This coffee maker FAR surpassed my expectations. First of all, it is built with high-quality materials and is very sturdy and substantial. In fact, it looks, and feels, like a professional-grade coffee maker. Before buying it, I had read reviews across the web complaining that the coffee wasn't hot enough, the carafe didn't retain the heat, or that the pot leaked, etc. I can attest that I have had NONE of those issues. The coffee brews VERY hot - so hot that you can burn yourself if you're not careful, and the thermal carafe retains the heat extraordinarily well. Before brewing, I pre-treat the carafe with boiling water and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Then I decant the water, place it in the coffee maker, and brew. Please note that the hotplate DOES get hot....it is a real hotplate that turns on when the coffee maker is on. I don't know if the manufacturer added this feature on newer editions, as I recall some reviewers indicating that their hotplates did NOT turn on. So it's possible this is a newer feature...not certain. Either way, the coffee is smoking hot and the carafe #pre-treated with boiling water# keeps the coffee hot for several hours. I take the carafe off of the hotplate when the brewing cycle is done so that the coffee doesn't burn. There are also 3 brew strength settings for your coffee: regular, bold, and robust. The water brews at different rates to produce the different strengths. The "robust" setting makes a very strong and flavorful cup of coffee. I am also a fan of the "bold" setting. This coffee maker uses a cone filter #4. In the box, they give you a few Melitta filters to start you off. No, there is no permanent filter included; that you would have to purchase separately. Keep in mind that the thermal carafe has some heft to it...it is somewhat heavy to lift when it's full. So if you have wrist or hand problems, this is something you may want to consider. The unit is also very large and tall, so you need some vertical space on your counter. Bottom line, this is simply a great coffee maker. I'd buy it again at any price.
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