Behmor Brazen vs. Bonavita Brewer Comparison.

Home brewers have always gotten a bad rap from more experienced coffee lovers, because it could never replicate the consistent and balanced brews of a good commercial brewer like the Fetco and Bunn brewers you find in your local independent coffee shop.

Home coffee could never be as good as your local coffee shop for two reasons. 1. The water in most of the cheaper home brewers like the ones you find for $20 at your local Target don’t get the water hot enough. The optimum temperature for extracting coffee is between 195-205. Anything outside of this makes the flavor suffer. 2. Most folks are still using those cheap $20 blade grinders, which chop the grinds up into very inconsistent sizes. Under the blade, fine powder, on top, more course grinds. This leads to very inconsistent brews. Replacing the blade grinder with a good burr grinder like the Baratza Encore makes all the difference in the world, and helps you on your way to better coffee.

If you’re not interested in manual brewing coffee, like using the Clever, Chemex, Aeropress, or pourovers like the Hario V60, Beehouse, or Kalita Wave brewers, then you have very few choices for electric brewing that does get to the proper temperature. The standard for many years, has been the Technivorm Brewers. They do a great job of heating the water up to the proper temp, and have a great spray head to evenly distribute the hot water over the grounds. The biggest con for this brewer has been the price, as it retails for around $300.

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There are two relatively new brewers that also heat the water up to the proper temp, and are made to please even the most critical coffee palates. First, the Bonavita Brewer, which in design resembles the Technivorm in simplicity. It retails for around $150, and we carry it at our Dancing Goats Coffee Bars and on our website. The Bonavita doesn’t have lots of features, just a simple on/off button. It uses regular Melitta-style #4 cone filters like you’d use with the Clever.

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Second, is the new Behmor Brazen. If you’ve never heard of Behmor, you’ve never delved into the home roasting industry, because that’s where they’ve made their mark for years with the 1600 home roaster. Now, they’re throwing their hat into the home brewing arena with the Brazen. The Brazen has lots of features, including adjustments for altitude and full temperature controls. It also has programming for delayed brewing and other things. It has a great, large spray head too. Plus, it looks very well made. The water reservoir is stainless steel with indented markings for water amounts.

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Today we did a taste comparison between the Behmor, Bonavita, and we also brewed a batch off the Fetco CBS-2031e for safe measure – to see if these new home brewers come close to the commercial brewers in taste. I had nine people who participated, including two of Batdorf Atlanta’s roasters, four coffee industry folks (including myself), and three of our customers, just lovers of coffee. I think it was a very well balanced panel.

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Now, for the particulars: The coffee amount used was 65 grams of coffee for 8 cups (cup being 5oz. as per both instruction manuals.) The water temperature was 208 in the Behmor, 205 in both the Fetco and Bonavita. The coffee used was Batdorf & Bronson’s Guatemala Finca El Valle, a perennial favorite. All were brewed at the same time. I measured time, and each person recorded Taste, Overall Balance (including body and acidity) and Overall Notes. Each person had a separate sheet for each brewer to record notes. Coffee was sampled blindly, with no one knowing which coffee came from which brewer. Scoring was from 1-5, with 5 being best, 1 being worst.

Now, for the results.

The Bonavita scored an average of 3.38 for taste. It scored an average of 3.38 for overall balance. Notes written included: Good brightness, dark sugars, sweet, buttery, heavy body, clean, very well-balanced, nice aftertaste, nice mouthfeel, rich flavor, sweet finish, chocolate flavors, nutty.

The Behmor actually got brewed and scored two ways, because it comes standard with a gold mesh filter, and to make it fair I brewed one batch with a paper filter so they were all brewed with paper filters, too. The Behmor scored an average of 2.72 for taste when brewed with the gold mesh filter, and an average of 3.28 for overall balance. Notes written included: Nutty, high acidity, sour aftertaste, most bitter, flat flavor, tangy, sour, sweet start and sour finish, medium mouthfeel. Everyone agreed the coffee brewed with the gold mesh filter wasn’t very good.

So, again, to be fair, I brewed it with a paper filter. It scored much higher, with an average of 3.93 for taste, and 3.25 for overall balance. Flavor notes included: Much sweeter, more balanced acidity, softer and smoother than the previous brew, spicy, nutty, bold, cinnamon, slightly bitter finish.

