Hamilton Beach Electric Knife

Hamilton Beach Electric Knife

I might call this Hamilton Beach Electric knife the best thing since sliced bread even if bread is not its intended purpose. This handy, inexpensive electric kitchen knife will make quick, clean and neat work out of roast beef, turkey breast, and other solid cuts of meat. But, believe it or not, one of the best uses I’ve found for an electric carving knife goes beyond this.

Electric Carving Knife Tackles Delicate Slicing Jobs

Imagine trying to slice through bacon-wrapped meatloaf by hand. The bacon would undoubtedly slide right off the meat and the servings would likely not be very equally divided. Also, the downward pressure applied by your hand would squeeze some of the juices right out of the beef. The beauty of the electric carving knife is that the serrated edges of the knife make a very precision-made cut right through the bacon and meat. Very little pressure is needed, meaning that the the bacon and the juice stays on and inside the meat where it belongs.

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Aroma Rice Cooker

Aroma Rice CookerAroma Rice Cooker

This affordable rice cooker offers a very simple, fast, and easy way to make perfect rice every time. While this product is certainly not limited to a single function, I bought the Aroma rice cooker solely for this purpose. Gradually, I became intrigued and even excited as I discovered some of the other meals that can be made using the Aroma rice cooker. First, let’s talk about how to make rice with the Aroma.

How do you rate the Aroma Rice Cooker? 

Our Reader Score
[Total: 3 Average: 3.7]

How to Make Rice

Using the Aroma Rice Cooker

We’re not huge rice eaters in my household, but we enjoy it enough to tell the difference between good rice and rice that is poorly made. Prior to buying the Aroma rice cooker, our conventional way of making rice was to add two cups of water and 1 cup of rice to boiling water, then turn it down to low and wait until it appears to be ready to eat. This 20-year old method of ours was inconsistent at best. We still have our old rice cooker, which we seldom use because it is small and inconvenient to clean. The Aroma rice cooker solves both problems by making consistently good rice very quickly and conveniently, with very little hassle cleaning up.

How to Cook RiceTo make rice with the Aroma rice cooker, simply fill the inside of the cooking pot to the indicated number line with water and add the equivalent number of cups. For instance, if I want 4 cups of cooked rice,  I fill the cooking pot up with water to the line numbered, 2. Then, I simply add 2 cups of rice using the cup that is included. Note: the cup included is specifically equal to 3/4ths cups of uncooked rice. I’ve included a picture of the chart showing how much water vs. rice to use. You can make between 4 and 20 cups of rice. With water and rice in the cooking pot, I simply close the lid of the steamer, turn on the power button on the left-hand side, then press the digital button, labeled, White Rice. The rice will be finished in about 30-35 minutes, will beep to let me know it is done, and then the light will go off. The rice will stay warm until we’re ready to eat it. The quality, I think, is as good as it is at any Asian restaurant. It comes out consistent, thoroughly cooked, not too watery, not too sticky (unless it is sticky rice), and not crunchy at all even if left on warm for a long time. Finally, the Aroma rice cooker has a very nice ‘delay-feature’. Let’s say it is 3PM and I want to have 4 cups of cooked rice ready at 5:00PM. Instead of worrying about whether or not I will remember, I can simply put the rice and water in the pot and set the program for 2 hours. The rice will be completely ready by 5PM! Now, that is how to cook rice with little trouble or guess-work. I’m no expert on rice, but I think the Aroma rice cooker is worth the $30 I paid, just as a rice cooker, alone.  I would even go so far as to say that I am actually enjoying plain, ol’ white rice a great deal more than I ever have in the past. I am finding that it goes well with just about anything and am finding myself looking forward to eating rice more than ever. My wife and I love the fact that the pot inside the cooker is removable and extremely easy to clean.  The other good news is that the Aroma rice cooker does a lot of other things well, too.

Other Used for the Aroma Rice Cooker

Aroma Rice Cooker FeaturesIn addition to cooking white and brown rice, the Aroma rice cooker will steam vegetables, saute, simmer, slow-cook soups, stews, sauces, and even cook an entire beef or pork roast, complete with potatoes, carrots, and vegetables.  The aroma rice cooker can actually replace our old crock pot as a slow-cooker. One particularly brilliant and convenient feature, I think, is the saute and simmer function. Let’s say, for example, I want to brown some Italian sausage and/or meatballs, then simmer them in a pot of spaghetti sauce. Instead of having to use a separate frying pan to brown the meat, I can put them right into the rice cooker pot. Next, I simply press the saute-then-simmer button and let it brown for a while. Once the meat has been browned to my satisfaction, I can add the spaghetti sauce, and the cooker will automatically switch-over to simmer mode! This is handy as all get-out, and it really works as advertised. The Aroma rice cooker is one of the best things we’ve gotten for our kitchen since the Veggetti and Ninja Express Chop. Besides rice, the Aroma does a whole lot other things. The graphic to the right will give you a much better idea of its features and capabilities. Use your imagination. By searching YouTube, you will find a variety of other ways to cook various foods with a rice steamer or rice cooker. The Aroma is programmed and designed in a clever way to make full use of its cooking possibilities. In case, you’d like to see an actual demonstration of the Aroma rice cooker, I’ve located a great video for you below.

A Video Demonstration

How to Make Rice with the Aroma

A Video Demonstration

Making Spaghetti Sauce

No doubt, I probably made everyone a little hungry talking about spaghetti sauce. I was not able to find a good video demonstrating the saute and simmer feature of this versatile steamer/rice cooker, so I will have to come up with my own in the very near future. I promise to include a video using my recipe, Homemade Spaghetti Sauce from Scratch, using the Aroma rice cooker next time it’s on our household dinner menu. It’s not just a rice cooker, the Aroma really does do a lot of things very well. If there is one limitation I can think of, it’s that the 20-cup capacity will probably not be enough to handle a large, Italian family dinner. Still, the Aroma is a great rice cooker, and more!


iCoffee Opus Review

iCoffee Opus Update
The iCoffee Opus by Remmington has continued to serve my needs well the past couple of years. I do have a recommendation to insure that you are getting the most out of the product and making the best coffee possible on a consistent basis. Over time, I noticed that the coffee began to taste less strong and bold. The problem was consistent whether regardless of the brand of K-Cups I used.  After giving the iCoffee brewer a good cleaning with vinegar the coffee immediately improved back to the impressive level it was at the time of this review. The other recommendation I have is to remove the plastic taste from the brewer using the recommendations here: Coffee Tastes like Plastic. A new model, the Mozart has been introduced. From what I can tell from the manufacturer website these products are both the same and both names Opus/Mozart are being used to describe the product online. Scroll below for the full review on the iCoffee Opus which should also apply to the Mozart .

