Breville Barista Pro Review and Introduction to Espresso

 

If you want to dive into the world of home espresso, the learning curve can be steep, but some of the consumer grade appliances made by Breville can help make it easier. I originally wanted to purchase a no frills espresso machine like the Gaggia Classic Pro or Rancilio Silvia that come highly recommended as starter machines, but require much more manual operation. However, I was able to find a great deal on a Breville Barista Pro, which is the upgrade model to the very popular Breville Barista Express. You are able to program your shot volume for easy repeatability in these machines, which cannot be done on the Gaggia or Rancilio that I just mentioned, also these Breville machines heat up much faster and can be used in under a minute after turning on, the other machines recommend up to 20 minutes on time before espresso can be made. An important thing to note is that Nespresso, despite its name, is not actually espresso, neither is AeroPress. Only an espresso machine, electric or lever, can generate enough pressure to make proper espresso

These Breville machines have a built in grinder with similar performance to that of the Breville Smart Grinder Pro. The Pro adds faster heating technology, stepless grind adjustment, a better steam wand, an LCD interface with shot timer and some other small changes such as an angled hot water spout. The Pro loses the pressure gauge that was so prominent in the Express model. If you want to add automatic milk steaming and a touch screen interface the Breville Barista Touch offers those features.

Basics of Making Espresso: 

If you know nothing about making espresso, but are willing to make a little bit of a mess and put in some effort these are great options for home espresso. As always you will want to get yourself a scale, some quality coffee and I’ll list some “nice to have” accessories at the bottom of this post. 

Espresso recipes are stated as grams of coffee in, liquid/crema out, in how many seconds. A good starting point is 18 grams of ground coffee in, 36 grams of liquid out in around 30 seconds. You will want to adjust your grind size coarser to help the shot pull faster and finer to slow down the shot. This process is referred to as dialing in your shot, which can also entail pre-infusion, pressure, temperature and other variables. However, to start off, just use the default settings and focusing on the grams in, grams out in how many seconds. If you’re buying specialty coffee, sometimes your roaster may be able to help you dial in your shot. 

As all grinders have some degree of coffee retention so it is recommended that you purge the coffee stuck in your grinder when adjust your grind size. In my test of a completely empty Pro model, the grinder retained 3.6 grams of coffee, which is pretty high. If you don’t purge you will end up with a shot pulled from a mix of two different grind sizes.

The portafilter and basket is what you will dose your coffee grounds into, the preparation of the puck and tamping is an important step. You can get really advanced with puck rakes, distribution tools and fancy tamps. An improperly prepared coffee puck can lead to channeling where the water finds the path of least resistance and forms a channel in your coffee which can lead to unpleasant flavors. The easiest way to diagnose this is to use a bottomless portafilter

If you plan on drinking the espresso straight, dialing in the shot correctly is very important, however if you mainly plan on making milk based drinks some of the smaller changes may not be noticeable as you are diluting your espresso with milk. 

Steps to making Espresso with Breville Espresso Machines:

  1. Pull a blank/empty shot into your portafilter, just run a single shot through to warm up your portafilter and basket. Use a clean rag to wipe clean/dry. Your machine will come with regular and pressurized baskets, for best results use the regular/non-pressurized double basket as pressurized baskets are better for pre-ground or unevenly ground coffee.
  2. The built-in grinder offers time based grinding, however I prefer to single-dose my coffee by starting with an empty hopper and adding 18 grams of pre-weighed coffee in for grinding. You may need to account for grinder retention so check the weight of the coffee coming out as well. I keep a small whiteboard by my machine that shows the empty portafilter weight and the weight + 18 grams. Remember to purge a few grams of coffee if changing grind size or different coffee.
  3. Give your coffee grounds a small spray of water from a spray bottle to help control static.
  4. Grind your coffee into your portafilter and prepare your puck. Tamp your grounds evenly and consistently. I’ve listed some tools below that can help with this.
  5. Place a scale and cup under the portafilter and select the custom shot option for your machine, the manual for the pro is linked here. Tare the scale and pull the shot until you get 36 grams of liquid out. You want this to happen in about 30 seconds, the Pro has a shot timer built in, if you are using the Express you will need to use a scale with a timer or time it yourself. 
  6. Adjust grind setting as needed to modulate taste, like I said, a good starting point is to aim for 30 seconds. There are many options with coffee recipes with different ratios and variables, but this is just our starting point for new home baristas. Try to only change one variable at a time. 
  7. Once your shot in pulled, stir, not swirl, with a spoon and taste. As you begin to refine and dial in your shots you can explore different shot ratios. Ristretto and Lungo shots are different ratios and you can also explore different temperatures and dose sizes. This process will get easier with practice. 
  8. Once you have dialed in you coffee and programmed your shot volume, you can press the shot button and let it run for future shots. However, you need to make sure you have consistent puck preparation for best results. You will need to dial in your espresso every time you get a new bag of coffee, sometimes even with the same type and brand of coffee. 
  9. If you are making a milk based drink, there are lots of videos online that will show you how to steam milk, I’ll link some below that I found helpful. This just takes practice, but I also found that having a thermometer helps with this process. Make sure to clean and purge your steam wand after every use. 
  10. Knock out your used coffee puck and do a quick purge of your machine with a blank shot without the portafilter and basket and wipe your portafilter clean. 
  11. Follow instructions on how to clean and maintain your machine. It’s best to use soft water to prevent scaling. I use Cafiza for weekly back flushing and a Dezcal for descaling. Grindz is a good product for cleaning the grinder since this one is a little harder to get in and clean than standalone grinders. 

