BEHMOR BRAZEN: ULTIMATE HOBBYIST DREAM BREWER?

by Coffee Kevin on February 23, 2013

Automatic drip coffeemakers used to be considered a dead category. No longer, there are several new machines. The Brazen is well named because it’s the most daring and innovative. It is the brainchild of inventor/entrepreneur Joe Behmor, whose Behmor drum roaster is popular among home roast enthusiasts.

Joe is my kind of guy. I like options and he gives us lots of them. This is the first home consumer model that has the following combination of features:

• Variable temperatures – you can customize the Behmor Brazen each time you brew for any temperature between 180°F and boiling. This is the only consumer automatic drip machine I know that offers this feature. Coffees taste different when the brewing temperature changes.

• The Brazen features on-board temperature readout that constantly monitors the temperature it’s putting out. Most manufacturers wouldn’t dare.

• The Brazen has a pre-infusion cycle. This means your ultra fresh grounds can get wet with a few ounces of how water, then they can rise and fall, so the rest of the brew cycle can proceed normally. It’s a huge taste difference in the cup and other than manual drip users almost no one offers this feature. Joe’s automated this. You can choose any time between one and four minutes depending upon the coffee grounds’ freshness and your patience.

• The Brazen even supports and encourages unorthodox practices like inserting a 5-cup hand-blown Chemex in order to automate a manual drip maker. The unusually wide dispersion sprayhead gives you kind of water coverage needed for a number of manual drip brewers. Can you imagine any large manufacturer taking such a magnanimous, inclusive approach?

There are other features, but these are the ones that excited me and that distinguish the Behmor from its competition. Suffice it to say, this is an aficionado’s brewer. Of course, promises must be kept by test results. It’s all for naught if it doesn’t deliver.

It also could mean a consumer’s worst nightmare if complicated menus and settings limits the Brazen to the coffee elite. How easy is it to program?

Let’s answer the second question and then go to test results. The menu is intuitive enough to be a 90s-era Sony camcorder. Pat and I needed to leave on a weekend drip in the middle of testing. I left the Brazen set up in my kitchen, expecting it might frustrate my wife’s cousin Leigh who stayed over and is fond of calling electronic settings “thingies”. Happily she was able to brew beautiful coffee with a 30 second tutorial as I was walking out the door. You literally could buy one of these and use it without every worrying about any of the settings, or put it off until you get picky.

As far as test results, I have good news. The temperature is accurate and rock steady. The sprayhead can be observed and it gives ample coverage. Thanks to this and the pre-infusion feature, grounds end up good and soaked as it should be. The amazing thing was being able to report this using coffee hours fresh from being roasted.

Fresh roasted coffee foams up when water hits it. Anyone who brews using a kettle knows to simply wait until the grounds rise, the carbon dioxide gas emits and the grounds all back down again. The Brazen Behmor accommodates this by spraying just enough water to wet the grounds. Then it stops brewing, which can be programmed to last between 1 and 3 minutes, depending upon the freshness and how determined you are to address it. After that it brews continuously. This is an effective way to accommodate fresh coffee. The only other coffee brewers in history I know of that similarly dealt with fresh grounds were the Chemex automatic, many years gone and a Braun brewing in the 1990s which used what they termed interval brewing.

The coffee I did most of my testing with was a Costa Rica from Arnold’s Coffee in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Arnold roasts beautifully, one of the best. However, I have a confession. I don’t usually care for Costa Rican Coffee, even Bill McAlpin’s, perhaps the most OCD coffee producer in the world. I swear he dusts the coffee trees. Anyway, using 63-65 grams of coffee and brewing temperatures upwards of 206°F, I finally found the caffeinated Nivarna I found I could emulate a French press taste using lower temperatures. I’m sure people are going to start posting their favorites here and elsewhere. This brewer puts control and fun in your hands. I have no knocks or gripes whatsoever.

Perhaps my favorite tests were using Oren’s Daily Roast’s two Guatemala coffee varieties, one from Antigua and the other a Coban. With the Brazen I had a great time brewing each to perfection. I found I was able to optimize each coffee to my taste buds at brewing temperatures in excess of 200°F, the Coban tasted ideal brewed at 203°F. Short of brewing in a vacuum maker, I don’t think I could reproduce the flavors I achieved in any other brewer.

