Monday, June 30, 2014

Review & Giveaway: XIRABREW CaliX Reusable Filter for Keurig

For the majority of my first 50 years, coffee has been my life's blood. Don't cringe, but in my younger days, I was a '2 or 3 pot of coffee a day' girl, and would have more likely melted down in a puddle of distress over waking up to a broken coffee pot than a broken car. Priorities, man!

Obviously, those days couldn't last forever - while I still enjoy coffee very much, I am also much more mindful about moderation. Over the last few years, I've dropped way down on my consumption, while maximizing the quality of the coffee I drink (those earlier days involved a lot of swill, to be honest), and exploring the wonderful world of tea after I've had a couple cups of coffee.

For my birthday a few years ago, my daughters bought me a Keurig, which has really helped me control how much coffee I drink - because they make one cup at a time, you're not 'finishing off the pot' because it's there.  Every cup is as fresh as that first, blissfully perfect cup of the morning, so you're never drinking stale, gross, coffee dregs. And because each cup is individual, everyone in the house can have their own favorite blend.

But Keurigs have a lot of downsides; Purchased coffee pods are expensive and ecologically wasteful and while there are a growing number of reusable filters on the market (and I feel as if I've tried them all), most of them make a rather limp, weak cup of coffee.  Many of  them are annoying to use and difficult to clean.  Finally, the Keurig itself, while it has a 'small' and 'large' cup option, translates these settings to 'tiny' to 'this will do while the next cup is brewing', due to the limitations of the K-cup holder's size constraints.

So, when I first heard about the XIRABREW Calix reusable Keurig filter, I was really intrigued. The CaliX is designed for home Keurig machines (not commercial Keurigs or mini-Keurigs), and to use it, you take out the removeable K-cup holder from the Keurig, much like you would if you used Keurig's My K-Cup resuable filter.

That's where the comparison ends, though.  The My K-Cup was one of the first items we tried, in order to be able to use our own coffee, and our My K-Cup has sat unused for years, now.  It frankly makes a fairly terrible cup of coffee - the open basket filter seems to simply let the water out too quickly and the grounds only really get dampened down the center, while much of it clearly never got infused at all! Various other types we've tried have done a little better, but broken after a short time or proven to be hard to clean.  I should explain something here - those other methods have led to my coffee coming really easily for me, because they annoy me so much that I bribe, beg and cajole my husband into making all my coffee for me.

The XIRABREW CaliX is the first system in a long time that I can manage on my own.  While it has more parts than other systems we've tried (four separate pieces), they are each very easy to clean, either by rinsing out or in the dishwasher, and both the design and the actual construction is elegant and well done.  I don't feel like it's going to wear out on me anytime soon.

Let me explain a little bit about what makes the XIRABREW Calix different, and then I'll talk about my experience with it.

The CaliX is an entirely unique system, created by Louis Dakis, whose own frustrations with mediocre Keurig coffee led him to work out how to maximize the Keurig's abilities. The result is a four piece Multi-Layer Brewing System that not only results in a stronger cup of coffee while using fewer grounds, but also manages to offset the Keurig's size limitation, so that you can have a larger cup of coffee.

As far as I know, this is the only reusable Keurig filter that has managed to break that size limitation, and it's generating some good buzz in the professional coffee world - the CaliX won 3rd Place for New Products at the St. Louis Coffee Fest trade show.

More significant even then that for us users is that between two of these trade shows (the other in New York City), he's offered nearly 300 blind taste tests of coffee made with his filter vs using a My K-Cup filter, and 100% of those tasting have chosen the CaliX made coffee. 100%!

Louis explains the science of how all this works in more detail on his website - I'm not going to try to explain the engineering behind it.  What I am going to say is that it makes for a really pleasurable cup of coffee, and after experimenting with it for a few weeks, I'm very happy with it and would be happy to recommend it to anyone.

