Krups T-8 - Review


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The Bottom line: Highly recommended! Not a real moka brewer, not a real auto-drip, but the coffee is really excellent

Looks cool, brews hot Product Name: T-8 (US name: "Moka Brew")
Product Manufacturer: Krups
Machine type: Pressurized "auto-drip" machine
Colours: Black, or white
Average price: About €100 in Europe (≈ US$ 115)
URL: Krups T-8 (DE) / Krups Moka Brew (US)

More about the T-8: visit the Krups company site

Product ratings

Quality: 9
Usability: 7
Cost vs. Value: 8
Aesthetics: 9
Overall rating: 8

Positive product points

  • Makes excellent, full bodied coffee;
  • 1.0 litre capacity;
  • Stylish design;
  • Fairly easy to operate;

Negative product points

  • No safety against improper locking;
  • Filling the reservoir (annex boiler) is a little awkward;
  • Takes odd-sized filter discs (hard to find);
  • Filter basket is a bit shallow;
  • Assembly is somewhat inconvenient.

Detailed commentary

Introduction

Although far from a fad these days, filter drip is still a perfectly acceptable way of brewing coffee in my book; it's quick, convenient, and fairly clean. Machines using the plain old paper filter are simple in design and very reliable, and should be able to make a very decent cup of coffee. Well, in theory they should.

In practice, however, apart from a very small minority (most notably the Technivorm brewers), the performance of most drip machines falls short of the certification requirements set forth by the European Coffee Brewing Centre and the SCAA. A lot of people "out there" are interested in buying a good auto-drip machine, but no one appears interested in making one that actually does the job well. Stylish as their appearance may be, most current day machines are utterly incapable of producing a decent brew by any standard.

So why then bother looking at what, on the face of it, seems to be yet another auto-drip: the Krups T-8?
Well, one motive could be that this particular machine has for decades been one of the most popular coffee maker among German coffee aficionados, and that Krups recently decided to market it in the US as the all-new "Moka Brew". Another could be that it looks kind of cool, in a slightly old-fashioned sort of way.
The most compelling reason, however, is that this is not like any other auto-drip. As a matter of fact, the T-8/Moka Brew is actually quite an intriguing device, a sort of crossbreed between an auto-drip brewer and a moka pot.

And, while it's not actually an auto-drip machine, it falls in the same category, and it does what you would expect of one. That is, it will make a fairly large quantity of very good tasting coffee, while requiring hardly any effort.

Internal design

Although announced as "new" in the US, the T-8 is all but a novelty. It is in fact a pretty old design based on patents dating back to the early 1960's.
Like its predecessor, the Arbella, the Krups T-8 is a coffee machine with a fully closed brewing system, similarish to a moka pot. Unlike such brewers, however, this machine uses a pressure-operated switch in the boiling vessel to indirectly control the temperature of the hot water. And it's this "p-stat" that makes all the difference. Diagram of the T-8
The T-8's arrangement causes water to be forced under pressure through the grounds at a fairly high temperature as the boiling vessel heats up. Once the pressure (and thus the temperature) is at a max., the pressure switch cuts off the heating. The whole machine then cools down to the point where the pressure is low enough for the p-stat to switch the heating on again, and start another pressurized brewing cycle. This combination of controlled pressure, high temperature, and the consequent brewing-interruptus is what makes the T-8 produce a coffee with its own, unique flavour.

On the surface, the Krups T-8 has seemingly evolved over the years into a modern machine, but closer inspection reveals that most changes are only minor. True, the original "pressure stat" has been improved on, and there have been a few cosmetic upgrades, but, otherwise, the underlying arrangement is still the same. The current T-8, type F468, is a direct successor of the earlier models F265, F424 etc. Put the first 1970's model next to the latest, and you'll immediately recognize all the same components.

At the base of the machine, you'll find the reservoir in which water is also heated. This boiler is closed with a lid, which you remove to fill the boiler. The lid supports the carafe, thereby doubling as a warming plate. Located inside the boiling vessel žs an 850W stainless steel heating element (submerged when the boiler is filled), and, of course, the bottom end of the siphon tube that delivers the hot water to the coffee "group". This stainless steel tube rises through one of the pillars of the T-8's "arc" shape.
Also inside the boiler is the p-stat that, as explained, controls the cycled brewing. In order for this device to work well, the entire brewing system, including the coffee filter, needs to be fully closed. This means that you actually need to "lock & seal" it, just like you would screw the parts of a moka pot firmly together. On the T-8 a lever on the top of the machine is used to close the system. This lever pushes the various components downwards, pressing the showerhead firmly against the filter basket, and the carafe to the boiler. Viton O-rings on the showerhead, and boiler ensure that the system is fully sealed, and pressure cannot escape. Lock & load!

Numbers, numbers, numbers...

The T-8 takes around 11 minutes to make a full 1.0 litre pot of coffee, the first 5 of which are needed to bring the water to a boil. This means that the actual "brewing time" is around 6 minutes, right in the range recommended by the ECBC.
The brewing temperatures are, as said, rather high. It's pretty difficult to get a probe inside the filter (non-destructively), but measurements of the temperature at the top end of the siphon tube showed a whopping 97 °C. Note that these measurements were taken at low pressure; during normal brewing at full pressure, this number will, most likely, be a bit higher. Still, allowing for a few degrees temp. loss in the siphon tube, showerhead and filter assembly, I'd say the coffee sees water of some 96-ish °C. Hot, but not too hot.
As said, after brewing the lid of the boiler will act as a warming plate, indirectly heated by the heating element. After sitting idle for 10 minutes, the temperature of the lid is about 75 °C.

