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Bonavita BV1500TS review: A high-end brand's step-down coffeemaker brews with bitter results

This scaled-down coffeemaker from Bonavita makes small five-cup batches of coffee -- but not particularly well.

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Brian Bennett
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Brian Bennett

Senior writer

Brian Bennett is a senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET. He reviews a wide range of household and smart-home products. These include everything from cordless and robot vacuum cleaners to fire pits, grills and coffee makers. An NYC native, Brian now resides in bucolic Louisville, Kentucky where he rides longboards downhill in his free time.

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If you find yourself habitually brewing huge pots of coffee each morning only to down just a few cups before rushing out the door, you're not alone. Bonavita, maker of our Editors' Choice award winning BV1900TS , hopes its new creation will help put an end to this wasteful behavior. Priced at $140, the Bonavita BV1500TS is smaller and more affordable than its bigger sibling. And equipped with a scaled down water tank, Bonavita's new drip brewer makes a maximum of just five cups at a time.

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6.3

Bonavita BV1500TS

The Good

The Bonavita BV1500TS brews a maximum of five cups of coffee so you drink more and waste less. The machine takes up a minimum of kitchen counter space and is easy to use and clean.

The Bad

The BV1500TS doesn't brew coffee as well as Bonavita claims, often resulting in pots of joe that are much too bitter.

The Bottom Line

Disappointingly harsh pots of coffee make the Bonavita BV1500TS hard to recommend over the Bunn Velocity Brew BT or Bonavita's flagship BV1900TS brewer.

While the company claims the BV1500TS handles its coffee grounds with the same ability and respect as the more expensive $190 BV1900TS, my testing proved otherwise. Indeed, the compact machine consistently over-extracted its beans, resulting in truly bitter and tannic pots of joe. You're better off saving up for Bonavita's own flagship model or choosing the Bunn Velocity Brew BT , which makes much tastier coffee for about the same price.

Design and usability

Viewed on its own, the BV1500TS could easily be mistaken for its pricier predecessor, the BV1900TS. A spitting image of the older appliance, this machine sports the same polished metallic body, compact footprint and overall layout as Bonavita's previous coffeemaker. That's a good thing, since the BV1900TS' few parts and simple, functional design are among its key strengths. As a result, both products are a breeze to clean and to operate.

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The Bonavita BV1500TS is compact and takes up less space than other coffeemakers. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You won't find any flashy LCD panels or blinking LED-lit buttons here either. Instead, the BV1500TS has just one physical control, a switch. A quick flick of the switch turns the device on or off, while holding it down for 3 seconds toggles the pre-infusion mode in the same way. The special mode, also from the BV1900TS, is meant to improve the flavor of fresh-roasted coffee by holding hot water within the brewing basket for 30 seconds before kicking off the brew cycle in earnest.

Bonavita's spartan design philosophy is also evident in the BV1500TS' basic shape, which is more akin to a stainless steel fire plug than a work of mid-century modern art (like the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT-741 ).

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With a minimum of moving parts and just one button, this machine is simple to use and clean. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The top edge of the BV1500TS consists of a flat oval plank that on the left houses a circular lid for the water tank. The reservoir holds a maximum of eight coffee cups, or more precisely 27 fluid ounces (0.8 liters). This capacity is quite a bit less than what the BV1900TS's 44-ounce (1.3-liter) tank can tackle. On the right side sits the brewer lid and concealed shower head.

Directly under this you either place the plastic filter basket, thermal carafe or both, depending on whether you're actively brewing coffee or merely storing a hot pot of coffee. Unlike the BV1900TS, however, the BV1500TS uses conical type-4 paper filters, not the flat-bottomed basket-style filters.

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The BV1500TS is slightly smaller than the BV1900TS. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Measuring only 10.5 inches tall by 5.8 inches deep and spanning 10.3 inches wide, this appliance is noticeably smaller than the BV1900TS (11.5 by 6.8 by 10 inches). That said the difference isn't dramatic, coming to about an inch shorter footprint all around. Compared with the massive Bunn Velocity Brew BT (15 by 13 by 7 inches), the BV1500TS is positively lilliputian.

Performance

According to Bonavita, the primary difference between this kitchen gadget and its larger cousin is that the BV1500TS is fine-tuned for brewing up smaller batches, four to five cups at a time. Something which also separates the coffeemaker and Bonavita's premier product is the lack an Specialty Coffee Association of America seal of approval. Based on my experience with the BV1500TS, I can see why it doesn't wear that badge.

Coffee I brewed with the BV1500 invariably was too bitter, astringent and tannic for me to enjoy. I admit that my current choice of test beans, Costco House Blend, is unforgiving and easily becomes harsh if handled poorly. That said, the same freshly opened coffee from the same bag and ground at the same time (with the same burr-grinder set on medium coarseness) yielded wildly different results when brewed by different machines.

While the BV1500TS' java consistently was unpalatable and harsh, the BV1900TS created a drink that was far less bitter and quite drinkable. The Technivorm KBT-741 performed even better, turning in an extremely rich and flavorful pot that was quite smooth and not bitter at all. Likewise the Bunn Velocity Brew BT created an extremely rich drink that was both smooth and rounded, with not a trace of astringency.

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The BV1500 has a smaller brew capacity but relatively long brew time. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Spectrometer readings confirmed that all three of these machines made coffee with lots of potential flavor. Total dissolved solids (TDS) percentages were all high with the Moccamaster KBT-741 on top (1.87 percent), the BV1500TS right behind (2.04 percent) and the Bunn Velocity Brew BT a close third (1.7 percent).

Compared with the ideal TDS percentage of between 1.15 percent and 1.35 percent, the potential for over-extraction (leaching out all the good flavors as well as the bad) in my test sample was certainly high. Of my three coffeemakers, my tastebuds pointed right at the BV1500TS as the only machine to commit this offense. I lay the blame at the feet of the device's relatively long brew time paired with less brewing ingredients (though an identical water to coffee ratio).

Both the Bunn Velocity Brew BT (42 ounces water to 2.3 ounces coffee, in 3 minutes 33 seconds) and Technivorm KBT-741 (42 ounces water to 2.3 ounces coffee, in 6 minutes 7 seconds) powered through their brew cycle swiftly and at higher temperatures than the BV1500TS (1.5 ounces coffee to 27 ounces water, 5 minutes 30 seconds).

And while the Technivorm and Bunn machines consistently hit the magic 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93.3 Celsius) at the 2 minute mark and left it there, the BV1500TS took 4 to 5 minutes to reach the same temperature, that is if the device ever got there at all. In fact thermocouple readings from the BV1500TS's brew basket often didn't get above 195 degrees F (90.6 C).

Conclusion

I certainly applaud Bonavita's noble goal for the BV1500TS in taming the scourge of wasted coffee. Sadly, the small coffeemaker's performance doesn't live up to what I found from the company's other products. After brewing pot after bitter pot where the competition served up flavorful coffee, there's simply no way I can recommend the $140 BV1500TS. For just $50 more, Bonavita's own BV1900TS represents a massive leap in coffee making abilities.

If the extra cash will blow a hole in your tight budget, the $170 Bunn Velocity Brew BT is an even wiser option, considering its real world price is potentially as low as $120. Bunn's huge brewer won't win awards for style, but it whips up tasty coffee in a flash.

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6.3

Bonavita BV1500TS

Score Breakdown

Performance 4.5Design 7.5Features 7Maintenance 8