The CaliX actually arrived at my daughter's house when we were out visiting her, letting the three of us that drink coffee, each take a few days to play with it.  Louis provided us with everything we needed to thoroughly test the product - a CaliX filter, some explanatory material and a bit of Coffee Fest swag, as well as a logo'd mug, a My K-Cup filter for comparison's sake, and even a few pouches of coffee, ground and measured out for controlled testing.

We had an initial Murphy's Law bad moment - the very day it arrived, their Keurig started malfunctioning, barely getting any water through at all.  My son in law is only a light coffee drinker (they live in the Mohave Desert, where cold drinks are much more the order of the day), and my daughter not at all, so they'd not used their machine much in the weeks before our arrival.  It took us a day of taking it apart and cleaning it, and then it worked fine.

I mention this, because the coffee that came out of that nice, freshly cleaned Keurig was amaaaazing.  To get best results out of the CaliX, do the necessary upkeep on your Keurig - it will make a ton of difference in how well it works.

Both my son in law and husband practiced making cups of coffee with the CaliX (while I just sat back and enjoyed the delicious brew they brought me), and honestly found it to initially be a bit complicated, compared to what they were used to.

The first couple of times I tried it, I felt the same. My challenges, specifically, were in getting coffee grounds into the filter without mess, keeping grounds out of the insert where the lid slides in, and filling it without it tipping over.  I also found it necessary to use a paper towel to turn out the grounds afterward if I wanted to avoid getting grounds all over my hands so I could get the inner filter out.

I wanted to lay out these challenges because I did manage to find a solution to all but the last (and I've just gotten used to that - although I would love if  there were a way to lift out that inner filter without turning it upside down).

Louis offers a few tips:
Wash before use
Do not under fill or over fill
Do not pack the grinds into screen basket
Do not use finely ground coffee
To fill - remove screen basket from capsule assembly (best if basket is dry so no grinds stick to it)
Elevating your mug will reduce splashing out of cup
If 10 oz cycle does not complete you are most likely using enough coffee for 12 oz serving
When filling near to maximum indicator line, it is best to run in 2 brewing cycles (6 oz & 6 oz or even 6 oz & 8 oz)
Bowl for grounds, CaliX in a Tovolo base, & narrow scoop - this one doesn't have a brush.
And here is what I've learned after a few weeks of using the CaliX back at home - it took a few hacks to truly make the CaliX foolproof to use.

The key to filling the CaliX with no mess, in my opinion, is to have a stand to place it in, and a small scoop with a brush. I drafted the base of my Tovolo Tea Stick Infuser to use as a stand.  It holds it just perfectly at the proper angle for easy filling.

XIRABREW is actually working on its own CaliX filling tool called The Pivot, but until that's available, try this.  It made the CaliX a delight to use, and keeps me from making a clumsy mess of things.

Keeping the lip of the CaliX free of stray grinds is important, because the lid slides into place, and if it isn't in all the way, the needle of the Keurig won't be able to get into the CaliX, potentially causing damage to both the machine and the filter lid.  Louis suggests keeping the filter separate until it is filled, but I find the really important consideration is a scoop that is deep and narrow enough not to overflow the edges of the filter.  My scoop came with my coffee grinder, and has the correctly shaped scoop on one end, and a brush on the other, which can quickly whisk away any coffee grounds on the rim and get up under the narrow lip that the lid slides into.  Very rarely do I need to actually use the brush side.

Additionally, because we compost our grounds, we've gotten into the habit of keeping a dish nearby, so we can turn the filter upside down into the bowl, retrieve the parts and rinse before making another cup.  It'll hold enough grounds for each of us to enjoy a few cups before emptying it into the compost bin. I like this method better than turning the filter upside down in my palm or risking having the filter fall into the compost or trash.

Pretty much, every challenging aspect of using the CaliX stopped being an issue after a little bit of practice and these modifications, and the results have been outstanding enough to make the learning curve worth it. The coffee it serves up is strong, large and fresh.  I've used it with store ground coffee, as well as whole bean ground for 'drip' successfully - I tried both a coarser grind and a smaller grind to see what would happen, and  the results were not great - it took a little digging to get the resulting coffee cement out of  the filter. So, stick with easy, and all will be fine!

