA-free.
Thanks to the forward-facing (as opposed to upward-facing) control panel screen, you can see the clock from multiple vantage points in the room, not merely when you stand directly over the machine. Cuisinart also joins Bunn as the only manufacturers to include a reusable filter for brewing your own loose ground coffee. Cuisinart has tucked the filter neatly behind a door on the side of the machine; an impressive feat, given that the filter compartment doesn't add significant bulk to the design. It's also nice to know that the filter will always be easy to locate.
I also liked the rinse button. At the touch of this button, you can flush the internal system to eliminate any residual product or flavor.
The Cuisinart SS-700 includes a charcoal water filter and filter holder. You need to fully immerse the filter in cold tap water before you install it. The filter then fits easily into the holder, which snaps into the base of the water reservoir. You'll find easily understood installation instructions in the manual. Cuisinart claims the charcoal water filter will remove chlorine and unwanted flavors or smells from your tap water. They last three months and can be replaced for $9.99 for a pack of two filters. You can also take advantage of Cuisinart's water filter subscription service. The company will send you a filter every three months for $17.99 annually.
You'll need to regularly clean any coffee maker, and if the water in your area has particularly substantial mineral content, it's not a bad idea to use pr-filtered water, or a filter like the mechanism built into the SS-700. The replacement filters, the subscription plan in particular, give Cuisinart yet another opportunity to pull money from your wallet. The cost of filters isn't too onerous, but a regular vinegar wash will also deal with any mineral build-up (though not flavor issues) for less.
Once you have filled the reservoir with water, you're on your way to your first cup of coffee. Turn the unit on and the SS-700 will siphon water from the reservoir into its internal heating tank. This process takes approximately four minutes. Cuisinart then recommends that you run a Brew cycle without any coffee or tea in the brew basket to flush the system. After this initial flush, the system is ready to brew. You only need to repeat this complete flushing step when you haven't used the machine for an extended period of time, though Cuisinart recommends frequently pressing the rinse button to cleanse the system.
Using the arrow buttons, you can select the size of your mug, choose from between four and 12 ounces, in two ounce increments. If you want to make iced coffee, place a tall glass filled with ice on the drop tray and select the 4-ounce setting. The brewer will then concentrate the coffee or tea brew to compensate for the melting ice. The brewing process will melt most of the ice in your glass, so expect to add more.
This was a primary complaint about this machine and others like it in our test group. The SS-700 allows you to choose your size of mug, but the K-Cups only come in one size. This means that the 4-ounce size setting will deliver very strong, concentrated flavor while the 12-ounce size will be weaker due to the dilution of the extra water. If you want to use a 12-ounce travel mug, for example, and not have your coffee diluted in flavor, use two K-Cups and two separate brew cycles under the 6- or 8-ounce settings.
In addition to a digital clock, you can also program the brewer to turn on and off at specific times, or to turn off automatically after a prescribed amount of time. This is a nice feature if you have busy mornings. You can also set the brewing temperature, ranging from 187 to 192 (default) degrees Fahrenheit.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)