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Bonavita BV 1900TS review: Superb coffee-making at an amazing price

Bonavita added another feature to the BV1900TS that both its predecessor the BV1800TH and the Moccamaster 741 KBT lack. This is the ability to automatically preinfuse (a fancy term for soak) its coffee grounds with water before the full-blown brewing cycle. You kick the machine into preinfuse mode by holding down the on-off switch for 5 seconds. The switch's red light will then flash alerting you the special brewing function is active.

Why preinfuse? Bonavita says it will help round out overly acidic or other less pleasant flavors from freshly roasted coffee beans. The Moccamaster technically allows owners to accomplish the same feat, just with a manual drip control lever instead.

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Filling the water tank is easy. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Performance

In terms of coffee drip brewing prowess, the Bonavita BV1900TS performs like a champ. It holds its own blow for blow, and in some cases packs more of a coffee-making punch than Moccamaster machines. In terms of brewing time, the BV1900TS matched its Technivorm rival exactly, taking a fast 6 minutes or less to create a full 45-ounce pot of coffee.

This is well under the 8 minutes or less recommended by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). The Bonavita runs very hot, too, an excellent capability for any coffee maker's resume. I logged temperature within the brew basket and found it typically hit the sought-after 200-degree mark (Fahrenheit) after about 2 minutes, and parked the needle there (between 200 and 201 degrees) for the rest of the brewing cycle. That's in line with the Moccamaster, though it can reach 200 degrees slightly faster. That said I noticed the BV1900TS ramped up its water temp more quickly to just below 190 degrees by the first minute of brewing. By comparison at 1 minute, readings from the KBT 741 were usually anywhere from 100 to 130 degrees.

Heat numbers aside, the Bonavita BV1900TS consistently served up potfuls of delicious coffee, even from our challenging test coffee (Costco House Blend whole bean, medium grind), which if not handled just right yields a very bitter brew. As a matter of fact the Bonavita created the best drip coffee I've tasted so far, though from pricey beans (double the cost) sold by a local gourmet roaster (Heine Brothers of Louisville, Ky).

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The Bonavita had no trouble getting its water nice and hot. Brian Bennett/CNET

Refractometer testing confirmed that BV1900TS is a star coffee brewer. It turned in an excellent TDS (total dissolved solids) percentage of 1.28 percent. That translates to an extraction percentage of 26.8, with the ideal commonly said to be between 18 and 22 percent. On the surface this may sound high and that the machine is overextracting, but like the Bunn Velocity Brew BT ( 30.4, 1.4 TDS) its coffee was tasty, rich and exceedingly drinkable.

The Bonavita's thermal carafe keeps its contents warm for an acceptable amount of time as well, for almost 4 hours above the 150 degree mark (what I consider still hot). That said, after 4 hours had passed, carafe temps fell to 146 with a regular cooling curve of about 10 degrees per hour. The Moccamaster KBT 741, however, wins the prize in this department since its carafe kept coffee hot for an impressive 6 hours.

Conclusion

The simple act of pouring hot water over coffee grounds sure sounds easy enough, but using that method to yield an excellent beverage at the end is anything but. Asking this task from a machine, it turns out, is an even greater challenge. Up until recently only two consumer coffee makers sold in the US have been able to claim this coveted mantle: Technivorm Moccamaster appliances and the upstart Bonavita BV1800TH (both approved by the SCAA). Bonavita's latest drip brewer and follow-up to the BV1800TH has arrived, and I'm happy to say it's every bit as worthy as those earlier models.

The device not only matches the $299 Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 in terms of physical performance, brew time and heat, it consistently conjures java that's just as delectable to drink. At $100 less than its fancy rival, though, it's money much better spent, which is why it's a clear Editors' Choice winner.

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