cuisinart dgb 900bc coffee makerThe standard drip coffee maker has evolved drastically over the years. Single serve brewers have become popular, and why wouldn’t they? They’re efficient, affordable and easy to maintain. But there’s more to modern coffee makers. They are able to brew up more than just your favorite plain and flavored coffees. They can also make specialties like cappuccino, latte and espresso.

And to top it all off, some of these coffee machines will even grind and brew your coffee all in one shot. Freshness is critical when it comes to coffee, since flavor degrades rapidly once a coffee bean is broken. To keep freshness to its maximum, these “grind and brew” machines have built-in grinders that grind the beans just before brewing starts.

Here are some of the best current models. (For comparisons sake, conical burr grinders make less noise than blade type grinders)

1. Cuisinart DGB-900BC Grind & Brew 12-Cup Automatic Coffee Maker

(shown here) The best all-around one. Has a built-in burr grinder, with hopper that holds as much as a half pound of beans. Can also brew from pre-ground beans. Easy to clean. Small footprint on the countertop. Downside is that the grinder has no coarseness adjustment, as do some other models. Medium priced. 3 year warranty. Read customer reviews here

2. Krups KM7000 10-Cup Grind and Brew Coffee Maker

The quiet one. Has built-in conical burr grinder with 5 coarseness grind level settings to choose from. Nice and quiet grinder. The easiest clean-up of all the grind and brew machines. Medium priced. 2 year warranty. Click here for more about the KM7000.

3. Capresso 465 CoffeeTeam TS

10-Cup programmable Digital Coffeemaker. Conical burr grinder with 5 coarseness grind settings that spins at lower speeds than most grind and brew machines (passes less heat to coffee beans thus maximizing freshness; 5 brew amounts. 3 strength settings. 6-ounce bean container could be larger, but this is convenience issue only. Medium priced. Check it out here.

4. DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso and Coffee Machine

The luxury one. Delonghi happens to make the best in class of the grind and brew machines. This one is higher priced, but worth it for the ability to also make top-notch espresso and cappuccino, the quality of which rivals non-automatic machines like the Rancillo. The only downside is that it is a little noisier than other coffee makers listed here, and it doesn’t have an automatic timer (but you won’t need one anyway, since it heats up so quick) read some owners reviews here

5. Cuisinart DGB-625BC Grind and Brew Coffee Maker

The bargain one. Entry level 12-Cup automatic coffee machine. Good basic features, makes great coffee, but it is noisy even without using the grinder. Cuisinart 3 year warranty. Least expensive of the machines listed here. Similar to the Cuisinart DGB-900BC, except grinder is blade type, and the trim is a little less fancy. Click here to check price on Amazon.

Overall, modern coffee machines are decidedly versatile and practical. Although they may be an investment up front, they save coffee drinkers plenty of money in the long run from not having to shell out several dollars for one cup of coffee.

Wilton silicone spatula setThere are a bunch tools you always need in the kitchen in order to prepare the kinds of culinary creations you want to try.  Nevertheless, just because something needs to be functional in the kitchen doesn’t mean that it has to be unattractive.

Wilton’s Easy Flex silicone spatula set combines convenience with a classy look that will brighten any kitchen. These spatulas are so handy – especially if you have a stand mixer.

One of the tools in this spatula set is really curved like a spoon and perfect for getting mixes out of the bowl of a stand mixer once it’s prepped. They’re also perfect for scraping the insides of a blender attachment, too.

Besides the nice translucent blue look of this set, the silicone material makes them resistant to cracking – unlike rubber spatulas. Because they’re flexible, they’ll bend, rather than breaking. Each of the spatulas in the set are resistant to stains – and while stains don’t necessarily render a kitchen tool unusable, it’s no fun when you have to use a tomato base stained spatula to mix batter for a cake.

It’s not attractive and it can be embarrassing if you have friends over to help you in the kitchen and you have old, stained spatulas. These are also unlike regular spatulas in that they can really take the heat. But the price is not that much more than a regular spatula set.

