Oxo 9-Cup Coffee Maker review: Oxo's 9-Cup makes brew that's a little too bitter
To serious, daily java drinkers Oxo's $200 9-Cup Coffee Maker may look tempting. The drip brewer consistently makes decent pots of joe, and it's one of just a few coffee makers to earn the SCA's (Specialty Coffee Association) "golden cup" qualification.
Still, the Oxo 9-Cup doesn't brew quite as well or as fast as it should. That's especially true considering its steep price. There are better coffee maker bargains out there, specifically the $190 Bonavita Connoisseur. Our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Connoisseur, makes better drip coffee, and in less time.
Even the entry-level $100 Bonavita Metropolitan brews with greater finesse. Both appliances are compact and won't eat up nearly as much counter space as the Oxo 9-Cup either. You're better off waiting for Oxo to bring its $170 8 Cup Coffee Maker to market. Oxo's new machine, due to hit stores later this year, will brew full pots of drip and will come with gear to properly make pour-over plus single servings. And for $170, its price will match Bonavita's finest.
Handsome but much too tall
The first thing you'll notice about the Oxo 9-Cup is its height. Standing a full 15 inches tall, the coffee maker towers over other kitchen counter appliances. You won't be able to slide the brewer underneath low-slung wall cabinets either (standard height of 12 inches). If space is tight, consider either of Bonavita's latest machines. Both the Connoisseur and Metropolitan models occupy much less space.
As coffee makers go, the Oxo 9-Cup has an elegant appearance, though. Constructed from a mix of brushed stainless steel and black plastic with a transparent reservoir and a minimum of adornments, the brewer cuts a simple, handsome profile. Its large cylindrical main section contains a 45-ounce (1.3 L) water tank on top and a heater assembly below. Directly to the tank's right is the brew basket. It accepts type-4 cone paper filters. Underneath that sits the Oxo 9-Cup's thermal carafe.
A recessed LED display on the brewer's front face further enhances its premium look. The display's indicators rest flush with the main section's curved surface. There's just one physical control, too: a circular dial that doubles as a push button.
A brain for brewing
Operating the Oxo 9-Cup is relatively straightforward, even if the brewing process is slightly different than with other coffee makers. First, you fill the water reservoir. That's easy to do thanks to a flip-up lid and wide opening. Next you drop a filter into the brewer's filter basket (standard type-4 paper) and add your ground coffee. No surprises here.
To kick off brewing on the Oxo 9-Cup, however, you don't merely flip a switch or press a button. Just like Oxo's other coffee maker, the Barista Brain 12-Cup, this machine lets you choose how much coffee you'd like brew. Turn the dial clockwise to select a regular five- to nine-cup pot of coffee. Swiveling the knob the other way tells the brewer to make a smaller batch of two to four cups. When you're ready, press the button at the dial's center to start the machine.
Unlike the Barista Brain 12-Cup, this coffee maker lacks a scale. As a result it can't automatically detect the volume of water within its tank. That means you'll have to make sure the Oxo 9-Cup's reservoir has enough water to tackle the task you give it. By contrast the Barista Brain 12-Cup tells you how much coffee you can brew (in two-cup increments) depending on the volume of water it senses.
Performance and taste
The Oxo 9-Cup Coffee Maker might not have a built-in water scale, or a dedicated presoak function like Bonavita's machines, but that doesn't mean it lacks sophistication.
On board the Oxo 9-Cup is what Oxo calls its "barista brain" system. At its heart is a microprocessor designed to keep an eye on brewing parameters in real time. These factors include water temperature, speed of water flow, plus target brewed coffee volume and total brew time. According to Oxo the barista brain chip balances it all against ideal values to achieve optimal results.
Perhaps the byproduct of this electronic control, the brew times for Oxo 9-Cup were relatively long. Across three runs the coffee maker had an average brew time of 7 minutes and 41 seconds. That's under the the 8 minutes or less the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) recommends for excellent drip. Still, it's a lot more time than the 6 minutes or less the Bonavita Connoisseur needed. Likewise the $299 Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 brewed full carafes in a mere 5 minutes, 45 seconds.
Be advised I used a brewing ratio of 40 ounces (1.2) of water to 2.3 ounces (66 grams) of medium ground coffee. It's the same test recipe I for all the coffee makers I review. I also tested with my default whole-bean coffee sourced from Costco (Kirkland Colombian Supremo).
Even with a fancy microchip running the show, the Oxo 9-Cup couldn't keep a tight rein on its brewing temperature. While technically within the ideal range (197F, 92C to 205F, 96C) there was a great deal of fluctuation. From start to finish, average heat levels inside the brewing chamber swung a wide 66.5 degrees F (138 F, 58.9 C to 204.4 F, 95.8 C).
Even after 3 minutes, when other coffee makers find their footing, water temperatures hadn't stabilized. From then to the end of the brew cycle, average thermocouple readings varied 13.3 degrees F (191.1 F, 88.4 C to 204.4 F, 95.8 C). That's a lot of volatility compared with other machines. For instance, from minute 3 temperatures inside the Bonavita Connoisseur didn't drift beyond 4 degrees (F).
Refractometer tests also indicated something was out of whack. The Oxo 9-Cup turned in consistent total dissolved solids (TDS) percentage results over three runs (1.6, 1.7, 1.7 percent). Unfortunately they were also all consistently over extracted, translating to an average extraction percentage of 27 percent. The showing is outside of the Goldilocks zone of between 18 and 22 percent, too.
Taste tests backed up the numbers. Pots of joe from the coffee maker were drinkable, but also had a slightly bitter finish. That stringent taste is a hallmark of over extraction. It happens when water pulls unpleasant flavors from grounds after leaching out all pleasant coffee essence before them.
One bright spot though is the Oxo 9-Cup's thermal carafe. It was able to keep its contents hot (above 150 F, 66 C) for a marathon 5 hours and 11 minutes. The only coffee maker to beat this was the Technivorm Moccamaster (6 hours). By comparison the Connoisseur's carafe cooled after 3 hours and 31 minutes.
Hold out for a better brewer
It's been 3 years since the $200 Oxo 9-Cup Coffee Maker hit the scene. Along with the Barista $299 Barista Brain 12-Cup, it was Oxo's first foray into electric drip machines. That's a lot of java under the bridge. Oxo now faces stiff competition, namely the $190 Bonavita Connoisseur and $100 Bonavita Metropolitan.
The Connoisseur is an Editors' Choice Award winner, and is the best drip coffee maker bargain around. For the same price it brews better, faster, and it takes up less space. That's why you should consider the Oxo 9-Cup only if it's steeply discounted and could use its excellent thermal carafe. While it has a glass pitcher, the better overall budget option is the Metropolitan and the superior pots it makes.