I repeated the above tests using a five-cup hand-blown Chemex (the six-cup more commonly available is just a bit too big to fit) inserted into the Brazen’s carcass. It performed beautifully. Joe Behm brilliantly devised a manual release setting that allows you to choose a brew temperature, get the water up to that point and release showers of hot water over your Chemex. The results matched or exceeded what I got using the Behmor by itself. Perhaps I’m biased in favor of the Chemex filter or the multiple pauses during brewing. At this exalted performance level one should expect a little subjective hair splitting. Suffice it to say it’s another brewing option that will increase the Behmor’s value to its audience.

Dynamic Duo: Brazen with Chemex Insert

The Behmor Brazen takes paper filters, but after a few times, I just started using the supplied metal filter and it works just fine. Joe Behm told me he prefers the gold filter. My only caution is to be sure to keep it clean, immediately scrubbing it after use with a little perfume free detergent.

I prefer glass carafes, but the thermal carafe works fine, does a good job of holding the coffee temperature steady for an hour or more. I just make sure I thoroughly clean it when we’re done with the same detergent regimen I use for the filter. But, I just hate cleanup.

Build is good. Obviously I can’t judge long-term longevity. I try to avoid the disdainful and vulgar subjects of money and value, but I was actually surprised to find this much technology in the $200 price range. Consider other passions where cutting edge technology can be had for so little.

Joe, thank you for this brewer. It not only holds its own amidst the other top performing automatic drip machines, but French presses, Hario v60s and Chemexes as well. For the coffee brewing hobbyist, there is really nothing else out there like it.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian September 20, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I replaced my beloved Technivorm with the Brazen and it has been a great brewer, no complaints.

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Coffee Kevin September 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Glad to hear it, Brian. I still like the Technivorm, which is extremely well built and has great performance as well. Two fine machines.

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Hank October 1, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Kevin ,
Got the wife to agree to a Brazen and got it today. After calibration I made a pot using the same grind, coffee and proportions I used in the Technivorm this morning (60 gm/1 liter). The coffee tasted very clean but weaker than the TV. Any advice as to the grind? I am using a Baratza Virtuoso set at the midpoint of 20. I stir the TV three times and have the basket on half open. Perhaps the Brazen needs to have a finer grind. Thanks.
Henri

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Coffee Kevin October 1, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Hi Henri,

If you have the valve on the Technivorm half-open, you are indeed prolonging the contact time. Since the Behmor Brazen has no half-valve setting, you are likely correct to try a finer grind. I assume you’re brewing the same size one-liter batch. Yes, go a few notches finer and let us know how it goes. I think you will achieve the results you want with a little tweaking.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Hank October 3, 2014 at 4:26 am

Kevin,
No strength problem. Moved the grind to 14, the pre soak to 1:30, increased the coffee to 62 gms and the temperature to 203. Way too strong! I’ll start dialing it back.
My 8 cup Chemex doesn’t fit. You said you used a 6 cup. Any problems getting it in? I contacted Behmor and they told me they were coming out with their own “Chemex” in a few months because the real ones were real tight. I don’t have a six cup and don’t want to buy one if ut dieesn’t fit well. Thanks!
Henri

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Coffee Kevin October 3, 2014 at 4:36 am

Great, Henri. As far as placing a Chemex under it, the one that fits is the hand-blown 6-cup.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Eric January 24, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Are you sure you used a 6 cup Chemex? My 6 cup glass handle Chemex doesn’t fit in my Brazen Plus. Chemex makes a 5 cup in their hand blown series, but not a 6 cup. Can you clarify?

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Coffee Kevin January 24, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Hi Eric,

You are right. I stand corrected. I used the 5-cup hand blown. I found out the hard way when I tried to make coffee with a six cup. It does not fit, although the 5-cup works well. Behmor has planned their own manual drip unit, but if you get the 5-cup handblown Chemex, it will work fine.

