Brew your own for caffeine fiends

I have to admit to being a bit of a skinflint, so while I was quite excited by the latest press release about three new coffee-makers (I know I need to get out more) I wasn’t quite so enamoured by the prices – the cheapest one mentioned was what I consider a whopping £699.

Zanussi-Coffee

So I thought I’d do a bit of maths (which is a major sacrifice for me as sums are not really my thing). Let’s say your average cup of nice coffee you’re your local Costa Bucks coffee shop costs you £2 a time (I know prices will vary depending where you live but let’s take that as an average). So, you buy one every morning on your way to work, (so around 200 days a year, excluding weekends and holidays). That adds up to about £400 a year – so 12 months after your purchase, you’ve pretty much saved about two-thirds of the price of your super-dooper coffee maker, which will last you a long time, and also provide warming cups of loveliness at other times of the day.

Okay, so I’ve almost convinced myself now, so let’s head on to the facts about these kitchen gadgets. They’re all integrated – which means they fit neatly into a fitted kitchen, just the way that integrated washing machines, fridges and so on.

Let’s start with the low priced one and we’ll work our way upwards. The Zanussi ZCOF637X can churn out an endless supply of quality espresso, cappuccino or the style of coffee you prefer. It features a hot water dispenser for long coffee drinks or tea making and a steam spout for frothy milk drinks. For truly fresh beans, it has a grinder or you can choose to use pre-ground coffee or individual coffee ‘pods’.

Coffee-EBA

The Electrolux EBA60010X costs around £750 has a 2-litre water tank with BRITA filter and a steam/water spout for Americano, latte, cappuccino and hot chocolate. If you have to do your own dirty work, the telescopic shelf runners have been designed to make cleaning and filling a breeze.

AEG-Coffee

Finally, if you REALLY like your cup of hot stuff of a morning and have £1299 burning a hole in your pocket, take a look at the AEG PE4511-M, which can create authentic Italian coffee at the touch of a button. Its sleek looks are highlighted with digital control options and an LCD display. A multi jug option allows for up to 6 cups of coffee to be made in one go, if you have lots of friends, or indeed, need a whole lot of caffeine first thing in the morning.

Electrolux’s futuristic ‘Heart of the Home’ kitchen table

The kitchen can be a veritable hotbed of technology.  From the first labour-saving appliances, such as the washing machine, to more recent interactive devices, such as fridges that contact you when you’re running out of milk, we are always looking for ways to make day-to-day life more efficient.  With this in mind, Electrolux has developed its new design concept, the ‘Heart of the Home’ – a futuristic kitchen table combined with a cooking surface.

Unveiled earlier this month, the key feature of the appliance is its adaptability: its surface physically changes to suit your cooking preferences and its hi-tech interactivity has it offering ideas to boost your culinary expertise.

If you’re a beans-on-toast kind of chef, you can get inspiration for dinner by simply placing a bunch of ingredients on the surface.  The appliance analyses them and suggests a few recipes.  Pick one that you fancy, then mark out the cooking area with your hand and press down the malleable surface to create a ‘pan’.  When the surface is the right size and shape, you can set the correct temperature and timings with the touch of a finger.

Because it combines the functions of table and oven – and even has a small sink area – it takes up a lot less space in the home than separate appliances.  This makes it perfect for city flats or social kitchens that are a magnet to friends and family.  The recipe suggestions will help eliminate food waste, and the lack of pots and pans will reduce the amount of washing up, saving water and detergents.

However, you’ll still have to wash your plates, and of course clean the surface of the appliance.  The malleable surface also sounds like it might be prone to accidents if you accidentally lean on the wrong area and morph the shape of your ‘pan’ while it’s in use.  And it might not be ideal if you want to cook but your child needs to use the table to do their homework.

So will this really be the way we do things in the future?  Given that more people now live in cities than in rural areas, and the number of urbanites is expected to rise to 74 per cent of the population by 2050, streamlined and multifunction appliances will certainly make the most of limited space.  Flexibility is key and this idea certainly ticks those boxes, as well as being a talking point and fun to use.

As a design concept, it’s a beauty, but there is no launch date and no price tag so who knows whether or not it will become part of our lives.  But it’s a fabulous idea and one that can give us all hope that one day we’ll be able to spontaneously whip up something delicious from the contents of the cupboard when unexpected guests pop round for dinner.

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Electrolux UltraSilencer vacuum – Music Edition?

Have you ever started carrying out a mundane household chore, such as hoovering and found yourself unable to muster any kind of enthusiasm for the long task ahead?

If so, the Electrolux Silence Amplified vacuum cleaner could be the answer to all your housework-related prayers. It’s a hi-tech appliance fitted with an iPod dock and a powerful set of speakers embedded on the front of the machine. This combined with an ultra-quiet engine (the sound produced by the vacuum cleaner amounts to about 68 decibels, equivalent to the noise level of a normal conversation), is apparently the secret to turning a simple cleaning gadget into a multi-sensory entertainment station. And not only is the model virtually soundless, its patented optimised air flow and suction mechanism also help make it an eco-friendly option.

This all sounds like good, clean fun, but is the whole concept just a bit too wacky to work? Well, the company have certainly done their housework, er, homework. They’ve conducted rigorous studies in a test lab where volunteers had their hoovering prowess monitored while they listened music using the machines.

These experiments produced some interesting genre-specific results: jazz made the test vacuumers more thorough, while hard rock and heavy metal helped them get the job done faster. In addition, vacuuming assisted by music of any kind increased the number of nozzle sweeps, which in turn improved overall cleaning performance.

So while the idea might sound a bit far-out, it is based on genuine science. And as the second largest manufacturer of home appliances in the world, Electrolux’s technological expertise is certainly not to be sniffed at.

At the moment the Electrolux Silence Amplified vacuum cleaner is just a prototype, but the company claim to be able to mass produce the product to meet consumer demand. So it’s quite possible this lean, green cleaning machine could be coming to a living room near you early in the new year. And if you’re looking for a vacuum with va-va voom, it might be the neatest purchase you ever make.