The New Bodum Bistro Pourover

Bodum has always been known to produce the very best in manual drip methods especially the French Press. This year they’ve decide to take everything they’ve learned about manual drip brewing to create their own version of the automatic drip coffeemaker. While I haven’t tested this new coffeemaker yet I got a first hand demonstration at the 2012 International Housewares Show in Chicago. I can already tell you that I like the idea of the see through design that shows off the quality electronics inside.

So take a look at the video presentation I created until I can review this new coffeemaker in my own kitchen.

Bunn Trifecta Home Review

Bunn Trifecta Home
As one of the earliest manufacturers of an autodrip coffeemaker, Bunn is not known for change. The Trifecta Home is going to wake up Bunn’s critics. It is not an extension or variation of any previous design of theirs or anyone’s. It is a totally new concept. It is bold.

The Trifecta Home takes the best from several coffee brewing methods, elevating the art of control during brewing. It steeps coffee like a French press. It agitates the brewing chamber during contact and forces finished brew through the exit hole upon completion, emulating the best of vacuum coffee brewing. In fact, the Trifecta Home appears to be everything except what Bunn is most known for, that is a drip coffeemaker.

Let’s get this out of the way early: The Trifecta Home is not Bunn’s new home espresso machine, and to me that’s a good thing. What is the Trifecta Home? It is a new coffee high-extraction brewer that wrenches every precious bit of acidity from coffee, allowing some very focused user control over some physical variables for the first time in an automatic coffeemaker. Why am I happy that it is not an espresso machine? Acidity = the high notes, the most expensive flavor ingredient of the best coffee beans. Light roasted single origin coffees fired out as espresso shots give you acrid, overlit flavors. These same coffees in the Trifecta and will give you beautifully extracted balanced coffee with the full spectrum of tastes.

Perhaps the Trifecta Home will be compared mostly to the commercial Clover machine. I’ve tried both side by side and the Clover accentuates a low bitter note in almost every coffee I’ve tried in it, and the Trifecta does not. I limited my comparisons, but it may be naught anyway since Clover, after being bought outright by Starbucks, appears to be all but gone. Certainly, no one has suggested a Clover Home is forthcoming.

Meanwhile, apparently Bunn’s years of underextracting grounds using shorter-than-average contact times has paid off. The Trifecta Home’s contact time is short, a minute or so. The two longer settings are for tea. I did try doing coffee at the tea setting, but preferred the three coffee settings overall.

The brewing contact temperature is smack dab at 200°F, as usual for a Bunn machine. An ‘instant on’ steady temperature is especially important given its brief grounds/water contact time. Bunn is known for good, consistent water temperature, and the Trifecta Home is no exception. Unlike most earlier Bunn drip machines, the Trifecta Home has no onboard heated tank. I found even if I unplugged the Trifecta Home and plugged it in a minute before brewing, the temperature and startup time remained roughly the same. If it is not instant-on, it is very, very close to it.

The Trifecta Home injects air to agitate the brew. The number of times it does this during brewing is one of two user adjustments. Bunn claims varied agitation tilts the body versus acidity of the coffee. More agitation reduces acidity; Less agitation reduces body. My tastings confirm this. Turbulence in coffee is just like it is on an airplane flight… air bubbles that shake things up. Bunn’s promoted its use of turbulence in brewing for a while now. The Trifecta has finally convinced me they know how to use it to make better coffee.

Turbulence!
At the brew cycle’s conclusion the coffee is forced from the brewing chamber down into the supplied beaker/carafe with such vigor the spent coffee grounds are almost completely dry. I suspect they are using air pressure to force the liquid out so thoroughly. Regardless of how, the combined turbulence and efficient separation of the grounds and brewed coffee do the best job of extracting and leaving no liquid behind in the grounds of any brewer I’ve yet tested, matching vacuum brewers and espresso machines.

Interesting: Bunn recommends using coarse ground coffee. I’ve suggested this for years. Maybe we’ve both learned something from each other. Interestingly, after a month or so I found I backed off from the recommended 22 grams of coarse grounds per 12 ounces water brewing formula. I got my best results using 18 grams fine grounds per 12 ounces water. This is my preferred Trifecta Home recipe with almost any coffee I’ve yet tried as of this writing.

