The Behmor Brazen was the most advanced coffee brewer I’ve ever tested, until this new Connected version came along. Joe Behm continues to innovate, always a step ahead of others who rush to implement his ideas. The big splash about this latest version is the ability to use your iPhone or Android to operate it. But, more important to me is the availability of the roasters to create downloadable brewing parameters so that we can begin to taste the morning cup George Howell, Klatch’s Mike Perry or Equator’s Helen Russell has. Altitude adjustment, adjustable brewing temperature, pre-infusion options. What are these and what do they mean to our coffee’s taste?
Todd Larrabee is Marketing VP for Behmor. He brought a spanking new Brazen Connected to my house and we enjoyed coffee as he explained what this brewing is about and how it can close the loop between what your roasters achieves in beans and your final cup of coffee produced by this machine.
Once upon a time, the way to brew 12 cups of coffee at one sitting was owned by Bunn and its use of always-hot water to make it possible to deliver 200°F (+/-5°) water to a grounds basket and run it through the grounds in an impressive three minute window. A consumer falling-out with the standby mode and a misunderstanding of contact time by consumers, retail appliance buyers and Bunn’s competitors caused these units to be discarded, although if you look through Bunn’s current lineup, there may be a brewer in there that still follows this general principle. But, I’m unnecessarily distracting you from our guest of honor and that’s this new OXO machine, which solves a few of the problems and limitations of earlier big batch consumer brewers, and is at once a leader in this category. Let’s go through its features and then discover how it does in actual kitchen testing and tasting.
- Batch Size = real 12 cups – This brewer makes an actual 12 cups of coffee and they went with the larger 5 ounce cup size, not some metric variant claimed to be from Europe, which translates into four ounces or less in order to create false confidence. If you have 12 guests or a half-dozen who’d like a second cup, you’re in for a treat.
- Water heater/Kettle – through an ingenious design, OXO has created a water heater that’s removable and can be used as a separate kettle.
- Water scale – the kettle is actually sitting on a scale that automatically weighs the water and selects the batch size.
- Adjustment of drip parameters to accommodate various batch sizes.
- Brewing temperature adjustment. This is a big benefit, and more about it later.
How does it all perform?
- Batch size – works well in that, as mentioned before, honestly calls a cup a cup.
- Water Kettle – it works like it says it does and gives the consumer two appliances they might normally need, which goes some to make up for the brewer’s somewhat larger than usual footprint.
- Water scale – works well and fooled me. I forgot about it a few times and didn’t trust it to choose the batch size. Once I got comfortable with its doing this step for me, things were easy.
- Adjustment of drip parameters – no matter what batch size I chose, the contact time was three minutes. This is actually a bit fast for those used to Chemex or most other automatic drip coffee makers. You might consider a slightly finer than usual grind in order to ensure your coffee is fully extracted. But, yes, it works, and I’m still not sure quite how, as I can’t really see inside the brewer while it’s functioning.
- Brewing temperature adjustment – This is a wonderful feature, especially for those of us spoiled by using our own temperature adjustable kettles when brewing manually. I found 198°F to work ideally when brewing Metropolis Coffee’s Honduras from Mario Doreteo Perez at Finca Guamilito. When I brewed Old Soul’s Papua New Guinea – Aiyura Plantation coffee, I found 202°F really brought forth the bright notes in this surprisingly fruity Indonesian coffee.
Tasting tests I’m in a testing phase right now with several (including a second OXO model) other brewers on the bench. I had one coffee in house, the aforementioned Metropolis Honduras from Mario Doreteo Perez. Fortunately, it is a very fine one. Its beautiful fruit and nut notes came through loud and clear with this maker. As I’ve found with most shorter-extraction-time brewers, the bitterness really gets down to the null point. So did even the two degrees below 200°F as a brewing temperature. 198°F just offers a little more fruit, a little less tang. It’s a well-known trade secret that different beans and roasts perform optimally at different temperatures. The great news is if you can play with this or not; it’s up to you. We used this brewer for several large family gatherings over the holidays and I found it very easy to use and deliver a large batch of delicious coffee. I had to get used to turning it on, as you need to turn the knob to brew so it doesn’t just boil water for its other role, but once you get used to it, it’s really quite intuitive. I was worried that the cupcake filters I found at the supermarket would be undersized, especially given the rather short contact time. Yet, the coffee level, while extremely close, never rose above the line and overflowed inside the basket, a sign of good engineering. Notes: I notice OXO chose a cupcake/flat bottomed filter for this brewer. I have always preferred this filter style. While there are V-shaped filter brewers that meet their specs and brew fine coffee, I think the flat-bottom style does the most to prevent an over-extraction point in the brew basket. It does require 12-cup filters, and ideally you can find these at a restaurant supply house, where they should be, if anything, less expensive per brew than v-style filters from a grocer.
The decision to have the brewer start from cold instead of a constant always-on mode is likely a good one. The fact is it still means only about a twelve minute start-to-finish brewing time and that means it rivals many other twelve cup automatic machines, and many of those never reach the optimum brew temperature, and meanwhile over-extract as they start right away (tepid water and all) and extend the contact time throughout the twelve minute brew cycle. My best brewing results occurred using the full batch recipe of 100 grams medium fine grind coffeee, slightly coarser than I would grind for say a v-shaped filter try automatic drip brewer such as a Technivorm. I realize the OXO uses a shorter duration contact time between water and grounds, and so it is counter-intuitive, but I’m just reporting culinary taste results, not attempting to justify them. Your mileage may vary and I always encourage others to tweak theirs and report back. Conclusion – If this is OXO’s first effort, it is a very good one. Apparently the Specialty Coffee Association agrees with me, as they certified it, not bad for a first effort. haha Simply, I would put the OXO 12-cup at the top of my list for a twelve cup automatic drip brewer. Highly recommended.
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