Having just completed a quick review of an espresso machine and a vacuum brewer, it only made sense to jump to one of my current go to brew methods: The pour over.
But not just any pour over method: this review is all about a custom, hands off powered pour over experience.
Pour over coffee is, in fact, my default method on the weekends and most afternoon week days in my lab at the local University. It's easy. It's dependable. It's reliable. You can't screw it up. It's that simple.
My curiousity was tweaked when the opportunity came along to test an "automatic" and programmable pour over brewer. But first things first - let's talk about the key things that you must have to make a basic manual pour over.
- Coffee, ground to around the same grind as drip coffee.
- A suitable carafe to brew the coffee in.
- A suitable filter holder and filter. Melitta and Hario makes both and there are many more manufacturers!
- A scale to measure the coffee as it is brewed.
- A timer to pace the brewing process to meet the ideal spec; around 3.5 minutes of brewing time for most coffees.
- A kettle with a "watering can" spout on it to do a very accurate pour of the hot water: Bonavita and Hario make perfect pour over kettles.
What did I tell you? Simple huh. Here is a very comprehensive guide to doing pour over - link - I will get my own guide going shortly but this one is very fine for now.
OK. So we all know that KitchenAid makes some mighty fine appliances. I have one of their heavy duty mixers - as well as many accessories and a KitchenAid food processor. These are all amazing and reliable labour saving devices. KitchenAid has gotten into coffee makers in a new and (I hope) exciting way. We just reviewed the vacuum brewer and now we are looking at the custom pour over brewer. So how did it do?
Well, in order for any powered pour over system to work, it has to do a couple of things right - perfect in fact. What are they?
- It has to heat the water to near the boiling point, but not beyond!
- it has to pre-soak the grinds.
- it has to deliver the water to the coffee in the requisite 3-4 minutes for the perfect brew.
- the amount of water delivered to the bed of coffee must be precisely measured each and every time.
Here is what I found on the first use after a couple of cover to cover reads of the manual.
(Always read the instructions folks!)
Water temperature is not an issue. In fact, the KitchenAid custom pour over brewer pre-heats all the water in the resevoir prior to brewing.
When you think about this, this is exactly what you do when you make an manual pour over.
A traditional drip brewer does not do this. 100% of traditional drip brewers take cold water from the resevoir and heat that water in a heat-exchanger kind of arrangement and supercharge the water and spray it onto the coffee bed after passing through a short conduit (long enough to take some energy off of the water stream to make sure it is not boiling hot when it touches the ground coffee).
So the KitchenAid custom pour over brewer heats all the water it is going to need in advance.
Good thing. Temperature did not appear to be an issue and although I have a digital thermometer, I never got around to measuring the temperature accurately. I'll get to why in a moment.
The KitchenAid custom pour over brewer, to be perfect, needs to do a pre-soak or a steep of the ground coffee bed, to essentially soak the coffee prior to the primary part of the brew cycle. It did that well, each and every time.
The KitchenAid custom pour over brewer got through 3 and 4 cup brew cycles in around 4 minutes. Close enough for my picky attention to detail.
In 5 brew cycles I noticed one consistent design failure. In selecting the "3 cup" setting (which in reality is actually 3 6-8 ounce 'servings') the amount of water that the KitchenAid custom pour over brewer delivered to the bed of ground coffee varied wildly, often upwards of 150 - 170g of water!
For the purists among us, the whole point of doing a pour is to accurately measure the water when making the coffee. I could easily live with +- 50g of water for a 2 - 3 cup serving but this kind of variation made the entire system worthless.
Having a coffee maker, like the KitchenAid custom pour over brewer, that is "volumetric" or capable of delivering precise amounts of water to a ground coffee bed would be an awesome thing - if it worked - and I would love to know what kind of mechanism they are using to get the right amount of water onto the coffee.
I have reached out to KitchenAid, about their brewer, and hope to get some feedback on what the unit should and shouldn't be doing. I have not heard back yet - fingers crossed.
Thankfully, the KitchenAid custom pour over brewer has a slightly simpler brother (or sister) that uses all of the features above less the volumetric or quantity selection ability... the custom part. I have not tested that unit but considering that everything about the KitchenAid custom pour over brewer works apart from the actual customizable quantity aspect, then it should be good.
Apart from this annoyance, the KitchenAid custom pour over brewer gets almost everything right. It misses the mark in terms of reliability and getting the brew right each and every time. In the one brew cycle that I did do that nailed the right ratio of coffee to water, it was spot on in terms of taste, overall brew quality and temperature. Sadly, 1 in 5 is not good enough.
2.5 Stars! If I was to rate the KitchenAid custom pour over brewer on a 5-star rating scale (and virtually every other review on this website has always been 4 to 5 stars...) this KitchenAid unit warrants 2, maybe 3 stars out of 5. For the extra money to make this a "more automated" experience, it was simply not worth it. Kitchen Aid Canada did not return any requests for information or comments on this unit.
I look forward to hearing from KitchenAid Canada on this brewer - and making it right. The potential for a great automated pour over brew is definitely here... with some tweaks.
We would like to thank the good people at Capital Iron in Victoria B.C. Canada for giving me complete access to their kitchenwares department. I get to play with everything! Yay!
Colin Newell is a Victoria area resident in British Columbia, Canada and writer for a coffee resource that has been on the air for over 20 years! This website averages around 1000 unique readers every day. That is a lot of folks looking for some help making the right decision on getting that perfect brewer.