We have just had the pleasure of getting a sample of the much anticipated Brazen Coffee maker - one of the most featured packed brewers of the 21st Century. Thank you goes out to Behmor, Joe the inventer and Boyd's Coffee of Portland that supplied the test machine. This is our review!
Coffee makers have come a long way in the last few years - Examples include the Newco OCS-8 and OCS-12, the Technivorm and the Bonavita - all of them great in their own way: I own all of them and have sung their praises on the Coffeecrew website. They are all well built and they all brew enough hot coffee for a small group and are robust enough to use all day long.
An example of how the brewer has evolved lies in the attention to the important details like brew temperature, shower head integrity, thermal storage of the brewed coffee and so on.
There was a time, in fact, when brew temperature was not often thought of as an important factor in getting the best brew results - now we know it to be critical to that perfect pot. The Brazen coffee maker is an example of "thinking about a better coffee machine" and actually setting out to manufacture it.
The Heat is on! Coffee makers like the Newco, the Technivorm and the Bonavita have nailed this characteristic pretty well - getting the right heat to the water and getting that water to the coffee grounds in an effective way. The result: Really, really good coffee! Coffee brewing temperature has always been a big deal for me -- and should be for anyone that takes their brew seriously.
The Brazen Coffee maker has taken us several giant steps in one stride with the inclusion of some amazing and, in my opinion, much needed updates to the traditional concept of home (and office) brewed quality coffee.
Some of the features of the Brazen Coffee maker - which we will examine, point by point.
- Capacity: 1.2L/ 8 Cup/ 40 ounces - standard on most machines.
- Variable Temperature Controls (190° to 210° F/ 1° F increments)
- On Board System Temperature Calibration with Altitude Correction
- Power Controlled Temperature Glide
- Full Saturation Water Dispersion Spray head
- Pre-Soak function w/ User Controlled Time Setting
- Stainless Steel Water Reservoir
- Insulated Stainless Steel Carafe
- Manual Water Release Feature
- Memory (on board) - stores system settings
- Rated 1400w/ 120v/ 60hz
- BPA Free
The Brazen Coffee Maker has a 1.2 L carafe - which I believe is identical in design to the Mister Coffee coffee maker - holds around 4 good 16 ounce servings when you fill the mug to around 75% - most coffee maker manufacturers assume that a 6 fluid ounce serving is a normal serving for coffee - it is not. Maybe in Europe, but not here.
The Brazen Coffee Maker has a variable temperature control in the menu system - allowing you to peg the temperature that is right for the bean that you are using. Because keep in mind, not all beans are created equally. In the past you were stuck with brewers that immersed the coffee in a warm bath of water that barely cracked 180 degrees F - which is substandard for any bean. This is a revolutionary feature.
The Brazen Coffee Maker goes through a one time calibration process when you are setting it up at your prefered location for the 1st time. Yes, if you move it to another location that differs in altitude, you will need (or should) re-calibrate. Running this calibration also lets the machine know what the actual boiling point is - because that varies with altitude (more on that subject later)
The Brazen Coffee Maker has a scalable heating slope for the water (my own terminology...) meaning the heating element is not full on or full off. In most cases, and I am not sure how the engineer did it in this case, but quite often you can use something called Pulse width modulation to apply a varying amount of energy to the heating element for precise control and a gradual ramping up of the brew water temperature.
The Brazen Coffee Maker has a water sprinkler head that is supposed to saturate the ground coffee more evening - many machines have different designs to achieve this - our impartial lab test subjects the coffee to be accurately extracted and equal, if not better in character, to brews made with a Newco OCS-8 - a machine with none of the bells and whistles but one that brews coffee full throttle, old school, often yielding awesome results (most often in fact.)
The Brazen Coffee Maker has a pre-soak feature - and that is one feature missing in every other coffee maker currently available. For us manual brew snobs who brew their coffee with Hario pour over kits, this is the one thing that we have total control over -- the ability to finesse the most flavor out of the ground coffee by gently soaking the ground coffee bed - and then hitting the coffee bed with the right torrent of water. The Brazen Coffee Maker does this for us - and you can set the soak time depending on the bean used - again, this is a genius feature and a feature a long time coming!
The Brazen Coffee Maker has a stainless steel water reservoir - meaning water is largely coming in contact with metal, not plastic. The benefit to this is that the heating element is integral to the reservoir and the water temperature is precisely established prior to dumping the water onto the coffee bed -- or in the case of the Brazen Coffee Maker - "streaming" the water to the coffee bed in the brew basket.
The Brazen Coffee Maker has a manual water release feature - which is super handy for times when you want to put the thermal carafe aside and brew directly into a Hario, Melitta, Beehouse, Bonmac, Clever or Solo brewer or what have you - This is one of those *aha* bonus features that the Brazen Coffee Maker has that is not entirely obvious from the get go. Before you use the manual water release, read the instructions on how it is used and when you can use it - because I found, you can just as easily release cold water on top of your beans if you are not paying attention. The more you use these features, by the way, the quicker they become second nature.
The Brazen Coffee Maker has an auto-timer - and although it is not something I have ever used or believed in (I preach the gospel of grinding and brewing! No exceptions. No coffee sitting around going stale.) but there have been times in the lab where I was going to be in a meeting and it would be nice if there was someone there to switch on the brewer (after I have set it up 40 minutes earlier...) and although this flies in the face of my coffee religion, it is very handy to have. Trust me, I used the feature and the coffee was in very good hands... the old adage is, "If you cannot do it yourself, let an machine do it for you. Don't trust a human - they will forget!"
The Brazen Coffee Maker has a 1400W power plant (as does the Newco and Technivorm brewers) - this seems to be the magic number for brewing effectively and getting that water temperature excited in a reasonable about of time.
Well packed - double boxed. The Brazen Coffee maker comes double boxed and well packed with everything you need to get started - coming from Boyd's Coffee of Portland, they actually sent along some suitable coffee for breaking the machine in.
Out of the box for a read. The Brazen Coffee maker does a lot of neat stuff. So before you dive in and try and figure things out on your own, read the manual from cover to cover - do it twice for good measure.
On first use. There is a calibration procedure you should run through on the first brew session - it is also good to run a carafe of water through any machine to get the dust out - if there is any. I followed the manual point by point to make sure it was calibrated properly -- and BTW, it helps to know your altitude, because that is one of the important features of the coffee maker. In the start-up calibration procedure, the machine is essentially getting a sense of what you local boiling point is for water. Follow this procedure for best results. After that, it is pretty much open season on "playing with your coffee." I say this because there is a lot you can adjust, brew by brew. Most people are used to tossing their coffee in the filter basket and pressing go. With the Brazen coffee maker you now need to know about pre-soak time and brew temperature... something that actually varies by the type and quality of the bean you are using... and how freshly roasted it is. No, not kidding!
The thing to remember is: The Brazen has a pretty standard brew basket (and a standard equipment gold basket) and if you are using very, very freshly roasted coffee, you might want to be careful about how long you set the pre-soak for - because, the longer the pre-soak for super fresh coffee, the higher the likelihood that the "bloom" will spill over the basket. Play it safe with fresh coffee and keep the presoak to something reasonable like 15 seconds.
To be Continued.
Colin Newell is a Victoria area resident and lover of coffee - His website has been on the air since 1996 - making him a dinosaur among internet enthusiasts.