In Search of the Perfect Coffee Maker
My old Krups coffee maker finally gave out. I knew this disruptive day would eventually arrive. So, I’d already been considering a replacement.
Originally, my big requirement was to identify a unit that didn’t project one of those annoying beeps at the end of the brewing cycle. I didn’t want to risk waking up my son, as I’m the first to rise every morning…
(He’s eight years old now. When do you think this blogger has found the time to write a new post every week?!)
But then, I had this crazy thought… What about getting a better coffee maker?
I do drink my java every single morning…
No, I wouldn’t consider myself a coffee snob, but I do enjoy a good cup of joe.
(My current go-to brand is Caribou Coffee, which Amazon Prime delivers to me every month, thank you very much.)
It was time to explore the larger landscape of home-brewed drip coffee makers.
And that’s when I fell face-first down the rabbit hole…
At Home with Coffee
Here’s my wish list for the perfect coffee maker:
- No unnecessary sounds and NO beeping- So my family continues to sleep undisturbed
- Programmable- So a freshly brewed pot is ready for me when I walk bleary-eyed down the stairs in the morning
- Warming plate auto-off feature- So I don’t have to worry about accidentally leaving it on all day and burning down the house
- Filter basket temporary shut-off mode- So I can steal a cup before the brew cycle completes
- Pour-over feature- So my coffee grounds get an even shower of water in the filter basket to improve flavor extraction
I didn’t really covet a thermal carafe. Glass is just fine, as I typically drink my joe before I head off to work.
(I don’t have the need to retain hot coffee for hours…)
Certified SCA Home Brewers
There are dozens of coffee makers out there at different price points ranging from $40 to well over $300. It’s absolutely mind boggling.
I eventually developed a short list of coffee makers that are certified SCA home brewers. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is a nonprofit that “works to make coffee better by raising standards worldwide.”
SCA certification ensures that an in-home coffee maker satisfies certain requirements, including being able to brew at wicked-high temperatures to extract the nuanced flavors from your coffee beans and thus create the perfect brew.
There are currently 14 certified SCA home brewers, but here’s the catch:
I have not found one review that gives an unequivocal thumbs up to any of them!
What the Experts Say…
That said, many reviewers loved the Bonavita Coffee Maker BV1901TS. However, it comes with a thermal carafe that has a design limitation…
You have to brew with the lid off and then screw it back on before pouring. At 5:30am, that’s sure to feel like an entirely unnecessary step. Plus, this model doesn’t have a timer.
The Bonavita BV1900TD has a timer, but doesn’t feature a slide-in hanging filter basket. You have to balance it on top of the carafe.
(That also feels unnecessarily clunky, because you’ve got to deal with unmounting the filter basket before you get to pour…)
The OXO On 9-Cup is well regarded, and The Wirecutter put it on the top of its own list of the best. Unfortunately, the OXO is really big and wouldn’t fit well on my kitchen counter.
The Technivorm Moccamaster is essentially the champion-emeritus of the SCA-certified group, but Technivorms also have a large footprint. Plus, they cost over $300!
Bunn Heat N’ Brew
Then, I came across floor9.com, a coffee blog written by Dave Sheranko.
Dave gushed over the Bunn Heat N’ Brew.
So, I decided to take a closer look…
The Bunn HB has a somewhat unique brewing process… It heats its water first to the perfect temperature while holding onto it. (That takes about 6 minutes.)
And then, it releases the water through your coffee grounds (another 3-4 minutes).
Unfortunately, you can’t steal any coffee until it’s all done. So, if you’re looking for the fastest unit around, the Heat N’ Brew isn’t for you (but it only lags by a few minutes).
The Bunn didn’t take the top prize on any other sites I found other than Floor9, but most of the Amazon reviews were glowing.
Amazon’s got the Heat N’ Brew for $129.99 (same price as on Bunn’s website).
I was originally drawn to the Bunn brand, because of its solid reputation in the restaurant arena.
Okay… Bunn and done!
Now, let’s see what actually happened after I plugged it in…
I’ve been using my new Bunn for over a week, and here’s my take:
- The Bunn’s easy-to-use design is a joy to operate
- It’s really quiet! (NO BEEP!)
- Plus, there’s no burping or gurgling or coughing at the end of the brewing process
Just the sound of a stream of coffee entering the glass carafe
- The water does ‘shower’ over the coffee grounds
- The ‘no-drip’ carafe pours perfectly… very nice
- The overall ‘experience’ of using this machine is superior
And how does the coffee taste?
Well, the resulting brew… is somewhat weaker than I’m used to. To compensate, I’ve needed to add an extra scoop or two…or three. (There’s no ‘bold’ button to press.)
Have I been able to get to the intense taste I prefer?
Well, I’ve gone through 10 brewing cycles… using the coffee I normally use.
…Actually using a lot of the coffee.
And I haven’t created a truly strong cup yet.
It’s a good cup of coffee, to be sure… Just not a terribly powerful cup.
Yesterday, I bought a pound of ‘Brooklyn Blend’ beans from the Kobrick Coffee Company. I ground them up right before the brew. And I cut the amount of water I normally use to try to juice the intensity of flavor.
It was my best cup yet… but it still didn’t blow me away.
Would continuing to search for really dark-roast beans make a difference? Perhaps, but my baseline comparisons have been troubling.
Some online reviews complained that the Bunn’s coffee wasn’t hot enough. That wasn’t a problem for me. Scalding coffee isn’t my idea of how to enjoy your first sips.
The Bunn’s coffee is plenty hot.
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
Bunn and done?
Well, now… I’m not so sure.
There’s certainly a lot to like about the Bunn Heat N’ Brew:
- Cool overall look
- Simple programming
- Super quiet brew process (no beep at the end)
- The no-drip glass carafe design is ingenious
- The warmer plate shuts off after two hours. (You can also manually turn it off.)
But I haven’t been able to create my golden cup of coffee yet. (Maybe the Bunn’s design is a little too simple.)
The Bunn Heat N’ Brew isn’t the most expensive unit you can buy, but it’s not exactly cheap either.
To Be Continued…?
If you’re looking to find a clear consensus out there for the best coffee maker, I certainly couldn’t find it.
And my Bunn HB selection has left me somewhat lukewarm.
If you have a suggestion for a coffee maker that can brew up some serious rocket fuel, please let me know!
I must make a strong cup of joe… every morning!