If you’re looking for a coffee maker that combines single cup and carafe brewing, Hamilton Beach offers some great options.
But when two models have almost the same names, are they really the same machine?
We take a look at the Hamilton Beach 49980A vs 49980Z and find out.
An introduction to Hamilton Beach
Hamilton Beach is specialists in manufacturing small kitchen appliances. An American company, these days their products are assembled overseas. And what a huge range of products they are (1)!
You can kit out your kitchen with everything from blenders, to can openers, to waffle makers. And then, of course, there are the coffee makers.
So can a firm that offers this kind of diversity hopes to compete with those that specialize in coffee makers? Quite simply, the answer is “yes”.
Both the 49980A and 49980Z stand up to the competition. They offer plenty of flexibility, a range of clever features and a one year warranty. And they compare well with other brands in terms of price too.
But when it comes to finding differences between the two models, it’s an altogether more difficult task. Read on to take a look at how they compare across a range of different features.
What coffee should I use?
Perhaps the first thing to point out is that neither of these machines brews coffee from pods. That makes them quite different from brands like Keurig and Nespresso.
Instead, the Hamilton Beach machines use ground coffee or soft pods shaped like discs. (The latter look a bit like tea bags.) That means there are no waste plastic capsules to go to landfill.
Using ground coffee is easy too. All you need to do is add a couple of scoops to the filter basket and pop it inside. Buy pre-ground coffee for when you’re in a hurry. But if you’re looking for a superior flavor, freshly ground beans win every time (2).
But there’s no difference here between the 49980A and 49980Z: both use coffee prepared in exactly the same way.
Hamilton Beach 49980A vs 49980Z - Brewing into a carafe
Both the 49980A and 49980Z are “two-sided” machines. What this means is that you brew a single cup on one side of the machine, and a carafe on the other. This differs from other options like the Keurig K475 where either a cup or carafe slots under the same spout.
This also means that, unlike the K475, there’s no messing around with removing drip trays to fit the carafe in place. It sits on the machine ready for use whenever it’s needed.
Both Hamilton Beach models also come with their own carafes. These are virtually identical. They’re made of toughened glass and hold a generous 12 cups. That’s a lot bigger than the four to six cup options offered by the K475.
What’s more, the spout has been well designed to avoid drips when you pour.
The two machines take a little longer to fill their carafes than some other options. You’ll be looking at about seven minutes, as against the K475’s three minutes. But when you consider they’re brewing at least twice as much, that’s not surprising.
In short, while there are plenty of differences with other manufacturers’ models, there’s little to separate the two Hamilton Beaches.
Single cup brewing
There’s nothing to choose between the two models when it comes to single-serve brewing either. Both work in the same way. You simply add the right amount of water to fill your chosen cup size.
You can fill anything up to a 14-ounce travel mug. And you won’t need to worry about splashes if you’re looking for a smaller serving. The cup rest can be raised to multiple levels. So however small or large your cup, it will sit just beneath the spout to capture every last drop.
Although both machines come with a carafe, you’ll have to supply the travel mug yourself. Choose an option with double walled insulation to keep your coffee hot for as long as possible.
This YouTube video shows the 49980Z in action, demonstrating both single cup and carafe brewing modes.
Automatic pour and serve feature
A great big carafe may be wonderful if you’re keeping a household topped up with coffee – but what about brewing times?
With both the 49980A and 49980Z offering a 12 cup capacity, you’ll have to wait longer than models with smaller carafes. Right? Wrong.
Because both of these Hamilton Beach machines offer a brilliant extra feature. If you’re desperate for coffee, you can remove the carafe and pour a cup before it has finished brewing. The clever “pour and serve” feature interrupts brewing so there are no drips on your counter to worry about.
So whilst you can only use one side of the brewer at once, a single cup can still be ready quickly.
Some people find that single serve coffee makers lack a certain something when it comes to brewing strength. Both these Hamilton Beach models offer a flavor boost. You can choose from “regular” or “bold” depending on your preference.
You might imagine that adding your own ground coffee into the brew basket offers another way to adjust the strength. That’s true – but only up to a point.
If you try to pack in too many coffee grounds, the hot water will simply overrun the basket, making a mess. And even worse, it will result in precisely the thing you don’t want – weak coffee.
So whether you pick the 49980A or 49980Z, the best way to a stronger cup is selecting the “bold” option.
If your idea of heaven is waking up to hot coffee, both these Hamilton Beach models are worth considering. Both include a timer to switch on the brewer automatically, so you can wake to the aroma of fresh coffee.
You can even set it up to 24 hours in advance. Re-set it when you get up, and when you stumble into bed after a night on the town you won’t have to do anything more. And there’ll be fresh coffee in the morning to deal with your hangover!
And if you decide to spend an extra ten minutes in bed, the built-in hot plate will keep it warm for you.
Just remember, clever though that is, it can’t change the way coffee degrades over time. Leave it too long and it may still be hot, but it will also be stale.
Picture the scene: you’ve made it to the kitchen still half-asleep. You’re late, and the rest of the household has already left for work. But you programmed your Hamilton Beach the day before, and there’s still some coffee keeping warm on the hot plate. Perfect!
You sip it as you rush around getting ready. There’s time for just one final gulp as you head for the door. You’re halfway to work when you realize your mistake. You haven’t switched off the machine!
If your brewer is either the 49980A or the 49980Z, you won’t have to worry that your house will be a pile of smoldering ashes by the time you return. That’s because both models have an automatic shut-off after two hours of operation.
If, like us, you’re not at your best in the mornings, that’s a hugely reassuring feature.
So far we haven’t been able to spot a single difference between the 49980A and the 49980Z. So does that change when we come to the design?
In a word: no.
Put these two machines side by side and you’ll be hard-pressed to tell them apart. They are exactly the same size, have the same controls and both are finished in stainless steel. Both also have an attractive, back-lit LCD screen that displays the time in digital format.
Don’t be misled by some reports claiming that one of the models is made of plastic. Both have plastic parts, but in both cases, the parts that look like stainless steel are just that. It seems that the confusion has arisen because of mislabeling on one well-known retail website.
Neither the 49980A nor the 49980Z is the funkiest looking machines on the block. If you have an uber-trendy minimalist kitchen, they won’t be for you. At the same time, the stainless steel trim may look a bit urban for a country kitchen.
But whether you love their looks or not, you won’t find any differences between the appearance of the two models.
So what’s the difference between 49980A and 49980Z?
At this point, you might be thinking there’s no difference between the two models at all. Well, to be honest, we’re right there with you.
The 49980A is actually an updated version of the 49980Z. Presumably, there’s some kind of upgrade to the internal mechanism that isn’t apparent to anyone but Hamilton Beach. Whatever it is, it hasn’t brought about any changes to either appearance or functionality.
So there it is! Try as we might, we haven’t been able to find any difference between the Hamilton Beach 49980A and the 49980Z. One is newer than the other, but other than the name it’s hard to find anything else that’s changed.
If you think you’ve spotted the difference, please comment and let us know!