New iCoffee Model or Name (Mozart)


The price on the Opus seems to have sky-rocketed since I last did this review. The Mozart model seems to have the very same features and is considerably less money.

iCoffee Opus (Original Review: March 2015)

iCoffee Opus Review

This review also applies to the iCoffee Mozart. The name Opus and Mozart appear to be interchangeable. As you have probably noticed from my dozens of coffee-maker reviews, coffee brewers are a bit of a habit with me. I’ve tried percolators, drip makers, thermal carafe brew stations, grinder-drip makers, various single-cup Keurig machines, Tassimo single cup brewers, and French Presses.  The latest addition to my coffee maker addiction is a new and improved, off-brand version of the most popular, single-cup, K-Cup brewer, the iCoffee Opus. While there are a few other off-brand, K-Cup brewers, the iCoffee Opus utilizes a unique technology not found in other coffee makers.

How do you rate the iCoffee Opus? 

Our Reader Score
[Total: 7 Average: 3.9]

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Veggetti Veggie Pasta

Veggetti Pasta Maker
– a Review
VeggettiI never dreamed that veggie pasta would become one of my most desired food staples on the dinner table. The Veggetti will turn just about any reasonably sized squash or zucchini into a pasta dish in a couple of minutes or less. We’ve all probably seen spaghetti squash dishes used as pasta substitutes in the past. The Veggetti, though, which uses the narrower zucchini gives you a better taste and two different sized textures of vegetable pasta.  Unlike squash, the flavor won’t over-power your sauce, and the texture is just as firm as your favorite brand of al dente spaghetti. Some of you are probably asking why anyone would prefer veggie spaghetti over good ol’ regular pasta.

How do you rate the Veggetti? 

Our Reader Score
[Total: 1 Average: 5]

The answer is, carbs and gluten. Doctors and nutritionists are proving that our food pyramid has been deliberately and wrongly turned upside down for the last several years. Our bodies were meant to eat a diet with less carbs and richer in saturated fats and cholesterol. Books and blogs such as Wheat Belly and Grain Brain are changing the way we view carbohydrates in our diets. Furthermore, a higher number of people seem to be suffering from wheat or gluten intolerance these days, and Celiac disease is on the rise. Why wheat has suddenly become suspect in all of this is still Uncooked Veggie Pasta being debated. It could be that our bodies were never designed for grains, or it could have something to do with the way wheat and grains have been genetically modified. It is not the intention of my article to elaborate on this topic; there are plenty of other websites and books that go into that. One thing I do know for sure is that I have never enjoyed packaged spaghetti pasta as much as I used to since they started removing the eggs due to the phony cholesterol fear. My mother always had our favorite brand in the cupboards: R&F Egg Vermicelli. The eggs gave the pasta texture which as I will explain, is the most important characteristic of pasta.

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Ninja Express Chop

Ninja Express Chop User Rating:

Our Reader Score
[Total: 7 Average: 4.9]

Ninja Express ChopThe Ninja Express Chop is one of the most useful, electric kitchen appliances we’ve ever bought for our home. My wife actually bought this for me, but so far has has used it everyday, herself, for chopping vegetables and fruits. I spend a great deal of time hand-beating, scrambled eggs in the morning. I like to create as small a mess as possible, so I normally use a large glass and a fork or serrated knife to mix the eggs. This takes time and is hard on the right shoulder that I injured a few months ago. While the Ninja makes quick, easy, mess-free work out of eggs, this amazing express chopper does so much more. During the summer months, when we have an abundance of garden vegetables, peppers and fruits littering our kitchen counters, the Ninja Express Chop is practically begging to be used on a daily basis. The Ninja is actually a review I am excited to talk about and review in-depth. Below, you will find a detailed overview on the Uses, Operation, Performance, Convenience, pros and cons, and final conclusions on the Ninja chopping appliance. Also, I have included a real-life demonstration of the Ninja Express Chop in use. Enjoy the review and please leave me your comments.

Ninja Express Chop

Uses

Ninja-Chopper-UsesThe opportunities to effortlessly chop food things up are endless: Salsa, Pico De Gallo, fruit smoothies, coffee beans, nuts, beans, herbs, spices, sauces, gravies, eggs, and every other type of food known to man. My wife, who tends the garden and cares for the vegetables was using the Ninja far more frequently than me. Once I got my hands on it, though, it became a regular part of my routine for making omelettes.  A lot of times I didn’t get as creative and healthy with omelettes as I should have, simply because I didn’t want to go through the trouble of chopping things up. Now, the Ninja chopper sits on my counter and practically dares me to look for some peppers, onions and other vegetables to chop up and add to my eggs in the morning. It wasn’t til I actually experienced the Ninja that I fully appreciated the way it works. 