Conclusion:

If you’re looking for an all in one package with a small form factor to get into home espresso it will be hard to find anything better than these options from Breville. I personally think the Breville Barista Pro is the best option since I like steaming my own milk and like the LCD interface. 

I really wish the built in grinder was better, the retention is really high and it’s quite difficult to clean. I’ve ended up purchasing a 1Zpresso J-Max hand grinder to really refine my coffee grind size for espresso (this is an excellent grinder if you’re willing to put in the work of hand grinding). There a lot of options for standalone grinders, but if that’s your plan you should look at buying a dedicated espresso machine without a grinder like the Breville Dual Boiler and pair it with an Eureka Specialita or similar stepless espresso focused grinder. As the name suggests the Dual Boiler has two boilers and allows you to steam and make espresso simultaneously. These other products don’t allow you to do that, you have to pull you shot first then steam your milk. The Dual Boiler also has the advantage of using a 58mm portafilter, which is the industry standard size, whereas the Express, Pro and Touch use a smaller 54mm portafilter. 

Overall, I’m happy with the purchase and would recommend the Breville Barista Pro to people wanting to make home espresso, especially if they will primarily make milk based drinks. For the difference in price I believe the Pro is worth it over the Breville Barista Express. The Breville Barista Touch is harder to justify its price increase unless you want automatic milk steaming and the touch screen interface. 

One of the disadvantages to a Breville machine is that replacement parts are hard to find outside of the warranty period. If you look up parts for the Rancilio or Gaggia you can find pretty much every single part and keep the machine going for decades. A Breville machine will eventually need to be thrown out once support ends and you cannot locate parts anymore. I talk a little about super-automatic espresso machines here, but the coffee/espresso they produce tends to be lower quality than using a semi-automatic primarily due to grinder limitations on those machines.

Milk Steaming Videos:

Puck Preparation Accessories:

Other Accessories:

Manual for the Breville Barista Pro or Sage BES878 in the U.K.

Fellow Ode Brew Grinder Review

Fellow is known for making great looking and functional coffee products, their Stagg kettle is extremely popular. The Fellow Ode was a highly anticipated grinder because it offers large 64mm flat burrs, when most home appliance coffee grinders use conical burrs typically around 40mm in size. Flat burrs are usually found on larger prosumer and commercial grinders and are generally thought to offer a more consistent grind. Also the Ode is designed for single dosing, of which I am a huge fan. Single dosing means you measure your coffee by weight before each brew, so the Ode doesn’t have a traditional bean hopper that can store a lot of coffee, but has a small one that can only hold about 80 grams of coffee since you aren’t storing coffee in there. 

Let’s see how the Ode compares to the last two grinders (click here for full review) that we tested. I ran this test using 30 grams of light roasted coffee:

Fellow Ode:

  • Grind Time: 8.87 seconds
  • Grind Retention: .5 grams
  • Decibels: 79

Baratza Encore:

  • Grind Time: 19.49 seconds
  • Grind Retention: .5 grams
  • Decibels: 80

Oxo Conical Burr:

  • Grind Time: 9.16 seconds
  • Grind Retention: 1.6 grams
  • Decibels: 84

The Ode feels very solid and sturdy, it has a lower profile design than the other two. It also offers an automatic shut off feature that detects when there is no more coffee in the grinder. I think my unit may have been defective in that the power button kept getting stuck and the unit also made a quiet buzzing noise with vibration even when it wasn’t in operation, this appears to be a known issue with Fellow, one which there is no fix at this time. The position seems to be, don’t worry about it.. It isn’t the way it was designed, but it won’t waste power and won’t affect performance. Not sure I am really ok with accepting that as an answer. This is the first version of this grinder so I hope they address some of these issues in future releases, they plan to release a new grounds last this year that will be compatible with this version.

