I am not a coffee drinker, with the occasional exception of drinks that contain more milk, caramel and ice than actual coffee. However, when the weather turns brisk, I drink hot cocoa.
Several years back my family purchased its first automated hot chocolate machine, and my life was forever changed. Previously, I had made the occasional instant cup with hot water, but you have no idea how much better that same mix is when milk is added. I was an instant addict. I’m also clumsy and likely to burn myself when dealing with a stove or oven, so an automated machine is perfect for me.
Here’s the thing, though: thus far, no cocoa machine has been perfect. I’m like Goldilocks, trying to find that perfect product. Hopefully, you gadget geeks out there know of something I don’t, and that’s why I’m making my search public.
These are the two machines I’ve had the most experience with, and their pros and cons:
Cocomotion, by Mr Coffee
This is my original life-changer. It’s cheap – around 20 bucks, and easily available, from Amazon to WalMart. You pour in the liquid and the cocoa, hit ON, and, in the words of Maurice Moss, just walk away. It heats it to a really nice temperature, not scalding, not lukewarm. Overall, a “nice” product.
Here’s the problem, though: The whole thing is one piece. The spinner that mixes is is a detachable magnet, which is nice, but the plastic container is attached to the plastic bottom. No dishwasher, and it’s awkward to hold when you’re washing it out.
Oh, and, turns out, it’s not the greatest quality. My family went through at least two or more when I was in college; later, I bought my own, and it died in about a year. It starts losing heat, and it stops mixing as well, leaving giant chocolately clumps… essentially, the whole thing just dies. When mine died last year, I started hunting for a different brand to replace it, and I wound up with…
Cocoa-Latte, by Back to Basics
Essentially, it’s the same idea – plastic container, plastic bottom. Runs for around 30 bucks at places like Amazon and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Immediately, it appeared superior to the Cocomotion.
For one thing, the container detaches from the base. It has a plug on the bottom, which means it’s still not dishwasher-safe, but it’s much easier to wash. The quality of the whole thing seemed slightly better, and it came with a little recipe book for additional drinks. In terms of heat, mixing, everything checked out. Oh, and it also had a little dispensing spigot, so I didn’t have to detach the container to pour my drinks.
I used it every day. After about a month or so, however, the lever on the little spigot snapped clean off.
I knew this was a possibility – it’s mentioned more than once in Amazon reviews. In fact, I initially planned not to use the spigot at all, but it was just so cute and handy, I couldn’t resist.
Luckily, it snapped off when the spigot was closed, which means I now effectively have the same machine, but without the dispenser. And that’s not a big deal; the container is also shaped to pour, and since I can detach the top half, it’s still easier to pour than the old Cocomotion. It’s been getting daily use again this year, and everything else still seems great.
That’s what’s so frustrating – a spigot isn’t a necessity; why add something with the potential to render the whole machine unusable?
I always have one eye out for the ultimate cocoa machine, something with all the automated benefits and a dishwasher-safe container, but so far my Cocoa-Latte seems to be the best, even with a busted spigot. Which is fine for me (I wouldn’t want to be the person whose spigot broke in the pour position), but I’m hoping the wrinkles get ironed out in the future.
But I wonder, do you know something I don’t? Is there a better product out there – maybe not geared for cocoa, but one of those weird coffee products that are utterly foreign to me? Do you have any appliances which, ridiculous as they may be, get a lot of use?
And if you happen to design such products – you have your marching orders!