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Tasin TS-108 Meat Grinder

Tasin TS 108How do you rate the Tasin TS-108 Meat Grinder: 

Our Reader Score
[Total: 23 Average: 3.2]

Sometimes I get so excited about a product that I have to review it before I even try it. After some exhaustive research on electric meat grinders, I just ordered the Tasin TS-108.
I am looking forward to this as much as a kid looks forward to a Playstation 3 for Christmas. One of the top reasons I chose this particular electric meat grinder over all the others is that it seemed to the very favorite of those who are actually using it for my very same purpose: Making homemade, raw cat food or dog food. I viewed a very detailed video demonstration of how this meat grinder could be used to make a raw cat food recipe with the same ingredients I wished to use. (You can view this You Tube Video of the TS-108 in action at the bottom of the page). As demonstrated by the video, this electric meat grinder makes quick work of whole cuts of meat and bones. This Tasin meat grinder easily handles and grinds-up the bones in raw meat like turkey, chicken, hen and other poultry products. This is perfect for making a delicious raw food recipe for cats or dogs. Dogs and cats need the nutrients from the bones and skin on raw meet. We tried buying our own raw cat food in a brand called, Rad Cat. This is an excellent product, but shipping, handling and the middle men who bring it to the pet stores make it cost prohibitive  as a long term solution for feeding our two cats. I knew there was a better way, but it would require a high quality electric meat grinder to make it possible. Of all of my research, this is the one that comes out on top for a few reasons:

Benefits of the Tasin TS-108 Electric Meat Grinder

Meat and Bone Grinding Horsepower

The Tasin has a 1200 watts motor. This is 3-times as much as some of the other brands that our selling for under $100 at Walmart, Amazon and other retailers. The meat grinder is built with the quality you’d expect from electric meat grinder. I didn’t want to go with an under-powered, cheap home-style meat grinder. The strong motor is what sold me first on the TS-108 model.

Quality Materials Workmanship and Properties

Unlike other other electric meat grinders, the parts are not all cheap plastic.  The Feed Pans are made from aluminum alloy and the mesh plates and blades are made from sturdy carbon steel. More importantly, the internal gears are made from metal rather than plastic on some of the other electric meat grinders, which will eventually wear out. The body and functions of the Tasin is made from heat-resistant ABs Plastic, so you shouldn’t have to worry about any cheap plastic parts cracking or breaking off.  The TS-108 weights 16 lbs and comes with #12 sized Grinder and a 2.5″ diameter mouth.  Having compared other models, the #12 and 2.5″ diameter mouth seems to be the perfect size for an electric meat grinder.

Features and Accessories

There is not a whole lot of room for bells, whistles and technological gadgetry on an electric meat grinder.  The TS-108 unit is equipped with an on/off switch as well as a reverse setting for un-jamming. One nice little touch  is an internal storage compartment for extra plates and cords.  The TS-108 does come equipped  a kubbe, sausage stuffer and a plunger. I’m not sure what either the kubbe or plunger are, but I will definitely be looking up some sausage recipes.  For the reasonable price of $150, I also got an extra, stainless-steel blade which is reportedly worth $15.00. I did not one small complaint about the Tasin TS-108. The parts are not dishwasher safe, though they advertise the detachable cap, worm and head as hand-washable for easy cleaning.  The motor is CE certified and comes with a circuit breaker to prevent damage to the motor.  The unit comes with a 1 year warranty. I paid $158.00 and some change for the Tasin TS-108 Electric meat grinder. For what I spend on raw cat food, I expect the Tasin TS-108 to pay for itself well within the 1-year warranty. While, the solid construction and features of the Tasin TS-108 seem impressive enough, how does it all operate?

Tasin TS-108 Electric Meat Grinder in Action

Here is an impressive video demonstration of how easily meat and bones are ground up through the Tasin TS-108 Meat grinder.


Tassimo vs Keurig

Tassimo vs Keurig
Single Cup Brewer

This Tassimo vs Keurig Single Cup Coffee maker showdown is a result of my life-long desire to enjoy the best tasting coffee at home without the muss, fuss, mess and expenses of a fancy Starbucks Type Heavy Duty coffee brewer or without having to drive to a Starbucks and wait in line behind phony coffee drinkers. Haven’t you ever wished you could just make just one 8 ounce cup of really hot, strong coffee at home without having to wait in line behind those sweet-drink fake-o coffee foo-foo snobs ordering their latte with half-and-half and just a splash of this and that with nutmeg and whipped cream, etc, etc? You only want a good, strong hot cup of coffee and you’re willing to pay $1.68 – $2.50 for it, depending on whether or not it’s sized as a Tall, Grande or Vente. Well, would if you could make a cup of coffee just as hot, fresh and strong for 1/3rd the price. Well, this is what Tassimo and Keurig fans claim they can do.

To be honest, I’ve never thought much of single-cup brewers. I used to think, “So, they brew one cup of coffee at a time? What’s the big deal with that? “Well, my recent visit at the Philadelphia Loews Hotel last week changed my mind completely. In our room was a Keurig single cup brewer, with an assortment of Coffees, Teas and Hot Chocolate K-Cups. I’ve heard the constant bickering of the Tassimo vs Keurig debates, but what I didn’t understand was how convenient these single cup brewers are and perfect for a hotel stay.

I’ve never cared for the weak coffee in the hotel Lobbies and I hesitate to use the small, little coffee pots in the rooms which accumulate dirt, dust and coffee ground debris from the other guests. Yet, I need something quick, smooth and strong to get me going in the morning. Upon first inspection of the Keurig, I was impressed with how clean it was. I grabbed one of the K-Cup pods and in a couple of minutes I had a hot cup of reasonably good coffee with absolutely no mess. When my wife used it to make tea, I was concerned that it would taint the flavor of the next cup of coffee I made. Not so! The ingredients inside these single cup brewer pods (known as K-Cups for the Keurig and T-Pads for the Tassimo), are completely self-contained. None of the ingredients come in contact with the actual coffee maker. A tiny hole is punctured through the K-Cup or T-Pad and the beverage goes directly into your cup. It is fast, convenient, tasty and absolutely mess free. I was sold on a Keurig, but what about the Tassimo that I often heard about in these debates?

With thousands of personal reviews and opinions on both Tassimo and Keurig, I thought it would be useful to do an overview – or an ‘over-review- so to speak of all the reviews. While my impression of the Keurig was good, I thought the coffee could be slightly stronger. Having looked up two of the latest models, I narrowed my choice down between to two of the best valued, most reviewed models: The Tassimo Bosch TAS4511UC and the Keurig B60 Special edition. Both machines range in price from $139 – $199. So, which of these Single Cup Brewers provides the most satisfaction? Here are the basic conclusions of Tassimo vs Keurig comparisons among hundreds of users.

