Cuisinart CounterPro Convection Toaster Oven Broiler
The Cuisinart CounterPro convection toaster oven broiler has bake, convection bake, broil, toast and warming functions. Its .6-cubic-foot interior allows for roasting a whole chicken, broiling fish, toasting up to six slices of bread at a time, or baking a 12-inch pizza. With 1500 watts of power, this countertop oven can produce temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and saves energy over using a traditional oven because of its smaller size.
Preserve the Coffee Beans' Aroma and Flavor
Courtesy of KitchenAid
Coffee tastes best when made from freshly ground beans. For best results, the size of the grounds should differ based on the brewing method: drinks made with shorter brewing times should use finer grounds; espresso needs a fine grind; drip and percolated coffee require medium grinds; and French presses work best with coarse grinds.
More expensive, larger coffeemakers have grinders built into them, but separate grinders can be purchased for anywhere from $10 to $200. On the cheaper end of the scale you have blade grinders; on the higher side you have burr grinders.
Blade grinders use a sharp metal blade to chop whole coffee beans into grounds. To get smaller grounds, you run the grinder for a longer period of time. Made from plastic or stainless steel, these grinders are shaped like cylinders, with a motor at the base of the container and a lid on top. They typically make 12 to 21 tablespoons of grounds.
- Small, good for drip coffee makers
- Produce enough grounds for six to 10 cups
- Can be used for grinding spices and herbs
- Size of the grounds varies, which affects brewing quality
- Heat generated by the blade can burn the grounds, affecting taste
- Not recommended for espresso machines
- Don't make enough grounds for larger coffee pots
Burr grinders, also called burr mills, use a rotary tool to crush whole coffee beans into grounds. You have a choice of two types, a wheel burr grinder or a conical burr grinder.
Wheel burr grinders have a horizontal metal wheel or disc that revolves against another, stationary wheel. The space between the two burrs determines the size of the grounds and usually can be adjusted. The wheel spins anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 rotations per minute.
- Create less heat than blade grinders
- More affordable than conical burr grinders
- Produce consistently sized small grounds
- Good for espresso machines
- Noisier and messier than conical burr grinders
- Create more heat than conical burr grinders
Conical burr grinders have intricately designed steel burrs that can run at a speed below 500 rotations per minute. Both the size of the grounds and the time it takes to grind the beans can be adjusted.
- Retain the most flavor and aroma in the coffee
- Stay cool
- Least likely to clog with oily or flavored coffee beans
- Produce the most consistent grounds
- Work well with any type of coffee maker
- Most expensive
- Larger and take up more space
Three Types of Electric Coffee Machines
Courtesy of Viking
When it comes to electric coffee makers, you have three main options: automatic drip or filter coffee machines, which are the most common type in the United States; "pod" systems, which are a newer variation on the filter coffee makers; and percolators, the most traditional style.
- Affordable and easy to use
- Make enough cups for most households
- Difficult to customize blends for individuals
Automatic drip coffee makers became popular because they brew quickly and can be easily cleaned. These coffee makers have baskets that either are fitted with a mesh filter that can be removed for cleaning or are lined with a disposable paper filter. Water heats up in a separate tank, then drips through the coffee grounds and goes into a plastic, glass or stainless steel carafe. Usually the carafe sits on a hotplate that keeps the coffee hot.
Automatic drip machines make anywhere from four to 12 cups of coffee and cost from $15 to $200. Optional features that add to the price but may also add to your enjoyment include: settings that allow you to schedule the brewing time, built-in grinders or temperature controls, automatic shut-off switches, and a thermal carafe instead of a hot plate.
Pod systems are the newest way of making coffee. Instead of placing grounds into a filter basket, the user inserts a pre-packaged pod of ground coffee. Each pod holds just enough for one cup of coffee. Most systems have their own line of pods, but many brand-name coffees also sell their coffee in pods. Pods come in a variety of coffee blends and flavors. Most pod brewers cost between $40 and $100, but some machines run upward of $400.
