Appliance Design · Innovative Features · Refrigerator

GE came up with the absolute laziest way to make coffee — and you’re going to love it

As a recent bride, I observed single-serve coffee brewers gaining ubiquity among peers’ registry lists. Nearly all my friends now enjoy the convenient pick-me-up afforded by the Buick of a coffeemaker parked in a space formerly reserved for kitchen prep.

According to a 2014 National Coffee Association coffee drinking trends survey, 29 percent of respondents who drank coffee said they used a single-cup brewer, up nearly 50 percent from the previous year.

Per usual, I bucked the trend because how convenient can a Keurig be when you still have the same amount of steps?

  1. Add coffee
  2. Add water
  3. Brew

(but seriously, we all know the real reason is I’m just too cheap to shell out for K-cups)

So imagine my distaste for crow when GE Cafe announced its Keurig-integrated refrigerator (available fall 2015.

Brewing System 1

IT’S PLUMBED, PEOPLE! Inserting a K-Cup become the only step of your morning coffee routine, as the refrigerator’s dispenser supplies fresh, filtered water for every cup with no need to refill. One-step coffee. Game-changer.

Better yet, using your refrigerator as your coffeemaker means you can reclaim your coveted counter space.

Perhaps for this.
Perhaps for this.

 

dogtreatmaker
Or this.

The partnership evolved from the GE Café French-door refrigerator with a hot water dispenser (also cool for tea drinkers or baby bottle preparers) after current owners saw coffee brewing as the refrigerator’s natural progression and suggested it to GE.

If you want to talk about really fancy, your mobile device connects to the fridge so you can preset your brew time so the water in the reservoir heats up in anticipation of your groggy self impatiently pushing the button the next morning.

Genius.

Side note: Miele began selling a built-in coffee system years ago that had the ability to work with coffee pods

Appliance Design · Dryer · Energy Efficiency · Energy Star

Dryers become the next Energy Star

energystarsappliancesThe Environmental  Protection Agency announced this spring the first-ever Energy Star dryer label.

I know what you’re thinking:

“Wait, you mean there wasn’t an Energy Star label for dryers before?”

I know, right? However, the popular thinking was that dryers couldn’t vary much among each other in energy use therefore, there was no reason to call them out.

But about three years ago, the EPA began to take steps to expand the program and reported on ways that clothes dryer efficiency could be improved.

The new label will recognize highly efficient gas and electric dryers that use about 20% less energy than required by 2015 federal standards.

Over 80% of U.S. homes have a clothes dryer, and these appliances account for approximately 6 percent of residential electricity consumption.

So far, one brand has already jumped on the new category. Whirlpool announced an Energy Star rated Duet steam dryer.

Whirlpool brand Duet® model WED87HED steam dryer
Whirlpool brand Duet® model WED87HED steam dryer

Many of today’s dryers already use temperature or moisture sensors to shut off the dryer once clothes are dry and cease using energy past its usefulness. Dryer models that meet the new Energy Star requirements are likely to improve upon these “auto termination cycles.”

From Energy Star:

Among the more efficient gas and electric dryers that will earn the Energy Star, consumers should expect to encounter a promising new technology. Heat pump dryers recapture the hot air used by the dryer and pump it back into the drum to dry more clothes. By re-using most of the heat, it creates a heat pump dryer that is more efficient and avoids the need for ducts leading heat out of the laundry room.

Uncategorized

Custom home trends: Butler’s Pantry and upper-level laundry room

In honor of the Parade of Homes, I asked fellow blogger Nina Lindquist of Homes by Tradition — a custom home builder in the Twin Cities metro area — to share with me a couple of the new home design trends related to appliances that she’s seeing.

Butler’s Pantry 

You know when you’re a guest at someone’s home and they say, “Help yourself” to you? Well, butler’s pantries are the physical manifestation of this familiar phrase.

For those of us (myself included) who want our guests to just enjoy themselves and stop meddling in the kitchen, a butler’s pantry is genius.

gourmet-kitchen-minnesota

Butler’s pantries are designed to be an extension of the kitchen but are areas mostly for food and beverage serving and servingware storage. I love this example from Homes By Tradition because it incorporates a refrigerator for beverage self-service that can also be used for overflow food when entertaining. Who couldn’t use this around the holidays?

custom-kitchen-lakeville

In this luxury home, the wooden floors continue and a soft arch is used to marry the butler’s pantry to the kitchen instead of closing it off with a door. Not only is this pretty, but it keeps access to the pantry convenient.

butlers-pantry-mn

Ceiling-height cabinets make a dramatic statement while squeezing every last drop of storage out of this room.

custom-pantry-mn
See the empty wine rack? That’s about all that my kitchen and this amazing butler’s pantry have in common.