The Ode generates a fair amount of static, of the three grinders it had the most static. This could be addressed by using the Ross Droplet Technique (RDT), where you wet the handle end of a spoon and stir the beans before grinding or using a small spray bottle and lightly mist the beans before grinding. Don’t overdo it though and use too much water, you don’t want to drench the beans and get your grinder burrs wet. 

The Ode has a very premium look and feel, but also comes in at a premium price point. The results of the Ode are great as well, in blind taste tests it produced great coffee like the Oxo or Encore, but the Ode produced just a little bit more clarity from the cup. However, for me, I could only detect this in blind testing, when I was switching between the different grinders between brews the resulting cups all tasted similar with no one standing out as better or worse.

You can totally geek out on coffee grinders and spend a lot of money. Due to the pretty common size of the flat burr grinder you can upgrade the burrs for better performance. Fellow sells the upgraded SSP burrs on their website which will give you better results. This will allow you to grind a lot finer as well. I did find the range of grind size on the Ode to fall firmly within the brew grind range, which is exactly as it is advertised, so this isn’t a negative, but just know that the range of the grind size on the other two machines is much wider, however none of these grinders will provide good results for use with espresso.

Compared to the other grinders, the Ode will require tools if you need to clean it or calibrate it. Just a phillips screwdriver for most things, but cleaning does require a little more legwork than with the Oxo or Encore. This isn’t uncommon for flat burr grinders though, and there is the option to use grinder tablets to clean as well, but you won’t get it as clean as you would with disassembly.

If you like the design of the Fellow Ode and only plan to use it for brew grinding, I would definitely consider this as your home brewer. I really like the form factor, function and how small the unit is compared to traditional burr grinders with larger hoppers. I think with the following and support of this grinder, there will be more cool options and upgrades coming down the pipeline. While there have been some issues with these grinders, like the issues I had on the unit, they are known for having great customer support and should help you with resolving any issues you have.

You can access the manual for the Ode here.

Baratza Encore vs. Oxo Conical Burr Grinder – Review & Comparison

When I was shopping for an entry level burr grinder, the most recommended one was the Baratza Encore. Over and over again this grinder was recommended for people starting off with brewed coffee. The Oxo Conical Burr Grinder was not as popular of a choice, but had some solid reviews and recommendations. For me, it came down to these two and I ended up getting the Oxo. You should really avoid starting off with a blade grinder as they chop the coffee beans into uneven bits like a food processor, where a burr grinder will provide much better results as the beans pass between two burrs at a set distance apart which offer much better evenness and taste profile.

I got my hands on a Baratza Encore and wanted to test the two side by side and see how they performed. Here are the results from some basic tests between the two. I ran this test using 30 grams of light roasted coffee:

Baratza Encore:

  • Grind Time: 19.49 seconds
  • Grind Retention: .5 grams
  • Decibels: 80

Oxo Conical Burr Grinder:

  • Grind Time: 9.16 seconds
  • Grind Retention: 1.6 grams
  • Decibels: 84

In summary, the Oxo was a lot faster with grinding but retained more coffee. The decibel levels were pretty close, but the Oxo is and definitely sounds louder than. The Encore seemed to make a lower churn noise versus a higher pitched whirring noise from the Oxo which never bothered me in the mornings until I heard the Encore. Grind retention is an issue with my Oxo, I usually have to shake the machine around and give it a smack or two then hit the grind button again for a couple seconds and this can get the grind retention down to about .4 grams. Grind retention on the Encore is great, though it tends to popcorn with single dosing. Popcorning is when some coffee beans aren’t entering the burrs and pop around before going through the burrs. Grind retention was tested by giving a grinder a thorough cleaning with a brush and compressed air then seeing the difference between the starting and ending weight. Retention between grinds will be less than starting off with a clean grinder. To address stale grounds left in your grinder between brews you can use a few grams of coffee to purge the grinder of old grounds and discard. Low grind retention is a feature on much more expensive grinders, but the Encore performs very well for an entry level grinder.