Brewer Comparisons

For starters, the Tassimo vs Keurig is a close call and both are excellent single cup brewers with very high marks from users. The Tassimo ranks 4.75 stars among 209 users and the Keurig rates 4 stars among 1,000 users.

Tassimo vs Keurig Opinion Reviews:

    • Flavor: Tassimo
      Both machines make piping hot coffee, but the Tassimo gets a unanimous edge for flavor.
    • Versatility: Tassimo
      The Tassimo is also more versatile in that you can make different types of coffee drinks; Cappuccino, Lattés, etc.
    • Coffee variety: Keurig
      Users of the Keurig seem to have more choices for regular coffee.
    • Technology: Tassimo
      The Tassimo TAS4512 wins the cool-factor due to its barcode technology.
    • Build and Apperance: Tassimo
      Though only a slight edge and matter of opinion, more users seemed impressed with the quality build and appearance of the Tassimo Bosch model.

It’s a close call, but more users preferred the latest Bosch Tassimo vs Keurig B60. I’ll give you my detailed review on the Tassimo T45111UC after I’ve had a chance to use the one I just ordered.

Coffee Selection Between Both Brewers

For regular coffee, Keurig gets the edge here. Since I found such a cheap price on the Keurig Mr Coffee, I couldn’t resist getting one for the office and so now I own both a Tassimo and a Keurig. Being that I’m not so interested in making other things such as Latte’s and Cappuccino’s I’ll have to admit that the Tassimo falls short of the Keurig when it comes to their selection of Cheap K-Cups.

French Coffee Press Review

French Coffee Press
French Coffee Press

I used to think a French coffee press was just another one of those snobby marketing ideas. As I quite often do, I’ve changed my mind a bit on the Coffee Press method of brewing coffee as I’ll explain in this review. First, a little history about how a French Press Coffee maker ended up in my home: I bought my, 8-Cup Bodum coffee press about 15 years ago when I started drinking Starbucks Coffee. For many years, I didn’t like Starbucks Coffee. In fact, I only drank light roasted coffees. I thought the Starbucks Dark roasted coffees tasted smoky and lacked the richness of lighter roasts. It wasn’t until I actually went into a Starbucks Store and ordered a regular cup of coffee that I got a new found appreciation for their darker, cream tasting roasts. The home coffee makers just don’t do a decent job. One: home coffee brewers don’t make it hot enough. Two, home coffee brewers don’t extract the flavor of the dark coffee grinds. Because the darker grinds are well roasted, the window for unlocking their flavor is extremely critical So, one day about 15 years ago, I asked my Starbucks store representative what kind of coffee maker it would take to get the coffee to taste as good at home as it does the store. They showed me a Bodum French press and I bought it on the spot. Why?

 

What is a French Coffee Press

A French Coffee Press is a bit of a peculiar looking contraption, isn’t it? Some would have you believe it’s a beautiful relic meant to be proudly displayed in your kitchen. I wouldn’t call a French coffee press ugly, but I wouldn’t exactly call it attractive either. At any rate, a coffee press is indeed an interesting looking device. My Bodum coffee press consists of an 8-Cup glass carafe with a plastic base. The lid has an 8” metal rod going through it, with a mesh-metal filter attached to the bottom. A spring-type mechanism wraps around the circumference of the mesh filter and is designed to push the grinds down and keep them out of your coffee when you press it. So, how do you use a one?

How to Use a Coffee Press

Using a French coffee press is a far more simple process than the looks of this contraption would have you believe. I actually enjoy using mine, but it does require a couple of little extra steps to prepare. The first thing I do is grind the coffee. Because a press uses no paper filter, it is important not to grind the coffee too fine. In fact, the coffee grinds can be quite coarse and still get a good roasted flavor. I usually turn my coffee grinder on for no more than about 10 seconds. I also like to use more coffee than I would with a traditional coffee maker. It’s up to you how strong you like your coffee. Dump the coffee grinds into your French coffee press carafe and some water either on the stove or with a microwave proof container. Since my own French Press holds 8 cups, I usually boil 2-8 cups of water, depending on how much coffee I want to make. Then, while the boiling water is piping hot, pour it into the carafe over the coffee grinds. Gently put the lid on without pushing the rod down. Allow the coffee to steep for about 3-5 minutes then slowly press the rod down to the bottom of the carafe. The Coffee is now ready to pour. When prepared with my Bodum, the coffee is hotter and more flavorful than with the Cuisinart Coffee/Grinder and several of the other coffee makers I own, including the old-fashioned percolator! And I like the idea that the French coffee press is so old-fashioned that it’s simple to use and clean. Just dump the grinds into the sink and wash the carafe and parts and set them in the sink basket to dry.

Cons of the French Press

If a coffee press is so simple to use then you’re probably asking why I would ever use anything else. There are actually three reasons: One: My Bodum Press simply doesn’t make enough coffee for an entire family. Two: The coffee doesn’t stay hot very long as there is no heating element on the bottom. Three: You will have some fine coffee grinds sediments in your cup. I don’t mind this, but others might. The coffee press has its place among my other coffee makers and I use it when I want just one or two cups of the fullest bodied coffee I can get my hands on at home.

Hansgrohe Metro Faucet

Hansgrohe Metro Faucet
The Review

Hansgrohe Metro Faucet
Hansgrohe Metro Faucet

To understand why my wife and I were in the market for a Gooseneck Pull Down Kitchen Faucet, a little history is in order: Number one, our old, Arwa Kitchen Faucet with the pull-out sprayer was leaking from the inside. It needed to be replaced and good riddance!. The Arwa Faucet came with the house along with our Kindred Sink, and while it looked nice it was a nuisance. I replaced the cartridge on it couple of years ago and finding service for it was next to impossible. I had to do a Google image search just to identify the unfamiliar brand, Arwa. I was fortunate enough to locate an exact match of the image on Google and called the service center in Tucson for a $29 replacement cartridge. I never felt comfortable dealing with a kitchen faucet that cannot be purchased or serviced locally. While I liked the faucet overall, I didn’t care for its low height clearance which made cleaning big pots and pans more of a challenge in our deep sink. The attached hand sprayer was powerful, nice and convenient, but wouldn’t it make more sense to have a pull-down sprayer in a large, deep sink? Yes, it would. A gooseneck faucet with a pull down sprayer would be the perfect solution. Delta and American Standard Faucets sounded like good brands to look for, so I set out to find one. You’re probably wondering how I got my hands on two different brands of Kitchen Faucets for review in such a short time.  Before I begin ranting and raving about American Standard Faucets, let me tell you about removing the old Kitchen Faucet.

