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4.1 out of 5 stars
Eva Solo Cafe Solo Coffee Maker with Neoprene Cover, 1-Liter, Black
Size Name: 1-LiterColor Name: BlackChange
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121 of 132 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2009
Size Name: 1-LiterColor Name: BlackVerified Purchase
This is a great product for those who want to brew the smoothest, most flavorful coffee possible! But I think perhaps some people don't want to deal with choices in how they prepare their coffee and would rather have the convenience of automation (and pre-packaged blandness)--in which case the CafeSolo, while fairly simple to use, may not be for them.

Better Than...

I started out with a drip coffee maker. After years of making sometimes bitter, sometimes thin, but never great tasting coffee, I looked into Chemex. I was still not satisfied with the pleasant but weak brew that resulted. Finally, I read a rave review of the Eva Solo product on a coffee specialist site. The reviewer (an editor for the site) said he found the CafeSolo to produce a better full-bodied brew than either a French press or a vacuum pot, partly because it controls the temperature so well. I like the idea of a full immersion brewing system, so I bought it and immediately produced a very strong cup of the most bitter-free coffee I've ever tasted. I never drink coffee black, yet I was able to drink the result without adding sugar, and still found no bitterness!

The CafeSolo is better than a French press in two other ways. The conical mesh filter is ideally shaped to prevent blockage (the grounds sit outside the inverted cone when you pour), yet has very fine holes. So you can use a finer grind than you would for a French press and won't get any mud in your cup or problems pouring through the filter. As others have mentioned, the pourer and lid are of excellent design. But I said the CafeSolo was better in two other ways. The last reason has to do with the perils of complete extraction.

The Problem with Complete Extraction

"What's wrong with complete extraction?" you ask. The grounds get maximum saturation, so you get the most flavor, right? Yes, and that is why the CafeSolo, or a French press, or an espresso machine will yield a more concentrated brew. But there is a price for all that, in the risk of over-extracted bitterness. If you look at how coffee tasters do a cupping, they pour boiled water into a cup of grounds, let it steep for 1-2 minutes, then gently stir and push the crust of floating grounds to the bottom while taking in the aroma, and lastly remove the remaining floating bits. Then they let the brew continue to steep and cool for another 1-2 minutes before they take their first sip. They will also repeat this tasting as it cools further. During this time, they don't stir the grounds again. That extra agitation at the end of the brewing cycle must be avoided.

Now in an espresso machine, the parameters of temperature, pressure, size of grind, and time of extraction are carefully controlled to minimize over-extraction during the very intense brewing cycle of 20-30 seconds. But during the longer 4 minute steep time of the CafeSolo or a French press, there will be an unavoidable build-up of bitter liquid and over-extracted fine particles in the grounds. With the French press, the act of pushing the plunger down forces liquid through the grounds, flushing the concentrated bitterness and fine particles into the rest of the liquid. The CafeSolo does not have a plunger. The carafe is tilted for pouring and the floating grounds settle under the inverted cone-shaped filter. The liquid flows over the grounds and through the wire mesh, as opposed to being forced through the grounds in order to exit the carafe. As some baristas have reported, the result is the closest thing to an actual cupping, only cleaner. It's for this reason that the CafeSolo tends to be very forgiving, yielding the least bitterness and the most flavor.

The Way of Coffee

Coffee making is an art. If you want a truly outstanding result, you have to refine your technique:

1) I found that I couldn't control the extraction consistently. Also my grounds would have too much fine powder. So I stopped using a blade grinder and bought a KitchenAid Pro Line burr grinder--that solved the problem. (The KitchenAid also does a great job of controlling static explosions of coffee grounds.)

2) I was not happy with the coffee beans. My coffee seemed to be lacking in rich flavor, and dark roasts seemed to have just one flavor: burnt. I stopped buying the stale beans from the supermarket and the over-roasted beans from the popular coffee houses. I tried internet suppliers (2-3 weeks since roast). For the first time, I could taste the flavor profile they described. Eventually I found a local roaster (1-4 days since roast), and my coffee has never been so rich and flavorful (both light and dark).

3) After switching to better coffee, I found that minute changes in the grind and amount greatly affected the result. I was able to fine-tune the setting on my grinder to my liking (I now use a setting somewhere between drip and French press). And I bought a small narrow glass container with markings on the side to measure the grounds. I use approx. 10 tbsp., but YMMV--the actual amount is somewhere between 9 and 10 level tbsp., depending on how careful you are (also note that I like a strong cup with sugar and arf 'n' arf). The measuring jar allows me to get a consistent amount without the tedium of measuring out one tbsp. at a time and still getting it wrong. Recently, I discovered it has one other benefit. Because I transfer the grounds from the KitchenAid's catcher jar to my measuring jar using a scoop, I noticed that most of the fine powder was left behind. This will contribute to a cleaner and less bitter cup.

