The Hamilton Beach coffee maker: Can you win at this game of quality roulette?
SHORT VERSION: Lots of features in an attractive package. There’s a lot to like about this Hamilton Beach coffee maker…as long as it’s working. Many complaints about breakdowns along with every common coffee ailment in the book (plastic taste, coffee not hot, overflowing, etc.). Yet, at the same time, far more owners love this machine to death. It’s a pretty small investment if you’re a gambler.
This Hamilton Beach coffee maker (model #46201) is designed for convenience and has an attractive front-face stainless steel facade at a reasonable price. This unit is fairly tall at 16 inches high, but the coffee basket swings out (rather than loading from the top) so there are no issues with putting it beneath even low-hanging kitchen cabinets. It does produce a lot of steam, however, so placing it under cabinetry may not be ideal in the long run.
REASONS TO BUY THIS HAMILTON BEACH COFFEE MAKER (#46201)
A lot of owners of this Hamilton Beach coffee maker on Amazon.com are just gushing about this coffee maker. In one review of this unit, an owner even proclaimed, “Your wildest dreams will come true.” Wow. And also LOL. One of the most popular features by far is the removable water reservoir. No more trying to pour water into the top of the machine! Just pull out the plastic reservoir, fill it up at the sink, and pop it back into place. Personally, I wish all coffee makers would do this. The reservoir has cup markers on the side and can be filled without removal if there is enough room to pour water in after flipping the lid up, but many owners actually prefer taking it to the sink for filling (and for cleaning). The coffee basket also swings out from behind the stainless steel facade, making it easy to drop in a cupcake-type filter and fill it up with your favorite grind. Hamilton Beach calls this their “easy-access” design which isn’t terribly original, but it’s fitting.
The heating plate is non-stick and has adjustable warmth, and Hamilton Beach has also added a 1 to 4 cup brewing option which ensures that brewing just a small amount of coffee will yield coffee that is just as hot as if an entire pot had been brewed. When brewing an entire pot (12 cups) of coffee, the water at the beginning of the brew cycle is usually not as hot as the rest of the pot, and the 1-4 cup option is designed to address that issue.
This Hamilton Beach coffee maker will pause automatically if you want to grab a cup in mid-brew, but for the best tasting coffee it’s generally advisable to wait for the whole pot to finish brewing. Another thoughtful touch is that it has a wheeled base for rotating the machine out of position to remove the water reservoir. Owners have reported that the “wheels” on this unit aren’t really all that wheel-like so there’s little danger of the coffee maker rolling around when you go to grab the carafe and pour a cup.
Adjustable brewing is also available for those who prefer a longer brewing time that results in stronger coffee. The carafe is also reported (by most) to be very drip-free thanks to a band inside the pot that keeps coffee from escaping when it’s not supposed to.
Also, as with most coffee makers in this price tier and up, this Hamilton Beach coffee maker is programmable so that you can roll out of bed and start chugging caffeine immediately. Two-hour automatic shut off is built in as well. It’s pretty easy to see why so many Amazon customers have a hard time writing a negative coffee maker review for this particular unit.
REASONS TO NOT BUY
As was stated at the beginning of this review, a lot of people who own this Hamilton Beach coffee maker just love it. They can’t say enough good things about it, and some even proclaim that this unit produces the best coffee they’ve ever had. And then there are the people who have owned this coffee maker for more than a month. Although, as of this writing, over 80% of Amazon reviewers have given this coffee maker a 4 or 5 star rating in their coffee maker review, an alarming number of owners who have given it a low rating are ones who have reported the machine to stop working after anywhere from a month to over a year. Some owners report that the machine malfunctions, such as using only a portion of the water or producing bitter coffee, and many others report that the coffee maker “just stopped” working after a while.
I realize that I have already implied that the positive coffee maker review mania is primarily from owners who wrote their opinions immediately after receiving the coffee maker on their doorstep, and that’s not necessarily fair. I’m sure many of them are still using their Hamilton Beach coffee maker quite happily. A few positive reviewers have indeed reported owning their coffee maker for a year or more, but here’s one review that kind of reads like the diary of a coffee-drinking explorer who has embarked on a glorious caffeine journey, only to begin the slow descent into coffee hell:
After returning a mr.coffee (bvmcsjx33gt [read review here]) unit upon arrival due to being defective, I ordered this unit. I am very pleased with everything about the Hamilton Beach. Although a bit more expensive (then returned unit), it is worth every extra penny. 1st of all, it works as advertised! easy to load grounds directly in front of you. I prefer to add water from pot to tank, but removable tank is a plus in order to clean. Love the adjustable heat for the hot plate. Has 3 settings. Also, there is 3 brew settings. Normal, 1-4 cups, and bold. when set on bold, the water pump turns on and off in about 30 sec. intervals, allowing hot water to penetrate grounds more thoroughly . Takes a bit longer to brew, but brews a stronger cup, or allows you to use less grounds. Controls are very user friendly, and easy to program. if you are looking for a inexpensive, but good coffee maker, I highly recommend this one. Time will tell the longevity of it. ***UPDATE*** APPROX 1 YEAR OLD. the program button has stopped working, and the coffee is not exiting into carafe fast enough so grounds float over filter. I have tried cleaning filter assembly with everything I can think of including a toothbrush. changed from 5 star to 3 star. I still like the unit. I just don’t love it anymore. should last longer than 1 year before things fail.