The Fetco scored an average of 3.38 for taste, and 3.38 for overall balance. Notes included: Bitter, sour, bright, crisp acidity, sharp citrus tones, dry aftertaste, citrus flavors, tea-like taste, caramel, hints of fruit, sweet finish, nutty, toasty.

As you can deduce, there are now home brewers that brew coffee that tastes as well as, if not better, than some commercial brewers. The Bonavita and Behmor (using a paper filter) both did very well, and are great brewers for any home. Advantage? Well, they balance out. The Bonavita is $50 cheaper, but has less control over some of the variables. The Behmor has more controls, including great temperature controls and adjustments, but is $50 more than the Bonavita. In the end, either one is going to suit you well.

I tend the think the Bonavita is going to be the best all-around brewer for most homes looking to upgrade their home brewer, if they’re not interested in manual brewing. It’s the perfect balance of great coffee, ease of use, and lower price makes it more accessible. It scored very well, and had a great balanced cup. The Behmor is a great brewer for prosumer use, people either working in coffee, or more experienced coffee folks who are looking for even more control over brewing their coffee. It’s great to see home brewers do this well in a comparison, and more proof that these are great times for folks drinking coffee at home.

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UPDATE: 1/29/13.

Today I went back into the lab to measure a couple of things I didn’t get a chance to yesterday and figure out why it took the Behmor so much longer to brew a pot of coffee than the Bonavita. Today, I brewed in 6 cup batches, (each cup is 5oz), which is about what a normal household might brew. Yesterday I was brewing in 8 cup batches, or 40oz. Today, I used 48 grams of coffee, which lines up with their recommended 8 grams per 5 ounce cup. I was measuring both time and temperature today, and we tasted them to note the differences. Joining me in tasting today was Aaron, our head roaster, Brad, and Matt, our other two roasters, Mike Ferguson, and a couple of other folks. There was a clear difference in taste between the two.

So, let’s get to the data:

For the Behmor Brazen, it takes 3:20 to bring the room temperature water to 205 degrees. Total brew time for a 6 cup batch was 9:43. The end temperature was measured with two calibrated thermometers, taken just after brewing was finished. The end temperature was 162 degrees.

For the Bonavita Brewer, it takes 25 seconds to start brewing, and the total brew time for a 6 cup batch (30oz.) was 4:25. The end temperature was 170 degrees.

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You may ask yourself, why does it take the Behmor twice as long to brew the same amount of coffee. It’s actually very simple. The Bonavita uses an internal boiler displace system, like you’d see in a commercial pourover brewer. You pour water in, the water that has been heating in the boiler is used to brew the coffee with and is displaced by the colder water. The Behmor doesn’t have an internal boiler, instead, a reservoir on the top boils the water before brewing. Hence the additional time to heat the water from room temperature.

As far as the taste goes, with both using paper filters, 48 grams of coffee, ground on the same setting, the same amount of water, the Bonavita had more body and bright flavors. But our roasters loved the variable controls of the Behmor and the ability to change temperatures for different coffees.

 

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12 Responses to “Behmor Brazen vs. Bonavita Brewer Comparison.”

  1. Tim S says:

    Great article! Love all the data and time spent trying to make a controlled test. As I’m in the market for a new coffee maker for those mornings when i’m too lazy to pull shots, this is really helpful.

    Now, the real question, what machine will result in scores above 4.5? :)

  2. Sigi says:

    Hi …

    Thanks for the article. I’ve been experimenting with the Brazen since x-mass, and can’t seem to create ‘non-sour’ or ‘non-bitter’ coffee. I’ve tried everything. Really frustrated.

    I’m working the a Breville burr grinder, and mostly various types of trader joe’s coffee beans.

    Any advice?

    • Jason says:

      I’d start with fresher beans. No offense to our friends over at Trader Joes (who we love), but those beans are probably pretty old. Look for a roast date. Don’t see one? You never know how old they are. As coffee ages, it gives off those oils you see, and in time, those oils become rancid. This leads to bitterness in the cup. Also, don’t use the gold mesh filter, try a regular paper basket filter. Thats helps a good bunch, too. Hope this helps!