Removing old Kitchen Faucet to Install American Standard Faucet

Removing the old Kitchen Faucet was by far the most difficult part of the job. In fact, I was eventually able to install and uninstall two different faucets in less than half the time it took to remove the Arwa Faucet. I’ll say one thing for American Standard Faucets – they seem very straight forward. But removing the old one? Argh! To be fair, my past failure was mostly due to inexperience on my part. There is no easy way to get behind your kitchen sink with a crescent wrench or pair of channel-locks. After an hour of frustration I went to my good friend Google and discovered an even better friend – the Basin Wrench. The $12.00 Basin Wrench I bought at Harbor Freight made quick and easy work of the traditional, kitchen faucet nut behind the sink. Next, the challenge was getting the copper water lines pulled out of the nut and through the sink hole. Unlike the two, new faucets, the Arwa used copper lines instead of the flexible tubes which would have made things much easier. I eventually had to cut through the hand sprayer line in order to get the rest of the lines squeezed through the nut and the entire assembly pulled right out. My difficulties were over – or so I thought.
Next, I will explain how the misfortune of buying a defective product on my first try, afforded me the opportunity to do this product comparison review on American Standard Faucets vs the Hansgrohe kitchen faucet.
We’ll start in chronological order, beginning with the Fairbury model by American Standard Faucets.

American Standard Faucets

Fairbury Model

american-standard-fairbury-faucet
American Standard Fairbury Faucet

I have always had good vibes about the American Standard Brand and American Standard Faucets. So, while looking at kitchen faucets at Home Depot, the American Standard Fairbury Gooseneck faucet with pull-down sprayer caught my eye with its low, $138.00 price tag and attractive, elegant looks. The Fairbury not only looked nice, but seemed well made. For the price, what could wrong? I decided to buy it on the spot and take it home. I expected American Standard Faucets of any type to cost twice this much. Only one problem after I took it home. It turned out the water lines were too short, so I did have to buy a couple of adapters for $6.50 each, bringing my total cost up to $151.00 – still a bargain. Just in case, I would read some user opinions before installing it in case I decided to return. To my amazement, the opinions were mostly all very favorable. Is it just the brand? People seem to love American Standard Faucets in general, but it goes deeper than that. Users marveled over the performance and ease of use and installation of this particular model.  Only two, unfortunate Fairbury users reported a problem. The plastic threading inside the neck of the faucet broke, causing them to have to return it after a very short period of use. I decided to give it a go. It turns out that I wasn’t as lucky as the unfortunate users. For me, the threading inside the neck broke as soon as I tightened the nut to the base of the faucet. I kept wondering why I couldn’t get it completely tight before I realized that the inside of the neck had become loose. It was getting late at night and I didn’t want to get ready for work the next morning without a useable kitchen faucet. I rigged the Fairbury up so it was snug enough to use on a temporary basis until it could be returned and replaced with a working unit. While the unit was installed, I was able to get a very favorable impression of the performance, looks and operation of the American Standard Fairbury faucet. The strength of the water flow was excellent and easy to control with the single handle. The Fairbury’s pull-down hand-sprayer is a joy to use. You can choose between regular or a shower-needle type spray with one button. Another button will pause the water flow altogether. That’s a nice feature I wasn’t expecting. The Fairbury was so enjoyable to use that I really had think long and hard about whether or not I should take another risk with the apparent design flaw of the plastic thread construction on the inside of the neck. With a full weekend ahead of me, I decided to take a look at the Hansgrohe Faucet from Costco.

Hansgrohe Metro Faucet by Costco

A name like Hansgrohe going against American Standard Faucets? Are you kidding me? As  luck would have it, both of my local Costco store offer a Gooseneck, Pull-Down Hand-Sprayer Kitchen Faucet for the low, low price of $158.00. With a Google Search on my iPhone, I quickly noted that the same product sells for $219.00 at Amazon. I bought the Hansgrohe Metro Faucet and took it home to compare it to the American Standard Fairbury model I would be returning. I didn’t have to get very far to immediately notice a huge difference in quality. The Hansgrohe feels twice as heavy as the Fairbury and for good reason. Unlike the Fairbury, the Hansgrohe Metro Facuet has solid copper threading inside the neck instead of plastic. Also, the Hansgrohe comes with long enough water lines that no extensions are needed. I was sold. In just 20 minutes, I had the Fairbury removed and the new, Hansgrohe installed! Though both faucets install the same way, it should be noted that the Hansgrohe comes with much better instructions and includes a base which makes a sturdier fit to the bottom of the kitchen granite. Like the Fairbury, the Hansgrohe Metro provides a very strong flow of water; 2.25GPM according to the manual. The Hansgrohe uses a u-shaped handle which I prefer slightly over the single handle of the Fairbury. While the operation of the Hansgrohe Pull-Down Sprayer feels freer and more robust than the Fairbury, it does lack the convenient pause button. Also, the Hansgrohe, has a rather weak flow of water from the hand-sprayer, probably just due to having larger spray holes. At any rate, not a big deal, it’s plenty powerful enough and has a very long reach to either of the bottom sides of our sink. One other thing in the Fairbury’s favor was that my wife thought it looked nicer. Neither its appearance nor hand-sprayer performance made either of us think twice about removing the Hansgrohe. It is a far better product, overall. It just feels like the right choice and considering the $13.00 requirement of extension water lines for the Fairbury, it’s only $7.00 cheaper than the Hansgrohe. The Hansgrohe Metro from Costco represents a great value in Kitchen Faucets with Pull-Down Sprayers and wins this contest, hands-down.

