With many of us getting used to a new ‘normal’, which includes working from home and being far more reliant on the space we live in, it’s little wonder that expenditure on home improvements has increased. An area where many will no doubt miss a luxury offered by the office is the quality of the coffee, with no commute also eradicating the train-station or high-street coffee many employ. So, with options limited, it’s time to start brewing at home – which is where today’s review item could come in.
Founded in 1919, Kitchen Aid is by no means a new brand when it comes to making kitchen appliances, although they are probably best known and recognised for their stylish and well-engineered stand mixers. Alas, like many companies, over the years they’ve branched out into new areas, and have been making coffee machines for a good while now.
Today’s item differs from most traditional coffee makers, using a relatively new (and very much on-trend) method of vacuum brewing. It’s essentially a two-stage process, which starts off with the coffee grinds being placed in an upper chamber, whilst the required amount of water is poured into the chamber below.
The lower chamber acts like a kettle, and when switched on starts off the brewing process by boiling the water, thus creating pressure and pushing the liquid up into the top chamber. Here, the hot, pressurized water and coffee mix, forming stage 1 of the brewing process. Up to now, it’s very similar to the process used on a wide variety of coffee makers, but the next step is where it gets a bit sci-fi.
The lower chamber is allowed to cool, which in turn creates a vacuum of pressure relative to the upper chamber. With a vacuum-formed, the water is then pulled back down from the upper chamber through a filter, which captures the coffee grinds and ensures all the water passes through them – thus extracting the maximum amount of flavour.
So now that we’ve covered how the process works, how does the Kitchen Aid actually perform? The machine is simple to disassemble, aiding quick filling of the lower water tank. The lower tank is marked to aid your filling, with notches indicating fill points between 3 and 8 cups, with a maximum 1-litre capacity.
The filter twists simply into place in the top half, whilst a stand is provided so you can add the coffee grinds without the base (lower tank) attached. It’s then a case of locking the top ‘ball’ half over the base, which locks together with a satisfying notch to let you know it’s watertight. The lid for the lower section can be fastened to the upper chamber, although this felt like a slight afterthought with lacklustre fastening.
Flick the kettle-like switch and the lower half begins to boil, taking just a few minutes to force the water up into the top chamber thanks to the potent 1440w element. Another minute or two pass as the water is pulled back down in a slightly less vigorous manner (all the while extracting flavour).
The end result? Aside from impressing your friends with the intriguing process, the coffee is strong, full of flavour and the filter does a good job of making sure no grinds make it into the finished brew. Very little crema is created, unlike an espresso machine, but that’s more a difference of process than a negative on the Kitchen Aid (something to be aware of).
Where this machine excels is in its ability to produce a large quantity of good coffee in a short amount of time no replacing grinds between each cup or waiting for the gas hob to provide the required heat. Fill, add beans and go, it really is a breeze and a noticeable step-up from cafetière or similar brew methods, both in quality and speed.
It’s not all good though, and there are a few issues that need to be discussed. Kitchen Aid seems somewhat aware of the first; cleaning. In fact, the instructions make specific reference to the cleaning process and how the included brush is there to aid this process, so they’ve done what they can to address the issue. You see, whilst the coffee maker may have a fantastic looking design, it makes for a very tricky routine with some internal surfaces tricky and difficult to access. These surfaces are not only hard to clean, but also trap some of the finished brews when in use, meaning there would consistently be ½ a cup or so that couldn’t be enjoyed.
The trade-off is for aesthetics, which are hard to overlook as it looks fantastic on the countertop. The build quality too is absolutely top-notch and the included brush/coffee measure certainly goes a healthy way towards alleviating the concerns.
If you’ve already fallen in love with the looks of this machine, I don’t blame you, and it would also be tricky to offer any hard arguments against purchasing. Yes, it’s tricky to clean, but there’s always a trade-off with form/function and the build quality is first-rate. The vacuum process is as intriguing as it is efficient, making this machine an accessible way of producing quality coffee at home.
The Kitchen Aid Vacuum coffee brewer currently retails for £159.00.
Update: Kitchen Aid has discontinued this product