This review covers the 10-cup version of this thermal coffee maker. Cuisinart has built a solid reputation for kitchen appliances. This machine promises a 10 cup at five ounces. You can use the single serve even after you’ve programmed the carafe for the evening, allowing you to set up coffee for breakfast while still serving dessert.
It does have a couple of shortcomings that need to be mentioned. These aren’t deal-breakers but you should be aware of them prior to making a purchase decision.
Is this coffee center duo really worth the asking price? Let’s see how this coffee machine stacks up against the competition.
Features of the Cuisinart SS-20 Coffee Center
Every coffee maker has some basic features we’d all like to know about. In this section, we’ll take an in-depth look at all of the features.
Type of Coffee Maker: Automatic Drip: Multiple Cups and Single Serve Options
Note that 5 ounces is considered a “cup” of coffee by industry standards. Take this into consideration while you’re measuring tablespoons to cups or simply adding tea bags to the filter.
This coffee maker can brew a 10-cup pot of coffee or single serve. The carafe side has a shower head water dispersion design. This allows the water to fully saturate the coffee before dispensing it into the carafe.
Type of Coffee Used: Ground coffee beans for carafe. K-cups for single serve.
There’s nothing fancy about using the coffee for the carafe. Just grab your favorite grind of roasted coffee beans. You can also use teabags with the mesh filter however, adding plain water is not recommended so don’t try any ramen noodle YouTube hacks with this machine.
When using the single serve option, you can also use Cuisinart’s Home Barista reusable filter cups. A Gold-tone permanent filter is included.
Type of Filter Used: Permanent Gold-tone filter.
So many people are put off by these gold-tone filters, it’s worth noting that you can also use #4 paper cones in the Cuisinart SS-20 coffee makers.
40-ounce capacity. Both sides have a Charcoal water filter. These are easily replaced and should be used to prevent impurities from damaging your machine and ruining the tasted of your coffee. The reservoir easy to view the water levels, in turn making it easy to accurately fill up.
Carafe: Thermal Stainless Steel
Here’s where we know Cuisinart is listening to its customers. The double-wall thermal carafe is in response to how many people actually detested the glass carafe that shipped with the SS15 coffee maker.
Number of Cups the Machine Can Brew at Once: 6-10 cups at 5 ounces each. Single serve can brew three different sizes; 6, 8 and 10 ounces. It pretty much functions like the average K-cup machine but it should be noted that there are reports that the machine will arbitrarily spit coffee grounds everywhere. This is not a malfunction. There are white lines which need to be lined up near the back of the machine. If they don’t line up, the K-Cup won’t set in properly. This will result in coffee grounds spewing all over the inside of the machine.
The resting plate has a scratch resistant surface.
Be sure and place the carafe back on the resting plate within 20 seconds to prevent the water from overflowing in the filter.
Automatic Shut-off: See Note
The lights on the machine dim after 30 minutes of non-use. Our machine shut off after 4 hours but there have been reports of machines that never shut off.
K-Cups or HomeBarista Filter Cups allow you to use any ground coffee of your choosing. This is your standard reusable K-cup coffee holder that can be purchased everywhere.
Brew Strength Options: Regular and Bold
Bold is only for the carafe side. If using the single serve, you’d need to select a lower cup size to get a stronger flavor.
The stainless steel looks impressive in most settings.
How Easy is the Cuisinart SS-20 Coffee Center Coffee Maker to Clean?
The removable parts may be cleaned with warm, soapy water. They shouldn’t be put in the dishwasher. The base may be wiped down.
There’s a self-cleaning option for descaling. Both sides of the machine should be descaled every 6 months or so.
Other Features to Note
BPA Free. The unit is BPA free. This is always a plus in our book.
Warranty: 3 Years. Not as great a deal as we had hoped. You’ll still have to pay for shipping which means you’re running close to the purchase price with the shipping costs.
Removable Drip Tray. The drip tray on the single serve side can be removed to accommodate travel mugs but given this coffee maker’s inclination to splattering, you’ll probably want the mug as close to the spot as possible.
Programmable: 24-hour Brew Start on 10- cup carafe. The single serve side of this coffee maker isn’t programmable.
It has a delay brew function, allowing you to set it up to 24 hours in advance. While the single serve side isn’t programmable, since it functions independently, you can still make yourself another cup of coffee even after setting the program for the carafe.
How Much Counter Space Does it Use?
This coffee maker measures 10.5″ wide x 10.5″ deep x 14.5″ high.
What the Comments Say
This is a polarizing coffee machine! There are people who absolutely love it and those that hate it so much, they are at the point of never trusting anything that Cuisinart makes ever again. Let’s try to sort it all out.
Praises From Reviewers:
People love the versatility of this machine. Being able to program the carafe side and still get coffee on the single-serve side is a big convenience for a lot of all-day coffee drinkers.
Having K-scup standardization also leaves the door open for the flexibility of using your favorite k-cup flavors or using the HomeBarista filter cups.