I single dose my coffee, meaning every time I make coffee I measure the beans by weight and only put those in the hopper and grind until empty, for this reason I don’t care as much about the grinder operation. The Oxo has a timer function for grinder and the button turns the grinder on and off, I usually just leave it at the max time and use the button to operate it. The Encore only has a pulse button and on/off switch, so you can either press and hold the pulse button or just turn it on and off as needed. I recommend you single dose unless your grinder has a built in scale, single dosing keeps your beans fresher as they aren’t sitting in the hopper which is not air tight and also often not UV tinted.

There is the option to upgrade the Encore to the M2 burr from the higher priced Baratza Virtuoso+ that will double the grind speed on the Encore. They are compatible and easy to change out.

It is really important for any grinder, but especially so with the Encore, to dial in your grind size. If you were to do a search of what grind setting to use for pour over on the Encore, most results say around 14, but every grinder is different, even between the exact same models, I found my ideal pour over grind setting on this Encore to be closer to 10. It was around to a 6-7 on the Oxo, which was closer to what the search results said. I use these just as a starting point and refine as I go. Keeping grinding finer until you start to taste bitterness and then adjust back coarser to hit that sweet spot for grind and extraction.

I don’t have a sieve to test the grind size distribution, however, I went off something more important which is flavor. The flavor profile between the two was too close to tell the difference for me, I did notice a little more clumping and static from the Encore though. There are a couple of tricks you can try to reduce static, you can wet the handle of a spoon and give the beans a quick stir before grinding or take a small spray bottle and lightly spray the grounds with some water before grinding. The Oxo is a pretty clean grinder where chaff and grounds stay mostly within the grounds bin. 

One thing that makes the Baratza very attractive is the availability of parts and post purchase support. Oxo also has great support however you cannot buy replacement parts as easily, you will need to go through their customer support for your issues. For Bartaza you can go online and buy any replacement or upgrade part easily as Baratza doesn’t want you to throw any machine away, but rather wants to see you repair/maintain it for longevity. Also due to the popularity there is a lot of information and support you can find online. 

Neither of these grinders will be ideal for making espresso and performs best when used for brewed/filter coffee. Learn more about brew methods here

To me, there is no clear winner between these two grinders as they are both great choices. The Baratza definitely feels more solid and sturdy, it comes in at a higher price point and grinds slower, but that is something you could address through a burr upgrade.

The Oxo comes in at a lower price point, grinds faster but is louder with more retention. Oxo has great post purchase support as well, but replacement parts are harder to come by with no available upgrades. I recommend the Oxo as a great entry level grinder if you are on a budget, I also took a look at the Cuisinart DMB-8 Grinder for a value grinder, but it felt so cheap and I didn’t like the operation so I really can’t recommend going any lower than the Oxo Conical Burr Grinder. The Baratza Encore is also a great value with a slightly higher price point and you know you can buy it for life.

Next I will take a look at how a conical burr grinder like these compares to a flat burr grinder like the Fellow Ode. Click here for the full review.

Oxo Conical Burr Grinder Manual

Baratza Encore Manual

Best Multi-Serve Brewer – Ninja Specialty

The Ninja CM401 Specialty Coffee Maker is one of the few home brewers certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) that has the option to brew different servings sizes without changing the amount of water in the machine. These machines are called Multi-Serve machines as most coffee machines will brew until the water tank is empty, so if you put in 24 ounces of water you cannot then choose to brew 16 ounces unless you pour some water out. The version we tested had a glass carafe, the Ninja CM407 is the thermal carafe version. We previously reviewed the Braun MultiServe (review) as another SCA approved brewer, however we recommend the Ninja as the best Multi-Serve.

There is a lot to like in the Ninja, it is SCA certified, the filter basket can stand on its own, the brew straw in the carafe, the shower head dripper and a removable water tank. Multi-Serve brewers usually have a manual drip stop and will allow you to brew directly into a cup or any other vessel in contrast to other brewers that use the carafe lid to operate the auto-drip stop so you can’t brew into anything else. The brewer also has pre-infusion process like the bloom process in pour over which is a nice feature. The filter basket swings out which is a nice feature as I like to leave mine open after a brew to allow it to dry faster, with models that open on top it can get in the way of your cabinets.