***** Addendum 9/2/2011 - I have since upgraded to an even better grinder--the Baratza Virtuoso Preciso. That, in combination with a fine powder separator, made a huge difference and stripped away a layer of bitterness I was not even aware of. The coffee now turns out so well that I have had to reduce the amount of sugar I usually add (approx. 1/3 less).

4) Eventually I also came to realize that darker roasted coffees may benefit more from a higher pressure extraction, as you get from an espresso machine. The CafeSolo does bring out the most amazing flavor down to a med-dark roast, but may not be superior for a dark roast. I do get good results from Illy espresso roast, but I think I've had better Illy in a restaurant.

Instructions

Ok, now for the mechanics of how I use the product to brew the perfect cup:

1) Boil 1 liter of water and pour into CafeSolo. Top with filter and lid to heat entire aparatus.

2) Boil another 1.25 liters of water. Use fresh, good tasting (filtered or bottled) water. Do not reboil previously boiled water or it will adversely affect flavor.

3) While second batch of water is coming to a boil, grind beans. Just before it boils, transfer water that was heating CafeSolo into a thermal carafe to warm it. Then pour fresh coffee grounds into bottom of CafeSolo.

4) Wait 30-45 seconds after second batch of water boils to let it cool to correct temperature. Set timer for 4 minutes and start it right before pouring water into carafe. Stir down foam while adding water until level is 1 inch below narrowest part on neck of carafe (but wait, there is a better way--see addendum, below). Once foam is stirred down and water level is correct, place filter/lid on top, zip neoprene jacket, and wait for timer to run out.

At first, I was surprised at how fresh roasted and ground coffee reacted when I poured in the hot water. There was a huge bloom of foam and grounds that would have overflowed the carafe if I didn't start stirring (I'm told fresh roasted coffee can foul some automatic drip machines for this reason). With the CafeSolo, you end up perfecting your pour and stir technique to get the lid on and the jacket zipped before too much heat loss.

***** Addendum 9-2-2011 -- I have finally switched to weighing all the ingredients. Of course, that helps to get a more consistent result. But it also helps me to reduce the time it takes to add the water. Because it was taking too long to stir down the foam to the point where I could see the true water level, I decided to reduce the quantities slightly and use the scale reading to know when I had added the right amount of water. For 64 grams of beans, I use 900-930 grams of hot water (your mileage may vary). Now my technique is to zero-out the scale with the CafeSolo and grounds sitting on it, start adding the water until the foam puffs up to the top of the carafe, immediately start the timer, then wait and stir down the foam while adding more water until the scale reads the right amount, and finally put the filter/lid onto the top.

Speaking of heat loss, Coffeegeek mentions that they measured acceptable temperatures using this jacket, whereas a French press would quickly lose 10 degrees or more within just a few minutes. I recall some consumer on a certain cooking site confidently declaring that the temp would drop too much over 4 minutes and the jacket would do no good--all without apparently validating their claims by actually using the product (genius).

5) When timer rings, pour out water from thermal carafe and pour coffee from CafeSolo into thermal carafe. Coffee is ready to drink.

If you leave the coffee in the CafeSolo, the grounds will continue to extract and the brew will begin to taste bitter after another minute (you may not notice the difference if you have too much fine powder in your brew to start with, but after improving my grinding technique, I found that just letting it sit one minute longer would cause what little fine powder remained to contribute a bitter taste to the bottom of the cup). Also, I found that mixing up the liquid by pouring it into another carafe always results in a better tasting cup. This is all relative--that first pour is still better than anything I could produce using other coffee makers.

Cleanup: Place old discarded conical metal coffee filter from now-departed loathsome drip coffee maker into sink drain. Rinse Eva filter and carafe grounds into old filter, drain and shake out into trash can. Wash inside of CafeSolo carafe (and thermal carafe, if you used one) with hot soapy water using a long flexible brush. Use hot soapy water on the mesh filter, too.

Hope this helps. :-)
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2005
Not only does the Cafe Solo look cool, but it makes a great cup of coffee (or two).

It is EXTREMELY easy to use and it does save you time when you need a cup of coffee quickly. The hardest part of making coffee in the Cafe Solo is waiting for the water to boil, via the old stove top, microwave or old drip coffee pot thingy.

