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Café-filter for Philips Senseo Review

March 3, 2005

As I mentioned in my review of the Philips Senseo, I’d ordered a Café-filter from The Netherlands. This device is designed and manufactured by LMTO Electronics, B.V., and is a re-usable permanent filter for the Senseo.

The unit is built in two pieces (you can see a picture on their site, above) — a dish-shaped bottom piece, and a lid that fits tightly on top. Both the top and bottom have a reinforced mesh filter. You can fill the filter with the ground coffee of your choice (8 grams, as per the instructions), place it in the “two cup” Senseo filter pod holder, and brew a single cup.

The device works fine, mechanically. Both pieces fit together well, it fits in the dual-pod holder properly, and stays in place (and closed) when the lid is clamped down and the Senseo puts pressure to it. As advertised, it does brew a cup of coffee, from a grounds of your choice, complete with the Senseo “crema” head on it.

Operation

After taking the filter through the groundsless first pass advised in the instructions, I broke out some fresh Columbian beans, and ran into the first practicality issue — the instructions advise using 8 grams of coffee. In my cheap little blade grinder, trying to get any sort of uniform grind on that small an amount of beans is pretty iffy. It’d probably work better to grind a more reasonable amount, and then measure out 8 grams of result, but then you start to defeat the merits of using freshly ground beans. Of course, if you don’t grind your own beans, you’ll probably be happy with the standard coffee pods (although I suppose you could use this and a can of Folgers or something to lower the cost).

8 grams is a rather tight fit in the café-filter, but I got the lid on and brewed up a “single” cup (about 4 oz). Everything worked fine; the top latched down fine, no leaks occured when pressure was applied. The Senseo did it’s hissing and growling routine, and delivered a crema cup of Columbian Supremo.

Cleanup was fairly easy — remove the double-cup pod holder, remove the café-filter top, dump out the grinds, then remove the rest and rinse everything.

Results

Tasting it, I can tell you that I liked it substantially better than the pre-made pods. Unfortunately, it was still on the weak side, at least for me. The instructions advise that you can brew two cups at once using “espresso coffee instead of normal fine grated coffee”, which I presume means using a very fine espresso grind. I did get a fairly fine grind, eventually, on the Columbian, but I suppose if I were to get a finer grind, it might solve the weakness problem. From a practical standpoint, though, I’m not sure how much of a consistently fine grind I’m going to get from my grinder. I’ll have to keep working with it. I’m sure a good burr grinder would handle it just fine, but at some point the degree of cost involved begins to get silly.

Obtaining the Café-filter

Update — there’s now a very similar product available in the US from Amazon. It’s the Ecopad Refillable Coffee-pad for the Senseo.

LMTO Electronics does not ship to the US. At the time I first contacted them, they hadn’t worked out a way to do so, but they now have a partnership with Knives and Tools Online which will sell and ship to the US. The cost of the filter is √¢‚Äö¬¨ 16.39, and shipping for me ran √¢‚Äö¬¨ 8.05, which comes to around $30 US, depending on the exchange rate at the time. It took about 10 days to receive it from the time they started taking orders.

Conclusions

The café-filter does work, and produces a cup of coffee that (to me) is superior to that obtained with the standard coffee pods. It’s still not what I want, but it’s close enough to being right that I think some experimentation and tuning might get it substantially close. It will certainly be cheaper to use than the standard coffee pods!

On the other hand, the amount of work involved begins to make some of the Senseo advantages of a fast, good single cup of coffee a little academic. It takes about as much work (measuring and grinding beans, filling the filter, dumping it out after) to use as the four-cup Barista Aroma, and only produces four ounces of coffee, instead of four cups. Given that I tend to use a 16 oz mug, this is a little silly…

If you’re using it just to cut costs, and don’t want to grind your own beans, you’ll probably want to play with obtaining different grinds of coffee (either pre-packaged, or from one of the grocery-store self-grinders) to find something that suits you. I’d expect that a normal automatic drip grind would produce very watery coffee. I’m not sure just how fine one can go, but since they advise using “espresso coffee”, one assumes that it will work down to a fairly fine grind.

If you try this thing, leave a comment and let me know what you think — I’d be interested in comparing results.

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