PROS / This makes great-tasting coffee.
CONS / You get few convenience features on this drip coffee maker.
VERDICT / You might not get much programming versatility with the Hamilton Beach coffee maker, but you can brew potent and flavorful coffee.
This Hamilton Beach 2-Way Brewer is a programmable coffee maker that offers you dual capabilities: on one side you can brew a 12-cup pot of coffee, and on the other side you can separately brew either a single cup or a travel mug of coffee to go.
The single-serve side of the machine comes with a mesh filter for coffee grounds, or you can use soft pods of pre-packaged ground coffee. The single-side portion of this drip coffee maker comes with a mesh brew basket filter that you can use as a measuring scoop if you prefer that to pods.
You can place a plastic cup rest underneath the single-side dispenser to hoist a cup up high enough so that coffee flows into it and does not make a mess. Otherwise, there is room enough for a 14-ounce travel mug. The mug is an extra accessory that you must buy separately. The carafe side uses paper coffee filters in its basket.
As far as the carafe side of this drip coffee maker, you can program the clock on the front and prepare it to either brew coffee at once or program it as much as 24 hours in advance so you wake up to freshly made coffee in the pot. You can also choose either regular or bold strength coffee, and if you want to quickly snag a cup of coffee while this is brewing, this machine lets you do that with its brew pause capability. This device also contains the useful safety feature of a two-hour automatic shut-off function.
Beyond that, however, you get few other options for making a pot of coffee. Unlike some other coffee maker brands we tested, this does not let you adjust such things as the warming plate temperature. It also does not include a pause after the coffee grounds are initially sprayed with hot water, which is a process that slows the brewing time a bit, but allows the saturated grounds to fully render the best aroma.
We tested only the carafe side and followed the manufacturer's instructions using brand name coffee with a medium grind, a standard paper filter in the brew basket and tap water. We added one level tablespoon of coffee grounds for each cup of coffee we made.
When it came to assessing flavor, aroma and overall quality, our taste testing panel was unanimous: The Hamilton Beach makes superb coffee. Virtually every one of our panel members ranked this as a top-notch brew with strong, smooth flavor and great aroma.
The manufacturer recommends using filtered, bottled water rather than tap water from a community source, but in our tests, this did not seem to matter to our panel.
Although you get the option of making one cup or a travel-size mug of coffee on one side, this drip coffee maker is actually bare-bones simple in its functioning and features. Some consumers might be disappointed that they cannot do a variety of things with it, such things as make iced coffee or control the warming plate temperature. Other coffee lovers who take a more minimalistic approach to coffee makers will be happy this is a pretty simple device. It offers one exemplary strong point: It makes excellent coffee.