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Most drip coffeemakers look downright dull, often offering all the aesthetic impact of a plastic box. Not so with the stunning Ratio Eight. This exorbitantly priced kitchen brewer -- it's $580, which converts to approximately £372 or AU$800 -- is built by startup Ratio, and liberally incorporates luxury materials into its impressive design. That includes glass, metal, ceramic, and even wood. Frankly, the Eight is the most beautiful automatic coffee machine I've ever laid hands upon and it makes outstandingly delicious java, too.
That said, the Eight's high-end styling and excellent coffee-brewing abilities can't offset its stratospheric cost and odd usability quirks. Unless you have a large stash of cash to burn or must own a rare device that's more like a concept car than a true consumer product, skip the Ratio Eight in favor of proven deluxe coffee machines. You'll be better served by the $299 Technivorm Moccamaster KBT-741 and $190 Bonavita BV1900TS , both less extravagant yet still superb drip-brewing options. For more options take a look at other high-end coffee makers we've reviewed.
Before I opened the Ratio Eight's box, I knew I was in for a treat. Perhaps it was the brown recycled cardboard or artful wireframe outline of the machine plastered across the box's sides that were a giveaway. Regardless, this level of packaging splash is typically reserved for expensive mobile gear like smartphones and tablets, not coffee machines.
Pulling the Eight into the light of day confirmed my suspicions that it is no ordinary coffee pot. First of all, the countertop appliance is big. Standing a hair over 14 inches tall by 11 inches wide and supported by a base that's 9.5 inches deep (approximately 35.5 by 28 by 24cm), it's a monster. It tips the scales at a staggering 12.5 pounds (5.66kg) too, and that figure climbs to 14 pounds, 2.2 ounces (about 6.4kg) if you factor in its carafe and filter.
The main reasons for the Ratio Eight's girth and heft are the materials from which it's constructed. Instead of lightweight polycarbonate, both the Ratio Eight's water reservoir and carafe are made from hand-blown glass. Likewise, the appliance's aluminum body has a distinctive ceramic nickel finish. Even more striking are a pair of gently angled arms which grace either side of the coffeemaker. Carved from genuine wood (black walnut) and buttressed by metal beams, these appendages give the Eight the lasting look of premium furniture.
Ratio named this coffeemaker the Eight for a reason. It's designed to brew a maximum of eight 5-ounce (148 milliliters) cups of coffee at a time. That adds up to a total of 40 ounces (1.2 liters) of coffee in every full pot. Perhaps this is why both the carafe and the machine's water tank lack detailed gradations or numbered indicators. Instead, each vessel sports just two demarcations: a full line and half-full line.
Unfortunately, none of the markings match up with the Eight's brewing guidelines as stated in its printed manual. For example you might expect the water tank's half-full line to measure 20 fluid ounces (0.6l), when in fact it holds just 17.2 ounces (0.5l) when filled to that point. The same is true of the reservoir's full-line, which in reality denotes only 36.4 ounces (1.1l, confirmed via scientific scale), not the 40 ounces (1.2l) it should indicate.
Similarly, filling the Eight's glass carafe to its full line results in a 44 ounces quantity, or 1.3l (significantly more than the aforementioned 40 ounces). And when I filled the container to its halfway mark its contents measured 22 ounces (0.7l). Even so, this is two ounces greater (approximately 58ml) than it ought to be. Ratio admitted that it's aware of the problem, which is due to a kink in the manufacturing process. The company explained that future iterations of the model won't suffer from this issue.
Wonky water measurements aside, the Ratio Eight is very easy to operate. Simply remove the large water tank cover which sits smack in the middle of its top surface. Then pour liquid through the wide, oval-shaped opening to fill the reservoir.
Next, add your grounds to the brewing chamber, an inverted cone on top of the Eight's glass carafe. This cone accepts standard no. 4 paper filters and also works with one of Ratio's accessories, the $60 Kone filter. Specially sourced by third-party company Able Brewing, the Kone is a reusable aluminum filter designed to create richer tasting coffee compared with what's possible through an ordinary paper one.