Hansgrohe Kitchen Faucet (9 out of 10)

  • Materials and workmanship: 10
  • Performance and Operation: 9
  • Features: 7
  • Value: 10

American Standard Fairbury Kitchen Faucet (7.75 out of 10)

by American Standard Faucets

  • Materials and workmanship: 6
  • Performance and Operation: 8
  • Features: 8
  • Value: 9

I prefer the Hansgrohe. In fact, I have no partiality to the brand. My plumber actually recommended Delta or American Standard Faucets. I chose the Hansgrohe Metro Faucet because it was better quality. Nothing against American Standard Faucets, but the Metro was the clear winner.

Update – Summer 2014

After two years of flawless operation, our Hansgrohe Metro faucet began linking under the cabinet. The water was coming out of the flex pipe where the weight attaches to hold down and position the sprayer into the faucet. The good news is that Hansgrohe stood behind their lifetime warranty 100%. The bad news is that a broken, leaking faucet cannot wait. We had to replace our Hansgrohe with a new faucet while we waited for the replacement part. The part arrived in just three days. We installed the Hangrohe at my parents house where it is once again operating flawlessly and makes an attractive addition to their kitchen.

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Best Coffee Bean Grinders

Best Coffee Grinder

What is the Best Coffee Grinder?

If the best coffee bean grinders are supposed to last forever, there might be a few on the market now from very cheap to very expensive that fit the criteria. On the other hand, which is a coffee bean grinder that you want to last forever? The very first coffee been grinder I ever owned was a Christmas gift from my father-in-law 25 years ago. This small, electric Krups Coffee Bean Grinder still works as good as it did since the first day we used it. It is the best coffee grinder based on reliability. This is amazing considering the number of times I overfilled the small storage bin and had to use a thin knife to pry it open. Once coffee is ground in an overfilled grinder, they tend to become very hard to open. This problem lends itself to analyzing the second part of my opening statement. Is my highly durable coffee bean grinder one of those appliances I wish would last forever? I can’t say that it is for one reason: It is too small. Don’t get me wrong; our Krups Coffee Bean Grinders are plenty big enough to grind enough beans for one, 12-Cup Pot of Coffee. The problem is that over the years, the novelty of grinding beans prior to brewing a pot of coffee has worn a little thin with me. Even the best coffee bean grinders need to do a little more for me. I’m a little bit tired of having to scoop beans into the coffee grinder, plug it into the kitchen wall outlet then make a tremendous amount of noise grinding them for the next 30 seconds while people are trying to watch television in the adjoining den. My favorite coffee is still the “Roasted by Starbucks” brand at Costco which comes only in the whole bean variety. I would prefer it if were pre ground and I could simply use my air-tight canisters to keep it fresh. Once the bag of coffee beans is already open, I don’t see how it can be kept any fresher. I’d prefer to grind larger batches of coffee beans at a time. I also get a little bit sick of having to plug the coffee grinder into the wall, then deal with wrapping up the messy cord. As I’ve mentioned before, I loathe electric cords and cables. Unfortunately, the Braun is a well made indestructible coffee maker which has never given me enough reason to replace it. While I’ve tolerated all of these years, I started wondering if there was a bigger, larger Industrial or Commercial Coffee Grinder that would grind an entire bag of coffee at one time? Or, perhaps there is a battery or hand crank coffee grinder that could make the job at least more convenient, if not easier. Sounds like it’s time for a review on Coffee Bean Grinders. Best Coffee Grinder? Here are a few of the popular brands and models. I’ve also included some of the other types; hand crank coffee grinder, battery coffee grinder, etc.. If you’re looking for cheap coffee grinders, they will be covered at the very end of this review and the results may surprise you. The Best Coffee Grinder is not the most expensive.

Pavoni Coffee Grinder

When I looked into larger capacity Coffee Grinder, I ran into the La Povoni La Moka Burr Grinder brand which can grind up to nearly 9 ounces at a time. Unfortunately, the user reviews on the Pavoni Coffee Grinder quickly turned me off. Users complained that the grind was often too course, despite the adjustable settings. The fit on the housing was not tight which often resulted in a mess. The overall impression of over 16 users seemed to be that the Pavoni Coffee Grinder is cheaply made. They ranked it only 2.5 stars out of 5. The most common Pavoni Model is the PA-8801B. There are others, but none with very impressive reviews.

Macap Grinder

While looking up Industrial or Commercial Coffee Grinder brands, the Macap Grinder was the first one I found. This is definitely a commercial quality, high grade Expresso grinder that will quickly make your typical home coffee drinker kick the habit when they see the price tag. The Macap Grinder goes for $600 – $700. This was not cup of tea – and way too expensive as a coffee grinder! Don’t get me wrong, the Macap Grinder is a beautiful machine, but it’s too expensive to be gracing the presence of my kitchen.

Rancilio Coffee Grinder

Another one of those Industrial Coffee Grinders – the Rancilio is beautiful, large and worthy of strong consideration if not so expensive. A Rancilio Coffee Grinder ranges in price from $350 – $1,400. Again, not exactly your typical kitchen appliance. It is interesting to read some of the comments on the Rancilio Rocky brand which sells for around $350.00. For a real espresso connoisseur, the purpose of a coffee grinder goes well beyond convenience and reliability. It’s about how precision and how fine the grind. I’m not trying to knock these expensive commercial coffee grinders. They have their place; but what I am after is an inexpensive, high capacity coffee grinder.

Ascaso Coffee Grinder?

When I stumbled upon the Ascaso Grinder, I began to wonder if it was possible to find an affordable high capacity product for under $100.00
The Ascaso Grinder sells from $299.00 to $349.00. Like the Rancilio and Macap, It is a high capacity grinder geared towards satisfying the need for precision ground coffee. The Ascaso Grinder comes in 4 different colors and 3 or 4 models. I was unable to find any reviews on this product. If you’ve tried or own an Ascaso, please leave feedback.

Solis Coffee Grinder

A good Solis Coffee Grinder will only set you back about $149.00. The Solis Crema Maestro Plus G385 Conical Burr Grinder has a decent 3.5 Star rating by over 42 users. The 40 levels of grinder settings should please most espresso and coffee drinkers. A Solis Coffee Grinder is still not quite what I had in mind. I’m looking for a high capacity, simple-to-use coffee grinder. It doesn’t need to have 40 different settings for precision grind varieties.

