Granted, giving a small appliance for Valentine’s Day isn’t the most romantic of gifts. But what if that coffeemaker, blender, or chopper let your loved one speed through food prep and other chores? Single-serve coffeemakers and personal blenders do just that and so do other top-rated kitchen gear that we've tested in our labs. Or just choose a robotic vacuum so your honey can sit back and sip a cool beverage while the machine does the work. Here are some of the best time-savers from our tests.
Three models of Delonghi Nescafe Dolce Gusto perked to the top of our pod coffeemaker tests and a fourth wasn’t far behind. The top-rated DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio EDG455T, $130, and its brandmates turned out first cups of coffee quickly and were just as speedy at making the second. We also liked them for their temperature consistency.
Speed up breakfast with the Panasonic FlashXpress NB-G110P, $125, toaster oven. Its quartz and ceramic heating elements cook more efficiently than conventional coil-heated ovens and don’t require any time for preheating. It’s a remake of a popular model that was discontinued in 2006 and the compact shape means it takes up less space on the counter.
None of the personal blenders in our tests spun to the top of our Ratings but the Hamilton Beach Single Serve Blender 51101, $20, is worth a look. It’s convenient, makes very good purée and a similar model comes in a host of colors. Some of the other personal blenders in our tests have to-go cups that you can take with you without having to transfer your smoothie to another container.
Our quickest microwave oven was the GE Profile PEB2060DM[BB], $270, which was the only one in our tests to get excellent marks for speed. It was easy to use and very good at defrosting and evenly heating food. It's relatively quiet on high and has a sensor that determines when food is done.
Two of the three robotic vacuums we tested made our list of top vacuum picks, the Roomba 760, $450, and the LG Hom-Bot Square LrV790R, $800. The Roomba edged out the LG Hom-Bot Square on floors and carpet but the LG bot was quieter. And think of the entertainment value you’ll get watching them skitter across the floor.
Given the winter we’ve had, a space heater that quickly warms up a room can make a welcome gift. The fastest in our tests was the Ambia ACH-120, $60, which was the most effective at heating a standard-sized room in 15 minutes. It was also very good at spot heating.
A steam iron with a fast steaming rate can help you get ready for a big date in no time. Our top-rated Panasonic NI-W950A, $220, had an excellent steaming rate and was also top-notch at ironing fabric. For a lot less, you can buy one of our two CR Best Buys, the Singer Expert Finish EF, $60, or the Rowenta Effective Comfort DW2070, $50, which scored similar to the Panasonic.
Gifts with more romance
If none of the above appeal, take a look at our taste tests of boxed chocolates, sparkling wines, and craft beers. We haven’t tested flower delivery services lately but last time we did, we discovered that the flowers most likely to look the way they do on websites were roses, orchids, and tulips. Mixed bouquets tended to have more substitutions than the others, so if you order a mixed batch you may not get what you want.
—Mary H.J. Farrell
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