All it takes to kick off a brewing cycle is one button. Really a capacitive control rather than a traditional mechanical button, the key responds to a feather-light touch. Once activated, the Ratio Eight will first enter its "bloom" mode, heralded by a narrow white light on its base. During this phase, the machine drips hot water into its filter slowly enough to saturate the grounds, but not fast enough to force liquid down into the carafe below.
Essentially a pre-infusion mode meant to rid excess carbon-dioxide from freshly roasted coffee, a few devices such as the Bonavita BV1900TS and Behmor Brazen Plus offer similar features. Both these machines, however, give you more control over the function, such as toggling pre-soak on or off (Bonavita) or setting how long it will run (Behmor).
After a brief pause, the Ratio Eight then launches into its full "brew" mode, indicated by another white light. Here, the machine picks up the flow tempo and drips a steady shower of hot water over the grounds until brewing is complete, finally illuminating its "ready" light.
The Eight automatically detects the presence of its glass brewing vessel, too, thanks to magnets hidden in both the machine's base and the carafe's bottom. It's a welcome safety feature, designed to prevent the product from starting the brewing process without a receptacle to catch it. Unfortunately, it also means you can't use other brewing vessels other than those built by Ratio.
I'm happy to say the Ratio Eight stuns with more than just its gorgeous design. This machine is an excellent drip coffee brewer as well. Using the recommended brewing ratio of 40 ounces of water to 2.3 ounces (65 grams) coffee (coarsely ground) run through a no. 4 paper filter yielded delightfully delicious results.
Not only was the coffee (brewed from basic Costco House Blend beans) rich and complex, it had an enjoyably clean (not bitter) finish. That's an impressive feat, given how easy is to overbrew this medium-dark roast to a stringent result with a harsh aftertaste. Reflectometer readings confirmed the Eight's pour over prowess. My brew had a TDS (total dissolved solids) percentage of 1.2. This translates to an extraction percentage of 18.9 percent, which is right on the money according to the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America). The group defines the ideal cup to have a TDS between 1.15 and 1.35 percent.
I'm sure much of the reason for the Ratio's enviable brewing performance is that the machine heats its water nice and hot. I measured the water temperature in the filter via thermocouple at from 192 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit (88.8 to 90.5 Celsius) within the first minute of the brew cycle. At the two-minute mark brewing temperature usually climbs to 197 degrees F (91.6 C), where it stays with robotic-like precision for the duration of the 7-minute brew time (total, counting the 45-second bloom mode).
It's also worth mentioning that a virtually identical amount of coffee grounds brewed using the optional Kone filter created an even more flavorful beverage. With a higher TDS percentage of 1.36, the resulting coffee was exceptionally rich, almost silky smooth in texture, and it had an extremely long finish. I tasted no bitterness to speak of either.
Keep in mind that while the Ratio Eight's glass carafe is easy on the eyes, it comes with a big trade-off. Unlike the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT-741 and Bonavita BV1900TS which come equipped with thermal carafes that keep coffee hot for several hours, the Eight's glass pitcher cooled to below 150 degrees Fahrenheit (66 Celsius) within just 30 minutes.
I applaud Ratio's pluck and daring to bring to market a coffeemaker as polished as the Eight. With its hand-blown glass, ceramic nickel, aluminum and wooden design elements, it's unlike any automatic drip brewer I've ever used. The machine is also an excellent coffee brewer that consistently whipped up drip java that's just as tasty as the big boys on the block, namely the aforementioned Technivorm and Bonavita models.
Despite all its strengths, however, I can't recommend buying the Ratio Eight over its rivals. With a jaw-dropping $580 price tag (which jumps to $640 if you factor in the Able Kone filter), you could purchase two Moccamasters. Likewise, that amount would cover three Bonavita machines. The Eight's incorrect water volume labels are also a deal-breaker and an unacceptable glitch at any price. Unless you have a burning desire to own one of the most unique coffee-making appliances ever made, your money is better spent elsewhere.