It seems that everybody I know has a single-cup coffeemaker these days. Some have espresso machines, some have coffee machines, but everybody seems to have gone the single cup route. That’s great when you only drink a cup or two a day, but it’s not so great when you have guests over. You’ll be standing at your single-cup machine running an assembly line, making coffee and refills for your guests and missing out on the party.
After we recently reviewed a single-cup maker, the folks at Behmor, Inc. contacted The Gadgeteer and asked if we’d like to try out their Brazen Plus Variable Temperature Pulse Brew System coffeemaker. Of course, we said yes!
Behmor says the Brazen Plus is “a new brew system that utilizes technologies not found in consumer coffee makers before now, only in commercial brewers. Behmor Inc. has developed the ability for the user to set the brew temperature from between 190-210°F, accurate to within 1 degree F. The Brazen Plus brewer can also ensure that the temperature is accurate regardless of how high above sea level with its altitude corrected calibration technology. When coupled with other features, such as pre-soak, oversized showerhead, and pulsed water flow, the user is guaranteed superior coffee brewing and a terrific cup of coffee. The user can take control of the coffee brewing to achieve exceptional taste. The craft coffee brewing experience at home.
The Brazen Plus Brew System was certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America in July, 2014. The SCAA recognizes home brewers that meet their longstanding rigorous technical requirements. The Brazen Plus met these requirements, which are based generally on proper water temperature, brewing time, and ability to brew within the SCAA Gold Cup recommendations. The Brazen Plus is recognized as an exemplary home brewer and joins the short list of SCAA Certified Brewers.”
The Brazen Plus looks more like a rocket on the launch pad than like the old drip brewer my parents used to have. It’s made of BPA-free plastics and stainless steel. It stands 9.2″ X 9.2″ X 15.2″ tall and weighs 10 pounds, which indicates to me that there’s quite a bit of metal in the construction.
The base of the Brazen Plus is simply a place to put the carafe while the coffee brews; it is not a heating plate.
It comes with a sturdy, hefty thermal carafe. It’s also made of plastic and stainless. Since there’s no heating plate, you’ll rely only on this carafe to keep your pot of coffee drinkable. That’s not a bad thing, because heating plates probably do more to make coffee undrinkable. If you leave a pot of coffee in a glass carafe sitting on a heating plate too long, the coffee can get scorched. Simply preventing heat loss, like a thermal pot is designed to do, should result in a better tasting last cup of coffee.
The carafe’s lid is thick and heavy-duty. It screws into place to give a tighter seal than a snap-in lid could create. There’s a hole in the top of the lid, which allows the coffee to brew through the lid into a sealed pot.
The interior of the thermal carafe is also stainless. The lid has a gasket for a tight seal.
The Brazen Plus came with an instruction manual and several basket-style paper coffee filters. If you choose to use paper filters, Behmor recommends using Bunn 10-cup filters.
It also comes with a permanent “gold” filter. That’s it to the right of the filter basket. That filter basket might be a problem for some people. Instead of being permanently attached to the coffeemaker and swinging out so you can put in the filter and coffee, this basket comes completely out of the machine. It’s not flat on the bottom, so it doesn’t sit level while you load it up with the coffee. Of course, it’s much easier to clean since you can take it completely out of the machine.
Notice that the permanent filter is flat on the bottom, instead of cone shaped. That’s to take advantage of how the water sprays over the coffee grounds. We’ll talk more about that later.
This is the top of the Brazen Plus. This big locking lid covers the water reservoir.
You can see that the reservoir, where the water will be heated, is stainless steel.
Unlike single-cup brewers, the Brazen Plus doesn’t have a large reservoir that holds enough water for a few days of coffee. It holds just enough for a pot of 8 5-ounce cups of coffee. You won’t have to worry that mold and algae is growing in all the internal piping like those single-cup brewers, because the Brazen doesn’t have hidden internal piping.
This shot shows my Brazen Plus after I just finished unboxing it and before I washed everything up and starting setting it up to brew.
Before you can start brewing coffee, you have to calibrate the machine. These calibration steps are part of what makes the Brazen Plus different from other home brewers. We all know that water boils at 2120F, except when it doesn’t. The actual temperature is influenced by the height above sea level. You tell it your altitude as part of the calibration. You also tell the machine the actual temperature, between 1900 and 2100, to heat the water to brew your coffee.
Making perfect coffee is apparently part science and part art. When coffee beans are roasted, chemical processes inside the bean result in changes that create carbon dioxide gasses. Carbon dioxide releases slowly through the intact bean, and releases a bit faster after the beans are ground. When hot water hits the ground coffee, the gasses and other volatile compounds are expelled and cause the grounds to “fluff up” and create spaces where the brewing water can fit in and more effectively extract the coffee. If you allow the grounds some time to bloom and create these spaces before you start the brewing process, you’ll get a better cup of coffee. Knowing how much time is required for the coffee to bloom is where the art comes in, and it is determined by how long ago the coffee was roasted and ground. You can program the Brazen Plus to allow your grounds to bloom between 15 seconds and 4 minutes. (Read more about coffee bloom at CupandBrew.com.)
