Cuisinart CPO-800 Review: Live from 1985

This is part of my Everyday Coffee series, in which I review four affordable SCAA-certified coffeemakers. Criteria is simple: they have to be programmable, they have to be easy to use, and they have to produce a damn fine cup of coffee. Read on to see how the Cuisinart CPO-800 compares!

Meet the Cuisinart CPO-800
A Cuisinart CPO-800 coffemaker. The carafe is about 75% full of rich, dark coffee. Sunlight streams in through a window in the background.
The sharp angles and VFD display give it a very 80s appearance.

First on deck is the Cuisinart CPO-800. I actually purchased this last Friday, and I’ve been using it religiously all week. I love this design! Gentle angles, a vintage-looking vacuum fluorescent display, and a semi-traditional coffeemaker look. The Cuisinart CPO-800 looks like it’s straight out of the mid-80s, and that’s a great thing!

The CPO-800 is one of three tested units that mimics the behavior of a pourover. Water gets heated to that golden 195-205 range, then sprinkled (or “jimmied” if you’re from Philadelphia) over the grounds in waves — including a presoak. The presoak allows the coffee to bloom and develop its full flavor, while the brief pauses in watering ensure the grounds aren’t over-extracted.

Cuisinart has always been a good brand for me. This is my third Cuisinart coffeemaker. My oldest one, a DGB-550BK, is still going strong after six years of daily use.

Programming and Setup

The control panel is pretty straightforward. The oversized VFD makes changing settings — brew temperature, brew strength, and warming time — easy. Several of the buttons have built-in LEDs that indicate their on/off status. Overall, the look is very easy on the eyes: it’s sufficiently dim at night, and easily visible in direct sunlight. All hail the beauty of VFD!

A closeup of the permanent filter. Unlike most permanent filters, which resemble metal screens, this filter has a series of small vertical slots several millimeters long. The CPO-800 coffeemaker is visible in the background.
These long metal slots may not do great at holding back grounds.

One curious feature is the included permanent filter. Unlike every other permanent filter I’ve seen, this is more of a “perforated” design and less of a “mesh” design. I’m concerned about grounds passing through those slots and winding up in the coffee.

That Design Though

I love this design! It would look perfectly at home in a 1985 made-for-TV movie about life in the far-off year of 2000. Don’t get me wrong: that’s absolutely a compliment! This will stand out in the kitchen without looking out of place. If that doesn’t make sense, go see one for yourself and you’ll understand.

A closeup of the CPO-800's vacuum fluorescent display. The display indicates the brew strength ("medium"), the brew temperature ("hot"), the time, and the fact that it's turned on.
More things need beautiful retro displays like this!

Unlike the other models I tested, the Cuisinart CPO-800 comes with a conventional two-prong cord. Although perfectly safe and reasonable, the heavy-duty cords and three-prong plugs of the other units I tested give a more durable appearance. And I’ll never complain about adding a ground prong to an appliance with a metal casing.

The carafe feels a bit awkward because of its angular, beaker-like appearance. It works, and it doesn’t dribble, but it’s not the most ergonomic solution I’ve ever seen.

The CPO-800 also includes a charcoal filter, which to be honest is more of a gimmick than anything else. True, it will help reduce chlorine smells in tap water, but if you’re a true coffee geek, you’re not using tap water anyway.

The coffeemaker is made in China and backed with a three-year warranty. Personal experience shows that Cuisinart is very good about keeping parts for their older models, so if you accidentally break or lose something, you’re covered.

So … how ’bout that taste?

For the past few days and the rest of this week, I’m using the Cuisinart CPO-800 as my daily driver. That’s two travel cups of regular coffee in the morning, a fresh pot in the afternoon, and all of the above on weekends. My next post will detail the quality of the brew and  anything else I encounter in day-to-day usage.