This is made to order coffee, not the stuff sitting in the pot for hours on end. You might argue that the coffee shops grind their own coffee. And they do, but not for every cup (otherwise a $4 cup would be history for sure) and this is the main point. Their ground coffee is still sitting around exposed to air and going stale. The stuff in their pot or thermal tank just sits until empty.
3) This machine is crazy smart. It knows exactly when to clean itself, or tells you when to start the cleaning cycle. To clean it, all you do is insert a tablet in the coffee powder drawer and it does its thing. It knows when it needs water, when the filter needs to be changed, etc. In fact, since we have a water filter built into our refrigerator, we just use that filtered water in the coffee machine and therefore we don't need to use the expensive water filters. Bottom line, if you just pay attention and clean the machine on a regular basis when it tells you to, this is a no-brainer machine.