Once you’ve entered these setup values, you fill the water reservoir to the calibration line and start the calibration process. The Brazen Plus boils the water using your settings, and it then saves these values in its non-volatile memory. These calibration settings will be retained even through power outages, until you decide to change a parameter by recalibrating the machine.
After calibration is complete, fill the reservoir up to the 8-cup line and put the machine through a complete brew cycle, with the filter basket and carafe in place. This process cleans out the interior of the machine to make it ready for use.
I mentioned the flat-bottomed permanent filter earlier. Other permanent filters I’ve seen tend to be cone shaped. That’s because other machines have one large stream of heated water that lands in the center of the coffee grounds, and the cone shape puts more of the grounds in the path of the water. The Brazen Plus doesn’t have a single nozzle. It has a “shower head” arrangement, so the water dispenses through several nozzles over the surface of the coffee grounds. More of the coffee gets direct contact with the water, so more of the flavor can be extracted.
In addition to spraying water over the entire surface of the coffee grounds, the Brazen Plus also dispenses the water in pulses. Behmor says: “During brewing, water will be pulsed and released every 15 seconds to create turbulence and help improve extraction from the coffee grounds.”
My husband is the true coffee lover in the family, and he says the Brazen Plus makes delicious coffee. He says it’s the best coffee he’s had from any of his machines – the best coffee he’s had in quite some time.
That said, it takes quite a while to make a pot of coffee. The manual says to start with cold, filtered water. Our water goes through at least 100 feet of heated space in our building, so our cold water is never tooth-crackingly cold, but we started with filtered tap water straight from the tap. It took about five minutes to raise the temperature from 880 (our “cold” tap water) to the 1950 brewing temperature selected by my husband. He had programmed a 1:15 minute pre-soak (bloom) time, and then it took another five minutes to brew the coffee. The pot beeped when the brewing process was done.
Because the pot does take a while to brew, you may want to get everything set up the night before and use the Brazen Plus’s timer to have a pot of coffee ready when you get up in the morning.
The pot will brew up to 8 five-ounce cups, and it can brew less. I was told you can brew a single cup of coffee with the Brazen, but I didn’t try that because it’s much easier to just pop a pod into a single-cup brewer. I’m sure it would take less time to make a single cup of coffee with the Brazen than a full pot takes because there would be less water to pump through the grounds. However, it seems to me that the 2 tablespoons of grounds for a single cup of coffee would be spread so thin in the bottom of the filter that the water would pass through too quickly and wouldn’t extract as well. It seems that you’d need some way to make the path through the grounds a bit longer by using a smaller insert in the filter basket – but then what about the showerhead sprayer spreading the water over areas where the coffee grounds aren’t?
I noticed that the brewing process doesn’t produce a room-filling aroma. The coffee was brewing directly into the closed up thermal carafe, which seemed to keep those delicious-smelling volatile compounds in the coffee. You smell and taste the coffee as you drink it, without filling up the entire house with the smell before you’ve even poured a cup.
I decided to “waste” one pot of coffee so I could measure how well the thermal carafe maintains the coffee’s temperature. I started with a cold carafe; I didn’t fill it with boiling water to warm it up before I brewed coffee into it. After the coffee brewed, I opened the top of the carafe just long enough to drop in the thermocouple of my digital food thermometer, then I screwed the lid back on. Although the brewing temperature was 1950, the first measurement showed the coffee was at 1780. I checked the temperature on the digital display every minute for the first five minutes, and the temperature inside the carafe stayed at a constant 1780. I then checked at 10 and 15 minutes, then at 30, 45, and 60 minutes. The temperature dropped to 1760 at 10 minutes and to 1710 at an hour. It was still at 1630 at the end of two hours.
I started this test late in the evening, so I just left the carafe sitting on the counter and went to bed about midnight. The coffee inside the unopened carafe was still at 1340 at 7:15 the next morning and 1220 at about 1:30 that afternoon! Of course, you won’t keep coffee sitting around that long, but the carafe will keep the coffee at a drinkable temperature long enough for you to finish the pot in a more reasonable time frame.
The Brazen Plus has a Manual Release mode, so it can be used as a water-heating kettle, too. Just remove the filter basket and the thermal carafe, and you can dispense hot water directly into your own French press or Chemex pot or into a tea pot. Using the Manual Release button, you can start and stop the flow of heated water, so you can control the brewing process in the Chemex, for example.
Just a note, you should use a drip-coffeemaker grind for your coffee. Although both paper filters and the permanent filter are included, you should never use both of them together, because the flow of water out to the carafe will be impeded and the filter basket is likely to overflow. Refer to the included manual for information about brewing coffee and when and how to clean and descale your Brazen Plus.
As I mentioned earlier, my husband said the Brazen Plus makes great coffee – the best he’s made in ages. It’s a great machine for people who drink a lot of coffee and who don’t want to make a cup at a time. You don’t have to worry about finding the right pods for your machine or being locked out of using the coffee you like. With the Brazen Plus, you can use any coffee you like, and you can fine-tune the operation of the brewer itself until you find the method to brew your perfect cup of coffee.
Source: The Brazen Plus review unit was provided by Behmor, Inc. Read more about the Brazen Plus and find an authorized retailer at the Behmor website.