I add five tablespoons of coffee and fill the carafe to just below the neck, stir, wait a few minutes (four minutes go by quick when you are busy with your morning routine), no need to watch as the sleeve keeps the coffee warm for up to a half hour anyway. The sleeve looks and feels like a wet suit.

The end product is a smoothe cup of coffe that stays nice and warm for that second cup.

I have forgotten to put the sleeve on once or twice and managed to get it on with a full carafe of hot coffee without burning my hands. You just hold the flask by the neck, which should not hold any coffee anyway and slip the sleeve over the butt of it. From one side to the other, then zip it right up. Viola! No problem.

Considering the ease of use and the after product it's worth the money. It makes Starbucks taste really good. Imagine what it could do for gourmet coffee!

It makes a great gift for a coffee lover.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2005
This is the most beautiful coffee maker ever made. Its design is simple, yet functional, and provides an original and ingenious way to make coffee.

There are no pumps, presses, or other gadgets. Here you brew coffee the way it was originally made, stirring hot water and coffee. The shape is not only elegant, but NEVER EVER drips.

Quality is the best I've seen ever. It leaves everything else in the dust.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2008
Size Name: 0.6-LiterColor Name: BlackVerified Purchase
I purchased both the Eva Cafe Solo 0.6L and 1.0L sizes and am really pleased with both. I think the quality of the glass work, filter system, and really functional design is indeed worth the high price.

While most avid coffee drinkers might think of the French press method as one of the best, if not the best, way to brew coffee, in my view the Cafe Solo takes things one step further. The filter screen, which extends down through the neck of the carafe is a very, very fine mesh. Part of the reason I think they can get away with such a fine mesh without clogging is that there is a huge surface area and the coffee tends to flow along the length of the mesh rather than straight at it when poured -- just brilliant design here. So, even if you have to resort to using a blade grinder (with its associated inconsistent grind - tsk) the fine mesh screen filters very effectively and the amount of fine particles that end up in the coffee is minimal compared to press pots.

The only disadvantage is that, beyond the optimum 4 mintues or so brewing time, the coffee remaining after your first pour does tend to brew a bit more than with the press pot -- since the grounds are free flowing in the carafe rather than compressed and trapped at the bottom of the pot. Of course you can always transfer to a thermos, but I don't since I've not found the "overbrewing" difference that significant (though it is noticeable).

The smaller 0.6L Cafe Solo is perfect for a couple of "American-sized" mugs of coffee, while the 1.0L size is great for two people.

Clean up is a breeze -- you can just rinse everything with water and perhaps every second or third time give the carafe a cleaning with a bottle brush (French roast coffees in particular leave a bit of film on the glass after a couple of uses).

I don't find the need to even use the neoprene insulating wrap to keep the coffee warm -- but I do drink a couple of cups in fairly quick succession. With the neopreen on, it's not quite as effective as a thermos but will keep coffee hot for 30 minutes+.

Bottom line -- the superior filtering is the key to the Cafe Solo performance... press pot filters in my experience are more coarse and there is always some 'blow by' as as the plunger descends. Just drink up or pour out into a thermos to prevent overbrewing (and perhaps take the best coffee you'll ever make, along with you).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2012
Size Name: 1-LiterColor Name: BlackVerified Purchase
The Eva Cafe Solo is a welcome addition to my stable of brew apparatuses. After my wife broke my 8-year-old press-pot, I decided to upgrade to this because, hell, why not? In the last couple years I'd been using my press without actually depressing the plunger anyway, as I was trying to avoid that agitation to the coffee bed. I found this made a consistently sweeter cup with less fines in the cup. So, I figured that would be similar to what the Cafe Solo would be doing and it didn't disappoint. In fact, the filter actually does a better job of controlling the fines than the screen in my old press-pot. Using this my coffee has a flavor profile similar to cupping. If I didn't have so much fun playing around with variables using other brew methods, I could totally make this my everyday brew. And, yes, it is different enough from the press to warrant a coffee geek like me to try it.
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38 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2010
Size Name: 0.6-LiterColor Name: Black
Indeed. How in the world could a small glass carafe be so expensive?

The most egregious insult to the buyer: There is a tiny rubber nub used to remove the rubber cover to the wire mesh filter. No matter how careful you are, the bulb will tear off after a certain number of uses. AND Eva Solo does NOT offer sale of a replacement! So here I sit with a carafe that has no other use.

