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Everday Cheapskate: When you need a burst of steam and a cup o’ joe

When it comes to making coffee and pressing clothes, you know already that there are two appliances that get a daily workout at my house — the coffeemaker and steam iron. Over the years, I’ve tested many brands, models and options. My conclusion is that, for these two items, price does not always indicate a superior product. I prefer what I call the best inexpensives.

When it comes to making coffee and getting rid of wrinkles, I don’t need or want fancy options. What I’m looking for are reliable workhorses that can get the job done, don’t need to be coddled and keep working well for a long time.

Here are my recommendations for the two best inexpensive coffee makers and steam irons (



Hamilton Beach Ensemble 12-Cup does just one thing: Make great coffee. It has a programmable timer, it’s easy to clean and looks sleek and cool sitting on the counter. It comes in both black/stainless and red/stainless. This coffee maker has that very nice feature that if you want to sneak a cup of coffee out before the brew has completed, just remove the carafe to pause the flow of coffee. Then it resumes when you replace the carafe. Expect to find this coffee maker for around $30 — half of the suggested retail price.

Mr. Coffee 12-Cup. This coffee maker also has the “pause and serve” feature, something I really like in a coffee maker, as I like to pour a cup while the coffee maker is still brewing. A nice feature on this model is the two-hour shut off that keeps the coffee hot, but then shuts off automatically. This can also be annoying if two hours is not long enough, so buyer beware. Look for this coffee maker at about $40.


Rowenta 1600 Watt. This steam iron is the best I’ve owned, bar none. It produces a ton of steam and has an “anti-calc” feature that really works to keep the reservoir free of mineral build-up. With 1600 watts, this baby gets really hot, which I love. Both heat and steam have variable controls. And it has “vertical steam,” which lets me hold it up to an item that is hanging upright to get rid of wrinkles. Possibly the very best feature for someone like myself is the auto shutoff. You can find this amazing iron at under $50 — a bargain for sure.

Black & Decker 1500 Watt. I’ve tested this steam iron and it is an excellent machine, second on my list because it is not quite as comfortable to use and does not have vertical steam. This iron does have an auto-shutoff feature, heats up quickly and produces a good amount of steam. About $50.

I could go on and on about household appliances, but I’ll refrain so you can get back to work. Besides, I have a sudden need to go get a nice, hot, cup of coffee.

Mary Hunt is founder of

You can email her at, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.

To find out more about Mary Hunt visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


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