Mr. Coffee goes snooty with $170 brewer

It remains to be seen whether the king of lowbrow coffee will be able to win over java snobs.

By MSN Money producer Feb 27, 2014 3:53PM

A cup of coffee and beans © Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images
By Charles Passy, MarketWatch MarketWatch

Apparently, even Mr. Coffee is becoming a coffee snob.  

The venerable brand, known for its budget-priced automatic drip coffee makers, is getting ready to launch its most expensive model to date: the sleek-looking $170 Optimal Brew machine that's "designed from the inside out" to make premium joe, according to the company.  

The new coffee maker, which will be available in late 2014, incorporates features that have been associated with European brands aimed at Java-loving sophisticates -- notably, the ability to heat water to a near-boiling 205 degrees Fahrenheit. By contrast, most of Mr. Coffee's current models, typically priced under $50, heat water to just 185 degrees. Coffee experts say higher temperatures result in more flavor being extracted from the coffee grounds.  

Mr. Coffee also has plans to introduce a French press-style coffee maker in 2014. This brewing method, which involves plunging grounds in water that's ideally been heated close to that 205-degree mark, is popular with the coffee-geek crowd, since it's also known to result in a more robust cup of coffee. Mr. Coffee's $70 version will differ from traditional presses in that it will incorporate the water-heating element into the beaker itself.  

Add it all up and it's clear that Mr. Coffee, which is part of the consumer products conglomerate Jarden (JAH) , aims to appeal to the Starbucks (SBUX) set that has embraced gourmet Java as an everyday pleasure. The National Coffee Association reports that a growing percentage of Americans are drinking gourmet coffee – 31 percent in 2013, up from 24 percent in 2010. Additionally, Americans are showing interest in those specialty European coffee makers that deliver the super-high temperatures.

A decade ago, even the most discerning of coffee drinkers had probably not heard of Moccamaster , a Dutch brand known for its odd-looking Technivorm brewer. Today, its $300 machines, which indeed heat water to 205 degrees, are sold everywhere from Williams-Sonoma to, yes, Starbucks.  

The bottom line, says Jarden vice president Matt Ragland, is that the Mr. Coffee brand is evolving with the times: "We see consumers looking for a better-tasting cup of coffee." Ragland adds that the push into the gourmet segment started last year when the brand launched a high-end espresso maker.  

In all, it's a far cry from the days when Mr. Coffee was best known for its ads with New York Yankees great Joe DiMaggio. The baseball legend promised his fans "there's only one Mr. Coffee." (The brand, which launched in 1972, was the first mainstream automatic drip coffee maker, but others eventually followed in its path.)

Coffee industry professionals generally applaud Mr. Coffee's move into the upscale side of the business. "I think they're addressing the market realities," says Joseph DeRupo, a spokesman for the National Coffee Association. 

At the same time, others question whether a brand with such a mainstream reputation can really convince coffee snobs of its ability to deliver a high-end product. Food writer Allen Salkin , author of the recently published "From Scratch: Inside the Food Network," calls Mr. Coffee "the king of the lowbrow coffee makers" and doubts the brand will be able to rebrand itself any other way. "Unless they start calling it Monsieur Coffee," he says.

In any case, a high-end coffee maker may not even be the way to go. Coffee purists swear by the pour-over method, which involves relatively few tools -- say, a cone-shaped brewing gizmo and a filter. The initial cost involved? Well under $50, though the method does involve a considerable investment of time -- as in a few minutes per cup. Still, Specialty Coffee Association of America senior director Peter Giuliano insists it's worth it if you truly care about the final product.

"I've never had a coffee brewing machine," he says.

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Tags: SBUX
Feb 27, 2014 4:48PM
American's are getting way to used to spending money they don't have. Here is one more thing to buy that you don't need.

Take the new single serve Kurig coffee makers. Each serving averages between .51 and .68 cents per cup. That's crazy for home brewed coffee.
Feb 27, 2014 4:31PM
We have two identical Mr Coffee makers on our kitchen counter. One for regular and one for decaf. they are 12 cup brewers. When we have gatherings, we use our 30 cup West Bend for regular and one of the 12 cup Mr coffee's for decaf. We leave the house with 24 OZ thermos type containers and never stop at a Dunkin' or Starbuck's. Cheap, no. Frugal, maybe. Just like our homebrews and spend money elsewhere
Feb 27, 2014 5:51PM
For $170 it's going to have to give me a massage too.
Feb 27, 2014 5:02PM
My "El Cheapo" Mr. Coffeemaker works fine for for me.  I could but about 8 of them for $170.00!!
Feb 27, 2014 9:26PM
I remember a skit on Sat. Night Live with Father Guido Sarducci and his invention called "Mr. Tea". He boiled some water and ran it through the top of a machine that looked like a Mr. Coffee maker. Where the coffee pot would be he had a cup with a tea bag inside.
Feb 27, 2014 8:36PM
A fool and their money will soon part ways.  Life is simple...don't complicate it.
Feb 27, 2014 6:24PM
2 coffee stories by msn today; odd nothing about being gay; thanks nice change I think.
Feb 27, 2014 4:21PM

But are these expensive Coffee Machines necessary?