Many buyers have noted the durability of this machine. It’s quite sturdy and BPA free. Some offices have even put it in their break rooms (although Cuisinart doesn’t recommend it). It runs day after day without hiccups.
Drawbacks to Consider
The drip tray on the single serve side is too low and it can get messy when the coffee splashes out of the mug. People suggest using a taller mug, stacking objects under the mug or even using a tall travel mug when brewing single serve. Doing so will help you to minimize splatter.
People who didn’t realize they need to line up the K-cup holder lines are infuriated with the machine. Now, while it is definitely on them for not setting up the filter and machine correctly, this is the only single-serve machine we’ve found that is so unforgiving. Cuisinart wanted to give customers the option of using loose grounds but the design seems to have a flaw – don’t make the customers think.
There are also a few reports of the machine leaking, even while not in operation. If you notice any leaking not caused by an improper alignment of the reservoir, contact Cuisinart right away. All of these machines are UL tested. That means there were no leaks occurring when it passed the government safety inspections so it has to be at the manufacturer’s plant.
The only other instances of leaking would occur if you don’t use the single-serve filter holder when running water. Single serve K-cups use agitation caused by the infusion of water hitting the coffee grounds and bouncing around inside the cup. Without this containment, water will go everywhere.
The Cuisinart SS-20 Coffee Center is a good duo for households and small offices where there’s a coffee pot going almost all day. It brews fast but doesn’t hold its flavor for long. We were certainly disappointed with the mess the single-serve side could cause or having to line up arrows to avoid a K-cup explosion. We did like the look of the machine, its self-cleaning function and the flavor of the coffee it produced. If you’re the type of person that enjoys a certain amount of precision when making a pot or cup of coffee, the short-comings of this machine won’t be a problem. If you are forgetful when trying to get through making a pot of coffee, these shortcomings will definitely set you back.
This Cuisinart SS-20 Coffee Center should be on your short list when you’re considering a single and multiple cup combo brewing machine.
Resources for the Cuisinart SS-20
You can get the Cuisinart SS-20 Coffee Center Owner’s Manual from Cuisinart. Click here for the Cuisinart SS-20 Coffee Maker manual. Scroll to about half way down the page.
How to Clean the Cuisinart SS-15 Coffee Center
The self-cleaning function on the coffee machine make this a pretty straight forward process. You can use a water and vinegar solution. Since the machine brews rather quickly, the cleaning process doesn’t take long at all.
For both cleaning processes, make sure the unit has cooled down before you start to clean and touch any potentially hot surfaces.
Cleaning the Cuisinart SS-15 Coffee Maker: Carafe Side
- Remove the charcoal filter.
- Wipe down your product with a soft cloth. You can use warm, soapy water but be sure and wipe it down with another clean, damp cloth to remove any soap residue.
- Filled reservoir to the 8 cup line with water.
- Then measure out to the 4 cup line with white vinegar and add that to the water already in the reservoir.
- Snap the lid closed on the carafe and place on the plate warmer.
- Press and hold the clean button until it starts flashing.
- Run a full pot (to the 10-cup line) of clean water through the brew cycle.
- Replace the charcoal filter.
- The carafe side of the coffee maker is read to use.
Cleaning the Cuisinart SS-15 Coffee Maker: Single-Serve Side
Cleaning the single serve side isn’t unlike any other K-Cup machine. You’re going to fill the carafe with a water and vinegar solution, run through the cycle as many times as necessary to empty the reservoir, then run the cycle again with clear water in the reservoir.
- Make sure that the Home Barista filter holder snaps in place with its lines matching.
- Place a cup onto the drip tray.
- Fill the reservoir with rations of water and vinegar.
- Simultaneously press and hold down the small and medium cup size buttons until the clean mode light starts flashing. This means the cycle has started.
- When the cycle has completed, empty the cup. This is always a good time to put baking soda into your sink to freshen it up with the hot vinegar and water mix.
- Continue this process until the reservoir is empty.
- Fill the now-empty reservoir with clean water and repeat the entire process.
- Your Home Barista pieces can be taken apart and cleaned on the top rack of the dishwasher or washed out with warm, soapy water, thoroughly rinsed off and allowed to dry.
We were disappointed that the demonstrator confused the 4-cup line with four ounces. It’s the kind of thing that winds up confusing people on the proper measurements for making coffee.
We were also disappointed with the “check your manual” redirect to figure out how much water and vinegar you should be using.
Personally, I was also disappointed with the idea of cleaning out a spout on an electrical appliance with a paper clip (metal). Granted, the risk of shock is low, but you could completely neutralize this risk by either unplugging the machine or using toothpicks. It’s highly unlikely you could break off a piece that would get stuck in the spout.
Replacing the Charcoal Filter on the Cuisinart SS-15 Coffee Maker
You should clean the charcoal filter every 60 days. You may need to change it more often if you have hard water. Just like other charcoal water filters, you should also soak it for a few minutes before putting it in the coffee maker.
Here’s a video on how to do change out the charcoal water filter. It’s an older video but still applies to this machine.