The machine has pretty big footprint, but I like the open back design that allows you to see through the machine. Brew temperatures were in line with SCA requirements and final brew temperatures were around 170F and water temperature taken while brewing was 196-199F.

The Ninja is a capable machine and I really like the results with making hot coffee in the classic mode. I was not as interested in all the extras such as the built-in frother, specialty setting or other modes. One thing I found frustrating was the manual, because they only say how much coffee you should expect in the final brew on the different modes. We should measure coffee by weight and not with scoops and the manual did not make it clear how much water is used for each serving size. This is the information we need to determine how much coffee to use, I’ve done the legwork for you below.

I suspect Ninja is trying to make this brewer for the mass market and simplifying it by recommending scoops for coffee measurement, but I would have liked to see some more useful information in the manual for an SCA certified brewer presuming they were interested in more discerning consumers.

One thing I like about the Ninja is that you can turn off the hot plate, change the time it stays on and even change the temperature of the plate in the settings (unlike with the Braun). I turned the hot plate off completely and use mine with a Zojirushi 1L Vacuum Carafe with half pot brews as it is too small for a full carafe brew. This is a good option since manufacturer thermal carafes don’t have the same build quality as the Zojirushi. If you want to brew a full carafe, you need to use the included carafe. The cup clearance is high enough to fit my Contigo 20 ounce (just barely) and Zojirushi 16 ounce travel mugs where they would not fit under the Braun.

Below is a recipe chart based off a combination of what was in the manual, what I measured as water output (without any coffee) and the markings on the water tank. The amounts may be off by 1-2 fluid ounces. Overall, I felt the serving selection could have been labeled much more clearly, also since when is a half carafe 68% of a full carafe?

*The Specialty mode is meant to make concentrated coffee for espresso-like drinks. Depending on your coffee, grind size, filter and brew mode the half and full brews may overflow. If this happens you can try to hot rinse your filter first, use a coarser grind or try to rich brew mode.

I used a measuring cup and tested the brew sizes without any coffee or filter to see how much water was used and below is what I found. I don’t know if this there is just some variation, but it didn’t match up precisely with what was in the manual or the markings on the water tank. I used the larger numbers on the chart above to ensure that you were not under-dosing your coffee so this may require some tweaking.

  • Cup – 11 oz.
  • XL Cup – 12.5 oz.
  • Travel – 16 oz.
  • XL Multi 20 oz.
  • Half – 32.5 oz.
  • Full – 48 oz.

The Over Ice mode reduces the amount of water used to 40% to account for about 60% of ice. The Rich mode increases the brew time with a slower drip and per the manual will result in less coffee output. With larger brew sizes make sure to wipe the shower head as some grounds can splash up onto it.

Overall I really liked this brewer and the one I tested has found a new home on my kitchen counter, so I use pour over for most days and use the CM401 for when I need to schedule an early morning brew or larger brew sizes. We also tested the Ninja Programmable Brewer and recommend that as the best value brewer, it is not SCA certified and doesn’t have multiple serving size options, but it is a great value brewer.

Best Value Coffee Brewer – Ninja Programmable

The Ninja CE251 Programmable Brewer is available at many retailers and is a great option if you are looking for the best value in a coffee maker. It makes great coffee and has strong set of features. While this model is not certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), some of the machines in the Ninja line are and they may have carried some of the capabilities into this machine. Check out the Ninja CM407 for an SCA certified MultiServe brewer with thermal carafe that can make different serving sizes easily (see our full review of the CM401). We also reviewed the Cuisinart PerfecTemp with a similar price price and the Ninja performed much better.

The machine isn’t the best looking machine out there, but it is thoughtfully designed. Some of the great features are the removeable water compartment, showerhead dripper, drip stop basket holder, programmable auto-on and brew straw to prevent coffee stratification. I wish it came with a thermal carafe option, but at this price point it is a great value. You cannot brew into anything other than the supplied carafe due to the machine design, so an after market carafe or brewing into a mug is not an option.

One reason why you always hear me talk about measuring coffee by weight and milliliters is that there is no standard cup size on these machines. This machine comes with a 60 ounce or 12 cup carafe, which if you do the math would mean they define a “cup” as 5 ounces, but if you test that with a measuring cup the markings on the water compartment aren’t exact. How I measure coffee is use a measuring cup with milliliter markings for water and refer to my chart below to determine how many grams of coffee to use with how much water. I grind the beans fresh each time before brewing, but you can grind the night before if you want to program it for auto start.

