There are a lot of cool things out there that make us wonder — do they really work? In our I Tried It series, we set out to use them in the real world and have determined that, in fact, they really do.
The Product on Trial
When most people think of a single-serve automatic coffee maker there are typically two brands that immediately come to mind: Keurig or Nespresso.
The convenience of these machines is unmatched. You just fill up a water tank, pop in a pod, press a button, and voilà — a hot cup of joe is ready for you in about a minute. Unsurprisingly, 40% of U.S. coffee consumers own a single-cup coffee brewing system.
I’ve never been a fan of the taste of single-cup brewed coffee, though, which is why I’ve never purchased a Keurig or recommended them to friends and family. I grew up around people who grind beans every morning, am friends with baristas, and have enjoyed learning the multitude of other ways to craft a better-tasting beverage. Basically, I’m not someone who was willing to sacrifice taste in the name of convenience. Not to mention, single-serve coffee makers are also terrible for the environment.
De’Longhi recently launched its latest product, the TrueBrew, a fully automatic grind and brew coffee maker that promises it won’t force consumers to choose between quality and convenience. With six different brewing sizes, iced coffee and espresso-style modes, and auto-cleaning features, I was intrigued and felt that it was a product that almost seemed too good to be true. So, I decided to put it to the test and set my AeroPress aside for a month.
Seamless Setup and Sharp Looks
The TrueBrew has a sleek and modern-looking design that should blend in nicely with most kitchens. It couldn’t have been simpler to set up. After unboxing it, besides adding some beans to its hopper, all I had to do was remove some stickers and wash a few accessories like the containers that hold water and used coffee rounds.
With its multiple icons that illustrate all the various sizes of coffee it brews, the front face looks a bit like a touchscreen — but it’s not. Instead, the TrueBrew uses three main touch-sensitive buttons that you press to select from one of six brew sizes (more on that later) as well as five brew types (light, gold, bold, espresso, and over-ice). That “gold” setting uses the ideal water-to-coffee ratios set by the Specialty Coffee Association so the overall taste of the coffee is balanced with harmonious flavors.
The machine’s interface was extremely well thought out, and on days that I was in a hurry to get out the door or was feeling exhausted, it was convenient to only have to make a few buttons presses without putting much thought into it, so I could quickly make my coffee and be on my way.
Big or Small — You Can Have It All
Besides being incredibly convenient and easy to use, my favorite part about the TrueBrew is its versatility. The machine makes it easy to make coffee in a wide range of sizes. Whether I wanted an espresso-sized cup, to fill a tall travel mug, or a 40-ounce carafe for caffeinating a crowd, it had my back.
It has a bean hopper at its top with a rubber-sealed lid, so I was confident that my beans were consistently fresh. Its built-in burr grinder creates smooth medium grinds sand-like in texture which are ideal for the drip brewing method.
Another nice perk is the bypass shoot behind the bean hopper. It holds multiple scoops of ground coffee. I liked using it for decaf coffee in the evenings. That way I could get my un-caffeinated coffee fix without having to empty the entire bean hopper. This feature also comes in handy for folks who prefer darker coffee but don’t want to risk cross-contaminating the two bean types in the grinder.
Taste and What It’s Like to Use
As soon as I selected my beverage size, the brew type, and pressed the start button, the machine whirred to life. It tamps the coffee (its coffee grounds are turned into a tightly compressed, evenly dispersed puck where the water and coffee will come in contact when it's brewing).
Since I work from home, I primarily brewed 16-ounce mugs of coffee — the equivalent to Starbucks’ Grande size — which took a minute and 30 seconds from start to finish. The machine even has a convenient “Auto On” function you can set to brew your coffee at a specific time each day. There’s also a flip-down cup holder for smaller mugs to prevent the coffee trickle from splashing and making a mess.
I prefer my coffee black and was impressed with the full-body cup of coffee it created. It was smooth, well-rounded, and very hot. Maybe a little too hot in my opinion. So, I recommend adjusting the temperature slightly, so you don’t risk burning your drink (or tongue).
I occasionally used the espresso style mode, which crafts a small 3-ounce shot with an impressive crema at its top (even if I wasn’t using an espresso roast!). I don’t think coffee snobs will be blown away by the espresso’s taste, but I think it’s still a nice feature to have, and I liked using it for incorporating espresso shots into my baked goods or for an afternoon pick-me-up when I didn’t want to have a belly full of coffee.
Additionally, there’s an “over-ice” mode that slows down the brewing process for making an iced coffee. I lean toward hot drinks, but made a few iced coffees to try. The drink was smooth and didn’t taste too watery. I liked that the machine left plenty of room for a dash of milk as well. Despite being one of the hottest brewing machines I’ve owned, the iced coffee was still very cold.
Overall, the consistency of the many drinks the machine makes was quite good, and the taste was better than any other single-serve coffee maker I’ve used.
The Drawbacks to Consider
Besides its steep price point, I found very few faults while testing the TrueBrew. It requires minimal maintenance and will alert you when it's time to clean it with red lights. You have to clean out the infuser (which is in its center cavity) by soaking it and rinsing it under your tap and empty the inner containers that hold ground coffee and discarded water. Depending on how hard your water is, you may have to descale the machine every 3 months or so.
I think the most important items to consider before purchasing though, are the following:
- Do you need the thermal carafe? Because if so that model costs $100 more and unfortunately, you cannot purchase a carafe later on down the line.
- Do you have enough clearance under your kitchen cabinets to store it? The machine measures in at 16 inches tall, 16.5 inches deep, and 11.75 wide — so, it’s on the larger side.
- Do you prefer a cappuccino or lattes? If so you'll need to purchase a milk frother because this machine doesn't have one.
Large families may find that its 60-fluid-ounce side water tank is too small, but it wasn’t an issue during my testing. For what it’s worth, I make 3 large cups a day, max.
Lastly, if you’re someone who likes to adjust grind settings depending on the type of bean you have on hand, unfortunately, there is no way to do so. This fault is forgivable to me because I appreciate that the machine brews fresh coffee using whole beans without making any significant waste.
Hands down, the TrueBrew is the simplest way to make delicious coffee. It’s an environmentally friendly alternative to the single-serve machines we’ve grown accustomed to but requires even less work since you don’t have to fiddle around with pods.
Although it’s a bit more expensive than traditional drip coffee makers, I think it’s worth the splurge since you get a jump in quality and convenience. It’s easier to maintain and use, and brews delicious drip coffee, espresso-like shots, and iced coffee in whatever vessel you have around the house be it a giant mug that’s as big as your face, a small espresso cup, or those super tall mugs that don’t typically fit under coffee makers.
Brandon Carte has been covering technology at BestProducts.com since 2017, where he's been writing about the latest gadgets, appliances, and scouring the internet for the products that make life easier. His reporting has been featured on , Good Housekeeping and USA Today. When he's not researching washing machines or testing robot vacuums, you can find him at concerts, swimming laps, or at the movies. He thinks smartphones are too big, prefers MP3s to Spotify, and misses his iPhone’s headphone jack.