I hope I can spare someone else the frustration of investing in this expensive but useless coffee maker.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2008
Size Name: 0.6-LiterColor Name: Black
We have been using our Eva Solo daily for several months. It is expensive, but for us, it's worth it. It looks great, is easy to grip at the neck of the pot, the neoprene cover keeps coffee warm, it's durable and simple to use. Cleaning and use is easier than a press pot. Best of all is the pouring spout. Coffee goes where it is aimed and it never drips. This is an example of really superb functional art.

Check Coffee Geek.com for a more detailed review by a true geek. We use the .6 liter version for 2 large cups of coffee. We use our 1 liter version for 4 cups.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2013
Size Name: 1-LiterColor Name: BlackVerified Purchase
Our automatic drip maker needed to be replaced, but after looking around and reading reviews, we decided to go a bit more manual. I have used Eva Solo products before and found them to be really well-designed, so we decided to try the cafe solo. It's really simple, easy-to-use, and looks quite beautiful. It's essentially a press-style immersion brewer, but the fine-mesh filter at the top allows you to grind the coffee more finely, resulting in a deeper and richer flavor. All you have to do is dump the grounds into the carafe, pour the near-boiling water over the top, stir for a bit, and let it brew for 4 minutes. Very simple, and the resulting coffee is rich and delicious.

At first I was a little concerned about the cleanup, but I saw a suggestion that works wonderfully: just fill the carafe with tap water, swish it around to get the spent grounds floating in the water, and then dump it out in your yard. This removes nearly all the grounds, and a simple wash in the sink with a bottle brush finishes the job. Coffee grounds are supposedly good for your soil, and so far, I haven't noticed any detrimental effects.

I would definitely recommend this to those who want a more manual coffee brewer.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2009
Size Name: 1-LiterColor Name: BlackVerified Purchase
I have owned the latest and greatest coffee drip machines and I have also owned French presses before.

I like coffee drip machines but it's quite a lot of doing and cleaning for a cup of coffee. A filter for the coffee, a filter for the water before it goes into the filter and on and on and on. Most of the materials that go into making a coffee drip machine aren't very conducive to keeping it clean. Even the expensive coffee drip makers I find are made of less than spectacular materials. Coffee drip makers get dirty very quickly and I am constantly wiping down the machines. I don't mind using filters but it's one other thing I have to remember to buy when I am using a coffee drip machine. I have permanently retired my coffee drip maker.

I appreciate simplicity in coffee making so I tend to use a French press. I have owned several and at some point during the life of a French press, the plunger becomes difficult to press down. I have had this happen on both expensive and cheaper models. I also find the plungers on French presses difficult to keep clean.

I have seen Eva Solo items in stores and on line and when I saw there was a coffee carafe, I decided to give it a whirl.

What a beautiful and brilliant design. You put the jacket on the carafe, put your coffee in and pour in the hot water and give it stir. After a few minutes, stir it again and insert the filter funnel with a smart tip-up lid and watch your coffee beautifully pour out of the carafe. The Eva Solo Coffee Maker is by far the easiest and the simplest to clean. No muss and fuss about it at all.

I am not a coffee aficionado and I just want simplicity when I go to make a cup of coffee and Eva Solo has perfectly and beautifully met my needs.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Size Name: 1-LiterColor Name: Black
A nice little conversation starter that makes good coffee with minimal mess. It's the anti-Keurig that makes coffee making artsy in contemporary fashion. It does not necessarily make "better" coffee than a French press, as it is virtually the same method, except that dregs and grounds are free-floating until the coffee is served (a matter of preference). But, it ought to make the occasion of coffee brewing a better experience for those who like to pair the drinking with conversations about the process and beans. It certainly adds an artful flair to the occasion.

Cons:
* You are paying for the design, not the product. The design is quite good, but the materials deserve an upgrade for the price. All pieces (metal, glass, and neoprene) could and probably should have been a heavier weight.
* The description says it holds coffee hot for "up to 30 minutes." I'm sure this is possible if you place it next to an open fire. Expect somewhere around 10-12. Which, may not be a problem considering it pours about 3-4 mugs.
* It's simple. When disassembled there are just 4 pieces. Filter/pour spout, lid piece, carafe, and cover (also comes with stir spoon).
* Price.

Pros:
* Dishwasher safe!
* It is a coffee making process that will expose the distinctives of various coffee beans and roasts.
* Makes good, full flavored, coffee. Better is a matter of preference, but it definitely makes good coffee.
* I'm looking forward to putting it to use with guests.
* Pours cleanly.
* Sharp design.
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