Virtuoso Grinder

Another $200 Coffee Grinder, The Virtuos Grinder is a well made, Italian crafted product with over 40 grind settings; French Roast to Espresso. The 8 OZ bean capacity is just what I want, but again…It’s $200.. Doesn’t quite fit my budget for a down & dirty home coffee grinder.

Breville Coffee Grinder

The Breville BCG450XL Conical Burr Grinder is very close to what I’m looking for. For $69.00, here is a coffee grinder that will hold and grind 6oz of coffee at a time. What I like about the Breville Coffee Grinder is that it is a very well tested and used product. Over 250 users rated the Breville Coffee Grinder 4 stars. Users seemed very satisfied with the quality stainless steel base of the Breville. They also liked the adjustable settings, ease of use and preparation, use and clean-up. I’m thinking the 6 ounce capacity to be a little small, but better than what I’m used to. We’re getting closer. Maybe I can’t grind an entire bag at once, but 5 or 6 times should be enough to grind an entire 2lb bag of Starbucks Costco Whole Bean Coffee.

Baratza Maestro Coffee Grinder

The Baratza G 285 Maestro Conical Burr Grinder is one of the most popular Coffee Grinders on the market. It really looks nice in your kitchen and has a wide variety of grind levels from Turkish, Espresso to French Roast or regular Home Brew. Baratza Maestro Coffee Grinder Users seem very happy with the quiet operation of this unit and are generally pleased with it’s quality control, operation and durability. The G 285 didn’t suit everyone’s taste. Some users complained that they were unable to come up with a grind which produced tasteful coffee or espresso. Other’s complained that the machine would occasionally become clogged with coffee grinds. Still, out of 45 users, its 3.5 star rating proves that it’s worth your consideration for just $99.00.

Hand Crank Coffee Grinder
Hand Crank Coffee Grinder

Hand Crank Coffee Grinder

Sometimes it’s fun and convenient to do things the old fashioned way. A Hand Crank Coffee Grinder has no cords, batteries or preparation to deal with. Shove in the beans and do a little elbow work. If you’re a coffee snob, don’t expect to get the perfect French, Turkish, Italian or Espresso grind with one of these hand crank grinder units. What you can expect to get is a very affordable, decorative addition to your kitchen. Hand Crank Coffee Grinders are one of the best kitchen conversation pieces you’ll find anywhere. Another cool thing about Hand Crank Coffee Grinders is they can be very old, antiques.

Hand Coffee Mill

A Hand Coffee Mill is simply another name for a hand crank coffee grinder. It is important to use both terms when shopping for these types of grinders. You will often not find what you are looking for by only searching for one or the other.

Dual It Coffee Grinder

 

Gaggia MDF Grinder

There are a few different varieties of Gaggia Grinders on the market. The most popular one happens to be the more expensive one; The Gaggia 8002 MDF which sells for about $250.00. Over 250 users rated the Gaggia 8002 4 Stars. Certainly, one of the highest rated coffee bean grinders on the market, if its in your budget.  Over 34 grind settings and a built-in Doser which dispenses the coffee grinds directly into your filter holder. The hopper will hold up to 10oz of coffee beans, making it one of the largest capacity coffee grinders on the market.

General Electric Coffee Grinder

A common household name for cheap coffee grinders, but do they hold up as well as the Krups.. Read on.

Battery Coffee Grinder

A Battery Coffee Grinder would be nice, but I’ve not been able to find one or get any information on them. Stay tuned.

Best Small Coffee Grinder
Best Small Coffee Grinder

Cheap Coffee Grinders

Small Coffee Grinders

It so happens the Best Small Coffee Grinders are also the cheapest coffee grinders. No surprise here. The very highest rated coffee grinder in this entire review is the very same one we started with; the Krups 203-42 Coffee grinder. The cheap, Krups Coffee Grinder pictured to the right is identical in looks and performance to the white Krups Coffee Grinder my wife and I received as a Christmas present 25 years ago. There is a reason this cheap coffee grinder has lasted for 25 years – it simply continues to work forever. Scanning over some of the 480 some-odd reviews on this popular, Krups Coffee grinder, it’s obvious that users have very little to complain about. If there is one common complaint that’s shared among users, it is that the bean hopper is too small. Funny, that was the very reason for this review. Even if ou buy a larger, more expensive, 10 ounce coffee grinder with 40 different grind settings, you’ll still want to have one of these cheap coffee grinders in your kitchen. It’s bullet proof and it just happens to be the best coffee grinder.

Hamilton Beach Crock Pot

Hamilton Beach Crock Pot
Hamilton Beach Crock Pot

What a Crock

So, you got this great beef stew crock pot recipe handed down from your great Grandma, but you’re wondering how it will turn out in your new crock pot? In the olden days, your Beef Stew could be cooked on a wood-fire or gas stove as long as someone was around the house to watch it all day. These days, we’re often not around to watch a Pot of Soup or Stew to make sure the bottom isn’t burning or that it’s turned up enough to actually cook. I never feel comfortable leaving one of my stove burners on when I’m away from the house for too long. When it comes to soups, sauces and stews, I like to have the heat turned up just enough so it is bubbling ever so slightly, but not boiling so much that it will burn on the bottom without being stirred. I’ve had problems in the past getting spaghetti sauce to cook properly in the old Hamilton Beach Crock Pot I used to own. It would always come out too thin, soupy and raw tasting,  no matter how long it was cooked. My most recent Crock Pot, a Rival, seems to have the opposite problem. Unless, a great deal of liquid is added to the ingredients, it will often dry up. We discovered the problem had to do with the lid not fitting securely enough to seal in the moisture. The best crock pot has to be able to hold in moisture at a steady temperature. A decent Beef Stew Crock Pot Recipe along with a good Crock Pot should be able to cook on its low temperature setting for 8-12 hours completely unattended. Good, low even and consistent heat is the key.  Fortunately, Crock Pot Heat is far more even and consistent that those Electric Toaster Ovens.

