KitchenAid’s Big Step!

by Coffee Kevin on January 25, 2015

KitchenAid review photo.cropKitchenAid’s new 8-cup automatic drip Coffeemaker is proof that appliance manufacturers now take coffee making parameters as seriously as they do any culinary art. KitchenAid has long been a coffee innovator, with high build quality and within reasonable price points. This new model has literally been years in the making.

I visited them during summer 2012, during which time their four person design team held a therapy session, where I lay back and told them everything missing from most coffeemakers. Just kidding about that part, but suffice it to say, I left feeling unburdened and they went to work building it.

Sure enough, they brought it to this year’s CoffeeCon San Francisco and Los Angeles events. I recall making a beeline to taste a cup. It was good enough that I requested a model for my long-term at-home tests, from which I made review judgments.

This KitchenAid model has several important features:

• Pre-infusion stage. It dribbles a small amount of water, pauses to allow ultra fresh coffee grounds to get wet and exhale their carbon dioxide.

• Intermittent brewing throughout the brewing process, just like you instinctively do using a manual drip coffeemaker. We’ll talk more about this in in a moment.

• Two brewing temperatures. A higher one is just over 200°F, and optimized for lighter roasted (most Third Wave) coffees. The second, lower temperature setting stays under 200°F and is optimized for darker roast coffees. It’s up to you of course, as it’s so cutting edge that there’s hardly consensus on this subject. Suffice it to say, it’s amazing to see a big brand acknowledging the standards and then going a step further by offering you a choice of two brewing temperatures within those standards. Again, this is sophistication on par with manual brewing geeks.

• Perhaps the biggest news is that the KitchenAid meets SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) brewing guidelines, which are stringent. This means a temperature spec (range: 196°-2015°F), within the given drip time spec of 4-6 minutes.

• Cup number setting. This at least promises to be an attempt to prefigure brewing algorithms so you and I don’t have to. More later, but this just might be their most important feature – if it does what it I think it promises.

First, let’s get this out of the way at the start – most so-called automatic drip brewers are one size brewers that are, by modern standards, not very automatic. If you make a full batch, they do well, maybe even very good, but most coffee enthusiasts eventually discover a manual coffee maker makes better coffee, since you have to figure out each parameter. But still, there’s a need for an automatic maker, because everyone, myself included has something else to do other than make coffee. It’s easy to operate. Just choose your cup setting. I had to get used to it, but the first thing you must do is select your desired cup batch size, but pressing plus/minus buttons. Then press whether you want light or dark roast (higher or lower brew temperature). Then hit brew and you’re ready in ten minutes, no matter what batch size.

How did it do in my tests?

Pre-infusion – The KitchenAid does really do this, but it’s still a best guess. As everyone who brews with manual drip brewers knows, this time varies depending upon how fresh your coffee is. KitchenAid designers chose a reasonable pause. It won’t please everyone, but in my tests, it did a good job of allowing most grounds to rise and fall, and then repeating this drip, pause, drip sequence throughout. Only at the 8-cup setting using extremely fresh roasted and freshly ground coffee did I get any foaming that left residue at the top of the brew basket (near showerhead). Most times it was not a problem.

Intermittent brewing – Part of the benefit of continuing to drip, pause and drip throughout the brewing is let all the water drip through before pouring more water onto the grounds. It seems to achieve a better, more thorough extraction. The KitchenAid did not disappoint. I’m sure there are some that will say their manual drip pours are better still, but for many, this brewer will deliver everything they want from their coffee.

Brewing temperature – Here KitchenAid has done itself proud. Its brewing temperature stability is as good or better than most manual drip, especially if you’re using a traditional kettle. If you’re using a kettle with settable temperature, the KitchenAid still matches or exceeds it, but the difference might be unnoticeable. Still, kudos for the two temperature choices and stability.

