Luxurious in style and with a hefty price tag, the $388 GE Appliances Cafe Specialty Drip Coffee Maker definitely makes a statement. It is aimed directly at coffee connoisseurs who would otherwise spend a lot of money on aa or even a Ratio Eight machine.
- Infuses quickly
- Excellent temperature control
- Premium design
- Wi-Fi smart features work with Alexa or Google Assistant
Like these other products, the Cafe is designed to brew great cups of coffee. It also works fast, brewing our standard 8-cup test pots in less than 5 minutes. The coffee also brews large, capable of producing full 10-cup carafes with each pass. And the Cafe is one of the first products in GE Appliances’ new push on kitchen counters. As such, it has modern smart capabilities, especially Wi-Fi connectivity, app control, and support for Google and Alexa voice assistants.
All that aside, splurging so much on a home coffee maker is overkill. If you’re willing to forego the smarts and refined copper accents of coffee, thedoes the same job for a fraction of the price. I would say for most buyers that is what really matters.
Elegant and expensive style
There’s no denying that GE Appliances has put a lot of time and effort into designing the cafe. The generous use of stainless steel and copper screams that this coffee maker is top of the line. Even the polycarbonate sections of the machine provide a premium feel and dense texture.
That said, the overall coffee layout follows that of other high-performance coffee makers. A large water reservoir sits atop a tower that houses the brewer’s controls and heating system. To the right of this is a large brewing chamber. Inside you will find a removable filter basket as well as a gold mesh filter. The basket also accepts #4 paper coffee filters.
Below is the coffee’s vacuum-sealed thermal carafe. The whole rests on a rectangular base. It’s very similar to how the Oxo 8-Cup,and Technivorm Moccamaster brewers are laid out.
Apart from the copper trim, what sets the Cafe apart is its LED display. It is integrated just below the brushed metal surface of the front face of the heating tower. These lights show the time of day as well as the brew settings you can select. I admit it looks rather slippery. Neither the Connoisseur nor the Moccamaster have a display of any kind. It also puts the basic Breville Precision Brewer LCD to shame.
Smarts are nice, but not that useful
Like many brand-new kitchen appliances, the Cafe coffee maker has built-in smart capabilities. The brewer has an internal Wi-Fi radio to connect to home networks and ultimately the cloud. Using the SmartHQ app, you can schedule automatic brew times and you can also set up Google Assistant or Alexa to control the coffee with your voice.
Honestly, though, the appeal of a coffee maker’s smart features eludes me. Setting up any machine for automated, timed brews or voice-activated brews on demand means you’ll need the coffee ground and ready ahead of time – and that requires you to sacrifice some flavor. Remember that the minute you grind coffee beans, the potency begins to deteriorate. Once exposed to air, the subtle aromas of ground coffee begin to descend rapidly.
If you’re a coffee snob like me, the idea of letting coffee grounds sit overnight is anathema. For best results, you’ll want to grind just before brewing.
Performance and taste
When it comes to brewing performance, the GE Appliances Cafe absolutely crushed it. On the machine’s default Gold brew cycle, the coffee maker completed its brew cycle with impressive speed.
The machine finished my typical 40-ounce test jars in an average time of just 4 minutes and 54 seconds. This is the second fastest time I have ever achieved with a homebrewer. It’s also well below the 8 minutes or less recommended by the Specialty Coffee Association for an exceptional Joe.
Only theslides into carafes faster, in 3 minutes 33 seconds. To be fair, the Velocity Brew heats its water supply continuously so coffee makers just work, it’s really a whole different animal.
The coffee brewed faster than the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT-741 as well as the Oxo 8-Cup (both coming in 5 minutes and 45 seconds). He also beat the Bonavita Connoisseur (6 minutes, 25 seconds). My standard test brew ratio is 40 ounces (1.2 liters) of water to 2.32 ounces (66 grams) of medium ground coffee, although I adjust it if the manual says otherwise.
Brewing speed isn’t everything. Precise water temperature control is also necessary for great coffee. The recommended water temperature range (197 degrees Fahrenheit, or 92 degrees Celsius, to 205 F/96 C) is essential for a good brew. Luckily, the cafe kept a tight grip on its water temperatures.
During the first minute of brewing, the average temperature inside the filter basket was 168.9 F (76 C), according to my thermocouple readings. It’s not as fast as the Oxo 8-Cup (190.3 F, 87.9 C) but it’s faster than the Bonavita Connoisseur. The connoisseur had an average lower temperature at 1 minute (147.9 F, 64.4 C).
After 2 minutes, the temperature inside the coffee filter reached 198.9°F. After that, the coffee really parked the temperature needle. Heat levels barely fluctuated, staying within 1.6 degrees for the rest of the brew cycle.
Readings from the refractometer, a tool that measures the amount of coffee dissolved in liquid, echoed the coffee’s stable performance. Across three trials using my standard test amount of 66 grams of coffee grounds, the Cafe achieved closely grouped TDS (total dissolved solids) percentage results: 1.3%, 1.4%, 1.2 %. This translates to an average extraction percentage of 20%. This is right in the middle of the ideal range, usually between 18% and 22%.
The coffee that the cafe made was also excellent. The cups I tasted were well balanced, with lots of lovely coffee flavor. Best of all, they lacked any trace of bitterness.
The thermal carafe of the device also offers some. Temperatures inside the pitcher stayed warm (above 150 F) for over 4 hours. It’s longer than the Oxo 8-Cup (3 hours, 45 minutes) and consistent with the Bonavita Connoisseur. At 6 o’clock, however, the Technivorm Moccamaster still reigns supreme.
I can’t deny that the GE Appliance Cafe is an exceptionally good drip coffee maker. It infuses beans quickly and with exceptional results. It is extremely easy on the eyes and made with care. Unfortunately, the coffee is also extremely expensive. For that alone, it’s hard to recommend our current Editors’ Choice Award winner, the(now $136).
Still, if you were looking to spend the amount of money needed for a Technivorm Moccamaster ($309), maybe consider splurging. For $80 more, the Cafe gives you faster pots and an updated design, plus smart home connection capabilities.