One of the main requirements to earn SCA certification is the brew temperature and this machine brews at the ideal temperature. With a final brew temperature of 185F (with hot plate off) for a 700 ml brew, this brew temperature is on par if not better with the SCA certified brewers we have tested. For comparison, a pour over made with fresh off the boil water is about a 178F final brew temperature. I also like that you can turn off the hot plate so you don’t cook your coffee and also set the auto off time for the hot plate. Not have the option for a thermal carafe isn’t a deal breaker, as long as you transfer your coffee within about 20 minutes you should be ok leaving it on the hot plate. I turn the hot plate off all together and make sure to transfer my coffee to a thermos or mug soon after the brew is done, which has an audible alert or there is an auto drip stop when you remove the carafe.

The machine uses #4 cone filters which are easy to find. For the cost, features and brew quality this machine is our pick for best value coffee brewer, with such great results you’re paying for design and build quality/warranty on the higher priced brewers. Check out all our recommendations here.

You can download the Ninja CE241 manual here.

Best Mid-Range Brewer – Bonavita Connoisseur

The Bonavita Connoisseur BV1901TS Coffee Brewer is the lowest priced SCA certified home brewer at around about half as much as a Moccamaster. It offers bare bones, no frills one touch operation with great results and, like the Moccamaster, has an almost cult like following. It only offers one setting and cannot be programmed and also cannot be used with a timer switch due to the spring-loaded power button that cannot be left in the “on” position.

This is their latest model that offers a hanging basket which is easier to use than their older models where the filter basket awkwardly sat on top of the carafe. There is no drip stop on the filter basket so watch out for dripping when rinsing the filter paper or dumping the grounds, what I do is just leave an empty mug under the dripper after I remove the carafe and then dump the grounds when it fully stops dripping.

The Bonavita Connoisseur has a 1.3 liter (just under 44 fluid ounces) capacity and comes with a thermal carafe. It uses standard type flat bottom basket filters. Moccamaster, Braun MultiServe (review) and the Cuisinart PerfecTemp (review) all use #4 cone filters. You can read all about the latest research here into flat bottom vs. cone filters.

It has a showerhead for even water distribution over the grounds and the only thing you can set on this machine is the pre-infusion option which mimics the bloom process we do in pour over. Hold the power button down for 5 seconds until you hear two beeps and the LED flashes. You will know it is working because the light will flash during brewing if pre-infusion is enabled, the light will be solid if it is not. It will keep the pre-infusion setting until the machine is unplugged. This is highly recommended if you are using fresh roasted coffee to help the grounds degas as part of the brewing process. If your coffee was roasted 6 months ago it won’t make a big difference.

With a 700 ml (about 24 ounces) brew size the coffee temperature was 178F in the carafe and the coffee tasted great and well extracted. The carafe has a little bit of the same issue as the PerfecTemp with pouring the last bit of coffee, but it wasn’t prone to dripping which made this a non-issue. The PerfecTemp issue was that you had to turn the carafe almost all the way upside to get the last bit of coffee out, which caused coffee to drip all over.

Another machine I took a close look at was the OXO Brew 8 Cup Coffee Maker for and I almost bought it. It has roughly the same capacity as the Bonavita Connoisseur at 40 ounces, however it uses a combination of a flat bottom basket filters and a specialty filter for single servings (20 ounces or less). Excuse my nickel and diming, but a standard basket filter is about 1 cent each, a #4 cone filter is about 3.5 cents each, a Hario V60 filter is about 6 cents each, the Kallita Wave 185 that you need to use with the OXO is 13 cents each. I started this process with cost in mind and just felt 13 cents per brew for a paper filter seemed high and I also didn’t want to deal with two different filter types with two different filter baskets. You can check out a video comparing these two machines here.

Check out the Bonavita Connoisseur manual here.

Cuisinart PerfecTemp Review

A quick search will show you that these PerfectTemp coffee makers are amongst some of the best reviewed and most popular mid-range brewers. The Cuisinart DCC-3200P1 PerfecTemp Coffee Maker with Glass Carafe has a ton of reviews, however since I recommend finding a coffee maker with a thermal carafe, I tested the Cuisinart DCC-3400P1 PerfecTemp Coffee Maker with Thermal Carafe. This machine is not SCA approved, but comes in at a lower price point than those brewers.