Again, thanks to using silicone, even if you heat the food up close to 500 degrees, these spatulas can still take it without it affecting the shape or performance of the tool. And unlike rubber spatulas, these won’t melt in contact with heat.

Because this set is a Wilton product, you know it’s good. Anything used to create those delicious looking desserts and glamorous wedding cakes has to be. In this three-piece set, what you get is a regular spatula as well as two other sizes, including the spoon-shaped one.

Wilton 570-1121 Easy Flex 3-Piece Silicone Spatula Set

These can be used in baking or in use with frying foods. Most spatulas can’t handle the hot oil from an electric fryer without getting their shape distorted, but these can. One of the things that makes this set such a must have is that the handles of the spatulas aren’t like other sets.

These particular spatulas have a gentle roundness to the handle, making them easier to grip and easier to use for longer periods without getting hand cramps or stiffness. They can be stored in a kitchen drawer, in a Lazy Susan made for kitchen tools, or hung up using the hole in the handle.

 

If one cup of coffee is all you need to jumpstart your morning, the Keurig B30 Mini Personal Single-Serve Brewing System is the recommended one to get. This solid machine brews up fresh cups of coffee one at a time; it has no attached water reservoir.

Simply add the necessary water, pop in the pod of your choice and wait for your coffee to brew.. It’s perfect for the office or a vacation home and is compatible with all patented K-cups, giving you a world of options when it comes to making your own gourmet coffees, teas and ciders. The machine is quiet, easy to operate and requires no maintenance

Keurig 35 B30 Mini Personal Single-Serve Brewing System Specifications:

Average Price: $169.95 Click here to check latest price on Amazon.com
Product Dimensions: 11 1/2 x 10 x 13 ¼ inches
Warranty: One-year limited
Compatible with: Patented K-cups
Features: One-touch technology, ready in less than three minutes, brews eight-ounce cups

Pros

Single-Serve Wonder: If you’re someone who enjoys making one cup of coffee in the morning or afternoon, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of the Keurig Mini Personal Brewing System. This machine is truly built for the one-cup coffee lover as it has no water reservoir and is lightweight and compact in size. Not having a water reservoir might mean that you have to fill up the brewer with water each time, but there is no water tank to clean and the water is always fresh. Although the machine brews eight-ounce cups, you can adjust this as needed to make a slightly weaker cup of coffee.

Ergonomic: Not all coffee makers are compact these days, as they include elaborate functions or water reservoirs that take up precious counter space. Not the Keuring Mini Personal Brewer however, as this machine is super compact, very lightweight and can be positioned just about anywhere, providing there’s an outlet nearby. Because of its sheer convenience, many people have purchased this machine to be used as a second coffee maker at a vacation home or workplace. There are no fussy buttons, no bulky wiring and no obtrusive housing. All you have is a sleek, stylish little coffee maker that complements the single-cup coffee lover. Oh yes, and this personal brewer is super quiet so it won’t disturb your coworker in the next cubicle.

Simple Operation: To much surprise, this Keurig is even easier than other Keurigs to operate. Since this personal brewer doesn’t have a water reservoir, you cut out the step of having to keep the tank filled and cleaned regularly. There are no brew choices or temperature options, but many appreciate the convenience of a 1-2-3 operation. Truly, this coffee brewer is drop-and-go. And because there are less moving parts and no LED backlit display, there is less to break on the machine.

Cons

One Cup Limit: If you enjoy drinking multiple cups of coffee, the Keurig Mini Personal Brewer is not for you. This machine is designed for one cup of coffee and isn’t convenient for those that enjoy several cups in a row. That’s not to say that you can’t brew up several cups throughout the day, but you will need to measure the water and wait for it to heat up with each cup. Not to mention, it takes about two minutes for the water to heat up, so you will be waiting longer between cups of coffee. For these reasons, many people choose this personal single-serve brewer as an addition to their current coffee maker.

One Cup Size: Unlike many of the other Keurig single-cup brewers, this personal machine only has one brewing size: eight ounces. This means that you don’t have the option to tweak your coffee to make it stronger or weaker, and you can only make enough to fit in a standard sized mug instead of a larger travel mug. If you’re already used to drinking eight-ounce cups of coffee, the limited option won’t be much of an issue. But if you like to have choices when it comes to brewing sizes, you’ll want to choose a different Keurig machine that will afford you these options.

