|"The Best Gets Better"
September 5, 2014
While this may look like some sort of “Deja Vu Review” it isn't.. mostly. You will remember that I reviewed the original Behmor Brazen brewer in September of 2012 which was about the time it became available. I literally had one of the very first units off the assembly line that came straight from China to my home! Since then it has brewed a number of pots of coffee, and not one bad batch in the bunch. Friends came over a few times and enjoyed whatever I brewed up in it, and why shouldn't they? The Brazen was a remarkable brewer. As I said in the review after using it for a few pots of brewing, it makes all other home drip brewers obsolete.
Go ahead; make a list of all other drip machines that have:
• Adjustable brewing temperature in one degree increments
• User selectable preinfusion time
• A setting for altitude to compensate for atmospheric pressure's effect on the boiling point of water
• A calibration feature the adjusts for that altitude as well as electronic drift over time
• A manual release to use the water to brew in other devices like a Chemex or other pour-over brewers
The list of machines meeting those requirements will have two entries- the Brazen and the Brazen Plus. Those who read closely will note that I said, “The Brazen was a remarkable brewer.” The past tense of that statement reflects the fact that the Brazen is no longer available. But not to worry. The second generation, the Brazen Plus, has replaced it.
Joe has put a lot of effort, as well as logging more air miles than this art major can count, to create the Brazen Plus. The numerous changes and updates address most of the problems and complaints received from the first version. How effective are the changes? Sufficiently effective to be the first brewer to earn the SCAA Certified Home Brewer certification under SCAA’s updated testing requirements. In my opinion, it is advanced enough that it should have the SCAA rethinking the certification standards. Let me address that statement before we get to the nuts-and-bolts discussion:
~ The Editorial Portion Of The Review ~
Over a decade ago, a group of home enthusiasts had shown that home espresso machines, when controlled with PID devices, could show that a one or two degree difference in brew temperature made a pretty significant effect on the taste of the espresso. These experiments predated the appearance of PIDs in home machines by many, many years. We now see many home machines coming equipped with such devices to give the users the ability to precisely control temperature.
The level of precision temperature control for drip brewing can be discussed by those far more capable in discerning flavor nuances than I. But it seems to me to be a reasonable statement to say that not all coffee used in drip brewing will benefit from being brewed at one temperature and one temperature only. From cinnamon roasts to Vienna (and dare I say, beyond), these would likely benefit from being brewed at different temperatures for best taste. And even if we set a keystone temperature for drip, individual tastes vary to the point that adjustable temperature for drip brewing seems to logically be a no-brainer.
Why is the Behmor Brazen Plus the only home brewer with adjustable temperature as of this writing? I don't care. I have one! *1
~ end of editorial ~
For the most part the general operation and operating parameters of the Brazen Plus are exactly the same as the original Brazen.
These first are likely to be found on other coffee makers:
• Insulated Stainless Steel Carafe
• Stainless Steel Water Reservoir
• Maximum Capacity: 1.2L / 8 Cup (a full pot)
• Auto-Timer (to have coffee ready and waiting at a desired time)
• Rated 1400w/ 120v/ 60hz
• Manual Water Release Feature allows you to use the Brazen as a hot water dispenser.
• Full Saturation Water Dispersion Spray head
This next list of functions will easily gain your attention. In terms of drip machines, these are unique to the Brazen:
• User-adjustable Brew Temperature in a range of 194° to 208° F, in 1° F increments. You could almost stop reading there and go buy one, but read on:
• Pre-Soak function - User selectable dwell time between the end of the pre-soaks and the beginning of the brew cycle.
• User-entered Altitude - The altitude is entered by the user and this value, along with the Calibration function is intended to compensate for the drop in temperature at which water boils as altitude increases above sea level.
• On Board System Temperature Calibration - This addresses the issue of component tolerances and drift. Since electronic components can change value over time, the temperature accuracy of the Brazen would suffer without this function. It is recommended to perform this calibration every 6 months in order to maintain accuracy.
• Power Controlled "Temperature Glide" - To avoid temperature overshoot, the Brazen has a custom-programmed electronic control that works much like a "PID" system (but it is not user-adjustable). It decreases the power to the heating element as the programmed temperature approaches in order to limit overshoot. From what I have seen, it virtually eliminates it.
• Memory (on board, non-volatile) - stores system settings so a power outage will not have you starting all over again (other than clock time).
But there are a number of significant changes which have been made:
The water filter screen which use to be internal, and designed to keep the brew valve from being clogged has been removed. In its place is a particle filter which snaps into the reservoir. It is easily removable for cleaning. The water-level markings in the reservoir remain the same, easy-to-see stampings.
