Stop the presses! Esteemed beverage purveyor Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has forged ahead into the world of home brewing systems and the result is the CBTL line of single-serve beverage machines, which just hit the market in the past month. The sleek and stylish coffee (and tea) makers come in three varieties: the Contata ($129.95), the Kaldi ($149.95), and the Nautilus ($199.95), which unsurprisingly resembles the crustacean of its namesake (although, for some strange reason, it makes me think of Alien). I was lucky enough to receive a free CBTL Kaldi for review, and after ten days with the machine, I have grown warmly attached to it. With its bright red hues and curvy, shiny surfaces, the Kaldi appears to be one part Mac and one part Jessica Rabbit. But here’s the real question: does the Kaldi offer more than just an aesthetically pleasing addition to the kitchen?
Answers after the jump…
Here it is. My new Kaldi, placed rather awkwardly on my counter just ahead of my bread flour and a stone’s throw from the juicer (and, apparently, an errant paper towel).
First I must fill up the water reservoir in the rear of the Kaldi. This can be done by either pouring water through the opening up top or simply by removing the plastic tank and taking it to the nearest faucet. The latter option allows for a faster fill, but removing the tank can be slightly cumbersome.
First things first: place a mug under the spigot. We immediately encounter our first problem: this very basic white mug does not actually fit. Even though it looks fine in this picture, I had to really finagle it in there (and it still wound up off balance).
Finagling the mug out proves to be just as tricky.
Turns out this sleek mug is the only mug of mine that fits. If you use anything big and round, forget about it.
Since this is the first use of the CBTL Kaldi, I must first run a rinse cycle. This is achieved by pressing the center button. Or is it any button? The machine comes with two separate sets of “Getting Started” directions, and they amusingly feature different information. Sort of bizarre, sort of confusing.
The reservoir bubbles to life as the machine cleans itself.
Along with the machine, I received a complimentary array of capsules to use. They range from espresso to coffee to tea — four of each variety.
With the cleaning cycle done, I’m ready for my first brew. I opt for the French Roast.
A lift of the shiny handle opens a trap-door, revealing a slot for the capsule. I feel like I’m about to launch the coffee into space.
Ground Control to Major Coffee. Commencing countdown, engines on. Check ignition and may God’s love be with you…
Pulling the handle back down a) closes the slot door; b) pierces the capsule, and c) makes me feel like I’ve finally returned electricity to Jurassic Park.
Okay, here comes the biggest challenge. There are three buttons on the front panel. One shows a little mug, one shows a taller mug, and one shows a wide mug. After consulting the directions, I learn that the top button is for espresso, the middle for “Long Coffee,” and the bottom for “Filtered Coffee.” So which button do I press? Clearly not the top one; that much I know. I don’t really know what a “Long Coffee” is, and I’m uncertain if the capsule is filtered. I play it safe and go for the middle…
The coffee cometh.
Wonderful odors emanate forth as the coffee spews out.
And then it’s over. As you can see, the mug is far from full. This seems a bit outrageous. Clearly there was user error, but only because there were unclear directions. I sip the brew, and it is entirely too intense for me. However, I then pour it over ice and find it much more palatable.
To clean the machine, simply remove the front shelf (the mug sits on the metal grate) and rinse out the plastic (where a small puddle of liquid has invariably collected.
As luck would have it, I came down with a cold, and so I was in dire need of tea. What better reason to test out the machine’s tea capabilities. First things first, I must run another rinse cycle to flush out any leftover coffee. I only learned this after having watched a lengthy tutorial video on the machine’s website. I highly recommend this, especially because the video also clarified that the “Long Coffee” button was for double-espressos and the filtered coffee button was for regular coffee and tea. The fact that this isn’t clearly stated in the directions is a major annoyance and oversight.
My tea of choice: moroccan mint tea.
Once again, the slot opens. This causes the old capsule to fall down below to the aforementioned removable shelf. The new capsule goes in its place.
Again, the bottom button is the one you’ll most always be using.
Here comes the tea. Brewing for both the coffee and tea takes only a matter of seconds. The longest wait comes after turning on the machine. The CBTL needs about a minute to warm up, but after that, it’s a fairly instant process.
I delight to see an actual full cup of tea bubbling out of the machine.
Lovely odors and such.
Clearly, I’m impressed.
After a few unpleasant hiccups trying to figure out the button situation, I’ve found that the CBTL works like a charm. I’ve been happy with all my subsequent brews and fear that the machine might make me a morning coffee person — something I’ve proudly resisted all my life. I will be careful not to become an addict, but I have to say, it will be tricky. I have yet to have my coffee aficionado friends Sly and jash sample the goods, but for my unrefined palate, it’s all been quite tasty. Is it worth the $150 price tag? Well, if you’re a Coffee Bean fiend, it probably is. Quality-wise, again, I will defer to Sly and jash for their opinions.