Long Brew Time: There is a two to two-and-a-half minute wait time for the water to warm up before using the machine. This is actually less time that what is needed for some of the other Keurigs that take four minutes to start up, but the difference is that you need to wait this long every time you make a cup of coffee. There is no water reservoir, so you will need to fill the machine each time and wait for the water to warm. Once it is warmed however, the coffee pours out within seconds. Nevertheless, this machine still takes less time than a standard coffee pot and comes out at the perfect temperature.

Keurig 35 B30 in Review

The Keurig B30 Mini Personal Single-Serve Brewing System is an absolute wonder to have, but it’s not for everyone. More specifically, it’s not the best option to use as a primary coffee brewer. Since this brewer is truly designed to make a single cup of coffee, it’s best for those that only drink one cup at a time or those that want a lightweight, easy-to-use brewer for their vacation home or workplace.

The positives are that the machine is very easy to use and has no mess when it comes to pouring water or measuring out coffee grounds. You can enjoy the full line of K-cups and skip out on having to keep a water reservoir, plus the single-cup brewer features quieter operation and faster warming times since there is less water to heat. If you want that fresh cup of joe in the morning, this Keurig will deliver it. Click here to check latest price on Amazon.

 

bread-stand-mixerWhen it comes to mixers for bread making, there are a few models that get mentioned again and again. The list includes the Kitchen Aid Pro, Bosch Universal Plus, Electrolux DLX, and the Cuisinart SM-55.

Every baker has their favorite workhorse, but which is the best for you will depend on your needs. How many loaves do you usually make at a time? What kind of flour do you use (white, rye, whole wheat etc)? What accessories do you need? What is your budget?

My choice is the Cuisinart SM-55 5-1/2-Quart 12-Speed Stand Mixer.

When you hear the word “Cuisinart” you probably think of the small kitchen appliances that have made life easier through the years for cooks. This Cuisinart 12 speed mixer fits the image; it packs 800 watts of power in its motor, and a rugged die-cast metal frame. Plus, it has twelve speeds – two more than most stand mixers. The reliability and power rating of a mixer’s motor is one of the first things to look at when choosing a mixer for your bread making.

Cuisinart’s SM-55 stand mixer offers a three-year warranty overall and a five-year warranty on the motor. For making two loaves of whole wheat bread at once, you could use this year-in year-out.

That is because this stand mixer has the power you need to mix even the heaviest of bread dough or any other kitchen job. Its twelve speed action lets you start slow so as not to slosh ingredients out of the bowl, and finish with a silky smooth texture that you can only get from a high-speed mixer.

In comparison, the Kitchen Aid Pro’s motor is 575 watts, and although it has a 6 quart bowl instead of 5 quart, it still can only mix enough dough for one loaf at a time without straining the motor.

The Bosch Universal Plus has an 800-watt motor, but it comes in at a higher price point than the Cuisinart, as does the KitchenAid Pro. (Although you can often find deals for rebates and discounts on the Kitchen Aid if you look online)

The Electrolux DLX is in a class by itself, and a few hundred dollars more than any of the others on the list.  This is for sure the best bread mixer on the market, and is better suited for commercial bakers and restaurants than a home kitchen, unless you are a bread fanatic.

Though it has a 600 watt motor, the unique design of the DLX (there is no mixer beater, the bowl spins around during use, and a roller and scraper mimic the kneading action of two hands) means you can mix up to 8-10 loaves worth of dough. Designed and built in Sweden, this mixer machine is built to last. It is also a great choice if you want to bake lots of double layer or sheet cakes.

Back to my favorite- the Cuisinart has a unique timer you can set to count down from fifteen minutes so you never have to worry about over-mixing.

Cuisinart sm-55Speeds and Mixing

Another amazing feature that pastry chefs love about the SM-55 is that you have three power outlets that let you connect an attachment that you need for a job such as making pasta, grinding meat or squeezing juice.