Using the T-8

As I'm sure you can tell from my above writing, I'm pretty excited about this machine. I've always liked the idea of pressurized brewing, and in this machine I think the concept is well thought-out, and makes a lot of sense.

The pressurized, cycled brewing method and high temp results in a brew that's rich in flavour, and has a lot more body than normal drip coffee. It does a sublime job on light roasted, bright coffees, that are the choice in Northern Europe. The high temperature mutes the brightness of the coffee somewhat, while the body is augmented by the pressure brewing. In a way, you can actually taste the hybrid nature of this machine in the brew it makes. Compared to true drip coffee, it's a little less "transparent", and definitely stronger, but it's not nearly as syrupy as a cup from the moka pot. It's simply somewhere between...

Looking at it as an alternative to a "normal" auto-drip machine, a separate boiler to heat the water in (instead of the more usual flow-through heater), allows for better temperature control. And using a siphon tube that is not fed through a mass of cold water (like nearly all "modern" coffee machines do) is certainly a Good Idea in my book too.
Getting further into the little details, the dispersion system is also really first rate. The water enters the "group", gets diverted upwards and outwards, and is then divided though 36 holes in a radial pattern. This is somewhat akin to what you'd find in an espresso machine, and it makes for an even wetting of the coffee in the filter basket. The setup works admirably, and is definitely the best I've seen in an auto-drip machine so far.
That said, the T-8 is not the Perfect Coffee Maker on all points...

Downsides?

The T-8 can brew up to about 1.0 litre of coffee, but it is a little difficult to fill the boiler from the carafe. When pouring water into the boiler, the carafe doesn't quite fit underneath the "arc", requiring you to tilt the machine backwards a bit to get the last drops in. Reseating the lid that closes the boiler is also a bit cumbersome. There's no positive "feel" to it, and if not positioned right, steam may leak out of the boiler. A hinged lid may have been preferable.
Filling the T-8 Closing the boiler
The filter basket is an odd bird, since it doesn't use your average #4 paper filters. Instead, it's a shallow, cylindrical basket that takes Melitta Nr. 1 (94mm diameter) filter discs. That is not a problem in itself, but the filter papers may be difficult to find in the US. I also found the filter basket a bit small for my taste, since it barely holds the 60g of coffee that I use for a full 1.0 litre pot. On the upside though, the filter basket is a lot easier to clean than normal filter cones.
Another thing that isn't really convenient is the filter assembly that sits loosely on top of the carafe. Not a big thing, but it does make pouring the coffee a bit awkward.
The lever is perhaps a point where Krups really got it wrong. The system works perfectly well, as long as you're careful to use the lever. If, however, you forget to do that, or don't lock it properly, hot water will spill over the machine, and mess up the counter. The Krups engineers could have, and in my opinion should have, added a safety microswitch to make sure the machine will operate only with the lever in "locked" position. Lock & load!
In all, the T-8 is not without a few inconveniences. These could have been avoided at little additional cost, and one would expect them to be resolved after nearly 30 years (sic!) of production.
Still, after using the machine for a few days, you will find that most problems turn out to be only minor issues. It takes a little getting used to, but, once you've got the hang of it, it's pretty straightforward, and, apart from the one additional action of "lock & load", the T-8 is just as simple to operate as a regular auto-drip.

Conclusion

On the whole then, the T-8 compares favourably to other brewers. It can make a good amount of excellent coffee, it's fairly easy to use, and even looks pretty slick. At some $100-plus, the T-8 isn't really "cheap". On the other hand, it doesn't cost as much as the Technivorm, and, in my opinion, it is definitely worth the money.
The only "problem" I can spot, is that this machine has difficulty deciding what it wants to be. The T-8 is a coffee maker with an identity crisis. It's not quite a moka brewer, nor is it a real auto-drip machine. Calling it a pumping (but not recirculating) percolator, as Mr. Bersten does, is somewhat inaccurate too. It could be an auto-drip machine featuring pressurized brewing, or a moka maker slowly brewing in cycles, and at a low pressure. It's both, or maybe neither.
Of course, this ambivalence is not a true problem. Whatever you want to call it (ehmmm, a "moka drip" ?), at the end of the day, it's just a good machine capable of making a truly excellent cup of coffee.

Who should buy it?

Obviously, the true gadget hunters should be lining up by now to get what is, after all, a novelty in the US. In any case, there's no other machine quite like it on the market, as far as I'm aware. So, add the T-8 to your collection, and impress your friends! Well, not your German mates maybe, chances are they have had one at home for years.

More seriously though, if you're specifically interested in a coffee maker that will make a decent amount of very good, strong coffee, the T-8 may just be the one for you. It's a lot easier to use and clean than a moka pot, and the coffee is just great.

The T-8/Moka Brewer is also an alternative worth considering if you're just looking for a good auto-drip machine for day-to-day use. Again, it's not really an auto-drip, but it will do the same job. It will make you a quick morning mug to get kick-started, and, just as easily, brew up a full pot of coffee to serve to guests.


Pictures taken from the Krups web site & Krups T-8 user manual.


Technical details
1. The Arbella:
German patent DE1257386
Inventor: Willy Brandl
Assignee: Ortex AG Switzerland
Applied: February 14th 1961
Issued: December 28th 1967

2. First patent for the Krups T-8:
German patent DE1429985
Inventor: Dieter Weissenhorn
Assignee: Fa. Robert Krups
Applied: January 15th 1964
Issued: March 13th 1969

3. Design patent for the (current) T-8 / Moka Brew (USA):
US Patent: D411936
Inventor: Guido Keffel (Bielefeld, DE)
Assignee: Robert Krups GmbH & Co. KG (Solingen, DE)
Applied: July 3rd, 1997
Issued: July 13, 1999


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