Thanks to your note, I corrected the post. I apologize for any confusion.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Henri Wolbrette July 10, 2015 at 8:14 am

Kevin,
I have been concerned for some time that my Brazen Plus “shower head” was not working as designed. I have watched the water exiting the shower head on numerous occasions. 95% comes out of the 8 holes in the center circle, and only occasionally does water exit through another hole. Most holes never have any water coming through, especially those toward the front. I have checked and the unit is absolutely level.
Did you observe water exiting the screen during your testing? Did it come out of all holes from time to time, or was it like my experience with very limited amounts anywhere but the center holes? Thanks.
Henri

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Ken Beer June 1, 2016 at 8:31 am

The Bonavita 1900 has a infusion cycle which is used optionally. It also accommodates the 6 cup Chemex pot. It is substantially faster than the Brazen and sells for $132 on Amazon. I recently bought it at Bed Bath & Beyond with their 20 percent off coupon and they matched price as well. My cost $113. The Chemex filter and pot makes the best coffee, bar none, and always has. If you are enamored with bells and whistles, have money to burn, and want an inferior cup of coffee get the Brazen. Why do you think they are trying to make a Chemex pot? It will not work without the filter paper which has never been duplicated.

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Coffee Kevin June 1, 2016 at 8:42 am

Thanks for your comment, Ken. I’ve been a big supporter of the Bonavita product line since my first taste. That said, I consider the Behmor to be a different but more-than-equal brewer. In my tests, the Bonavita was unable to match the pace of hand-pouring a Chemex. The Behmor was. Aside from those two caveats, I wholeheartedly agree with your affection for the Bonavita. As I said in my review, it’s the coffee maker for most anyone who asks me to recommend one, who isn’t a hobbyist and certainly a good one for someone who is.

Warm regards,
Kevin

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Nabeel B. August 31, 2016 at 3:07 pm

Hi,

I recently purchased the Behmor 1600 Connected and attempted to use the Chemex 6 cup carafe, only to find out that it doesnt fit. Behmor customer service actually recommended the 6 cup chemex, but they apparently mis-informed me. The company also stated that the Behmor Connected and Brazen are the same dimensions. If this is in-fact true, then the glass carafe would need to be less than 8 1/2 inches tall (in order to fit under the lower frame (where the filter basket would normally slide into). Unless the dimensions on Amazon are incorrect, it doesnt appear that the Chemex 5 cup Hamd Blown carafe would fit under the sprayer of the behmor connected unit. Amazon states that the 5 cup hand blown Chemex is 9 1/2 inches high. If Amazon is incorrect and/or if the 5 cup hand blown chemex does in-fact fit, do you find it to be a problem that the behmor extracts 6 cups into the carafe?

Thanks in advance, and I do agree that this brewer makes the best coffee I ever tasted from a brewer.

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Coffee Kevin October 12, 2016 at 8:27 am

Hi, Sorry I missed this, but my alerts didn’t alert me. Okay, to your question, in my experience, the hand-blown 5 cup does work, but not their machine-made product. Chemex has two product lines, almost but not quite identical. I too thought they were identical until I tried it myself with the larger unit. I’ll check my review and see if it needs correcting.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Nabeel B October 15, 2016 at 8:14 pm

Thank you for your reply. I have a couple follow-up questions. I recently purchased the 5 cup hand blown chemex and tried to brew using the unbleached chemex paper filter, with a pre-ground (fine grind) lavazza coffee (de oro medium roast), only to find that the water started to overflow. Also, The chemex filter needed to bent down in order to fit the chemex carafe under the brewer. What is the appropriate chemex filter to use (as the filter in your photo seems to fit to match the heighth of the chenex carafe)? Do You have any idea why the water would overflow? Grind maybe? The brewed coffee seemed to be very light and lacked taste. Thank you.

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Coffee Kevin October 16, 2016 at 4:24 am

Hello Nabeel,

The first problem you are having is almost certainly due to the fine grind of the Lavazza coffee. The Chemex takes a coarser grind than standard drip, and Lavazza grinds finer than standard drip. The only pre-ground coffee I’ve tried that suits a Chemex is so-called regular, all-purpose or electric perk grind. Rather than bend the filter, I’d place it in the Chemex and cut the top so it lies flush in the brewer with no paper extending above the glass. I can imagine that bending the filter might somehow affect the brewing. I am certain I cut the one in the photo. If the grind slows things down too much it will overflow. Once it overflows, it also loses grounds and that makes the coffee too light and lacking in taste. Try using beans and grinding them at the store if necessary, but use a coarser grind than drip. I think you’ll be surprised at the taste improvement.

Warmly,
Kevin

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