The cups are so good, so rich and full-flavored, nothing is missing. The amount of coffee produced, between one and two six-ounce cups, is just about perfect for two. Considering how many people have one or two cups, it’s, from a ‘mileage’ point of view, economical, and doesn’t fill trash heaps like the Keurigs do. It’s worth noting that the Bunn Home Trifecta also does a single 6 ounce cup with equal aplomb. Few machines so equally match taste when you change batch size.

Oren’s Daily Roast’s Ethiopian Longberry Harrar had all the flower you could ask of it and, believe me, this is one beautiful floral bomb! Stumptown’s Guatemala Antigua Buenavista did itself proud with the unique black cherry and milk chocolate notes I so enjoyed in this bean. I Have A Bean’s Uganda Bugisu Kapchorwa, which I’d brewed recently in a manual pourover, just burst forth with cinnamon and malt flavors and a powerful complexity that justified this machine’s ability to carefully agitate the water while in contact with the grounds in controlled doses. I could literally dial in this complexity to alter the balance. Consider that once I adjusted the settings just so, I could repeat these perfect cups in succession reliably, almost casually. This is a significant benefit. Before the Trifecta Home, I felt I could have perfection or consistency, but typically not both. And that’s the Trifecta Home’s true greatness.

Some folks will ask me, “Kevin, do you really expect me to put $500 into a coffeemaker during these economic times?” Hey, I’m not a 1%’er. Yes, $500 is a lot of money, even to me (ha!). I believe you can probably match the cup quality, although I’m honestly not certain, using your best vacuum, Chemex, Hario, Aeropress technique. But, every time? The Trifecta Home is for the coffee aficionado who wants the best, wants it consistently, and wants ease in achieving this perfection. And, I do mean perfection.

The cost of entry is high, but to someone who spent $500 on a DSLR camera, a plasma TV, or other top consumer gear it’s in line. How about a decent prosumer home espresso maker? If you like coffee, single-origin coffee as much as I do, you’ll just accept it as the cost of entry to a big step up in our hobby. Let’s put it this way. If you own one of these, I’ll never again worry about giving you coffee for your birthday and wonder if you will begin to taste what I can taste when I brew it. Let’s see: a state-of-the-art, made in America machine that brews coffee like a top café barista. What more do you want?

It’s the machine I’ve waited for since I started drinking coffee. If you can afford one, it’s a no-brainer. Bunn knocked it out of the ballpark with this one. The Bunn Trifecta Home almost deserves to rename a cup of coffee a Trifecta, it’s that outstanding. It defines the state-of-brewing-art according to me and The Coffee Companion.

Bonavita Coffeemaker

Bonavita Coffeemaker

For a long time the Technivorm coffee brewer has been the out-front champion consumer auto drip machine. Other than Bunn, there’s been no one that’s even been close. At last year’s Specialty Coffee Association bash in Houston, I spied a truly interesting Technivorm lookalike. I begged a sample and one day my UPS driver showed up with it on my front porch.The Bonavita 8-cup looks a lot like a Technivorm, enough to be called a knock-off. But, knock-offs serve an important place in consumer culture. They give those of us down the working class a chance to taste the gear caviar we otherwise can’t afford. So, how does it measure up?

First, the Bonavita hits the basic temperature of the Technivorm, not quite its ruler flat 200°F, but comfortably in the 195 to 205 industry spec. This will be made a big deal of by some, and I can’t deny it is at least partially true. If you’re a total perfectionist, the Technivorm will still be your machine when it comes to the art of delivering stable 200°F water to your grounds. The Technivorm produces a magical full 40 ounces in just over six minutes. This upstart brewer is capable of making the same size batch in just over five. Whether this is an improvement or not is subjective. Some might say it’s closer to the ideal “American” cup. All in all, it’s a pretty impressive feat and testament to the Bonavita’s beefy heating element. In the video review I referred to ramping up my grounds from 60 grams to 64 grams drip grind coffee for a full Bonavita pot. I have since found that simply grinding a notch finer and 60 grams does the trick.

There is one area in which the Bonavita 8-cup outperforms the Technivorm and that’s the ability to get all the grounds thoroughly soaked during brewing. This has always been the Dutch coffeemaker’s sole weakness and the Bonavita just does it beautifully, and it is a very important attribute since it means you get full, even extraction for all the precious coffee grounds. This is an area that many will miss as there’s no real easy industry specification. It’s not easy to measure, although it is simple to observe. The Bonavita does as good a job of any automatic drip coffeemaker tested so far, equal to the famed Kitchen Aid 4-cup and recent Kaloric models. And, in my opinion, this is one of the most important areas of accomplishment for any automatic coffeemaker.