The power outlets insure that you don’t overtax the Cuisinart’s motor when you need high speed for certain attachments such as the food processor. Middle of the road speed can be used for such attachments as the juicer and the low speed outlet is perfect for the meat grinder and pasta making attachments.

You can mix huge quantities with the Cuisinart 5 ½ quart, stainless steel mixing bowl – and the bowl is equipped with handles that let you easily scrape and remove ingredients to transfer to another utensil.

Noise Levels

You might think that a powerful, commercial-style stand mixer such as the Cuisinart 12-speed stand mixer might make a sound like a bus – but you’d be wrong. This stand mixer is amazingly quiet despite its 800 watts of power.

Some users of the Cuisinart stand mixer do say that it makes a grinding sound sometimes if the mixing job is heavy, but it is usually only for a short amount of time.

Attachments

The three attachments that come with Cuisinart’s stand mixer are the dough hook that takes the work out of making bread, the chef’s whisk that lets you whip eggs, whipped cream and other tasks and the mixing paddle that lets you mix cake batter and perform dozens of other culinary jobs.

Optional attachments can be purchased separately and include everything from meat grinders and juicers to food processor and pasta maker. A splashguard is also included with the stand mixer to attach to the bowl and prevent splatters.

Durability

This Cuisinart stand mixer is about as durable as you’re going to find for the price. The warranties – three years for all parts other than the motor, which has a five-year warranty – speak for the durability of this model and the company’s quest for excellence.

Using the three power outlets correctly and for the job you’re performing ensures that the motor won’t be overtaxed by heavy or stiff ingredients.

Assembly

Take it out of the box, choose an attachment and connect it by tilting back the unit’s head and you’re ready to go. This Cuisinart stand mixer is extremely easy to assemble and requires very little effort on your part.

Clean Up

The splatter guard keeps the ingredients safely in the mixing bowl and not making a mess of your kitchen or the mixer. The tilt back head lets you clean beneath the mixer without having to bend over and all you have to do is use a damp cloth to wipe it down. The mixing bowl and attachments are top-shelf, dishwasher safe.

One nice thing about the Kitchen Aid Pro 600 is the Soft Start feature, which automatically makes a gentle acceleration from stopped to your selected speed. This helps avoid the dreaded “batter explosion” effect, but that isn’t as big an issue with thick bread dough as with cake or pancake batter.

Cost

The Cuisinart 5 ½ quart mixer has a fairly high price tag, but if you’re a bread making artist who wants a reliable workhorse for a stand mixer, this might be the one for you. It is well worth the price if you’re searching for a mixer that will last and that you can expand by purchasing more attachments.

photo of bread dough being mixed by Miss Fandango

For a moderately priced machine that makes delectable cups of espresso and cappuccino, the DeLonghi 15-Bar Retro Pump Espresso Maker will deliver what you are looking for. With 15-bars of pressure and the capability to use ESE pods or fresh coffee grounds, you can be your own barista. Like other DeLonghi machines, the Retro is super sleek and stylish, serving as a trendy accessory on your kitchen countertop.

Weighing less than ten pounds, you can easily move and clean around the espresso maker. Other highlights include a self-priming option, stainless steel boiler, swivel jet frother, dual filter holder for both pods and coffee grounds and two thermostats for steaming milk and coffee. The DeLonghi Retro has good affordability, practicality and performance qualities.

DeLonghi BAR32 Retro 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker Specifications:

Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 8.7 x 12.6 inches; 9 pounds
Pressure: 15-bars
For use with: ESE pods and ground coffee
Features: Self-priming option, two thermostats, stainless steel boiler, dual function filter holder, swivel jet frother
Click here to check latest price on Amazon

Good Points About the DeLonghi BAR32 Retro 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker

Dual Filter Holder: Thanks to the patented dual function filter holder, you can use the DeLonghi Retro with ESE pods or ground coffee. With the affordable price tag on this espresso maker, the filter is a bonus to have since most machines have only coffee pods or ground coffee, not both. With the DeLonghi Retro, you have a world of options at your fingertips. The ESE pods are easy to use since there is no measuring or mess, while using fresh coffee grounds gives users more control over taste and smoothness. Plus, you can save money by using coffee grounds while keeping the convenience of using the pods when you want.

