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Editor's note, September 30, 2014: This review shares many sections with the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 .
With a brand name like Moccamaster so highly regarded in coffee appreciation circles, it's hard to go wrong with any drip brewer hand-crafted by Technivorm. Even so, while the $330 Technivorm Moccamaster KBG 741 AO gets plenty right it fails to stand up against competition. Also sold in the UK at £150 and AU$380 in Australia, the KBG 741 AO boasts some laudable features such as a hotplate which is smart enough not to scald what it brews. The machine uses an automatic drip stop that cuts down on unwanted mess and the likelihood of nasty overflows.
That said the simple reality is this gadget doesn't make coffee as superbly as its less expensive sibling the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 . It also comes with a cheap, and frail-feeling glass carafe which is harder to decant than the KBT's sturdier thermal vessel. All of this makes the Moccamaster KBT 741 a wiser choice. For more options take a look at other high-end coffee makers we've reviewed.
The Moccamaster KBG 741 AO certainly doesn't fall far from in the Technivorm design tree. Just like its cousin the KBT 741 , or almost all of the company's premium Moccamaster devices for that matter, the 741 AO flaunts clean lines, sharp angles, and lots of negative space. With liberal use of metal, clear plastic, and to some extent glass, Moccamaster products are some of the most beautiful automatic coffee machines I've ever used.
The 741 AO is no exception and my particular test model pushes the design envelope even further by adding a splash of color. Indeed my review machine is a glossy pink reminiscent of a 1960's Cadillac. Driving home the retro look is text on the appliance's front face which spells out the word "clubline" in elegant cursive script. Thankfully this writing along with Technivorm and Moccamaster logos are small enough to remain discreet, even tasteful. Pink wouldn't necessarily be my first choice, but the 741 AO's pastel hue quickly grew on me since its color tone is restrained, not garish.
If brighter shades are what you're after Technivorm has you covered. The 741 AO comes in five more striking hues of "Red Metallic", "Fresh Green", "Grape", "Yellow Pepper" and "Red". Of course for those with a conservative bent will appreciate the machine's nine other color variations of silver, black, white not to mention something called "Satin" and "Anthracite".
Sprouting from the Moccamaster's flat, rectangular base is a trim, tall tower topped by a trapezoidal water tank. To the right of this clear enclosure sits a hard-plastic funnel that houses standard Type 4 paper filters and also accepts permanent gold filters. This brew basket rests on an a thin, black plastic platform which gives the distinct impression that the filter is floating above its tall stainless steel thermal carafe.
Unlike the KBT 741 , however, the KBG 741 AO's brew basket is equipped with an automatic drip stop mechanism. That means you don't have to remember to adjust the basket's drip aperture manually (open, ½ open, closed) as you do with the KBT 741. And while it offers less control, the AO's basket features a spring-loaded lever which closes when you remove the coffee maker's carafe.
There are other notable differences between the two models. First is that the 741 AO comes with a glass carafe (though with the same 10 cup capacity) as opposed to the KBT 741's thermal coffee pot which is crafted from sturdy stainless steel. Secondly, instead of a flat plastic footplate this AO Moccamaster boasts a genuine hotplate which is a feature quickly becoming a rarity among premium drip machines at least in the US.
Technivorm stressed to me though that average coffee machines rely on a single heating element to heat both water and warm their hotplates. This approach a Moccamaster rep explained is misguided since water heaters are way overpowered for this auxiliary job and tend to scorch coffee pots in no time. To this end the Moccamaster 741 AO flaunts two, a main copper heating element which jacks up the water temp to 200 degrees ASAP. The second heater actively works to keep your brew good and piping once it's made, but not so hot as to turn it to sludge.
Thanks to its sophisticated warming platform the 741 AO has two switches (instead of a solitary button), one for power and another to toggle the hotplate between "Hi" and "Low" settings. Selecting "Hi" or "Low" tells the hotplate's electric heater to flip between 45- and 65-watt modes for coffee at either 175 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit (80 to 85 Celsius). And if you forget to switch the heater off, the Moccamaster 741 AO will automatically do so for you after 100 minutes.
Despite its sleek form and metallic parts, the Technivorm Moccamaster 741 AO weighs in at a manageable 5.7 pounds (2.6kg) and its glass carafe tips the scales at a negligible 13.6 ounces (385g). That said it's almost a pound (0.45kg) heavier than the Moccamaster 741 KBT (which is 4.8 pounds or 2.1kg minus its 1.7-pound, or 0.8kg, thermal carafe). Measuring 14.3 inches tall by 12.9 inches wide by 6 inches deep (36x33x15cm), however, the AO is a hair more compact and shorter than its thermal carafe-packing sibling (which is 15.5 by 10 by 6 inches; 40x25x15cm). Regardless both the Moccamasters are on the same scale as the massive Bunn Velocity Brew BT (15x7x13 inches; 38x18x33cm), though the Bunn's blocky build makes it seem even bigger.
Thanks to its extremely similar design the Technivorm Moccamaster KBG 741 is almost as easy to use as the larger Moccamaster 741 KBT. For example the flat cover on its water tank is a snap to remove and boasts a wide mouth that's easy to pour water into -- a welcome asset in the pre-caffeinated, groggy morning hours. The same goes for the tank's clearly labeled water markings (written in both units of liters and cups).
