Breville Precision Brewer review: Makes drip precisely how you want it

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The Good The Breville Precision Brewer brews coffee quickly and with superb consistency. It lets you control water temperature, flow rate and presoak time. It makes cold brew automatically and without special filters. It accepts both cone and flat-bottom filters.

The Bad You need to buy an extra accessory to best use its pour-over mode. It's expensive.

The Bottom Line Coffee tinkerers will love the Breville Precision Brewer's impressive level of control, but it's overkill for most drip drinkers.

8.0 Overall
  • Performance 8
  • Design 7.5
  • Features 9
  • Maintenance 7.5

The $300 Breville Precision Brewer is not your average drip coffee maker. It doesn't just brew big pots of tasty joe. It does so quickly and with robotic consistency, but it's also incredibly flexible. The Precision accepts both cone and flat-bottom filters. It lets you customize key brewing factors, too. That includes water temperature, flow rate and length of presoak. The Precision creates cold brew as well, automatically and without making a mess. (It's AU$400 in Australia, but isn't widely available in the UK.)

Also be sure to read: The best home espresso machines for sale right now

Still, $300 is a lot to pay for any drip machine. If you have no desire to play home barista and just want tasty joe fast, this gadget is overkill. The better deal for you is the dead simple $190 Bonavita Connoisseur. You should also consider the $300 Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741. It's swift, just as easy to use plus keeps its coffee hot all morning long.

Ordinary only on the outside

The Breville Precision Brewer shares the same basic shape of other premium drip coffee makers. Like the Bonavita Connoisseur and Technivorm Moccamaster models, the Precision's parts sit on a long, narrow base. On the machine's left side is a tower that houses the heating system, supporting electronics and controls. Above that is a water reservoir constructed of clear plastic.

The brewer comes with a filter basket, cone filter adapter and a permanent flat-bottom metal filter.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Resting on the base to the right of the tower is the Precision's thermal carafe. Placed directly over the pitcher is the brewer's massive filter basket. It's big for a reason. The roomy basket accepts a special adapter for cone-style paper filters. Or if you prefer, remove the adapter and brew with flat-bottom style filters. Additionally the coffee maker comes with a metal permanent filter (flat bottom).

The filter basket is also large enough to brew full 12-cup (60 ounces, 1.8-liter) pots at once. How much coffee you make though is entirely up to you. No matter what you decide, the Precision Brewer's reservoir has handy labels to help. The side of the tank has water level markings for full carafes, 8-cup pots and single cups.  

On the side of the water tank are helpful marks for full carafes, 8 cup pots, and single cups.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Brews drip like no other

On the outside, the Breville Precision Brewer looks like an ordinary drip machine. Its stainless steel exterior though gives it away as a premium appliance. Inside, however, is a radically new approach to coffee maker design.

The Precision is equipped with a sophisticated PID (for "proportional, integral, derivative") controller. It's a component that's usually only onboard fancy espresso machines. The PID electronics drive a heating element that handles water temperature directly. The circuitry is also coupled with a motorized water pump system. The result: the Precision commands all aspects of its brewing cycle including its water flow.

This is a big difference from even elite brewers like the Technivorm Moccamaster and the Bonavita Connoisseur. They're entirely mechanical and at heart simple contraptions. They rely on powerful heaters plus the natural boiling point of water to function. This combined with clever plumbing help them operate within an ideal temperature range.

Choose the "my brew" setting to tweak coffee brewing parameters.

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Many coffee makers in one

Because of its advanced hardware, the Precision Brewer is extremely flexible. You have six automatic brewing modes to choose from. A "fast" cycle pushes hot water through the machine as swiftly as possible. The "gold" setting tells the machine to brew according to the strict "gold cup standard" as defined by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). Using the "strong" mode lengthens the brew time and increases the temperature. In this way, the grounds are extracted more thoroughly.

You can alter many aspects of how this machine will make your drip.

Brian Bennett/CNET

When you choose "my brew," you can tweak the brewer's many parameters to your liking. For instance you can increase the "bloom time" (0 to 5 minutes). It sets how long your grounds sit in hot water before full brewing begins. You're able to play around with both the brewing temperature (80 to 98 degrees Celsius) and water flow rate (fast, medium and slow) as well.

You can toggle the "pour over" mode on or off here too. This function is designed for small brew sizes of up to 4 cups (20 ounces, 0.6 liters). The machine also assumes you're brewing through a separate pour over drip cone. Third-party vendors such as Melitta, Kalita Wave, Hario and Oxo all sell these sort of gadgets.

Breville also says the pour over function requires its Pour Over Adaptor. The $35 accessory is sold separately and customizes the coffee maker for pour over duty. The kit includes a special shower head, plus bases for the filter and your mug.    

The Precision Brewer has a pour over mode but Breville says it works best with its adapter accessory.  

Brian Bennett/CNET