Cup setting – Many don’t realize that every automatic drip coffeemaker is optimized in contact time for one size batch. Larger batches will take too long, resulting in bitterness/excess strength; smaller batches mean faster (too fast) contact times and resulting weaker brew. This is simple math. If you baked a half batch of cookies and shortened or lengthened baking times, you wouldn’t expect them to taste right, would you? All drip makers, even manual ones have this challenge. KitchenAid seems to do some adjusting of the drip rate inside to accommodate the changing times, so it lessens it. I’d say they’ve make it work overall. The batches I made between four and eight cups were all between four and six minutes in overall contact time (this spec does not/should not count the time the water is heating with no contact). At the two cup setting, the contact time was not long enough. Keep in mind the cup quality may vary between 4 and 6 minutes contact time, but overall I was satisfied.

There are little tweaks you can try such as grinding a notch finer for fewer cups, or simply upping your grounds to water ratios a gram or two. I’ll leave it to others to explore these options. I settled on 6 cups for most of my tests over a month’s use and found it delivered excellent coffee at all settings between 5 and 8 cups, coffee on par overall with my manual drip brewers.

A couple of extra notations:

• The KitchenAid coffeemaker’s sound is quieter than most other automatic drip coffeemakers and its sound is subjectively nicer.

• KitchenAid is to be commended for offering detailed grounds to cup measuring recipes in their well-written instruction book.

• The water input at the KitchenAid’s top is too narrow for my tastes. I occasionally spilled water while filling it. Maybe it’s just me.

• I routinely filled the water tank exactly to the intended batch cups mark, and found the resulting brew on the carafe at brewing’s end was frequently less. I realize this may be caused by steam loss, but I found it works better to always overfill above the water mark.

Here are a few taste test highlights: I was fortunate to pick up a sample of Martin Diedrich’s Kean Coffee at CoffeeCon L.A. It was a slightly darker roast than most Third Wave roasts, and, (gasp) in my opinion, the better for it. It really shined, especially with using the lower (but still SCAA-approved) temperature setting. This kind of coffee really has that chocolate taste (cliché though it seems) and that temperature just seemed to highlight it.

Another treat was Counter Culture’s latest Ethoipian in a new package. This one really called for the higher temperature, but fully matched my expectations, with a fruitiness and acidity this coffee brewer brought forth in all its glory.

A surprise hit of CoffeeCon LA’s roasts was Temple Coffee’s Panama Geisha. Oh my Lord! What a coffee!! I did two batches concurrently. It was so good I went past my limit. The high temperature was my preference, but it did splendidly (albeit differently) in each. Note: I found a perfect formula for me was to make six cups, using 50 weighed grams of beans, medium-fine grind. The slightly less than full batch allowed even the freshest coffees to brew properly, and gave us a perfect way for Pat, I and a friend each have a couple of cups each.

The KitchenAid 8-cup is highly recommended.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex C February 3, 2015 at 2:27 pm

I probably won’t be trading in my Bonavita any time soon, but this is still really exciting. MSRP might be a little high to capture the average American household, but the more quality equipment that’s out there, the better it will be for all of us. Thanks for sharing!

Reply

Paul S February 3, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Well Kevin based on your recommendation I purchased this machine.
Very impressed and almost suprised how good the initial results are.
I had a Philips unit that was dying so your review was very timely.
One question if I may, does the SCAA regulations cover hot plate temperatures? I have noticed this one seems to maintain rather than heat the coffee and shuts itself off after a time.
Many thanks.

Reply

Coffee Kevin February 7, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Hi Paul,

Glad you’re happy with the KitchenAid. As far as I know there are not specifications for hot plate temperatures. Interesting, Chemex used to feature a control for setting the temperature on theirs. I do know people in the commercial coffeemaker industry who have opinions about where it should be set, some lower, some higher, for best product taste retention. Yes, I also think KitchenAid tries to retain, not heat the coffee. Yes, it shuts off after awhile.

Reply

Paul S February 8, 2015 at 7:24 am

After a bit of searching I was able to find this regulation:
” Minimum technical requirement is for the beverage receiver to
maintain the temperature of the coffee no lower than 80 degrees C
(176F) and no higher than 85 degrees C (185F) during the first thirty minutes of the holding time” https://www.scaa.org/PDF/SCAA_Certification_Req_Home_Brewer.pdf Section 8
As the hot plate shuts down after one hour I guess the Kitchenaid has made the grade.
Paul

Reply

Coffee Kevin February 8, 2015 at 7:51 am

Thank you, Paul S. I notice they even have a specification regarding sediment. Very interesting. I actually made coffee in the KitchenAid machine this very morning. I’ll have to measure it next time I brew. I routinely switch off a brewer once my guests and I have our coffee.

