Gambler’s special! 2-to-1 odds on this Melitta coffee maker by Hamilton Beach.
SHORT VERSION: “Hamilton Beach has done it again,” and by “it” I mean they’ve made a very questionable product that looks nice. Their 12 cup coffee maker (46201) is a gamble, and this Melitta coffee maker is no different. Some say it’s the greatest coffee maker ever built, but many others swear they’ll never buy another Hamilton Beach product again. The positive Amazon reviews on this product outnumber the negative reviews by 2 to 1. If that ratio is good enough for you, roll the dice on this Melitta coffee maker. If not, well…good choice.
First, let’s be clear about who manufactures this coffee maker: Hamilton Beach. Melitta is just putting their name on it, apparently looking to benefit from the name they’ve built on selling coffee and coffee accessories. With that said, this “Melitta coffee maker” (46893A) is a nice looking machine (thanks, Hamilton Beach!). It comes with either a glass carafe or a stainless steel thermal carafe, and it stands about 14.75 inches tall despite whatever it says on the Amazon product page. Flip open the lid to add coffee grounds and you’ll need about 21 inches of cabinet clearance. Unlike the Cuisinart DTC-975BKN (read review here), this Melitta coffee maker has the controls above the carafe which is a smart move given the leakage/spillage owners often report (more on that later). Cone-shaped filters are to be used with this machine, and it also sports a backlit LCD display that is apparently very, very bright. Keep a pair of welding goggles nearby, you might need them.
REASONS TO BUY THIS MELITTA COFFEE MAKER (46893A)
Just like the legendary Hamilton Beach 12 cup coffee maker #46201 (read review here), this Melitta coffee maker (again, made by Hamilton Beach) has a lot of rabid fans. Some claim that the water heats to over 200° F which, for a coffee maker in this price range, is impressive. No wonder they love the coffee this machine makes! Brew temperature is crucial in the coffee making process, and if this machine is getting the water that hot then it’s going to make you very happy indeed.
It comes with the option of a 10 cup stainless steel thermal carafe or a 12 cup glass carafe. Choose wisely because the carafe you choose will determine whether or not your Melitta coffee maker has an adjustable warming plate. Some owners of the thermal carafe version believe that it has a warming plate that turns off automatically after brewing is completed, but this isn’t stated on the Amazon product page and the owner’s manual specifically says the warming plate is for the glass carafe model only. Most coffee makers that come with a thermal carafe don’t have a warming plate at all, so this is not unusual. If you order the glass carafe model, your Melitta coffee maker will have a “Keep Warm” button that the thermal carafe console does not.
This coffee maker comes with a Brew Strength selector that can be set to regular, bold, and robust. Melitta, I mean Hamilton Beach, doesn’t really say how this brew strength is achieved, so let’s just assume that the machine slows down the flow of water for a longer brew time.
Brew pause gives you 20 seconds to grab a cup in mid-brew, and of course that ultra-bright LCD display is there to make the coffee maker programmable.
Melitta/Hamilton Beach also suggest making iced coffee in this machine, but apparently this can only be accomplished with the thermal carafe model. To fill a glass carafe with ice and then let the coffee maker pour hot coffee into it would surely spell disaster, so don’t even try unless you want to see what your carafe looks like when it shatters.
To reiterate, people who like this Melitta coffee maker tend to LOVE IT. They say it makes great coffee. A few even say they’ve been using theirs for upwards of two to three years which is a good sign.
REASONS TO NOT BUY
As I stated in my “short version” at the beginning of this coffee maker review, positive reviews of this Melitta coffee maker outnumber the negative reviews by a margin of 2 to 1. As of this writing, 2,043 customers have given this coffee maker 4 or 5 star ratings while 1,079 gave it three stars or less, and most of those are 1 or 2 star ratings.
A lot of the low ratings are from Melitta coffee makers that have died unceremoniously after far too short a period. As with the 12 cup Hamilton Beach 46201 (review), lots of very dissatisfied owners say that their Melitta broke down after weeks or a few months of use. Some even claim that, after jumping through the hoops Hamilton Beach customer service requires for warranty replacements, they received another unit that also died a quick death. That’s not good at all. Many also say that it broke down after a year or so (darn that one year warranty!). As with any coffee maker, regular cleaning is necessary to keep it functioning properly, and it’s possible that some of the breakdown victims just never bothered to clean it. Meanwhile, some of the more vigilant owners say this Melitta coffee maker needs to be cleaned quite often if you want it to continue to function.
Those whose coffee makers actually work have another serious complaint: the coffee isn’t hot enough. Many thermometer-wielding owners have gauged the brew temperature to be in the 170° – 180° F range which falls well short of the recommended brew temp of 195° – 205° F. So why do some of these Melitta coffee makers reportedly brew within the guidelines while so many others don’t even come close? That’s hard to say, but my guess is temperatures were taken at different times in the brew cycle. Measure the temperature at the start of brewing and it’ll be low, measure at the end of the brew and it’ll be much higher as the water has had time to heat up. This could account for the discrepancy of 15° – 25° F. Nonetheless, Consumer Reports gives this coffee maker a “good” rating for brew temperature which, oddly enough, means that it’s lower than it should be. In their words, it “fell short of recommended guidelines for brew temperature and duration.” How is that good? Meh. Anyway, let’s not forget that those who haven’t quoted thermometer readings are making a subjective judgment. In the end, if you buy this coffee maker, all that matters is how it tastes to you.