- Good for households with only one coffee drinker or coffee drinkers who prefer different blends
- Pod coffee costs more than standard grounds or beans
Percolators look like metal pitchers and can make from two to 10 cups of coffee depending on the size. Inside is a small metal basket for the ground coffee. After filling the pitcher with water, you either heat it on the stove top, or, if the percolator has an integrated heating element, turn the percolator on to heat the water. As it heats, it is drawn up a tube that leads to the coffee grounds, where it then drips over the coffee. The brew is ready when all the water has passed through the ground coffee. Prices range from $25 to $100 except for commercial-style urns, which can cost several hundred dollars.
- Coffee is fast and hot
- Urns make enough coffee for large parties or meetings
- High temperature
- Too many circulations of the water can lead to bitter flavor
Create a Café in the Kitchen
Coffee and tea may be important enough to warrant multiple appliances and significant counter space in the kitchen.
You could treat yourself to a daily coffee at one of the coffee shops and cafés that seem to crowd every corner. You might also throw in an afternoon latte and post-dinner cup of tea. Quality caffeine, however, is an expensive habit to maintain. (So is quality herbal tea.) In the long run, buying your own beverage system is cheaper than dropping $2 to $10 a day.
Leaving aside French presses, stove-top kettles and other non-electric devices, we'll run though the basics on coffee grinders, coffee makers, tea kettles and espresso machines, from plug-and-brew models to multi-talented machines that can do it all. At the very highest end, "super automatic" espresso machines operate with push-button technology and come in both countertop and built-in models, which may have the added option of a plumbing hookup leading directly to your water supply.
Time to play barista instead of paying one!
Kenmore Combo Grill
The Kenmore Combo Grill allows you to use it as a closed grill, ideal for pressing paninis, or an open grill to double the size of its grilling surface. Its double hinge allows for even grilling and toasting of foods of all thicknesses. The grill's 13-inch by 11-inch removable non-stick plates are dishwasher safe.
Saeco Primea Espresso Machine
Saeco's Primea automatic espresso machines integrate the milk frothing inside the machine, making it easy to prepare cappuccinos, macchiatos and other drinks. On the Primea Ring, users make their selections via an interactive click wheel and LCD screen, while the Primea Touch Plus has a 2-inch color touch screen. Both machines have a ceramic disc grinder for grinding coffee.
Energy and Water Efficiency
New washers have options to reduce the amount of water you use in a cycle.
Energy Standards for Washers
If it's been a while since you bought a washer, even regular models will be more efficient than your old one: U.S. Department of Energy standards for all clothes washers made or sold in the United States were raised on January 1, 2007. Look for the yellow and black EnergyGuide label, which will note the product's specifications.
The Modified Energy Factor (MEF) measures washer energy-efficiency. It is determined by dividing tub capacity by the total energy consumption per cycle (washing machine energy, water-heating energy and dryer energy). The higher the MEF, the more efficient the washing machine is. All standard-size top-loading and front-loading washers must have an MEF of 1.26 or greater.
Today's energy-efficient washing machines are effective cleaners that cost only a few hundred dollars more than their standard counterparts. If price is the overriding factor in your decision making, consider this: after four or five years, an energy-efficient washer will have paid back the extra money it cost to buy, thanks to lower utility bills. Also, some states offer rebates to consumers who buy energy-efficient or Energy Star washers.
Designed to promote efficient energy usage in homes and businesses, the Energy Star program is a joint effort of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. To meet Energy Star guidelines, a full-size washer must have an MEF greater than or equal to 1.72.
According to program officials, Energy Star qualified washers use 50 percent less energy than a standard washer and significantly less water: about 18 to 25 gallons per load, instead of approximately 40 gallons. These washing machines also tend to extract more water from the clothing while spinning, reducing necessary dryer time.
Both top-loading and front-loading clothes washers can qualify for ENERGY STAR, although front loaders generally use less energy and water than top-loaders.
In 2007, Energy Star also started measuring water efficiency, ensuring that all washers with its label meet a Water Factor (WF) requirement of 8 or less. The WF is determined by dividing the gallons of water used per cycle by the tub capacity. The lower the WF, the less water the machine uses.
The Energy Star Web site, www.energystar.gov, offers more information about home energy efficiency, including special offers or rebates and a list of Energy Star qualified washers.
