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✔ What We Liked
- Multiple ways to brew makes it ideal for a household with multiple coffee drinkers
- All removable components are top-rack dishwasher safe
- You can clean the water reservoirs using white vinegar; no special solution needed
- Less bitterness than other drip coffee machines we’ve tried
✘ What We Didn't Like
- With the lid open, the machine cannot fit under low-hanging kitchen cabinets; it's also not ideal for small spaces
- Only two options for brew strength
- The reservoir lids get very hot during brewing which may lead to warping later
- Brewing took longer compared to other drip coffee machines
The Hamilton Beach 2-Way FlexBrew is a versatile machine. It’s a good option for households with multiple coffee drinkers with different preferences. It brews well for a drip machine. The coffee maker is straightforward to use. It’s also easy to clean as the removable parts are dishwasher-safe, and you can use vinegar to clean the water tanks.
One of the drawbacks of the machine is that it’s rather large. It’s not ideal if you have low-hanging kitchen cabinets or a small kitchen. We also wished it had more than two options for brew strength. Similarly priced and even some cheaper machines offer three options. We also worried about how hot the reservoir lids got during brewing. We worried that the lids would warp after repeated use.
We conducted a few taste tests using the carafe side and single-serve side of the machine. For the first taste test, we used a La Colombe dark roast on the carafe side. We used a 1:17 coffee-to-water ratio and brewed at normal strength.
I was pleasantly surprised by the results. While the coffee had some bitterness (which is inescapable with drip coffee machines), the bitterness was mellow compared to other drip coffee makers we’ve tried. The coffee had a round finish and was drinkable black. We also tested the same bean, brew strength, and coffee-to-water ratio on the single-serve side and had similar results.
Finally, we tested with Keurig K-cups, specifically a Peet’s medium roast. The taste was what I would expect from any pod coffee maker. It had a light flavor profile and a clean finish. Like all pod coffee, it lacked the flavor nuances of coffee brewed in other ways. This is something to remember if you’re looking at any pod coffee maker.
On all of our tests, the coffee was extremely hot right after brewing. Ideally, coffee should be at a drinkable temperature once brewing is finished. You need to let the coffee cool for a few minutes before drinking it.
Overall, I was pleased with how the machine performed. While drip machines are known to impart bitterness into coffee, it was very mild compared to other models we’ve tested.
Ease of Use
My first foray using the coffee maker was to brew a batch of coffee on the carafe side. I find filling unremovable water reservoirs annoying. This machine was more annoying as I had to bring it to the front of my kitchen counters because I couldn’t open the lid under my cabinets. It’s a big machine too, which made it uncomfortable to move. I recommend not putting this machine under kitchen cabinets, or at least not under low-hanging ones like I have.
During brewing, I noticed the back part of the machine got very hot. A lot of steam escaped from the reservoir’s lid’s hinge, and it seemed like the plastic was even warping a bit during brewing. The heat levels make me concerned about the longevity of the coffee maker.
Brewing also took longer than expected. I used 25 ounces of water my first time, and it took about 11 minutes to brew.
My second foray using the machine was with a Keurig K-cup on the single-serve side. I noticed the coffee maker was louder than other single-serve/pod coffee makers I’ve used before. It also took a while to brew – about two minutes or so.
Since this coffee maker is essentially two coffee makers in one, let’s discuss the features available for each separately.
The carafe side is a relatively standard drip coffee maker. The carafe side has a water reservoir that holds up to 60 ounces of water or 12 cups of coffee. There is, thankfully, a measurement display on the side so you can see how much water is in the tank. You need at least six ounces of water in the reservoir for the carafe to brew correctly.
The carafe side has a reusable gold-tone filter basket, so you don’t need to use paper filters unless you want to. The reusable filter helps mitigate paper waste, and the gold-tone filter keeps your coffee free from any metallic taste that a regular stainless steel filter can impart.