      • Sigi says:

        Thanks …

        Perhaps, whole food would have fresher beans? I’ll try that. Any advice on the settings. I’ve ended up setting my grinder to French Press type settings and experimenting from 196-203 type temperatures. I’ve gone up to 208 during various experiments, but back away. Should I stay 205 and up?

        Also … seems like things got better when I committed to the 8 cup quantity. The water seemed to disperse better over the grinds with more water (i.e., more water pressure)? Did you see and quality differences at 6 vs. 8 cups?

        Cheers,
        sigi

        • Sigi Hale says:

          Post script ….

          Thinking about it more … the beans are not the problem. On several occasions I’ve gotten out the trusty french press and made wonderful coffee with the beans producing sour yuck from the Brazen.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Why did you set the temperature of the Behmor to 208, when 195 – 205 is recommended? It may not be entirely fair to give the Behmor multiple chances, but given its greater control, I’d have probably set it once at the same temperature as the Bonavita, and also at a median 200.

    I own a Behmor and one way to cut down the brewing time is to first put the water in, then turn it on, and then grind the beans and fill the cone. Since no water comes out until the entire reservoir reaches brewing temp, you can give the water a head start. Of course, you’ve got to focus and get those beans in the filter before water gushes out, but that’s never been a problem.

  4. Gary says:

    Hi, I just purchased a new Bonavita Thermal Brewer and the Baratza Virtuoso Grinder. This is all new to me and I’m having a hard time getting the grind correct. Coffee’s tasting very bitter. Using 64 grams for a whole pot. I’ve tried settings between 12 and 20 and still bitter. I’m using a columbian supremo medium roast coffee. Can anyone help me with a grind setting? Thank you!

    • Riley says:

      Hi Gary, thanks for writing!

      I would say that 12 to 20 is too fine. When I’m brewing v60s at home I’m using something around 22 to 24. I’d recommend that you try somewhere in the 25 to 30 range. If it still tastes bitter you can try nudging up around 32 or so.

      A “30” grind on the Virtuoso will look like a very coarse grind… what most people would think of as a french press grind, but it will work great for the Bona Vita. It used to throw me off too. Just trust what your taste buds are saying. If the brew is bitter, the grind is too fine. If it’s flat, sour, boring, weak, the grind is too coarse.

      Using too much coffee can cause some bitterness too… stick with the range of 50 – 60 grams/ Liter of water. I think 64 grams is good for the Bona Vita. 8 cups (@ 5oz) = 40oz or 1.18 L

      Finally, I am sure that Colombia you’re using is not bad, but unless you’re using our wonderful Colombia Estrella del Sur I cannot guarantee your results.

      Hope that helps! Let us know how it goes for you!

  5. Gary says:

    Riley,

    Thanks so much for your great info. That certainly is much better, however I’m still trying to get that perfect taste dialed in. :) I really appreciate your help.

  6. Rob P says:

    I’ve owned a Bonavita brewer with the thermal carafe for over a year now. Recently I noticed that the coffee seemed less flavorful and sometimes bitter. After some investigation it seems that the B.brewer is not achieving proper temperatures falling in the lower 180F range. My water is soft and my kettle (same water) does not exhibit hard water stains. Wondering if you have any insight or have heard similar. Thanks

    • Riley says:

      Rob,

      While it is possible the heating element is going out in your brewer I have attached a link to Bona Vita’s descaling instructions. Even though it may not seem like it is the cause a quick descale can’t hurt and it sure is easier than sending the unit in for testing and repairs.

      De-scaling instructions are HERE.

      If that does not work go ahead and contact Bona Vita at customersupport@bonavitaworld.com they are great about warranty support.

      I hope you are able to get things all fixed up!

  7. derik olson says:

    Hello-

    I very much enjoyed this discussion, but one thing confused me (which I cleared up by contacting Bonavita). In your Behmor Brazen vs. Bonavita Brewer Comparison the last paragraph says: “The Bonavita uses an internal boiler displace system, like you’d see in a commercial pourover brewer. You pour water in, the water that has been heating in the boiler is used to brew the coffee with and is displaced by the colder water”. Bonavita says you pour the water in, turn on the switch, the water heats up and pours over the coffee… no displacement. From your description it sounded like the Bunn coffeemakers with an internal reservoir of hot water, which makes brew-time very short. According to Bonavita this is not the case.

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