Two Thermostats: Adding to the DeLonghi Retro’s image is the two separate thermostats that allow water and steam pressure to be controlled separately. This makes it easy to brew espresso at the perfect temperature, avoiding the common pitfall of having the temperature not warm enough with automatic machines. To control the thermostats, use the silver knob that has two options to preheat the water for steam and preheat the water for coffee. Finally, you can enjoy the convenience of an automatic machine while getting cups of espresso at the perfect temperature.

High-Quality Components: You’ll be pleased to see that the DeLonghi Retro has high-quality parts even with its catchy price point. On the whole, milk frothing wands rarely exceed what is expected from them, even on those machines that cost thousands of dollars. With the DeLonghi Retro, you get a quality milk frothing wand that is made from durable stainless steel and plastic. Many of the internal parts are also made from stainless steel such as the brew group and boiler. The built-in tamper is a nice feature because it’s one less part to lose, although some people replaced this part because they felt it didn’t work as well as it should. You also get a decent-sized water tank that allows you to make six to eight espressos with one fill. Read more positive comments by owners

Not So Good Points About the DeLonghi BAR32

Plastic: The DeLonghi Retro is primarily plastic, with the exception of some of the internal parts such as the boiler, portafilter and brew group that are made from stainless steel. Some people are concerned about the long-term durability of the espresso maker because of its plastic construction. Although plastic parts are not always ideal, it keeps the price of the machine down considerably. Some machines boast a stainless steel exterior but still have plastic parts on the inside; at least with the DeLonghi Retro, you get a stylish, lightweight machine for a fraction of the price. However, if you want something heavier, sturdier and with more stainless steel parts this machine is not for you.

No Cup Warmer: If you enjoy having a cup warmer to keep your mug of espresso warm, you’ll miss out on this accessory with the DeLonghi Retro. The machine has a plastic tray where the coffee mugs sit, but they won’t do much in keeping your cups warm. Even though many other machines come with cup warming trays, the machines are more expensive and the trays often don’t work well. With the DeLonghi Retro, you get a more affordable machine and don’t have to worry about a subpar cup warmer that doesn’t live up to the hype. And, you can control the temperature with this machine thanks to the manual settings and thermostats that help keep the temperature of the coffee hotter.

Limited Cup Space: The distance between the steam wand and the drip tray is not very tall, which makes it difficult to sneak in any cup that is larger than a standard-sized mug. If you try to use a larger cup, say more than 16 ounces, you’ll have to tilt it to fit underneath the steam wand, which will in turn cause the foamy layer to drip out of the mug. Some people use a smaller shot-sized glass and then transfer the espresso to a large mug. Although it’s a small issue that doesn’t affect the way the machine performs, you may want to see if your current mugs will fit conveniently with the DeLonghi Retro.
Read more negative comments from customers

DeLonghi BAR32 Recommendation

The DeLonghi Retro is a smart, cost-effective buy for those that want an espresso maker but don’t want to shell out an entire paycheck for one. The affordable price tag isn’t the only feature worth talking about; the DeLonghi Retro is one of few in this price range that can handle both ESE pods and coffee grounds. Easy to clean, lightweight and stylish, this espresso maker is recommended for the home, office or vacation home.

For a dependable microwave that doesn’t need a manual every time you go to use it, the Frigidaire FFCM0724LW microwave is an exceptional choice. It offers plenty of sensible features, as well as a memory cook function and multiple-stage cooking.

With 1-1/2 cubic feet of space, you have sufficient room for a large dinner plate, beverage mug or bowl of soup. The electronic touchpad that graces the front of the design allows for easy use as you navigate through ten power levels, an express cook button and eight one-touch auto cook buttons for your favorite foods. In a clean white color, this Frigidaire microwave will blend in nicely with all décor.