The machine has a lot of great features, it has a showerhead to drip the water over the grounds, it can be programmed for auto brew, it has a large capacity of 96 ounces (75% of a gallon), has a drip stop filter basket and makes good coffee. With the name PerfecTemp I wanted to compare the brew temperatures with other machines/methods. I used 24 ounces (around 700 ml) as a brew size and the Cuisinart PerfecTemp brewed coffee was 175F, the SCA approved Braun MultiServe I previously reviewed was also 175F (although I’m sure that was aided by the hot plate) and a V60 pour over with freshly boiled water was 178F.

While the brewer has good features and makes good coffee, the carafe is terrible. The way it is designed means you basically have to turn the carafe upside down to get out all the coffee, which would lead it to drip all over. Many people when making coffee in this type of brewer will first fill the carafe and use that to pour water into the machine, with the way the water tank is designed this can’t be done without pouring water all over. I resorted to using a large measuring cup or separate pitcher to fill the water tank. The way the brew pause and filter basket is designed you must brew into the provided carafe and cannot brew into a mug or anything else.

This brewer come with a reusable metal filter, but I recommend you use #4 cone paper filters for best results. The carafe for this machine was just too awkward to want to use on a daily basis. If you are ok with a brewer with a glass carafe and hot plate, I would recommend you get the Ninja Programmable Brewer (review). Or get the Bonavita Connoisseur (review) at a slightly higher price point.

While it looks like the carafe for the Cuisinart DCC-3200P1 is designed better, it has a 112 ounce capacity (87.5% of a gallon) and with my prior recommendation that you don’t keep a carafe on a hot plate for more than 20 minutes, I’m not sure this is the machine for smaller brew sizes or for keeping coffee warm all morning.

Check out the manual here.

Braun MultiServe Review

In another post recommended two coffee brewers that were on the higher end with great reviews and features, but I wanted to review a coffee brewer that could easily make single servings of coffee with a lower price point, the Braun MultiServe Machine KF9070SI.

This is the one of a few* home brewers certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) that has the option to brew different servings sizes without changing the amount of water in the machine. Most coffee machines will brew until the water tank is empty, so if you put in 24 ounces of water you cannot then choose to brew 16 ounces unless you dump some water out. I think for convenience it is easier to fill the tank every day or two and only have to worry about dosing your coffee.

SCA approval is a process where the manufacturer can pay a fee for SCA to test their home brewer, if it passes all the tests it can be marketed with this certification and listed on their website. The gold setting on this machine means that it meets the SCA Golden Cup recommendations with regard to brew temperature, time, extraction and many other factors you can read about here. There are many great coffee makers out there that don’t pursue this certification, but for the manufacturer to go through this process, to me, it means they want to show their specialty coffee consumers that their brewer meets the highest standards.

I chose this because I felt the typical use case for a household with a Keurig or Nespresso machine is that only one or two people drink coffee in the household and they need easy single serving size options. I felt that if your household was the kind to need 40+ ounces of coffee in a large carafe that needed to remain warm for hours for multiple pours, you likely already have a traditional drip coffee brewer. They sell single serve machines, but for me I also need the ability to make a larger batch when I have guests.

The Braun MultiServe Machine KF9070SI a pretty big and bulky machine, but looks pretty good. The only difference between this model and the KF9050 is that the KF9070SI has more stainless steel by the selector dial. The KF9150 and KF9170 add the ability to dispense hot water with temperature selection with different color options.

It made great coffee, but the control system is not great. Right out of the box I was hit with an error message that required me to perform a 23 minute descaling cycle to resolve, after that I was able to make some great coffee in different brew sizes. With this machine you would only need to adjust the amount of coffee you put in and keep the water tank full. Overall, if you need the ability to select different brew sizes without having to also measure out water, this is a great option for you once you get used to the controls.

It comes with a reusable metal filter, but I recommend you use it with #4 cone paper filters. I tested it with natural/brown paper filters, but bleached are preferred if you can find them because they transfer less paper taste. Nowadays filter papers are bleached using a process called oxygen-bleaching and not with high amounts of chlorine bleach as you might have thought, they are safe to use although some are not compostable like the natural/brown ones are. If you choose to use paper filers, just insert it into the basket directly and set the metal filter aside.

The Braun MultiServe can auto brew so you can wake up to a hot pot of coffee. One thing I noticed is that my Contigo 20 ounce and Zojirushi 16 ounce travel mug would not fit under the dripper due to the low cup clearance height, so you would need to brew into the carafe (or something else) and then transfer it.