The one area where the Technivorm might prove more cost effective in the long run is longevity. Technivorms are the coffeemaker equivalent of Volvo automobiles. My 30 year-old Moccamaster just chugs away. But, none of my tests indicated anything inherently slapdash about the new Bonavita either, so time will tell.

The Technivorm has a two position setting that really works when making a half batch. If you regularly make less than a full pot, it’s a nice and useful economy feature and it’s missing on the new competitor’s. I did not even test the Bonavita in any but full batch modes. Assume you will make a full pot each time in order to get the performance I did in my tests.

I’ve been brewing with the Bonavita daily for nearly three months. I brewed Counter Culture’s Finca Mauritania El Salvador with it, as well as their Jagong Sumatra, one of my current favorites. All superb, as was Oren’s Daily Roast’s Cup-of-Excellence Nicaragua La Ampliacion. I found it was almost boring in its ability to brew brilliant coffee batch after batch, minus any futzing.

I tested the glass carafe, my preference, but there’s a themos version on the way. It’s worth noting that Bonavita has earned a Specialty Coffee Association of America certification. I prefer glass carafes as they are easy to wash and really get clean, plus I toss any coffee after 30 minutes regardless of how it’s stored. In my opinion thermoses offer very little advantage.

I’d say this machine is going to give Technivorm a run for its money and a lot of people are going to go for the extra cost savings and drink some pretty excellent coffee at a bargain price. Considering there are millions of coffee drinkers, there’s room for more than one machine that performs to spec. If you’re looking for a top auto drip brewer, the Bonavita definitely fits the bill. It gets a top rating from the Coffee Companion.

Krups Moka T8

Krups Moka

Here’s a classic case where the marketing department tried to get a basically very good machine to do something it was not designed to do. The packaging indicates it as a way to make an espresso beverage for several people at once. Meanwhile, the product styling makes it look like just another automatic drip machine, which it definitely is not.

What Is It? — The Krups Moka is, if anything, an attempt to make a large quantity of something called a Moka. Moka is a problematic word. To much of the world, it means chocolate or a coffee bean varietal from Yemen. In Europe, it means a sort-of stovetop espresso beverage. The Krups Moka is none of these. It is a slightly pressurized automatic drip machine, a sort of hybrid. I would hesitate to compare it to a stovetop Moka and it is certainly not any kind of “mass espresso” machine.

I decided to test it according to drip standards, although, as you will see, it is really in its own category and you will be happiest if you regard it for its own value, rather than attempt to slot it as a preexisting type.

Temperature — The Krups Moka T8 works like an electric water kettle. The water boils and that pressure forces it up and over the grounds. Most automatic drip brewers are designed to deliver the water to the grounds at lower-than-boiling temperatures; the standard is 195 to 205 Fahrenheit. Here was see boiling or very near it water, with somewhat long gaps between as the water is boiled in pulses.

Level but don't tamp

Time — This makes it very difficult to determine the exact water/grounds contact time. The time from when the water first hits the grounds until the last drop leaves is something like seven minutes. If boiling water is truly in contact with fine grind coffee for this duration, we could expect some pretty bitter coffee, couldn’t we?

Almost a mouse tail

Grounds saturation — The Krups Moka T-8 does a very thorough job of getting all the grounds wet. The combination of a sealed grounds chamber and the pulse flow of pressurized water makes sure no flavor is left behind. There are also six exit holes in the filter basket, encouraging a quick escape once the water has contacted with the grounds.

Spent grounds are bone dry, just the way you want them.

Cup tasting — I have observed that lighter roast coffees seem to handle higher brewing temperatures. George Howell, Terroir.com, has many beautiful light roast coffees. He buys micro lots of prize winning coffees and it shows in both the cup and my monthly charge card statement. He’s got a long-term relationship with La Minita Costa Rica coffees. I put sixty grams of fine grind La Minita in the Krups unit and it tasted fine, with surprisingly no bite that one might expect using these high brew temps. What really surprised me was putting some Boyds coffee preground in this brewer. It’s ground for auto-drip and it’s a comparatively dark roast. I’d expected the unit to favor lighter roasts, but this coffee compared favorably to the La Minita. It’s a blend and a complex one, far more than I realized. My previous cuppings had been in a Technivorm.

