- Written by colin newell
For all the coffee makers that are made, there are very few that meet those few highly critical elements of brewing the perfect cup. And they are:
- Brew temperature
- Brew time
Two things. Two big things. On this Planet, 99% of brewers manufactured fall short of one or both of those goals.
Because in the ideal World, the brew basket temperature should be around 196 degrees (F) or something short of 100 degrees (C). Most machines are rarely hot enough resulting in a poorly or improperly extracted cup and tepid results in the mug.
Many, many brewers (in fact the clear majority of them) fall sadly shortly in the termperature range. It comes down to construction (overall design and engineering) - things like brewing power, shower head design, basket and filter type, height of the "tower" and whether or not the unit has a thermal carafe - and hopefully you will not see a "warmer" - or heat element. If you are shopping for a new brewer and find a coffee maker with a carafe warmer - keep walking!
Photo right - We received a well boxed bonavita 8-cup coffeemaker from the great folks at EspressoPlanet in Toronto, Ontario. More photos of the brewer in our photo gallery.
Prior to this first-look exclusive product review, there were 2 brewing systems that made the grade; the Newco OCS8/12 series (in a state of flux at the moment) and the Technivorm dutch brewer.
The Bonavita drip brewer is actually powered by the Technivorm brew engine with some obvious improvements to the overall layout and functionality. Big improvements I think!
In a previous review of the Technivorm I identified some real issues with the brewer - more to do with the design and look of the unit than the finished product.
The Bonavita brewer has taken the best of the Technivorm engine and scrapped all the bad things. No need to go into the details apart from reading what I have said about the Technivorm.
Photo right - The Bonavita 8-cup drip brewer is a thing of beauty - full points on fit and finish. Shorter than the Newco brewers and less clutter than the Technivorm, the Bonavita is sexy.
In short, the Technivorm has way too many parts and is too "Rube Goldberg - Mouse trap" like.
The Bonavita strips it down to a solid brewer with virtually no moving parts other than the reservoir cover.
The Bonavita 8-cup drip brewer has a 1400 watt power source - hottest in the business. It pumps a full carafe of water (around 36 fluid ounces or so) through a fully loaded #4 Melitta filter in just under 5 minutes - which is nearly ideal with this kind of brew load.
In the realm of French pressing and hand pouring, 3 minutes or so is ideal - but we are dealing with way more coffee and water here - so seconds short of 5 minutes is great.
Some background - While we were in Hawaii this year (All of January 2012) we had the great pleasure of meeting some of the braun behind the Bonavita brewer - Todd Larrabee is a youthful coffee enthusiast who is some of the muscle behind this new product (and the line of Bonavita kettles...).
Photo right - The shower head is the thing - you want to saturate the entire ground coffee bed evenly and during the entire duration of the brew cycle.
Todd knows exactly what it takes to make a great cup: by taking away the nonsense and restoring the science of what goes into the perfect cup of drip and integrating only those things that matter - from his perspective, all that matters is the brew temperature, the flow rates, and the saturation of the grind bed (the coffee in the basket).
While we sat at "The Green Flash" coffee house and bakery on Alii Drive, Kona Todd pulled out a brewer out of the back of his rental car and explained some of the finer points of the design under a hot Hawaiian sun. It's not every day that one of us coffee guys gets to talk story with an actual creator of a coffee machine so it was kind of cool.
Out of the box - First use: Like most coffee machines that you order online or over the phone - that are shipped to you, the Bonavita is a well packaged item. It is a sassy looking unit with lots of steel trim - very nice fit and finish and comes out of the box scuff free and almost ready to roll.
As per the instructions (and they all say this...) before you make a pot of coffee it is a good idea to run a few pots of water through the machine - with or without a paper filter in place; it rinses out the carafe and it flushes out any debris from the time of manufacture that might be present. In my case, just great super hot water came out with no detritus in the filter.
On my first few brew sets, I pulled out my Fluke-Meterman digital temperature recorder with K-thermocouples - a good .1 degree resolution in (C) or (F) degrees.
Out of the gate the water at the shower head was a steady 199 degrees or more - within the coffee bed, the temperature was 196 to 197 degrees from beginning to end.
In the carafe, the brewed coffee averaged 176 degrees +- 1 degree during a 1/2 carafe brew cycle. I will be doing some more brew cycles (full ones) and reporting on my numbers.
Without pre-heating the carafe, the first few sips are going to be way hotter than you expect - so prepare yourself. I have an asbestos lined mouth at this point in my life and my upper limit for sipping is probably around 180 degrees (F) - the average person has a much lower burn threshold so be careful on your first cup - I say this because this is not your Dad or Grandpa's coffee maker - the last thing I want to hear about are reports of scalding!
My first experience with the Bonavita was one of immediate satisfaction - it does what it says it is supposed to do: Brew a hot pot of perfectly extracted coffee in a timely fashion - The coffee is very hot and it tastes as good as a professionally brewed pot in a cafe - almost nothing further to ask for at this juncture!
On location: We did a few rounds at the Oak Bay Discovery coffee using some of their fine beans and skilled staff for sampling and brewing. The unit got a big thumbs up - and there were many surprised expressions as the staff tucked into the piping hot samples of brewed coffee.
The immediate comment was how useful the brewer would be for special events and conferences. The thinking is: want to showcase a great coffee from a roastery like Discovery - then use a really, really good brewer that is available and approachable by the average consumer.
A couple of things we did differently in the cafe:
- Pre-heating the carafe. I do it. Swirling some hot water from a kettle in the thermal carafe will net you a hotter pot - because the brewing coffee does not need to heat up the carafe in advance of the completion of the brew cycle. If you are using the brewer for the 1st time and are not familar with how hot the coffee is going to be - do not pre-heat the inside of the carafe ahead of time!
- Pre-heating the brew water. I do not do this - and I so not suggest doing this. It speeds up the brew time a bit and changes the dispersion pattern below the shower head onto the ground coffee bed. The coffee is going to taste slightly different and the finished brew is going to be a few degrees even hotter. Don't go there. Besides, I am adverse to pouring water off the boil into the plastic water reservoir. I am pretty sure it stressed the plastic slightly - but I could be wrong. Let the brewer's 1400 watt element do the work!
Summary impressions: The Bonavita brewer represents terrific value at around $149 (almost 100 dollars less than the Technivorm and around $30 less than an OCS-12 if you can get one.) Simply, it does coffee right and treats ground coffee with the respect it deserves.
The Bonavita brewer has top notch fit and finish and has a lower height profile than either the Technivorm or the Newco personal carafe series (The OCS-8/12) - meaning it is more appealing and less intrusive in small kitchens.
The Bonavita brewer has bested the Technivorm brewer in that it has eliminated the clumsy mechanical aspects of the Technivorm (with all its fussy and potentially vanishing parts...) and it keeps the moving and missing in action parts to the bare minimum.
We rate the Bonavita 8-Cup brewer very, very highly - top marks for what could be the most important addition to the drip brewing marketplace in many, many years!
Colin Newell of the Coffeecrew.com website reviewed the Bonavita 8-Cup Coffee Brewer during the month of February 2012 - Thanks go to Theresa at EspressoPlanet.Com in Toronto - and to Todd Larrabee in America for his time and useful observations and ingenuity.