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Automatic, affordable coffee makers that brew quality drip are hard to find. What comes out of cheap machines is usually awful stuff. Enter the $100 (converts to roughly £75 and AU$130) Bonavita Metropolitan 8-cup Brewer. Yes, it costs a little more than budget $40 coffee makers. The Metropolitan, however, has almost the same impressive brewing abilities as its premium sibling, the $190 (roughly £140, AU$245) Bonavita Connoisseur. It's also easier to use and clean than the capable $100 (roughly £70, AU$125) Braun BrewSense KF7150.
To cut the Metropolitan's price, Bonavita made a few trade-offs. The biggest sacrifice is that it lacks a thermal carafe. Instead, the Metropolitan comes with a glass carafe and warming plate. As a result, coffee brewed in the machine stays hot for only about an hour, so slow java drinkers should skip this brewer. Still, if you tend to drain pots quickly and you want excellent drip for less, then the Metropolitan is a sound investment. Check out some other compelling coffee makers, though, to see if you agree.
It's clear right away that the Metropolitan doesn't fit the luxury appliance mold. Its body is constructed entirely from plastic. That's a stark contrast to the stainless-steel exteriors you'll find on the Moccamaster and Connoisseur. Even the Braun BrewSense has a few brushed-metal sections. As plastic goes, the material Bonavita chose for the Metropolitan isn't truly basic. Somewhere between charcoal gray and black, the polycarbonate has an attractive matte finish. In fact the texture and feel remind me of classic Motorola and Nokia phones.
The coffee maker's overall design is very close to the Connoisseur's. An oval section on top matches an oval base below. Between these two flat planks are the brewer's main components. There's a water tank and heater unit (below it) on the base's left side.
To the right of the water tank is the filter basket. Like the Connoisseur, the basket slides into its own slot. It keeps the basket suspended over the brewer's carafe. The brewer uses standard eight- to 12-cup basket-style coffee filters, too. They're what you need for the Bonavita BV1900TS as well.
Instead of a steel, double-walled pitcher, the Metropolitan has a glass carafe. It rests on a metal hot plate that actively heats the carafe for an additional 45 minutes after brewing. That can't touch the performance of true thermal carafes. They typically keep their contents hot for multiple hours. Still, the glass container is handsomely crafted. I especially like the 1.3-liter pitcher's ridged bottom. It mirrors the ripple pattern caused when droplets strike a liquid surface.
Since it shares the same basic design as the Connoisseur, the Metropolitan is just as simple to use. A wide mouth makes filling the brewer's water tank a breeze. Just open its flap and pour away. Both the carafe and water reservoir have a maximum capacity of eight 5-ounce cups (1.2 L, 40 ounces). It's much harder to do this task on the BrewSense. Its tank opening presents a much smaller target. That fact led to many spills while replenishing that coffee maker with water.
To start the brew cycle, you switch the machine's circular button to its on position. That's it. There's just one control to fuss with. You do have the option of engaging (or deactivating) the brewer's presoak function as well. To do this, you hold down the same button for 5 seconds. With presoak mode on, the coffee maker saturates grounds first then pauses (for 30 to 45 seconds). After that, it pushes the rest of its water supply through the filter.
Presoaking helps remove excess gas from freshly roasted beans. Coffee that's just a few days out from roasting is usually packed with CO2. A quick bath in hot water releases it along with any unpleasant flavors from the gas.
The Bonavita Metropolitan might have a modest price, but it makes surprisingly good coffee. With an average brewing time of 7 minutes and 34 seconds, this machine is slower than its premium rivals. For example, both the Bonavita Connoisseur and Technivorm Moccamaster took 6 minutes, 25 seconds and 5 minutes, 45 seconds, respectively, to make a full pot. That said, the Metropolitan's brew cycle is still under the 8 minutes or less the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) recommends.
I used my standard brewing ratio of 40 ounces (1.2 L) of water to 2.3 ounces (66 grams) of medium ground coffee. I also tested with my default whole-bean coffee sourced from Costco (Kirkland Colombian Supremo).
Another key factor to brewing quality coffee is sticking to the ideal water temperature (197 degrees Fahrenheit, 92 degrees Celsius to 205 degrees F, 96 degrees C). According to Bonavita, the Metropolitan uses the same 1,500-watt heating element and "advanced heating control" as the Connoisseur. My test results didn't agree. Thermocouple readings I took inside the brew basket indicate that this brewer is more aggressive but less precise.
Within the first minute the average temperature inside the grounds had already leaped to 190.5 degrees F (88.1 degrees C). At this stage the Connoisseur had only hit 147.9 degrees F (64.4 degrees C). By the second minute, temperatures dropped slightly to 190.1 degrees F (87.8 degrees C). During the third minute, the needle reached 194.3 degrees F (90.2 degrees C) and began to steadily climb.
Here by contrast the Connoisseur's brewing temperature stayed firm. Temperatures hovered no more than 4 degrees F above 194.6 degrees F (90.3 degrees C) through the rest of its brewing cycle. Not so with the Metropolitan. Its grounds reached a steamy average temp of 199.3 degrees F (92.9 degrees C). That comes to a wide fluctuation of 9.2 degrees F.
My refractometer tests mirrored these swings. The Metropolitan notched closely grouped but varied TDS (total dissolved solids) percentage results across four runs (1.3, 1.2, 1.1 and 1.2 percent). The Connoisseur was more consistent (1.3, 1.3 and 1.4 percent) during its three test brews.
These numbers from the Metropolitan convert to an average extraction percentage of 19 percent. That's still in the ideal range, commonly considered to be between 18 and 22 percent. The Connoisseur had a slightly higher average of 20 percent, dead center of the sought-after spread.
Quibbling over numbers only goes so far. I'm happy to say that the drip this brewer made was every bit as good as what I tasted from the Connoisseur. Drinks made from my humble test beans had all the delicious flavors I expect. Specifically I detected rich chocolate, cinnamon spices and no unpleasant bitterness.
One aspect of the Metropolitan that's sure to be a deal breaker for some potential buyers is its glass carafe. Its supporting warming plate shuts off after 45 minutes. After that, brewed coffee inside starts to cool quickly. It took just 1 hour before temperatures inside the pitcher fell from a high of 174.3 degrees F (79.1 C) to below 150 degrees F (65.6 C). That's brief compared with the 3 hours and 31 minutes before heat escaped the Connoisseur's thermal carafe. The Moccamaster's insulated carafe remains the one to beat (6 hours).
Whether to buy the $100 Bonavita Metropolitan coffee maker hinges on two things: How much you're willing to spend and how fast you drink your joe. If you tend to linger over one batch of drip all morning, then this appliance is the wrong choice. Its glass carafe cools too quickly for that. You'd be better off saving up for a thermal-carafe equipped $190 Bonavita Connoisseur or even a $300 Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741.
Those who don't want to blow that amount of cash should strongly consider this coffee maker, though. It makes outstanding drip, automatically, and for a reasonable price. The Metropolitan also has few parts to clean and is a snap to operate. That's enough to put it on anyone's short list.