Just because a coffee maker is app-connected doesn't mean it's a wise purchase. Grafting useful smart abilities onto a quality drip brewer is a wiser approach. That's exactly the tack Behmor took with its new $329 Behmor Connected Coffee Brewer and the result is a compelling yet expensive coffee maker. Using the same hardware powering the Brazen Plus, one of the few coffee makers to meet the SCAA's rigorous brewing standards, even without smarts the Connected Coffee Brewer creates a mighty tasty cup of coffee.
Behmor's mobile app unlocks the brewer's real potential. Through the app you can control the coffee brewing process, right down to water temperature, presoak time, and the type of roast right from your phone. It doesn't have every feature I'd like to see on a high-end coffee maker, no scheduling, for example, and it hurts to pay a $100 premium for a brewer that's missing anything. Behmor is on to something with the way it's using smarts, but I can still think of a few high-end, nonconnected brewers I'd recommend before this one.
Design and features
If the Behmor Connected Coffee Brewer looks familiar, perhaps you've seen its doppelgänger, the Behmor Brazen Plus. Basically both products are identical in terms of physical footprint and mechanical brewing components, and that's a good thing. The most compelling attribute of the Brazen Plus is its ability to brew drip coffee at proper temperatures and hit its grounds with hot water for only as long as necessary. This ability helped the machine earn the coveted SCAA certification, which only a handful of home drip brewers enjoy. These include heavy hitters in the coffee maker and kitchen accessory world such as Technivorm, Bonavita and Oxo.
One big difference with this new brewer, gone is the old school interface which relied on tiny buttons and a minuscule LCD screen. Instead the coffee maker has just one visible control -- a big, circular key ringed by a bright LED light. The LED will also change colors to communicate where the appliance is within its brewing cycle. Similarly a small connection symbol is designed to blink when the brewer is actively trying to connect to your wireless network or in setup mode.
The bulk of the brewer gadget towers over its squat thermal carafe. Its 40-ounce (1.1 L) metal pitcher is also on the petite side, and it holds less liquid than the carafes of competing models, which typically come in around 45 ounces (approx 1.3 L).
Coffee smarts that actually make sense
The biggest update to this coffee maker over its predecessor is a built-in Wi-Fi radio. So equipped, you can now control the new Connected Coffee Brewer via the Behmor companion mobile application (Android and iOS).
Why bother adding integrated smarts in a drip coffee maker? The first benefit is easier operation through your phone's bigger screen and the app's cleaner menu interface. Both this machine and the previous Brazen Plus offer powerful ways to tweak brewer settings (down to atmospheric elevation). The Brazen Plus, however, requires you to navigate its settings using a stamp-size LCD and tiny physical buttons.
By contrast I found the app's spartan UI refreshing to flip through. After completing the brief setup process, your brewer (represented by coffee cup icon) will appear at the center of the app's dashboard. Tapping it will either show its current status (brewing stage) or prompt the software to present you with three options, "Brew," "Buzz," or "Craft."
Click through any of those and you end in a wizard which walks you through making a pot of coffee. Each choice though offers a varying degree of control. For example hitting "Brew" will ask you whether your coffee is packaged or fresh and to identify its roast level (light, medium, dark). The brewer will then automatically adjust its water temperature and presoak time accordingly. All you have to do is provide the water, grounds, and the amount of coffee you'd like (6 to 8 cups).
The "Craft" option gives you command over all the brewer's parameters. Though you can't save recipes created here for later (a feature Behmor says is in the works), you do have the option of assigning it to the "Quickstart" function. Pressing the coffee maker's single physical button will now engage your custom brewing profile.
I really like what's tucked under the "Buzz" menu. Here you'll find Behmor-approved recipes to match specific coffee beans and roasts. While I used the app there were only three so-called "Joe's Brews" for African coffee, medium and dark roasts named after Behmor owner and product inventor Joe Behm. Still it's a unique application of smarts within a connected coffee machine and one I think is actually useful.