Also (don’t get me wrong, granite’s great, but) the dark stained wood countertop makes me drool. It’s just exactly how you would want to wow your guests, complete with warm, under-cabinet lighting to say, “Hello! Look at our gorgeous and distinctive custom countertops.”

Upper-Level Laundry Room 

You have two cars, so why wouldn’t you have two laundry rooms? OK, so maybe that’s a stretch (but try it on your significant other anyways). But when designing their dream home, many families create spaces that maximize their time and ultimately, happiness — which is why upper-level laundry rooms have become a must-have in new home construction.

laundry_1
The rolling laundry carts, cabinet storage and super-capacity laundry pair heighten the convenience factor of this laundry room  by Homes by Tradition, which is more beautiful and spacious than my bedroom, by the way. Can I move in?

This is clearly not your standard, dank utility laundry room. The neutral colors really pop against the cheerful wall color, and it’s roomy enough to give a place for everything (and keep everything in its place!).

laundry_2

The Parade of Homes runs through March 30, 2014 so hurry over to learn more info on Homes By Tradition‘s Spring 2014 home, which Nina blogged about this week.

Appliance Design · Dryer · laundry · Washer

50 Shades of Gray Laundry Pairs

The appliance world has been rocked by gray this year, especially in the laundry room.

But it’s never “gray.”

These washers and dryers — whether front-load or top-load — are called pretty much every other name but looking just as sweet and trendy.

Here are the 12 iterations I could find.

Electrolux-laundry-pair
Sia, eat your heart out. I am (Electrolux) Titanium.
stainless steel asko washer
Asko gray-colored washer, also monikered Titanium.
Maytag changed the name of this finish to Graphite after initial testing showed low response to "Pencil Lead."
Perhaps Maytag changed the name of this finish to Graphite after initial testing showed low response to “Pencil Lead.”
stainless steel washing machine
LG’s lead pencil + metal, aka Graphite Steel.
samsung dark colored washer and dryer
Samsung’s Onyx, which also features WiFi controls through a smartphone app.
maytag maxima colored laundry
Perhaps to match the countertops in your kitchen comes Maytag’s Granite. Nevermind that true Granite comes in a huge variety of colors.
samsung colored laundry pair
Not to be confused with Silver is Samsung’s Stainless Platinum. If I’ve learned anything from being engaged, this shade will be more expensive.
whirlpool-cabrio-chrome
Now this one gets REALLY interesting. It’s the Whirlpool Cabrio Platinum Edition but the color is Chrome, not Platinum.
whirlpool-laundry-pair
Also Whirlpool Chrome, but this version is front loading.
GE-Chrome-laundry
GE’s Metallic Carbon, shown here in the Right Height model, looks oddly reminiscent of GE’s Slate for the kitchen.
electrolux-stainless-steel
Let’s just call a spade a spade with Electrolux Stainless Steel.
Miele stainless steel washing machine
Miele’s Stainless Steel washer
Best · Dishwashers

How quiet should a dishwasher be?

howquietdishwasher
Doves cry at about 44 dBA.

Dishwasher-makers aggressively tout the quietness of their dishwashers by dBA ratings. A dBA rating expresses a weighted decibel level that puts in human context to how loud or quiet a sound is to our ears, because humans perceive sound differences less sensitively at volume extremes. With dishwashers in the marketplace ranging from 37-64 dBA, what really matters when it comes to quietness and what’s simply hype?

We speak at about 60 dBA, light rainfall registers at 50 dBA, a quiet suburb at night registers at 40 dBA and a whisper registers at 30 dBA. Check out Bosch’s interactive “Understanding Decibels” feature on its website to better understand common noise levels.

Dishwashers used to average about 65 dBA. Now, the majority of dishwashers have dBA in the low 50s to the 40s, so somewhere between dinner table chatter and scattered showers. Not only is that a vast improvement over what you likely have in your kitchen, but I bet it will clean way better too.

The most quiet dishwashers compete on just one or two dBA levels — a difference that is unnoticeable or barely so. The Miele Futura Diamond dishwasher comes in at 37 dBA when used in its Extra Quiet Program mode; otherwise, it’s rated at 42 dBA. The Bosch 800 Plus comes in a close second at 38 dBA “in normal operation,” which I think means with clean dishes.

Miele explains that dirty dishes often lead to louder operation in competing brands, because the dishwasher has to work harder than during testing. The lowest difference between testing its competitor’s dBA claims using both clean and dirty dishes was about 3 dBA levels, which is barely noticeable.

quietestdishwasher

In the real world, we call this splitting hairs, so such a slight difference should not be your deciding factor. Alternatively, you will likely notice 10 dBA levels, which is the point at which audible sound doubles.