Beef Stew Crock Pot Recipe

There is one other problem cooking with Crock Pots. You need to prepare the recipe properly from the beginning. For Beef Stew cooked in a Crock Pot, I like to brown the meat in a cast iron pan of hot oil. Use a good, tender, fatty meat and as it browns begin adding flour, salt and pepper. The idea is to end up with a thick, somewhat sticky gravy that will turn to a nice brown broth as it cooks in the crock pot all day. After the meat browns, I transfer to the crock pot. Then, I add celery, carrots, potatoes, couple of garlic cloves, bay leaf and water along with some red wine and Worcester sauce. I like to use enough moisture and vegetables so the crock pot is filled up to approximately 1 inch below the top of the crock pot. Don’t worry, the thick, sticky gravy will blend, over-time with the liquids to form a semi-thick stew gravy. I have no idea if this is the way Grandma or Great Grandma made it. They didn’t have a Beef Stew Crock Pot Recipe in those days. Crock Pots have been around for nearly 50 years, but they really weren’t a very common household cooking item until the 1970’s. I’m here to tell you, the crock pots of 2010 are much better than the ones my mom used in the 1970s.

Rating on the Hamilton Beach

You can get a decent Crock Pot for $25.00. Expect to pay $40-$70 for a really good one. Size is everything. If you want to make a huge pork or beef roast for that Italian Beef recipe, you’ll wish you had one of the bigger Oval Crock pots. I know I wished I had several times. Better yet, Hamilton Beach has the best of all worlds, in its 33135 Model, 3-in-1 Slow Cooker. This brilliant design comes with three different sized crocks to cook in:

  1. 2 Quarts
  2. 4 Quarts
  3. 6 Quartrs

The 6 Quart size works great for those large pork or beef roasts or for a huge Italian Spaghetti sauce full of Meatballs and Italian Sausage. The operation of the Hamilton Beach crock pot is flawless. Put the meat and liquids in the crock; set it in the heating element and select your desired heat: Low, High and Warm. Don’t worry about which lid to use. One Lid fits all sizes of crocks. I am completely sold on the product. Over 60 users have rated the Hamilton Beach Crock Pot a score of 4.5 stars out of 5.

Cuisinart Coffee Maker

Cuisinart Review

cuisinart-coffee-maker
Cuisinart Coffee Maker

Back in December of 2008, I had some very complimentary things to say in our Cuisinart Coffee Pot Review. Weeks later, I complained that the Cuisinart Coffee Maker / Grinder product was too big and cumbersome, too difficult to clean, too difficult to pour and didn’t make the coffee hot enough. Since then, I’ve tried the Westbend Percolator and the Presto Percolator. Don’t get me wrong, both of these percolators do make a piping hot, good cup of coffee, but it’s not perfect. The taste does not measure up to the freshness at Starbucks. I’ve come to realize that the taste of the coffee out of the percolator is so darn hot that it almost fools me into thinking it tastes as good as Starbucks, but it does not. Also, as fun and festive as the percolator might be, it’s not quite as convenient and easy to use as a Drip Coffee Maker. One of the other complaints I had about my Stainless Steel Cuisinart Coffee Maker is that it only makes 10 cups of coffee as opposed to 12. For that reason, I purchased a 12 Cup Mr. Coffee Pot and I’ve been suffering with inferior coffee ever since. What’s wrong with the Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Coffee Maker?

My 12-Cup Mr. Coffee Maker brews the most plastic, weak tasting cup of coffee I’ve ever had. I forced and brainwashed myself to tolerate the Mr. Coffee after a while because it is convenient and easy to use and clean. Recently I noticed that the coffee being brewed from the Mr. Coffee seems to vary from one day to the next. One day it will taste slightly plastic-like; the next day it will taste extremely plastic-like – as if I’m drinking melted plastic right from the cup! I said to myself, enough is enough! With visions of a brand new, $100 Zorijushi Coffee Maker dancing in my head, I gathered up the pieces to my Mr. Coffee and brought it downstairs. Once there, I noticed the old reliable, but forgotten Cuisinart Coffee Pot sitting on my bar. The reflection of my bitter-coffee face glared back at me off of the stainless steel cabinet. “The Stainless Steel Cuisinart Coffee Maker really is a nice looking machine”, I reminded myself. And I remembered, “I never had a bad tasting coffee from my Cuisinart Coffee Pot.” Game over. I lugged the old Cuisinart Coffee Machine / Grinder upstairs back to it’s abandoned place in the kitchen. I meticulously cleaned out the little brewing cup, lid and grinder cup and dried them out with a dish towel. After reassembling the dried pieces back together, I poured a heaping cup full of coffee into the grinder compartment and closed the lid. I filled the reservoir up to the 10-cup market, plugged in the machine and set the clock and program timer for 6:20AM the next morning. I remembered thinking that if my alarm clock didn’t go off, The Cuisinart Coffee Maker Grinder would surely wake me up in time – it is very loud!

As promised, my Cuisinart Coffee Pot woke me up at exactly 6:20AM. By the time I was dressed and downstairs the Cuisinart Coffee Maker had already finished brewing and safely turned itself off while the coffee was being kept fresh in the thermal carafe. This was something nice about the Cuisinart I had forgotten. The Cuisinart brews Coffee in about half the time required of my Mr. Plastic, err., Mr. Coffee. The best part was tasting that first sip of coffee. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was drinking a slightly cooler version of a freshly brewed cup of Starbucks. The taste was enormously better than the Mr. Coffee and slightly better than the Percolator, though not quite as hot. The downside is that it is the stainless steel carafe is somewhat difficult and slow to pour. In order to finish pouring the pot into my coffee thermos for work, I had to remove the lid. To my surprise, I seemed to have as much coffee from the 10-Cup Cuisinart Coffee Pot as I did with the 12-Cup Mr. Coffee/Plastic Machine.

I won’t mind doing a little extra work cleaning the grinder and compartments of the Cuisinart coffee pot for a while. The taste is worth the extra effort, and the stainless steel structure does make any kitchen look like a Euro Espresso Bar. I will hold off on the expensive Zorijushi for now. This Cuisinart has earned its place back in my kitchen.