One more thing I find really cool about this filter over the others we've tried - it takes less coffee to make this strong cup than those that use up a lot of grounds for a weak cup.  And making a less strong cup of coffee is still perfectly doable - just use less coffee.  It still comes out with a good, fresh taste. That seems so logical, but I haven't found other systems to be particularly customizable.

I plan to keep an eye on XIRABREW - this inventor's mind has several other ideas in various stages of progress, from a CaliX type filter designed to brew tea, to a machine that will store your coffee and work with the CaliX to dispense just the right amount into the filter, to even coming up with a single-brew machine of its own that is designed from the ground up to work without the Keurig's design constraints.

I love forward thinking entrepreneurs as much as I love coffee!  I hope you'll check them out - at $19.99, this is a great value that can really ramp up your Keurig brew.

And now for the really fun part - XIRABREW is letting us give away THREE (count 'em, THREE!) CaliX Multi Layer Brewing Systems to our readers. This giveaway is for US only, and will end just before midnight EDT on July 14th.  Our three winners will be contacted via email within 24 hours of the end of the giveaway, and will have 24 hours to respond. If we don't get a response in that time, we will need to choose an alternate winner.

Don't forget - There is only ONE mandatory entry requirement - you have to COMMENT on this post, and then click "I COMMENTED".  Don't click it and then don't post - the first thing we do when Rafflecopter selects a winner is maker sure that person commented.  I hate disqualifying winners, so make sure you do that, ok?  

Good luck to you all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. I've found it a little more complicated than I am used to, especially early in the morning, but I have to admit it works really well.

  2. I learned the following don'ts from the website:
    Do not over fill or under fill
    Do not pack coffee into grind basket
    Do not use fine ground coffee

  3. We don't make coffee very much, but this is a very interesting product!

  4. I think it works better than a pot, but I miss the noise old school pots make.

  5. This looks awesome. Gunna tell my husband- the coffee lover about it!

    1. I can't wait for them to get the tea Brewer out to... website just says coming soon. :) that's what I learned

    2. I know, right?! I am waiting on the tea version too!

  6. love to give this to my mother in law she would love it. thankyou, ken

  7. I learned that this multi-layer brewing is the most efficient process.

  8. I learned that you can use 2 or 3 teaspoons of coffee depending on how strong you like your coffee or how large a cup you want. I always make a double 8 oz cup with only 1 K Cup. I think 3 teaspoons in the Calix would provide a better cup of coffee.

  9. I love my Keurig. It is so easy and convenient to use when I'm in a rush in the morning!

  10. I love my Keurig for its simplicity and the ability to make only 1 cup of coffee at a time instead of a huge pot!

  11. It is environmentally friendly and dishwasher safe. I like my Keurig, but hate creating all that plastic waste.

  12. I LOVE my keurig above any other coffee pot we've tried. I'm not a big drinker so i can just have one cup at a time, as I'm not likely to have two.

  13. Thanks, there isnt much info on this filter yet. Weve got a couple of keurigs at work and its byoc. I think this would be a hit with everyone.

  14. My least favorite thing about the Keurig is that the pods are more expensive than the coffee for the drip systems
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  15. It has improved brew quality and it's dishwasher safe :) it's awesome! I would like to try. I love our Kuerig it's so convienant.

  16. I learned:Multi Layer Brewing incorporates an extra interior layer to the standard "drip method" capsule, utilizing all the grinds by entirely submerging them. The forced circulation flow allows the water to stay in contact with the grinds slightly longer promoting a more robust cup of coffee.

  17. Find out the several methods to fixing a Keurig that's not pumping water. A clean Keurig water reservoir is vital for fresh keurig problems.

  18. Thanks for sharing but it is expensive You can see and go to sundance film festival 2020

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