And because most of the coffee machine's removable parts are large and modular, and they merely rest in place thanks to gravity, cleaning the Moccamaster by hand is pretty painless. Be advised, though, that Technivorm recommends against washing the product's various components in a dishwasher.
Preparing the uniquely designed Moccamaster, not to mention watching it run through its brewing process, is a huge part of the fun in using this machine. After filling the water tank, dropping a no. 4 paper filter (along with coffee grounds measured using the included scoop) into its brew-basket, simply swivel the water outlet arm into place (over the basket).
With both lids in position (water and brew-basket), you then place the glass carafe onto its circular pad on the hotplate and flip the On switch.
This is when the magic happens. About 10 to 15 seconds into the brew cycle you're treated to a soft gurgling sound, gradually becoming a crescendo of bubbles that march upward inside a glass tube at the center of the water reservoir as boiling water moves from the tank to drip over the coffee grounds in the brew-basket. It's a mesmerizing process to watch and one that's reminiscent of aquariums and lava lamps.
Unfortunately the AO's transparent pitcher is this coffee maker's weakest link. Weighing a light 13.6 ounces and sculpted from thin glass, handling the container is nerve racking. I always felt it would break easily if I banged it down on my test kitchen counter with too much force or worse, dropped it onto a hard floor. While I thankfully didn't manage to crack the pot, its thin plastic lid and destratification tube combo was prone to popping off its hinge. I also found it hard to pour liquid quickly with the carafe's lid down since tilting the vessel at a too great an angle resulted in drips and spills.
I much prefer the "Brew-Thru-Lid" and thermal carafe Technivorm bundles with the Moccamaster KBT 741. It allows you to pour coffee straight from the carafe at the end of the brewing cycle without needing to unscrew it. Technivorm also claims that the gadget's long tube will mix the coffee while brewing and even preserve the heat of the thermal carafe's contents. Additionally the thermal carafe's funnel-shaped collar lets you decant it from virtually any angle, even sideways which is perfect for a klutz like me.
Another fact to consider is that Technivorm sells a virtually identical Moccamaster KBGC 741 AO model globally. The only difference is that the international KBGC has a descale light to remind owners when its time to clean their machines. The American KBG 741 version lacks this perk.
At the end of the day the paramount feature of any coffee machine is how well it makes its beverage. Unfortunately while the Moccamaster KBG 741 AO reliably cooks up very good pots of the black gold, it didn't quite match its sibling's level of brewing performance. Repeatedly the batches of coffee the 741 AO whipped up were just a touch harsher than what I coaxed out of the KBT 741.
Indeed even when using the same test beans (Costco house blend) which I personally grinded moments before brewing (medium coarseness with a burr grinder) and with an identical coffee to water ratio, the coffee the KBG 741 AO produced was always slightly more bitter. And before you even ask, I had both appliances brewing side by side and supplied with the same tap water source as well.
Measurements with our trusty refractometer backed up my experience. Even though both machines boasted an identical (and fast) brew time of 5 minutes and 45 seconds (a little over 6 if you count to the last drips), the KBG 741 AO consistently over extracted. I logged the TDS (total dissolved solids) of coffee the AO created to typically be about 1.3 percent. This translates to an average extraction percentage of 30 percent.
That's way over the ideal extraction percentage is between 18 to 22 percent. Anything beyond that is considered to be over-extracted, yielding less desirable compounds from any given sample of grounds. By contrast the Moccamaster KBT 741 turned in a significantly lower average extraction of 21.5 percent which is right in the sweet spot as it were.
Heat during the brewing process wasn't a factor either since both Moccamasters exhibited excellent, and practically identical temperature performance. Within the second minute of brewing readings inside the brew baskets were over 190 degrees Fahrenheit (88 Celsius), reaching just shy of 200 degrees F (93 C) at the 3-minute mark, where it stayed for the duration.
I also can confirm that the KBG 741 AO's hotplate works as advertised. The high setting kept temperatures inside the glass carafe at a stable 180 degrees F/82 C (though never exceeding 181.4 degrees F/83 C on my tests) until the warmer shut off about an hour and a half after brewing. Once that happened though temps dropped quickly below what I consider hot (150 degrees F, 65.5 C) and in 20 minutes I measured the pot's contents to be 147 degrees F, 64 C. It's a huge contrast to the KBT 741's stainless steel carafe which managed to keep its brew nice and hot for a full 6 hours.
I really wanted to fall in love with the Moccamaster KBG 741 AO. Not only does this pink brewing machine stand out from the pack of drab java kitchen gadgets, it packs all of the same hardware which made Technivorm a home coffee making legend. It heats its water up quickly and exposes its coffee grounds to the perfect temperature for the entire brew cycle. The scrappy appliance also belts out pots of joe 10 cups at a time and even keeps them warm without burning them thanks to a smartly-designed hotplate.
Unfortunately at just a bit more than its very capable, less colorful big brother, the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 , I find it hard to recommend the glass carafe of the KBG over its sibling. Its coffee pot is trickier to pour and feels thin and fragile enough for me to fear accidental breakage. Worst of all though, the brew it creates is a tad rougher around the edges and ultimately not as enjoyable as I've come to expect from a Moccamaster. There's no denying that this gadget is a competent coffee maker, it's just not as magnificent as it should be especially considering its steep sticker price.