I expected light roasts to taste right, but I didn’t expect a darker-than-average coffee to shine. But, the Boyd’s Rip City Blend, tasted about as good as any coffee I sampled. Perhaps a greater surprise is that it’s pre-ground. I know some of you are going to be shocked, but it’s true. I was pondering why, and I think part of the reason has to do with the excellent grind pre-ground coffees have. It’s one area where they exceed almost any grind possible at home. Also, as Randy Layton expressed to me as far back as when we served on the Specialty Coffee Association’s Technical Standards committee, as well as in our recent video Coffee Brewing Secrets, he thinks that coffee needs to rest after roasting before it extracts to its potential. I know I’m speculating, but it seems possible that high pressure brewers require more exact grind in order not to impede their flow rate. That’s a guess, but the results I got with the Boyd’s sample was as complex a cup as I’ve had, with absolutely no bitterness.

Conclusion — The Krups Moka is not for everyone. Many consumers won’t understand why it takes nearly five minutes just to heat the water up before its first burst. Nor will they appreciate that the seemingly overside bottom water boiler is not truly a warming plate. The first cups will be piping hot, but the coffee won’t keep warm for hours like it does with some auto drip machines. The exact placement of the brewer under the hot water release valve is critical. I misaligned it once and it was quite a mess. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult, but it’s non-standard.

What sets the Krups Moka T-8 apart most though is the outstanding cup quality. I truly wish they’d reintroduce it to Americans as at home coffee is getting more serious. Perhaps they will. Meanwhile, check the auction sites. It’s a winner.

Stella Neapolitan

This delightful coffee brewer is commonly called a flip-drip, but actually it is probably mistakenly called a stovetop espresso machine or Moka just as often. It’s a rare animal in American, and, I suspect, most kitchens worldwide.

Which is a shame, because it makes a distinctive cup of brew and, to my sensibilities, suits a number of coffee brewing occasions admirably.

The machine itself has three basic components: half which is filled with water, a second part which features a filter holder for ground coffee and a third part which receives the coffee after it’s dripped through the filter. It is in fact a drip machine in principle.

Disassembled - easy once you do it a couple of times

Fill the part with the tiny hole in it with good water up just short of the hole. Place 27 grams of medium grind coffee in the filter section and screw its cap on tightly. Insert this part into the part containing water. Assemble the other half, the half which will receive the finished brew on top. Place the finished, assembled unit on a stovetop. Turn heat on to low/medium.

As the water heats up it will expand, causing the waterline to rise, just like Al Gore explained in his fine film, An Inconvenient Truth. When the water nears boiling, a small amount will spit out of the hole in the side.

Watch for a bead of water, which means it's ready to flip

Now, shut off the heat and flip the unit over. The hot water will begin to drip through the grounds bed within the second piece. In a few minutes you will have some delicious coffee. Here is how it meets its specs, and why I like it:

Temperature — the temperature is well within accepted limits, although naturally, it varies slightly with just when you turn it over. I found by inserting a narrow thermocouple (tiny wire thermometer) into an operating unit, that it regularly measured 205, at the high end of accepted, but well within limits (195-205 is industry recommendation).

Time — the Neapolitana is grind dependent and can vary slightly depending upon how you “pack” the grounds. I do a little smoothing to make sure they lie evenly, but I do not attempt to tamp it, although I admit it occurred to me as an option. I found the contact time to be around four minutes and could be lengthened by finer grind or tighter packing, but I found no need to do so and I think it would be counterproductive.

Grounds saturation — this unit has a completely inboard filter, which is highly desireable from an engineering perspective. There is no opportunity for grounds to be missed during extraction. They are completely submerged during brewing and even the hot water has no exposure to the external environment before it contacts the grounds and becomes coffee. Its first exposure to the air is once it’s in the lower (post-brewing) half where you will sense the delightful scent from its pouring stem, maybe seeing a little steam as well.

Smooth but don't tamp

The Cup — I tried a number of coffees, but one of my favorites was a (gasp) Starbucks Yemen Sanani, my vote for the best coffee Schultz and Co. has released this year. I happened to wander by a bag of Guatemala from a local roaster, Arbor Vitae, and it delivered pleasing results as well, a lighter roast. The cup from this machine has plenty of body and acidity, although the filter delivers plenty of cup sediment. George Howell is not going to like this machine. I admit I preferred the Bunn NHB for George’s Costa Rica microlot coffee.

On a nice fall day, sitting with your significant other outdoors, this brewer makes a terrific cup and the thick stainless steel keeps the coffee nice and warm, not something I typically include in a review, but it’s a nice extra.

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