– by Amazon.com customer “hussler” on Dec. 10, 2013
And then, immediately after this entry, the coffee maker gained self-awareness and strangled the owner with its electrical cord (sorry, I watch too many movies). But seriously… this review sounds like it could have been written by any one of the dissatisfied “it was great until…” Amazon reviewers. Also, just a quick side note… if everyone would write a coffee maker review after buying and again after the coffee maker breaks, the world would be a better place.
Anyway, some other complaints from owners of still-functioning Hamilton Beach coffee maker units are that the machine “feels cheap” (especially the buttons), the coffee doesn’t get hot enough, and that the no-drip design of the carafe prevents the last bit of coffee from being poured. One reviewer astutely observed that this last complaint may have been by design. It is very conceivable that the product designers could have decided that sacrificing a small amount of coffee is a worthy price to pay for drip-free pouring, and those who have had drip problems in the past would probably agree.
Plastic taste and smell was also mentioned by reviewers, but this problem is hardly unique to Hamilton Beach products. It seems that nearly every coffee maker on the market is going to elicit this response from a certain percentage of buyers.
Another chronic complaint is that Hamilton Beach’s customer care is horrible. Apparently they make it very difficult to get a replacement unit, even for in-warranty claims, by requiring that you jump through a series of hoops that go something like this: (a) cut off the plug end of the electrical cord and mail it to them, (b) email them a picture of your plugless coffee maker, (c) mail them the defective machine at your expense, and (d) pay for shipping of the replacement unit. Ugh. Nobody wants to deal with all that for a coffee maker at this price point. Maybe that’s what they’re banking on?
Oh, and this Hamilton Beach coffee maker doesn’t come with any filters, so if you want a cup of coffee right out of the box you’ll need to be prepared.
The general consensus, when taking into account both positive and negative reviews, is that this Hamilton Beach coffee maker is a great little coffee making machine as long as it’s working as expected. The only problem is that the window for problem-free coffeeing (I just invented that word) is all over the place and seems to range from a few months to between 1-2 years.
It is completely normal for any product to displease a certain number of buyers. It happens to every product on the market whether it’s a $20 coffee maker or a $2,000 espresso machine. Occasional defects from bad quality control, user error, unrealistic expectations, a combination of the three… who knows why, but some dissatisfaction is basically inevitable. The thing that concerns me is that so many positive reviewers on Amazon acknowledge or imply (e.g. “arrived as expected”) that they have owned this Hamilton Beach coffee maker for a very short time… and meanwhile, so many negative reviewers have stated that they bought their coffee maker weeks, months, or over a year ago. I suppose that’s a fairly natural pattern of ownership… rave about the coffee maker at first, grumble about how it’s wronged you after time has passed… but where are all the long-term owners chiming in to say how they swear by this product? Yes, a few have stepped up, but only a few. Generally speaking, it seems that new owners are very pleased and long-time owners (if you consider 3-12 months a long time) are quite often singing a different tune. If you buy this coffee maker, which reviewer will you be?
It’s very tempting to say “don’t buy” on this one. It’s really kind of a coin flip… if $40-$50 is on the high end of your budget, then you should probably choose a different unit. If your budget is higher and you really like the looks and features of this model, then Buy is the right call. It would also help if you don’t expect a terribly long life from this product. This Hamilton Beach coffee maker has a lot of nice features for the price, and maybe the negative reviews are simply the vocal minority among many thousands who have bought this coffee maker and are currently using it without issues. I mean, let’s face it… a lot of people only choose to post reviews when they’re unhappy. It’s certainly possible that the vast majority of long-term owners are satisfied (but that’s pretty hard to assess here, despite the 80% positive feedback). However, if you’re expecting reasonable customer service in the event of a breakdown, you should probably look elsewhere. Hamilton Beach’s return policy sounds like absolute torture.