The new brew basket as well as the permanent gold filter on the right now have straight sides so the coffee bed has uniform depth over its entire area. The bottom of the filter has been molded to allow freer flow of coffee out of the brew basket.
For those who want a “cleaner” cup, just remove the included gold filter basket and use 10-cup size paper filters (Bunn filters fit fine and are readily available).
The new lid of the carafe on the right no longer has the dispensing lever. Just tip and pour. This new design allows it to be tipped at just about any angle to pour with not a dribble to be seen.
oddly, the easy-to see "CLOSE/OPEN" markings and their accompanying center mark as well as the arrow on the spout side of the lid have no mate on the carafe to which they align. But it is easy to figure out after one use.
The carafe's lid now has a hole in the center and the coffee flows directly through it for less exposure to the air and less heat (and flavor) loss. Looking at the new lid, on the right once again, the coffee flows into the carafe through the channel indicated by the red arrow and when pouring the coffee flows out of the carafe through the opening indicated by the turquoise arrow.
The pause-and-brew valve in the base of the brew basket is larger and opens more fully. Along with the redesign of the basket itself, it appears that this more-fully empties the brew basket.
Other Features Include:
• The solenoid valve which opens to allow the heated brewing water to flow from the reservoir to the brewing basket is now nickel plated instead of being brass.
• The lid to the reservoir has been redesigned to eliminate the vacuum that some users experienced causing water to remain in the reservoir after brewing.
• The first iteration of the carafe dribbled coffee down the side when pouring and that was addressed by Behmor with the Original Brazen with a redesign and free update to owners.
• The Carafe holds the heat quite well. While the coffee stayed quite warm for the half pot I brewed, the carafe was literally cold to the touch on the exterior surface. The carafe's plastic base that engages the brewer's aluminum platform and keeps it in place there also works like a built in coaster to help protect table surfaces from scratches.
So in summation, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, the filter basket, the basket holder, the reservoir lid, the carafe's lid, the reservoir's particle filter, and the brewing valve have all been redesigned or improved in some significant way.
In actual use, disregarding teh qwquality of the coffee, the differences between the Brazen and the Brazen Plus will mostly tell in long term use, particularly with the clogging and scaling issues a small number of users have reported in the past. Even with two large dogs and three cats roaming my home (plus a wife and her husband, me), and living in a very dusty area, I never experienced clogging. Still, the freer-flowing water release valve without the fine-mesh screen (below the reservoir), and the removable filter screen should take care of particulate clogging for good. I do use softened water so scaling is not an issue for me.
Whether most users will be able to sense any improvement in the quality of the cup from the changes made I cannot say. My impression from the first two pots I brewed is that the coffee seemed to be hotter from the carafe, and if that is true (and I am not sure it is) I would attribute it to the more-direct flow of coffee from the basket into the carafe due to the carafe's lid redesign. Again, it is my impression with no data to back that up.
PROBLEMS & COMMENTS
Nothing is perfect- the last few drops are a bit of a challenge to pour out of the carafe, and by last few, it is probably no more than a teaspoon.
The carafe pours as slowly as before which may require a bit more patience from you if you are accustomed to faster-pouring carafes of other machines. All I can say is that the coffee is worth waiting for.
I experienced not be a single dribble regardless as to how far I tipped it to pour (reasonably speaking, of course).
With the carafe out of the machine, before removing the filter basket, I suggest placing a folded towel on the base. Water still condenses on the large shower head over the brew basket and the towel will catch the dripping moisture that drips from the shower head area. A quick wipe of teh shower head after removing the basket takes care of the rest of the mositure.
After the first pot or two you will wish it had greater capacity- the coffee really is that good. Easy solution is to buy a second carafe from Behmor and start a second pot as you enjoy the first. You can sleep when you're dead.
Some of the negatives sound picky, and they really are, but they all mostly (if not completely) fade away when you sip the coffee. If you make a bad cup of coffee with the Brazen Plus, either it was you, the water, or the coffee. It is designed to get the best from the bean, and it certainly does that.
Whatever coffee you brew and however you like it, for home use there currently is simply nothing like the Behmor Brazen Plus.
With a two year warranty, and selling for $199, if you are looking for a great home brewer that comes with some of the very best customer support in the business, look no further.
*1 – Kitchenaid has a new SCAA certified brewer (model KCM0802). At the time of this wrriting the owners manual was not available and the Kitchenaid site had precious little information about the brewer. They state it has temperature settings for light and dark roasted coffee. While that is technically "temperature adjustment," there is no data on what those temperatures are. In my opinion that is not at all comparable to being able to set the brew temperature with the accuracy and range that the Brazen Plus supplies the user.