According to the American Water Works Association, clothes washers account for 20.1 percent of water used daily in a typical single-family home with no water-saving fixtures. It amounts to 15.1 gallons daily, second only to toilets, which use 20.1 gallons. A water-saving washer automatically saves energy, because about 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes goes toward heating the water.
Energy Saving Tips
Whether or not you buy an Energy Star washer, you can save energy by:
Washing full loads
Adjusting the water level setting for small loads
Using cold water (or warm instead of hot) and cold-water detergent whenever possible
Use a high-speed or extended spin cycle to minimize dryer time
Gas or Electric?
Courtesy of Bosch
Dryers are either powered by gas or electricity.
Clothes dryers are less complicated than washers, with fewer options and therefore fewer decisions to make. One of the main choices is whether to buy a gas or electric dryer. Because gas and electric ranges function so differently, you might think the same is true of dryers, but it isn't; regardless of fuel source, dryers perform in a similar manner.
The only major difference between the two is price: gas dryers cost about $50 to $100 more than electric dryers up front, but are a bit more energy-efficient and therefore cost less to operate. If you're just replacing existing appliances, check out the existing hookups-you may want to stick with your current set-up to avoid additional installation costs.
120-volt outlet and gas hookup
Drum tumbles clothes through heated air. Electric motor turns drum and distributes air. Heating coils supply heat.
Drum tumbles clothes through heated air. Electric motor turns drum and distributes air. Gas burner supplies heat.
Requires electrician and plumber
Use slightly more energy
Use slightly less energy
Come in a wide range of models, prices and styles
Come in a wide range of models, prices and styles
Lower price tag; higher utility bills
Higher price tag; lower utility bills
All sizes, including compact
Not available in compact sizes
A Space-Saving Option
Courtesy of Maytag
A combination washer and dryer work well in homes with limited space.
Two types of products fall under the washer-dryer combo heading: laundry centers and all-in-one washer dryers. These laundry appliances typically are used in homes where space is an issue.
Often found in apartments, condominiums and other multi-family housing, laundry centers are the more common option. They're also known as stacked washer-dryer units.
Rather than consisting of two separate components, a laundry center is just one appliance, with a top-loading washer on the bottom and a gas or electric dryer on top. It can be full sized (27 inches) or compact (24 inches).
With an all-in-one washer-dryer, clothes are washed and then dried in the same tub. These products have been more popular outside the United States, where homes are smaller and many homeowners prefer to line dry most items.
In addition to being used in apartments, condominiums and other multi-family housing, all-in-one models are good for homes that do not offer dryer venting to the outdoors.
Drum Capacity and Material
Courtesy of Bosch
Most dryers will offer you between 5.7 and 7.5 cubic feet of capacity.
Households with a lot of laundry will find that a dryer with a big drum reduces the number of loads and therefore the time and energy spent drying clothes. It also makes it easier to dry large items such as comforters or blankets that might otherwise require a trip to the Laundromat or dry cleaner. Think about how your family might be changing — the birth of babies, children returning home after college or an elderly parent moving in — when you buy your washer and dryer.
Don't get sold on labels such as "king-size," "super," "plus," or "extra-large" capacity. Manufacturers also might define drum size by the number of jeans that it can dry, or the pounds of laundry it can hold.
To compare apples to apples, look at cubic feet of capacity. Dryers usually range from 5.7 to 7 cubic feet, with some manufacturers now making models with up to 7.5 cubic feet of capacity. A compact dryer usually offers 3.4 to 3.8 cubic feet.
Your dryer should offer about twice the capacity of your washing machine-clothes need room to move to dry efficiently and without wrinkles.
Like washing machines, most dryers use one of three drum materials: plastic, porcelain or stainless steel. However, because the washer has already done the hard work, the dryer drum doesn't take as much abuse, and stain and rust are less of a concern.
Plastic tubs are long-lasting, lightweight and less expensive. Porcelain-coated tubs are durable and easy to clean, but porcelain can chip. The highest-end models use stainless steel, which is easy to wipe clean and doesn't stain or rust.