By Columnist
updated 7/15/2004 4:12:33 PM ET 2004-07-15T20:12:33

Is it possible to make a great cup of coffee in your own home and not have to mess with coffee grounds? The people at Phillips and Dutch coffee roaster Douwe Egberts (Sara Lee Brands in the U.S.) think so. And they’re betting that their Senseo coffee making system will be as big a hit here as it’s been in Europe.

More than 5 million people around the world are enjoying their daily cuppa courtesy of their Senseo machines. I don’t even want to think how many billions (2.5 billion at last count) of coffee pods they’ve used.

I love the ritual of making coffee. Actually, friends have joked that when I make coffee it looks as complicated as a science experiment. Sometimes they’re right. Beans have to be ground just right, measured perfectly and brewed for the right amount of time in one of my very unusual coffee machines. They don't make fun of my coffee when they’re drinking it, though. 

Now, however, Senseo has simplified my life.

coffee pods
Senseo coffee pods are packaged 18 to a bag.

I’ve tried a bunch of the new, single-serve coffee makers that claim their coffee pods make great coffee. The only one that comes close to making coffee the way I like it, cup after cup, is Senseo's.

Some of the other “easy-to-use” machines produce final products that do not taste like coffee. I’m being kind. One provided each cup with two to three ounces of coffee grounds. No thanks.

Hype vs. reality
Senseo actually makes coffee that tastes as if it comes from a specialty store. The coffee is hot, rich, creamy (without milk or cream) and really easy to make.

A lot of the credit goes to the pods and the coffee inside, which was created especially for this system. You have a choice of four different pods: Mild Roast (very mild American type coffee), Medium Roast (rich and flavorful), Dark Roast (really strong but not burnt or bitter) and Decaffeinated (a medium blend that tastes like real coffee). Senseo is rolling out other interesting blends in Europe which we may get to see in the future.

The layer of foam on top of a cup of Senseo coffee is somewhat similar to the "crema” you get with a well-made cup of espresso. That’s because, like a good espresso maker, Senseo makes coffee under pressure (a lot lower pressure than espresso but under pressure nonetheless.)

You can only make one or two 4-ounce cups of coffee at a time, but if you need more, the coffee takes less than a minute to brew.  The machine itself is beautifully designed and comes in white, black and the nice blue color of my test unit.

The only complaint I have is that I wish the water container in the back was larger. It holds only enough water for six cups of coffee before it has to be refilled. It’s a small price to pay for the sleek design though.

Senseo is available at Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target and J&  Prices for the machine range from $65-70. The coffee pods are packaged 18 to a bag. Online, I found that the best bargains come when you buy 4 bags (72 pods) at a time for $15-$17 or less than 20-24 cents a cup.

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