Gadgets that protect your toaster from melting cheese and your hand from a too-hot bowl of microwaved soup were just two of the clever new products on display at the Affordable Innovation show hosted this week by the International Housewares Association. Consumer Reports product specialists also found a soda maker so you can stop lugging those bottles home from the store, a nifty organizing system for coffee pods and a simple way to corral your garbage at a picnic. All-in-all, the event featured more than 100 products designed to simplify life without breaking your budget. Here are some of our favorites.
SodaStream Revolution, $200. Most people have seen SodaStream's home carbonation systems, which the company says produce a liter of sparkling water for just 25 cents. The Revolution is the first electrically powered model, with touch-button activation that provides a choice of carbonation levels, from low to turbo. The sleek-looking device features other upgrades, including a new snap-and-lock mechanism that's easier to use than the old screw-in system, and an LED display that indicates how much CO2 is left in the cartridge. They've also replaced the loud buzzing sound with a gentler whistle. The Revolution will be sold exclusively at Williams-Sonoma for another month or so, before being distributed at all retailers.
Boska Holland Toastabags, $13 for 3 bags. This product was actually invented a few years ago in England, but it's starting to catch on here. The Toastabag lets you make a grilled cheese or other hot sandwich in your toaster, without any mess or cleanup. Simply slip the assembled sandwich into the bag, pop it in the toaster, and a few minutes later, lunch is served. The reusable bags are dishwasher safe and good for about 50 sandwiches. Inspired to buy a new toaster? Check our Ratings of nearly 40 models.
Good Cook Micro Bowl, $13. Ever been burned pulling a hot bowl of soup or pasta out of the microwave? If so, the Micro Bowl is a worthwhile addition to your kitchen. Its dual material construction allows the outer caddy with soft grip handle to remain cool while the inside ceramic bowl and its content stay hot. The bowl comes with a lid, good for refrigerator storage and to prevent splatters in the microwave.
Clean Cubes, $3. If your parties or picnics inevitably feature a plastic bag slumped over in the corner, with paper plates and other trash spilling out the top, you'll appreciate the thinking behind Clean Cubes. Winner of a 2012 IHA Innovation Award, the pop-up disposable trashcan consists of a cube-shaped base that stands on its own and a plastic top that pulls up over the container once it's full, with a drawstring that ties the whole thing off. All of the materials used in Clean Cubes are supposedly leak-proof and biodegradable. Look for them on Amazon.
YouCopia CaféStack, $30. As sales of single-serve coffeemakers continue to pick up, more consumers are discovering the challenge of storing the little K-cups in their kitchen. Last year, YouCopia brought a smart solution to market, the Original CoffeeStack, which stores 40 K-cups. Now they're following with the CaféStack, designed to handle 60 of the smaller Nespresso capsules. The drawers lower to display the capsules color-side out. The CaféStack comes in six hues: aluminum, blue, indigo, lime, red and titan. See Consumer Reports' coffeemaker reviews to learn more about single-serve machines.