As always, carafe leakage is another popular complaint. With this Melitta coffee maker, though, it seems to be more widespread. According to Consumer Reports, the carafe is “unwieldly to use, hold, pour from and empty.” I like to gripe about Consumer Reports because I think they’re a bit too generous with high ratings, so when they say something bad about a product, it’s probably true. Leakage is reported to be a problem with both the thermal and glass carafes.
If you get a glass carafe, there’s an added bonus: it breaks easily. A number of owners have said that their glass carafe broke far too easily with just a gentle bump against a wall or countertop edge. One person even says that it needs to be treated as though it’s as fragile as a Faberge egg. Ouch. And the final insult, as far as the carafe goes, is that other glass carafes apparently don’t fit this machine. To buy a new one from Hamilton Beach is reported to cost about $30 total, after shipping is tacked on.
Leaks don’t come from just the carafe, though. Lots of people have also complained that the machine leaks water, and we’re not talking about an overflowing brew basket. It may be that water is leaving the reservoir and escaping the coffee maker en route to the filter basket, or in some cases it seems that the reservoir itself begins to leak. Either way, not cool.
Plenty of unsatisfied owners have also said that their warming plate, once shiny and new, is now a nasty old disc of rust and grime. Some have reported this problem after a few months, others after more than a year. Are they making sure the warming plate is dry when not in use? I’m sure some are, and others maybe aren’t.
A couple of the convenience features are said to be problematic, but these issues seem less common. Brew pause, that thing where you take the carafe out for a cup in mid-brew, seems to not work for some people. And the warming plate, which is supposed to shut off after two hours, apparently has a mind of its own. Some also complain that the water level window isn’t very helpful if you want to make less than 6 cups. This wouldn’t be a problem if you’re using a glass carafe (just fill the carafe to where it says six cups), but the thermal carafe is another story. If you’re not good at guessing, you could pour water from a measuring cup.
And the final reason to not buy this Melitta coffee maker…drum roll please…Hamilton Beach customer service! Yes, you deal with Hamilton Beach, not Melitta. After poring through hundreds of reviews of this and other Hamilton Beach coffee makers, I have yet to read a single review from someone who said that they had a good experience when contacting them. When a company requires you to cut the electrical plug off a piece of equipment and mail it to them before they’ll replace a defective product, that’s a major red flag. It’s the customer service equivalent of sending a life insurance company your dead spouse’s severed head in order to collect on the policy. Hamilton Beach, this needs to stop.
About two thirds of the people who buy this Melitta coffee maker think it’s awesome. It has some nice features and, if it actually brews coffee in the 195° – 205° F range, it’s a steal at this price. I personally believe that if this machine were capable of doing that consistently, Hamilton Beach would have gotten it SCAA certified and upgraded the price tag (like the Bonavita BV1800SS [read review] and the Behmor Brazen Plus [read review]).
Now, I want to be clear about something: the title for this coffee maker review is “Hamilton Beach has done it again,” and by “it” I mean making a coffee maker of very questionable quality. That’s not a compliment.
The many complaints of warm, but not hot, coffee are a big concern, as are the numerous other complaints that plague this coffee maker. In the interest of fairness, however, let’s acknowledge that some of these gripes could probably be attributed to user error. Coffee machines need to be cleaned regularly, some carafes need to be poured in a certain way, and warming plates that aren’t kept spotless may indeed rust over time.
When a coffee maker leaks from the inside, however, that’s not a user error. Coffee makers, even with no cleaning at all, should also last more than a few months before breaking. Fragile glass carafe? Possibly a user error, but Amazon reviewers have made a convincing case that it’s not. Coffee not hot enough? Subjective, but numerous thermometer readings show low brew temperatures. Yes, you can preheat the thermal carafe to make the coffee hotter, but the hot water should be hitting the coffee grounds first. And yes, you can run a pot of water-only through the machine first and then run it through again for the actual brewing, but that’s extra effort. It’s not the customer’s job to make a coffee maker do what it should have been designed to do on its own.
On the bright side, not too many owners have made the all-too-common complaint of “plastic taste” in their coffee. Some have, to be sure, but the proportion of plastic taste comments is much lower than with other coffee makers. Most people have said that giving the coffee maker the typical vinegar/water rinse solved the problem. (for more on plastic taste, check out this article)
I’ll close with a bit of comedy, courtesy of Melitta’s marketing department (cue harp music, soothing voice):
“Melitta will bring hundreds of years of European culture, refined craftsmanship and rich indulgence to life, right inside your cup.”
LOL? If Melitta really wanted to pour European culture into my coffee cup, they probably shouldn’t have chosen to put their name on a Hamilton Beach product.
DON’T BUY unless you’re feeling lucky.
I mentally flipped a coin and said “Buy” on the Hamilton Beach 46201 because of all the positive reviews. I did that despite its track record for dying prematurely among other things. I’m evening it out here. This Melitta coffee maker might be great, but there’s a one in three chance you’ll be sorry. Or, more optimistically, there’s a two in three chance you’ll be happy! This coffee maker, like the Hamilton Beach 46201, is a gamble.