However, how quiet does your dishwasher really need to be not to interrupt your life? Current trends in home layouts have kitchens much more open to the rest of the house, but what the dBA levels don’t remind you of is that sound dissipates with greater distance.

Are you home-schooling your children at the counter or for some strange reason installing a dishwasher in your nursery? If you’re not carrying on important tasks near your dishwasher, take the ratings with a grain of salt and consider price, racking and performance as also very important.

Dishwashers · Innovative Features

GE dishwasher jets pulverize residue in bottles, annoyingly narrow cylinders

If you’ve ever tried to clean baby bottles in your dishwasher, the game-changing-ness of GE’s latest Profile Series dishwasher needs no explanation. This is probably the best dishwasher ever. OK, maybe I’m overreacting a little, but just bear with me. 

New, dedicated jets have been added into the top rack to clean dried milk from a baby bottle or, say, the spinach that gets stuck to the bottom of your smoothie jars in case you’re juicing or whatever.

maxresdefault
No use crying over dried milk, here.

Tines on the upper rack are topped with a blue node that sprays water up into its hard-to-reach area. You load the bottle or other tall, narrow opening cylinder on top of the tines and the water will directly spray into the bottom of the containers.

Or if I’m to explain it in another way:

peanutpeanutbutterandjelly

But why stop there?

Silverware jets obliterate yesterday morning’s peanut butter-covered knives and side jets say adios to that stuck-on enchilada mess left on the casserole dish.

best-dishwasher

For those of you keeping score at home, GE touts 54 percent more cleaning jets than any other dishwasher in the industry — 102, total.

Not only is that a big number, but the wash arms reverse and vary speed to ensure better coverage. It’s also a really good way to confuse the mess left on the plate: just when it thinks you’re coming at it one way…BAM! REVERSING JET!

GE profile dishwashers

It also doesn’t hurt that it’s really pretty.

GE Profile Series PDT750SSFSS
$1200 says you never have to handwash a bottle again after you buy this…

Sleek stainless and hidden controls, because it’s modest like that.

Cleaning · Cooktops

Stove top cleaning tips

candy-stove-mess

It’s that magical time of year when you’re cooking twice and much and inviting people into your home to witness the aftermath of that.

Luckily, returning your stove top or cooktop to looking like new isn’t that hard; it just takes a little know-how.

Follow my tips and you’ll never flounder with soap and water again. Cuz ain’t got time for that!

If you have porcelain-coated stove top or grates

gas-stove-top-cleaning-tipsNo. 1 Enemy: Clean up spills containing acids, such as vinegar and tomato, as soon as the surface is cool enough as they could affect the finish.

Tool: Nonabrasive plastic scrubbing pad and cooktop cleaner. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser saves a lot of elbow grease.

Timesaver: Throw grates in the dishwasher on the most powerful cycle you have. It’s recommended to give it a good bath in the sink first, but if you have a great Warner Stellian dishwasher like I do, no prerinsing necessary!

DO NOT: put caps on the dishwasher or reassemble caps on burners while they are wet. Unless you like struggling to ignite your burners.

If you have a ceramic or glass top stove, i.e. electric:

how-to-clean-ceramic-stove-top

No. 1 Enemy: Sugary spills (jellies, candy, syrup). Tis the season!

Tool: Cooktop Scraper or a razor blade. Clean while the cooktop is still warm, wearing oven mitts if necessary.

Culprit: Heavy soil, dark streaks, specks, and discoloration

Tool: Cooktop Polishing Cream or soap and water (if you have aggression you need to work out). Do like Mr. Miyagi taught you: wax on, wax off until white film disappears and takes mess with it.

Culprit: Burned-on soil

Tool: Cooktop Cleaner and Cooktop Scraper (or razor blade). First apply cleaner. Then scrape surface keeping blade as flat as possible. Finish polishing cooktop until film disappears.

Culprit: Overboiling residue

Tool: Overboiling was a special skill of mine when I was first learning how to cook, which took place on the unforgivably hot surface of an electric stovetop. I learned that a melamine sponge (aka Mr. Clean Magic Eraser) eliminated the evidence quite well.

If you have cast-iron grates

cleaning cast iron grates

Read this existing post. HOW TO: clean cast iron grates.

how to clean stainless steel cooktop

You might have a full stainless steel stove top under your grates. First try stainless steel cleaner. For tougher messes, try a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Always go with the grain for best results.