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Behmor Brazen Plus review: Lots of brewing control but makes smaller pots that cool too fast

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And if this isn't enough tweaking for you, the Brazen Plus also boasts a manual release function that allows its owners to decant hot water into another brewing container such as glass French press jars or Chemex brewers. The bonus here is that you have complete command over the temperature of your water source. Be advised that though I found this feature to be useful, it is tricky to use. My main gripe is it's hard to tell when the function is engaged or shut off -- not ideal when handling piping-hot liquid.

Performance

From the moment I ran its calibration program I knew the Brazen Plus had the power and skill to brew coffee like a champ. The machine transformed its sample of calibration water into a bubbling froth in no time and handled similarly when whipping up fresh pots of coffee. While it took 5 minutes and 24 seconds to heat its supply of cold tap water (40 ounces, 1.2 L) up to 200 degrees (F), the actual brew time was consistently around 5 minutes, 30 seconds, well within the 4 to 8 minutes the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) recommends. Of course this also doesn't count the presoak time which in my case was the default setting of 15 seconds.

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The thermal carafe's brew-through lid leaks heat.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Altogether that does come to a rather long wait time of about 11 to 12 minutes from start to finish. It's a while to twiddle your thumbs especially compared with the total brew times of other machines such as the Bonavita BV1900TS, Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 and Bunn Velocity Brew BT. These devices brewed full 45-ounce pots in about 6 minutes or less. In fact the Bunn managed the feat in a lightning-fast 3 minutes, 33 seconds, though it games the system a bit by continually preheating its water supply before brewing.

In terms of heating water the Brazen Plus is not only fast but also accurate. Temperature readings I measured inside its water tank mirrored what the coffee maker's LCD proclaimed. Of course, data from my laboratory-grade digital thermometer arrived much faster that from the Brazen's display (about 2 to 3 seconds ahead).

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The Brazen Plus has the juice to get plenty hot.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Coffee I whipped up in the Brazen Plus from our challenging test beans (Costco House Blend whole bean, medium grind) was also very good. With the brew temperature set at 201 degrees Fahrenheit, cups I sampled were rich, earthy, almost buttery. Most importantly I detected no hint of bitterness, which is a common failing of lesser brewers.

Analyzing my results with a refractometer confirmed the prowess of the Brazen Plus. Coffee brewed in this manner consistently turned in a superb TDS (total dissolved solids) percentage of 1.28 percent. That translates to an extraction percentage of 20.3 percent, spot on with the ideal number, commonly said to be between 18 and 22 percent.

Be advised that to reach this figure I had to use the coffee grounds to water ratio Behmor recommends (2.3 ounces coffee, 40 ounces water). It's more concentrated than my typical test ratio (2 ounces grounds to 45 ounces water). Also noteworthy is how the Bonavita BV1900TS nailed the same 1.28 percent extraction percentage with this lower brewing ratio. Essentially you'll be able to create more coffee with the Bonavita (which tastes just as good) while using less grounds.

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Use the manual release button to brew in other vessels.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Another weak point in the Brazen Plus' performance is its underwhelming thermal carafe. Thanks to its brew-through lid, the stainless-steel pot is never fully closed even when its top is tightly screwed in place. Because of this the carafe kept its contents hot (above 150 degrees) for a mere 2 hours. By contrast, the Bonavita's coffeepot preserved heat for almost 4 hours while the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 holds the hot coffee record, with its distinctive funnel-shaped carafe keeping things steaming for an impressive 6 hours.

Conclusion

I must give kudos to Behmor for creating its Brazen Plus. Not only does this powerful machine boast unique coffee-brewing controls such as how hot you want your water to be and your target presoak time, it also meets the SCAA's strict guidelines for making fabulous drip brew at home.

Still, unless you're the type of person who gets a kick out of constantly tinkering with their java brewing routine, perhaps even roasts their own beans (yes, Behmor has you covered there, too), the $229 Brazen Plus is overkill. For most household coffee-making duties, the less expensive $190 Bonavita BV1900TS or $170 Bunn Velocity Brew BT are wiser choices especially if you entertain often. These faster-brewing machines make great-tasting (and bigger) pots of joe that stay hot longer.

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