I don't think or believe so and I am a coffee drinker who still uses her old Mr. Coffee without gadgets!


And a friend got me a new one for the Holidays and it cost her under $30. It is downstairs in my office!

Feb 27, 2014 4:31PM
Perhaps a bit over my budget. I get my coffee free at work anyway.
Feb 27, 2014 6:31PM
I like my bare bones Mr. Coffee just fine, they do make a good pot.
Feb 27, 2014 7:33PM
The 205 F coffee brewers are not a gimmick, in my experience. It's science. Not hot enough, not enough extraction of flavors from the beans. Too hot and you burn the coffee. There are also multyiple drip spouts , not just oneI buy whole beans and use a burr grinder. I thought that's all I had to do. After all, my machine worked. Why replace it? I used to think the taste coffee had was normal until I had a really good cup using one of these brewers. I was able to really smell and taste flavors I didn't know were in those beans. It turns out I'd been drinking burnt coffee for a long time and just didn't know it.

I did tons of research and ended up spending about $140 on my machine, and I know some people are gonna gripe about the price ( I realize it's a lot), but there's not one day that goes by that I'm not totally happy with the purchase. It's low profile, no fancy digital screens or dials, just on/off, but brews a perfect pot of coffee every time.

Feb 27, 2014 6:32PM
I think the 205F brewers are more of a gimmick than an improvement based on my Mr. Coffee experience.  Coffee seems to be one of those things whose taste is very influenced by where you drink it and what contraption makes it.  Remember the old TV commercial where an instant coffee maker secretly replaced an expensive restaurant's coffee and the patrons raved about how good the coffee tasted?

I use a 4-cup Mr. Coffee drip machine, grind my own beans just before brewing, and the tap water at my house is excellently soft.  I get excellent coffee as good as at Starbucks, etc. using Starbuck's "Caffe Verona" or "House Blend," or Peet's "Major Dickason's Blend" or "Cafe Domingo" (winner of the coffee taste test at "America's Test Kitchen").  Two of Cameron's flavored coffees, "Chocolate Caramel Brownie" and "Toasted Southern Pecan" are "to die for" dripping out of the Mr. Coffee machine.  Even half-as-expensive cheaper beans like Eight O'Clock's "Columbian" make good coffee with the Mr. Coffee maker.
I keep several different beans, with varying brightness (acidity) and fullness and each morning pick what suits me that morning.  Sometimes it's Eight O'Clock Columbian, $4.96 for 12 oz. of whole beans, cheaper in a larger bag, at Walmart!

Feb 27, 2014 7:45PM
I perk my coffee. Just watch for the color (strength) on the glass knob on the top. Better you buy one with a nipple shaped knob. I concentrates the coffee in the point and makes it easier to determine the strength. Try it, everybody likes my coffee. The pots cost a bit over $50.
Feb 27, 2014 8:48PM
I wish to think that this new coffee brewer will make a better, richer, more flavorful cup of joe, but after cajoling my 20 year-old coffee maker every morning to percolate the best cups ever, I will have to think it twice before I get me another. For sure though, if I do,  I will include it in my last will and testament for some lucky relative to remember me every day early in the morning.
Feb 27, 2014 7:56PM
At 18 I was in the army including 30 mos. in W. Germany in a sit down job in flight operations...big urns of coffee sure allowed me to concentrate on flight plans and flight crew briefings.  My late CPA father depended on Nescafe Instant for years.  I miss 45 yrs. ago when several of us vets would meet in a beachtown Denny's and shoot the b.s. about women and the 'Nam war news. 
Feb 28, 2014 5:24AM
I love my JURA coffe machine and woukdn't give it up for anything.  It was expensive, but I don't pay 5 bucks for drinking coffe out.  I get the best stuff at home.  If you don't have one, you don't know what you're missing. 
Feb 28, 2014 10:29AM

Who is doing all the thumbs down? I think these people just do it without even reading!

I have Keurig and I bought the k cup that you can fill with your own coffee saved a ton and it still tastes great!

Feb 28, 2014 10:13AM
My experience has been that they all break and expensive ones tend to break sooner so I buy the cheapest coffee maker and replace it with another cheap one when it breaks. 170 dollars ? My cap is ten dollars.
Feb 28, 2014 4:05PM
I like my French press - been using the same one for over 30 years - no filters to buy - no plug - makes a nice cup o'joe. Ok sure I still have to heat the water and grind the beans (manually) and I suppose it is a bummer that I can't preset a timer to auto-brew, but I guess I'm old school.
Feb 28, 2014 3:10PM
I drink about 8 or ten cups a year a little out of my league
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