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

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.

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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