Priced at $170, the Bunn Velocity Brew BT lacks premium styling but makes up for it by conjuring excellent drip coffee 10 cups at a time.
I suspect many of you in the market for a new coffee maker would equally appreciate sophisticated looks as much as the ability to brew a delicious pot of java. If you're one of this discriminating breed of appliance consumer, then the $170 Bunn Velocity Brew BT is not for you. It's big, has a long and blocky frame, uses plenty of flimsy-feeling plastic parts, plus it lacks a screen, clock, or even buttons.
That said, even the most snobbish coffee drinker won't be able to ignore the Velocity Brew BT's ability to create 10 cups of truly scrumptious joe in than three and a half minutes. That's why this gadget is easy to recommend as a reliable drip workhorse. It just won't serve double duty as a personal design statement. Also be sure to check out other high-end coffee makers we've reviewed.
The Bunn Velocity Brew BT's design is modest, even misleadingly basic. First of all it's large, almost comically so. Standing 15 inches tall, 7 inches wide, and a long 13 inches deep, the Velocity Brew isn't what you'd call "compact." While similar in height to other drip machines such as the Capresso MT600 (14 inches) and Melitta 10-Cup Thermal (14.5 inches), the Velocity Brew BT's shape is extremely oblong. Indeed, the appliance's unconventional body is practically twice as deep as those two products. You'll certainly have to consider the BT's rather massive impact on your kitchen counter space wisely.
Second, the Bunn Velocity Brew BT's boxy front face and lightweight plastic top half give it an undeniably toylike aesthetic. Heightening the BT's play-kitchen appearance is the way the coffee maker's polycarbonate lid, and entire top surface, for that matter, flex easily with the slightest bit of downward pressure.
And like the Melitta 10-Cup, the only expensive-looking parts on the Velocity Brew are the silver brushed-metallic highlights. In the BT's case this includes the large water tank (located in the rear) and the vacuum-insulated thermal carafe. I also found the thin plastic brew funnel disconcertingly pliable, flexing in my hands with a gentle twist. The thermal carafe in the Bunn is well constructed and solid-feeling, though. I also like that its swivel-on lid is a breeze to screw tight and pours with dreamlike accuracy.
You'll find no snazzy LCD screens, clocks, lights, or indicators of any kind on this monolithic appliance--only one unlabeled power switch placed at the base of the water tank.
Suffice it to say the Velocity Brew BT is a spartan gadget, and using it is simple once you get the hang of it. I can't stress how radically different this machine is from any drip coffee maker I've used previously. Think of it as your average kitchen-counter coffee gadget that works in reverse, and perhaps powered by a jet engine.
This is no typical automatic coffee machine that sits dry and idle until you fill it with water (and coffee) then hit the power switch. Instead, the Brew BT starts out cocked, locked, and ready for java-brewing action at a moment's notice.
To achieve this the Velocity Brew BT's big water tank holds double the amount of other coffee makers, specifically two thermal carafes' worth (100 ounces, 20 coffee cups). The appliance preheats its water supply too so it can brew at the ideal water temperature quickly.
Of course, a little prep is required to prime the machine for duty. For example, before turning the Velocity Brew BT on, or even plugging it into an electrical outlet, you must first fill its water tank to capacity. And since its reservoir is so large, I strongly recommend placing it where you'd like it to live on your counter before you do this. Fully topped off, the device weighs in at 10 pounds, 5.6 ounces (minus carafe) -- and keep in mind the water within its innards is scalding hot once you warm it up.
To add water just flip open the plastic lid on top of the reservoir and use the thermal carafe to fill it up. With its tank filled you then plug the appliance in and flip its only switch to the "on" position. The machine then needs at least 15 minutes to bring the water to temperature.
The next step is to drop a special Bunn paper filter into the brew funnel, and measure out the proper amount of coffee grounds. There's a lot of leeway here. While it's annoying that the Velocity Brew BT lacks a special measuring scoop, the manual recommends using "one to two heaping tablespoons of drip grind per cup," which is a forgiving recipe.
Another oddity about the Brew BT is it doesn't actually have an on switch, just what Bunn calls a "Vacation" switch that lives on the base of the water tank. To begin the brewing cycle you simply close the coffee maker's plastic lid, propped up and help in place by a small, clear, rod. This stick essentially functions as the Brew BT's only "on" button. Word to the wise; don't flip the BT's lid shut without its carafe in place under the brewing funnel or risk steaming hot water streaming all over your countertop.
While physical beauty certainly isn't the Bunn Velocity Brew BT's strong suit, impressive coffee making performance is. Not only does the Velocity Brew live up to its name by blasting out 10 cups of coffee in the shortest time I've ever experienced from a drip machine anywhere, the results were consistently very tasty.
So how fast can the Brew BT produce a full pot of Joe? Try 3 minutes and 33 seconds. Putting this in perspective, that's well below the 7 minutes, 45 seconds it took the Capresso MT600, and even faster than the Melitta 10-Cup Thermal, which needed 8 minutes or 9 minutes.
Another key area where the Velocity Brew BT delivered enviable performance was temperature.
The brew chamber hit its max temperature (195.7 degrees Fahrenheit) within 60 seconds. That's slightly under the optimal 200 degrees (give or take 2 degrees), but the Bunn maintained that temperature for most of the brewing cycle. By contrast both the Capresso MT600 and Mellita 10-Cup Thermal only spent the tail end of their brewing process in this sweet spot.
In terms of flavor, the drip that the Velocity Brew BT created was quite good. Our panel of CNET editors and lab technicians agreed that coffee brewed from the exact same beans as the Capresso and Melitta products (Costco House Blend, medium coarseness) was very smooth, rich, even chocolatey. I even picked some pleasantly bright fruitiness. It also lacked any of the bitterness I tasted in the Capresso's and especially Melitta's brews.
Using a refractometer, a tool that measures the percentage of total dissolved solids (TDS) in a liquid, I confirmed that the Velocity Brew BT coffee does scientifically pack lots of flavor. The coffee came in at 1.2 percent TDS, approaching the 1.25-percent TDS ideal (as determined by the Specialty Coffee Association of America).
Also nice is that the coffee maker's thermal carafe, which Bunn claims will keep its contents hot for at least 2 hours, surpassed the company's own estimate. It held the coffee to 150 degrees F for over 4 hours. It wasn't until about 4 hours and 45 minutes that the internal carafe temp dropped below this 150-degree mark.
I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who prize coffee-making performance over head-turning appliance appearance. If you're one of this no-nonsense breed, then you'll certainly find a friend in the $170 Bunn Velocity Brew BT. Preheating its supply of water in advance and boasting the hardware to pump out a fully brewed 10 cups of high-quality coffee in less than 3.5 minutes, to say this machine is a workhorse is an understatement.
Sure the Brew BT isn't cheap ,but you'd be hard-pressed to see this level of beverage made by the likes of a budget $20 Mr. Coffee machine or the Capresso MT600 ($130) and Melitta 10-Cup Thermal ($70) for that matter. You can spend more for the likes of the Bonavita BV 1800TH ($180) or Technivorm Moccamaster ($300), but right now the Bunn is our drip brewer to beat.