For brewing, the carafe side has the following features: delayed brewing, brew-strength selection, automatic pause and serve, and automatic warming and shutoff.
You can program the delayed brewing up to 24 hours in advance. This duration is standard on machines that have a delayed brewing feature.
The brew strength selector gives you the option of regular or bold strength. Other machines we’ve reviewed, like the Drew Barrymore Beautiful Coffee Maker, offer three brew strength options (light, regular, and bold). That said, you can still adjust the brew strength yourself by playing with coffee-to-water ratios.
The pause-and-serve feature lets you take away the carafe mid-brewing for up to 20 seconds to pour yourself a cup.
And finally, the machine will keep the carafe warm for two hours after brewing at which point the coffee maker will automatically shut off.
|Time to brew||2-15 minutes|
|Coffee grind size||Fine/medium grind|
|Ease of cleaning||
The single-serve side has fewer features than the carafe side. It has a water reservoir with a measurement display. This reservoir can hold up to 14 ounces of water.
Similarly to the carafe side, you can select the brew strength for the single-serve side. You cannot use delayed brewing or pause-and-serve on the single-serve side. Since there is no warming feature, there is no need for automatic shutoff.
The single-serve side comes with two different filter baskets: one for pods and one for ground coffee. I like the flexibility offered by this. It’s easy to swap the filter baskets, and the removable cup rest doubles as storage for the other basket. That said, the basket didn’t fit perfectly into the cup rest – it felt like playing Tetris to get it to fit.
All of the removable parts of this machine are top-rack dishwasher safe. Besides putting them on the top rack, you shouldn’t use the “Sani” or “sanitize” cycle on your dishwasher as the temperature could melt or distort the plastic components.
You can also handwash all of the removable parts if you prefer.
To clean the water reservoirs, you can use white vinegar. This is great because you don’t need to buy a special descaling solution to clean the machine, which keeps ongoing costs lower. For reference, you can easily damage many coffee makers by using white vinegar to clean them, so it’s convenient that this one can accommodate vinegar.
Hamilton Beach recommends using two cups of white vinegar for the carafe side and one cup for the single-serve side. After you’ve put the white vinegar into the reservoir, press the Brew Now button and wait for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, press the Brew Now button again to stop brewing and allow the vinegar to clean the interior components.
Wait 30 minutes, then press Brew New to finish the brew cycle. Put the carafe or a container underneath to catch the vinegar. After you complete the vinegar cycle, run two to three brew cycles with cold water.
Hamilton Beach recommends cleaning the water reservoirs every month. If you live in an area with hard water, you may need to clean them every week to every other week. If your coffee tastes sour or rancid, it’s time to clean the machine.
One easy workaround to avoid descaling the machine as frequently is to use filtered water.
The machine is quite large due to its dual brewers. It measures just over 12 inches deep, 13.5 inches high, and 11.5 inches wide. With the carafe-side lid up, the machine reaches a tall 21.5 inches. If you have low-hanging kitchen cabinets like I do, you can’t open the coffee maker under the kitchen cabinets. You will have to bring it out from underneath them. Ideally, you’d place this coffee maker under high-hanging kitchen cabinets or a space without any cabinets.
As for the look and feel of the machine, it is average in my opinion. It’s not a beautifully designed machine. It doesn’t come in other color options if you want to match existing kitchenware. The outside components are plastic with some metal accents. That said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the look of the machine – it looks similar to an average drip coffee maker.
The machine represents good value for the price. It gives you three different ways to brew coffee: carafe, single-serve coffee grounds, or single-serve coffee pods. It’s also easy to use and even easier to clean because all the removable parts are top-rack dishwasher safe.
Because it comes with reusable filters, the only ongoing cost is the cost of the coffee itself. If you want to use coffee pods, they are generally more expensive per cup than using coffee beans.
|Current price on Amazon||$119.99|
|Cost for supplies||Optional: Coffee pods: $0.30 - $1.20 per pod|