This brewer has no option for a thermal carafe which would have been a big plus. It uses a hot plate on the half and full carafe settings, however as long as you transfer the coffee to a travel mug or cup within 20 minutes it shouldn’t be an issue. What you want to avoid is leaving it on there for hours (this model shuts off the hot plate after two hours) while it cooks your coffee (the plate was about 190F per my measurements). I think the best use case for this machine is having the machine start when you wake up, then pour the coffee and go on your way to work rather than having it sit on the hot plate. If you need to keep coffee warm for many hours for multiple refills, I’d go with a brewer with a thermal carafe. We recommend the Ninja CM407 as a SCA certified MultiServe that comes with a thermal carafe (see our full review of the CM401).

I posted about how we should measure coffee by weight and not volume, so I made this chart as a quick guide to show how much coffee to use for the different presets and markings on this machine.

I always keep my grinder’s bean hopper empty since I switch different beans all the time and use different quantities. My process is that I measure the amount of whole beans I need with my scale, then I put them in my grinder and run it until it is empty. If I am brewing right away, I will rinse out my filter paper with hot water to try and get some of that paper taste out. If not, place your ground coffee into the dry filter paper and set the auto on feature on the gold cup setting (this is the mode that meets the SCA standards). One of the good design features is that the filter basket has an integrated drip stop so it makes it easy to empty the grounds or rinse the filter paper without it dripping all over.

I’ll give an example of the poor controls, next to the power button is the clean feature to descale the machine. If you accidently press it, it will start a 23 minute descaling process that you cannot stop, not even if you unplug the machine. I assume this is because they don’t want you to drink a bunch of descaling solution. Not only that, the process stops with 4 minutes left, which is when you are supposed to fill the water tank and push clean button again for the final flush of the process. If you didn’t read the manual your coffee brewer would just be stuck like this and unable to brew coffee. I would find that very frustrating if I was just trying to get out the door with my coffee. Other Braun brewers require two buttons to activate the clean cycle, while other brands require a long press to avoid accidental selection.

Here is a link to the manual, I like looking at these to get a feel for the user interface, features, limitations, etc.

*Ninja has SCA approved brewers with serving size selection, but looking at major retailer inventory at the time this was written they appear to be discontinued and/or out of stock. The post was updated to include a recommendation for the Ninja CM407 as a thermal carafe option. Full review of the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker coming soon.

Best Value Kitchen Scale

As I mentioned before a scale is one of the most important things you can use for better coffee. Don’t use scoops, tablespoons or volume to measure your coffee. You should weigh it and follow the ratios shown here for making filter coffee. One exception is if you know the exact weight per “scoop” of your coffee and you don’t have a scale handy, such as at the office or somewhere else.

I tested six different kitchen scales for use with pour over coffee and general kitchen use. The best one I found was the FEESPEC Coffee Scale with Timer. I tested scales from about $10 to $75 and this one worked the best. Fun trivia, a penny weights 2.5 grams and a nickel weighs 5 grams if you ever need to test a scale’s accuracy.

Here is the rundown:

  • The FEESPEC Coffee Scale with Timer, quick startup, accurate, includes a timer and accurate down to .1 grams. There is a little lag when using it for pour over, but at this price point it works well. I also like that you don’t need to long press for most functions, only to restart the timer.
  • My existing kitchen scale that I got for $10 about seven years ago, it was only accurate to 1 gram and didn’t have a timer. Worked well, but it was time for an upgrade to have better accuracy and a timer.
  • The Hario V60 Drip Scale, accurate down to .1 gram, but only has the ability to weigh in grams. Also I learned that at higher weights it starts rounding to the half gram. Living in the U.S. there are just times I need to know ounces and pounds. There was a bit of lag when using this to pour over and it also has a built in timer. Didn’t feel the scale was worth it at this price point.
  • The OXO Kitchen Scale with Timer, for the price it just didn’t perform to my expectations. The startup time was slower than the FEESPEC and requires a long press to turn it off. It is accurate down to .1 grams and has a built in timer.
  • The Salter High Precision Stainless Steel Digital Kitchen Food Scale, which wasn’t actually high precision as the scale would round to the closest half gram so that was one out right away.
  • The KitchenTour Coffee Scale with Timer, this is actually the exact same scale as the FEESPEC with different branding on it so I went with the lower price model.

What is the big deal about scales? Also, are these really value scales? People who make espresso often use scales that cost $140 to $225 so these are definitely on the lower end of the spectrum for coffee scales.