Frigidaire FFCM0724LW 1-1/2-Cubic-Foot 1000-Watt Microwave Oven Specifications:

Average Price: $120.00
Product Dimensions: 7″ X 10-1/8″ X 12-7/8″ Inches, 23 pounds
Power: 1000 watts
Color: White
Capacity: 1-1/2 Cubic Feet
Features: Electronic touchpad controls, ten power levels, defrost by time and weight, one-touch auto cook menu, multiple stage cooking, memory cook, express cook, push-button door, turntable.
Warranty: Usually One year parts and labor

Pros

Stored Memory: If you’re tired of having to reset your microwave every time the power goes out, you’ll love that the Frigidaire 1-1/2 Cubic Foot Microwave Oven has a memory cook feature that stores your cooking instructions for later use. And because the microwave has intuitive features, it’s easy to find the perfect cooking temperature and speed, while having the memory cook function remember it for later. While anyone will appreciate this feature, it will be especially valued by those who tend to lose power in their homes.

Performance: This countertop microwave is packed with features, and the performance is outstanding as well. With all the cooking options, it’s not hard to find the perfect temperature for your foods, and meals come out evenly cooked every time. If you’re cooking something from the one-touch cook menu such as pizza, popcorn or a warm beverage, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with just how well the microwave heats up foods. There are no cold or hot spots, and delicate foods won’t overheat on the outside, while leaving the inside of the food frozen. Even if you don’t use the one-touch buttons, you can expect that your meals will come out just right, saving you time and frustration.

Cooking Options: For a countertop microwave, the Frigidaire 1000-Watt Microwave has many cooking options that you’ll find useful for everyday cooking. There are eight one-touch auto cook buttons that include pizza, beverage, popcorn, dinner plate and potato, while ten power levels are available for precise cooking. The microwave even offers multiple stage cooking that enables the microwave to be preset to cycle through more than one stage of cooking during one use. You also have the option to defrost by cook time or the weight of the food, and there are buttons for express cook and memory cook, making this microwave highly intuitive.

Ease of Use: The Frigidaire 1000-Watt Microwave is the perfect middle-of-the-road appliance that’s useful for families, elders or those living in apartments, dorms or senior centers. The microwave is not too complicated, and you won’t have to pull out the manual every time you go to use it. All of the buttons are straightforward and easy to navigate through, and the microwave doesn’t have technologically advanced features that will be ultra sensitive. That being said, the microwave isn’t too simplistic in that it skips over necessary features. It offers many cook options and has excellent performance for a price you can afford. If you want a microwave that has practical features, but isn’t too technologically advanced, this Frigidaire is the product for you.

Cons

Appearance: The Frigidaire 1000-Watt Microwave doesn’t have the most updated look to it, so if you’re aiming for a stylish, sophisticated microwave that will match your other appliances, the Frigidaire may be too simple for your needs. The design is reminiscent of microwaves from years ago, as it’s a bit large, made from plastic and has a simple, flat touchpad. The color of the microwave is white as well, which tends to be the less popular color compared to stainless steel and black appliances. The door doesn’t have a pull handle, but a push button, which tends to be less reliable. And the screen is not opaque as some people prefer it to be. Fortunately, none of these aesthetic properties affect the performance of the microwave.

Cost: With the lack of an updated design, many people are disappointed that the Frigidaire microwave costs as much as it does. For a similar price, you can purchase a stainless steel microwave that has just as many features, but with a clean, updated design. However, not everyone has black or stainless steel appliances and appreciate the simple nature of this microwave that boasts a white exterior. Nevertheless, many people feel that the price should be a bit cheaper to reflect this simpler design.

Frigidaire FFCM0724LW Microwave in Review

The Frigidaire FFCM0724LW Microwave is a wonderful microwave that has a lot of nice features, a large capacity and even a memory cook feature. It delivers up to 1000-watts of power and cooks food evenly, making you more efficient around the kitchen. The microwave is a great purchase for families or singletons since it doesn’t compromise practical cook features, yet isn’t as complicated as some of the newer microwaves on the market. The design of the microwave does lack behind other appliances however, so if you have a stainless steel kitchen, you may want to skip over the Frigidaire. But if you’re not one to follow suit with new trends, you’ll find everything you need with the efficient Frigidaire 1000-Watt Microwave.