The Hamilton Beach 2-Way FlexBrew 49983, $90, is two coffeemakers in one: A drip-style with a carafe on the left side, and a single-serve brewer on the right. But the unit's carafe-warming plate poses a potential hazard, and Consumer Reports has judged this product a "Don't Buy: Safety Risk."
The FlexBrew's drip-side warming plate is on and hot, about 400 degrees without the carafe, even when you are only using the single-serve function. So you could inadvertently burn yourself on the drip-side warming plate while reaching for your mug of single-serve coffee if the carafe is, say, in the sink, not on the warming plate. We think it's reasonable for a consumer to expect that the warming plate is cold when it's not being used.
We're not alone in our concern. As part of our assessment, we studied online user reviews. In all, we looked at more than 200 reviews at major retailers' sites, including Amazon, Best Buy, Overstock.com, Sam's Club, and Walmart. About 10 percent of these either voiced concern regarding the hot surface or thought it important enough to mention in their review. A review of the government's Saferproducts.gov database showed no consumer complaints reported for this model.
Hamilton Beach appears to be aware of the burn risk. A label in front of the warming plate displays the word "HOT" and turns red when the machine is in use. Another warning—that the warming plate is hot when brewing on either the carafe or single-serve side—is printed inside the fresh-water reservoir lid. The manual for the product also includes warnings. But Consumer Reports does not believe that the label and manual warning sufficiently protect against the burn risk posed by this product when only the single-serve side is in use and the carafe is not in place. We have contacted the Consumer Product Safety Commission to alert it to our findings, and the agency told us it is following up.
In response to Consumer Reports' raising this safety issue, Hamilton Beach responded that of the more than 91,800 2-Way FlexBrew 49983 coffeemakers sold, the company has received no reports of burn injuries attributable to the model's warming plate. The manufacturer also emphasized its confidence in the safety of its product and said it had placed warning labels out of an abundance of caution. But should anyone wish a refund or an exchange for a product of equivalent value, Hamilton Beach says it will honor such requests.
We've tested other dual-use coffeemakers, but no currently Rated model heats up its warming plate when you're not using the carafe side. That includes a dual-use machine from the same maker: the Hamilton Beach The Scoop 2-Way Brewer 49980, $80, which has a carafe side and a "to go" side that dispenses into a travel mug. The carafe's warming plate does not heat up when you're using the "to go" side, and the machine was a very good performer overall.
If you own the Hamilton Beach 2-Way FlexBrew 49983, we advise you to consider asking for a refund or exchange as the manufacturer has offered.