Reply

Paul S February 8, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Hi Kevin,
It seems like most of the machine requirements are slot type requirements except the extraction spec.
https://www.scaa.org/PDF/SCAA-Uniformity-of-Extraction-Procedure.pdf
Wonder if they would reveal the individual scores?
There must be a champion.

Duane February 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Hello Kevin,

Great article. Thanks so much for putting the time into these reviews and I am glad you have made a review on this machine as I am interested in one that will properly brew both full and half batches of coffee.

Having said that, this article has left me in a quandary.

I have been seriously considering the Technivorm 741. I like the half batch option (my primary objective), and the quality of the product. I dislike the functionality of the spray head compared to other machines, and this is what has held me back from purchasing the Technivorm to replace my Bunn.

Then comes your article on the KitchenAid… Several options excite me about the KitchenAid. In addition to the batch size adjustment, I really like the idea of pre-infusion (rather than turning off and on the 741) , the temperature adjustment option (to a lesser extent), and the intermittent brewing, if for nor other reason, to minimize a potential overflow on larger batches.

However, I keep coming back to the reputation, quality, and classic look of the Technivorm, but I don’t know that those qualities outweigh the conveniences automatically available with the KitchenAid.

I know the answer is that I can’t go wrong with either one of the machines I am considering, but would you mind giving me your two cents given the above comments?

I mentioned the less than ideal water saturation from the 741, what were your thoughts on the saturation from the KitchenAid?

Finally, if you could only have one of them, which would it be and why?

Thanks again for your time and the time you put into both your reviews and your replies.

Cheers,

Duane

Reply

Coffee Kevin February 7, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Hi Duane,

Thank you for your appreciative comment. Both are fine machines. While I can’t decide for you, I can offer some comparisons and hope it might help. The half-batch feature on the Technivorm works very well. It is elegantly simple. I realize the Technivorm gets some hard knocks for its narrow showerhead, but in practice I find it works adequately, especially in half-batch mode, where the grounds bed below is narrower as well. The KichenAid pre-infusion stage and continued pulsing throughout brewing is undeniably cool and effective. So is KitchenAid’s offering two brewing temperatures. Technivorm’s build quality is at the top of the tier, ala mid-80s Volvos. KitchenAid is also known for build quality. My original mid-1990s KitchenAid four-cup still performs to specification.

You are comparing two fine coffeemakers. Good luck! The best news is neither will be the wrong decision.

Warmly,
Kevin

Reply

Duane February 9, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Kevin,

I looked through some of the reviews on the KitchenAid website and it appears that they need to work out some quality control issues based on what I read.

Looks like I will be going with the tried-and-true Technivorm.

Cheers,

Duane

P.S. You would think that Technivorm would have redesigned their shower head by now, considering the constructive criticism it has received over the years.

Reply

Coffee Kevin February 9, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Hi Duane,

I think you’ll be happy with the Technivorm. As I said, both are top units. The KitchenAid is more cutting edge, but of course new technology means likelihood of bugs/fixes. The same stubbornness that resists notions such as a shower head redesign also is why the Technivorm is such a solid performer.

I’ve had stellar coffee from both machines.

Warmly,
Kevin

Reply

Tennese August 6, 2016 at 6:34 am

Just read your article you shared. The best thing I liked about the KitchenAid is that it is very easy to operate. Then I get the chance to select the desired cup size and also read that the sound of the Kitchen kid is quieter than most other automatic drip coffeemakers. I basically use french press coffee maker but surely will give a try to KitchenAid.

Reply

Coffee Kevin August 11, 2016 at 8:45 am

Thank you, Tennese, Yes, I too like the press, but sometimes automatic is good too.

Reply

Justin August 29, 2016 at 1:42 pm

Has an updated model been released? I love the look of this one and it sounds like it does a perfect job.

Reply

Coffee Kevin October 12, 2016 at 8:29 am

Haven’t seen anything new from them in a wh.

Reply

Coffee Kevin October 12, 2016 at 8:30 am

Haven’t seen anything new from them in a while.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: