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We got to celebrate National Coffee Day in rare style this year, thanks to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, the West Coast coffee icon. Just about noon, a FedEx truck pulled up outside and the driver delivered the new Contata, the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf single cup coffee machine. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf sent the system for us to review for Talk About Coffee, and it arrived just in time to set up for our first cup of coffee of the day.
The Skinny on the CBTL Contata
For those of you who are too impatient to read through the whole review — totally love this machine! It’s well-made, stylish and delivers an excellent cup of espresso, coffee or tea. It’s easy to operate, easy to clean and easy to maintain. Everything fits together seamlessly and pulls apart easily — no little plastic catches to break or jam. The 15-bar pump guarantees a lovely espresso with rich, thick, reddish-brown crema that lasts to the end of the cup, which you seldom find in inexpensive espresso machines, especially the capsule type that often have “fake” crema.
13.75″ long x 7″ wide x 10.5″ high
Our favorite points:
– the water reservoir can be removed or filled in place
– it’s easy to reprogram each of the buttons to dispense more or less water according to your preference
– the spout can be pulled out to bring it closer to an espresso cup for dispensing — no cooling coffee before it hits the cup
– you never have to handle the spent capsules. The brewer drops them into a used capsule tray, which you can pull out and empty once a day.
– quiet operation
– Did we mention superior coffee flavor and wonderful crema?
Our least favorite points:
– my favorite coffee mug — which is taller than average — won’t fit under the spout
– can only be used with CBTL coffee capsules
– limited choice of coffee varieties and beverages
The CBTL Contata comes nicely packaged in a sturdy box that’s easy to open. It’s secured inside the box with environmentally friendly cardboard, which is a nice thing to see these days when so many other manufacturers use packing materials that don’t break down so easily. The packaging is secure and protective, but easy to open, which may seem like a tiny note but is just one more thing that speaks to CBTL’s attention to detail.
In the Box
Contata Single Cup Coffee Machine
Quick Setup Instruction Card with water filter attached
Descriptive materials and order card for CBTL coffee capsules
The Contata features sleek, contemporary styling. It’s vaguely bullet-shaped, with a convex cutout in the front to accommodate your cup and the silver plastic spout that dispenses your beverage. The black and gray case is made of heavy, durable plastic — nothing like the flimsy, lightweight stuff that feels like it will break if you push it the wrong way. The machine is heavy and feels solid in your hands, a nice treat if you’re used to making your coffee in a cheap coffee brewer. We own a couple of other single serve coffee systems — a Keurig Elite and a Tassimo — and the Contata is both smaller and feels more solid than either of those. Right off the bat, We’re impressed with the Contata’s quality workmanship.
Before we actually set it up for use, I poked around the machine without reading any of the instructions or materials. This baby is sweet — totally intuitive. The water reservoir pulls out easily and fits back into place securely without any fidgeting or fussing. The cup platform is made of metal and simply sits in the cup tray. This was the only place I had any trouble at all with the packaging — the tray is held in place for shipping with a strip of cellophane tape on each side. It took me a few minutes to work an edge of the tape loose — it kept slipping between the cuts in the grate and had to be worked loose again. Once I managed to peel an edge up, though, the tape pulled off smoothly and left no adhesive on the plastic or the metal. The cup tray pulls straight out — no catches or buttons to release, just a simple pull. The used capsule reservoir sits in the tray and pulls out with the tray. You can simply lift it off the tray to empty it and put it back in place. Again, no catches or finicky little buttons. Push the tray back in and you’re ready to go.
Setup is a breeze. It’s about as close to plug and play as any coffee brewer I’ve used. One caution — the Contata has a grounded plug, so you will need to set it up next to a grounded (3-prong) outlet. If you live in an older home or apartment, as we do, that might present a bit of a challenge. I had to do a little kitchen re-arranging to accommodate it, but it was worth it. Aside from that, it really is just a matter of plugging the brewer into the outlet, filling the water reservoir and pressing a button.
The Contata comes with a tiny water filter screen that snaps into place in the bottom of the water reservoir. You need to put your hand into the reservoir to push it into place, which can be a little tricky if, like me, you have big hands. Luckily for me, I have a son with much smaller hands — it took him all of two seconds to put the water filter in and snap it down securely.
Plug the machine into the grounded outlet. Flip the power button on the side to the “O” to turn on the power to the machine. Remove the water reservoir, rinse it and fill it with water — we’ve got great drinking water, and the machine has a water filter, so I just use tap water. You might prefer spring or filtered water. Push the water reservoir back into place. Put a coffee cup on the tray. Push the top right button on the machine once. The brewer will run water through the inside pipes to rinse them. Wait about two minutes, then press it again. The instructions say to repeat that step until water runs from the spout and the red light stops blinking. Then the three buttons blink white to let you know that the brewer has finished its rinse cycle. Empty the water from the cup. Pull out the tray and empty the water from it. Put the tray back in place and you’re ready to start brewing.