The Hamilton Beach 2-Way is a relatively convenient, easy to use, and easy to clean coffee maker, but it falls a bit short when it comes to taste. The coffee wasn't bad, with decent strength and a good underlying flavor, but no matter what we did we got a fairly powerful burnt taste and smell that kind of overpowered everything else. If you're looking for an inexpensive coffee maker the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable costs half as much, has nearly as many features, and (in our opinion) makes better coffee. The 2-Way does offer a nice single serving mode, where you can brew a small amount of coffee directly into a travel mug. However, we didn't feel this feature made up for that burnt taste that left us reaching for extra milk and sugar.
Hamilton Beach 2-Way Review
Pros: Relatively inexpensive
Cons: Coffee tastes somewhat burnt and bitter
Manufacturer: Hamilton Beach
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Hamilton Beach 2-Way has a convenient single serving feature that dispenses into the cup of your choice, but we couldn't get over the burnt taste that it added to all of the coffee we brewed.
The Hamilton Beach 2-Way was an above average performer in all of our testing metrics except for taste. That led to a fairly average overall score, putting it towards the middle of the pack.
This is the one area where the 2-Way struggled, picking up an average score of 5 out of 10. We wanted to like this coffee, it had good strength and we could notice some nice flavors in it. However, every time we tasted it those pleasant attributes were canceled out by an overarching burnt flavor. That led us to over sweeten this coffee, something we wouldn't want to be doing on a daily basis. We didn't notice any difference in flavor between brewing a traditional pot and using the single serve function.
This problem is exacerbated by the fact that less expensive machines, like the Black & Decker CM1160B, can make a better cup. Sure, the Black & Decker doesn't have a convenient single serve function, but we think the lack of the burnt flavor and lower price more than make up for that relative shortcoming.
2-Way vs. Keurig and Nespresso
The 2-Way looks like an attractive alternative to the somewhat wasteful single-serving pod systems available, so how does its taste stack up against Keurig and Nespresso? Well, we think the 2-Way tastes better than Keurig pods overall. However, taste is admittedly a subjective thing, and in this situation you're essentially choosing between a relatively weak cup of coffee with a slight plastic aftertaste (Keurig) and a relatively strong cup of coffee with a burnt taste (2-Way). Different people may come down on different sides of that debate, but we'd give a slight edge to the 2-Way.
Nespresso pods are able to brew a stronger cup of coffee (and even a decent espresso shot) when compared to Keurig Machines. A Nespresso cup still doesn't have as strong a flavor as a 2-Way cup, but it also doesn't have a burnt taste to it. Again, we're splitting hairs and it's somewhat subjective, but we'd give a slight edge to Nespresso here.
The 2-Way earned an above average score of 7 out of 10 in our convenience testing, largely due to its single-serving brew feature. This feature still uses traditional grounds and a filter, but lets you dispense the coffee directly into a travel mug, eliminating the need to clean out the glass carafe. That single brew function isn't as fast as a capsule machine (which usually makes a cup in less than 2 minutes), but is still faster than brewing a pot. We were usually enjoying a cup of coffee in a travel mug inside of 4 minutes. Brewing a full pot of coffee using the traditional function took 12.5 minutes including cleanup, which was a bit slower than the average of 10 minutes. It is also programmable, so you can prep your coffee and program it to automatically start brewing in the morning.
Overall the 2-Way isn't as convenient as a pod machine, but does eliminate the extra cost and waste associated with single serving pods. We feel that's a pretty good tradeoff.
Here again the 2-Way was above average but not the best with a score of 7 out of 10. The interface is simple and easy to understand, but thing like setting the clock and programmable timer does involve a lot of button pushing. The water tank is easy to fill and the carafe has a nice handle and a good, controlled pour. Ultimately it only lost out to the super simple pod-style machines and models like the OXO on that use knobs for things that need to be adjusted in large increments (like setting the programmable function).
Ease of Cleaning
We found the 2-Way quite easy to clean, with only the mess-free pod machines besting it in our testing. The carafe has a large opening, so it was easy to get in and scrub (if you use the single serve function brewed directly into a cup you don't even have to worry about cleaning the carafe). It is also dishwasher safe. Paper filters make removing and disposing of old grinds easily.
Descaling (a long term cleaning task performed every 3-6 months) involved a lot of flushing water and cleaning solution through the machine. In the end it took us 40 minutes, well shy of the average 60-minute descaling process.
If you're ok with the burnt taste produced by the 2-Way, it offers a great value in that it mimics most of the convenience offered by pod style machines without the extra cost (and waste). It is also much less of an original investment when compared to pod machines that go for $100-$200. However, if you don't like that burnt taste you're better off sacrificing convenience and getting the Black & Decker CM1160B. Or you could accept the motto of paying extra for convenience and get a Nespresso machine (we recommend the Vertuoline, which lets you make both coffee and espresso).
The Hamilton Beach 2-Way is a great and convenient machine, but is held back the burnt taste that it lends to coffee.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata