Close your eyes and picture the typical, budget drip coffee maker. Now imagine this humble device honed and crafted with an eye towards extreme artistry to the point where it could almost double as a work of modern sculpture, a la 1960. Next, demand that said gadget be hand-built in the Netherlands. I'll bet what you'd see standing before you when your vision cleared would be very close to the $299 Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741. It's priced in the UK at £200 and AU$379 in Australia.
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Technivorm Moccamaster machines meet all of these criteria and are about the furthest thing from a cheap Mr. Coffee contraption as perhaps a fancy Italian espresso maker is to a single-serve, coffee-pod gizmo. You will pay a steep price to enter this world of premium coffee machines. That said, the Moccamaster has the power to make some truly outstanding coffee, especially with more premium beans.
You can find more affordable, though still excellent gourmet drip machines, like the Bunn Velocity Brew BT . While the Bunn makes coffee extremely quickly, it couldn't match the Moccamaster in terms of brewing a more flavorful brew with the same high-end roast. That alone is why I'd put the pricey machine on top. The Moccamaster KBT 741's intelligent design and artful style are just extra icing on this tasty coffee maker's cake.
Consisting of clean lines, sharp angles, and lots of negative space, to say the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 is attractive feels like an understatement. With its liberal use of metal, clear plastic, and to some extent glass, the Moccamaster is one of the most beautiful automatic coffee machines I've ever used, though I admit the Norwegian-made Wilfa Svart Precision just might be able to upstage it. Of course that appliance is even harder to find in the US than Technivorm gadgets.
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 or 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.
And this carafe isn't conventional either. Instead of the typical spout that graces more traditional coffee pots, the Moccamaster's carafe has a lip like a high-collared metal funnel. It's an odd shape, but there's a good reason for it. The carafe's funneled lip enables you to pour from it in practically any direction or angle; straight on, sideways, you name it. This coffee pot itself rests on a flat plastic pad (not a hot-plate, like numerous glass-carafed cousins Technivorm also sells) and sits inside a curved socket that stabilizes the container. Sliding the carafe into its station properly depresses a white button that acts as an additional safety measure.
For the brewing process to begin, this button must be pressed in conjunction with you flipping the On/Off switch. The idea here is that this setup helps you avoid the situation where scalding fluids start to flow from the machine when you least expect it or when the carafe is absent.
Despite its sleek form and metallic parts, the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT tips the scales at a relatively light 4.8 pounds (minus its 1.7-pound thermal carafe). It is a tall device though, reaching 15.5 inches at its highest point and not small either, spanning 10 inches wide by 6 inches deep. Indeed the Moccamaster is on the same scale as the massive Bunn Velocity Brew BT (15 by 7 by 13 inches), though the Bunn's blocky build makes it seem even bigger.
After using the Moccamaster KBT for a little while, it became clear that the folks at Technivorm put a lot of thought into its function. Besides the aforementioned white safety button and funnel-lipped carafe, the coffee machine has other attributes, which makes it a breeze to operate.
The flat cover on its water tank is a cinch to remove and reveals a wide mouth that's easy to pour water into -- critical during those coordination-challenged predawn 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 washing the product's various components in a dishwasher -- especially the thermal carafe -- is verboten.
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 next screw what Technivorm calls a "Brew-Thru-Lid" (with destratification tube) into the thermal carafe's mouth, then slide the carafe into its socket and flip the On switch.
This is when the magic happens, and by that I mean the bubbles. Yes, 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, lava lamps, and other bubblicious eye-candy.
I also appreciate how the "Brew-Thru-Lid" 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. While I can't directly verify if this piece of hardware actually stirs things up, the machine was able to deliver remarkably delicious brews where others failed (more on this later).
Aesthetics aside, when you boil it all down, what really matters in a coffee maker is the quality of the brew it creates. I can happily say that the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 doesn't disappoint. I found that the handsome machine consistently made very tasty pots of coffee (10 cups at a time), and in some cases brews that were truly sublime in flavor.
The raw performance numbers backed up the Moccamaster's coffee brewing prowess. The entire brewing cycle took 5 minutes and 45 seconds (6 minutes if you count waiting for the last drips to stop). That's well under the 8 minutes or less recommended by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). Additionally I measured temperature within the brew-basket to typically hit the sought-after 200 degrees (Fahrenheit) at the 2 minute mark (or right after). After that, the temp remained between 200 and 204 degrees for the duration of the brewing cycle.
This type of showing confirms that the Moccamaster runs rings around lesser machines like the Melitta 10-Cup Thermal ($70) and Capresso MT600 ($130), which tended to serve up bitter brews (especially the Melitta) from identical beans. Oddly enough, while the Moccamaster was able to whip up very tasty pots from my test coffee (Costco House Blend whole bean, medium grind), the Bunn Velocity Brew BT created a beverage that was slightly smoother and less gritty. Of course, this machine also took only 3 minutes, 30 seconds to brew full 10-cup pots.
On the flip side however, when I used a more premium coffee variety (specifically Capresso Grand Aroma) the results were dramatically different. The Moccamaster repeatedly created a brew that was deliciously smooth, complex, and almost velvety in nature. By contrast, the Bunn Velocity Brew BT made a cup that was rougher, slightly more bitter on the back end, and flatter tasting, albeit starting with the same beans.
This would seem to jive with the Bunn's higher extraction percentage compared with the Moccamaster's lower extraction rates. On our tests, the Moccamaster demonstrated coffee with a TDS (total dissolved solids) of 1.1 percent (23.2 percent extraction). The Bunn achieved a much higher extraction percentage of 30.4 (1.4 TDS). It is commonly accepted within coffee aficionado circles that the ideal extraction percentage is between 18 to 22 percent. Anything beyond that is thought to be over-extracted, yielding less desirable compounds from any given sample of grounds.
Another bright spot in the Moccamaster's performance is its ability to keep its brewed coffee hot for hours. Indeed, the thermal carafe was able to keep its contents at 150 degrees (F) for a marathon 6 hours, the longest I've measured from a thermos-equipped coffee maker.
If you were to take a poll among coffee fanatics and serious foodies alike as to which brand of drip coffee maker is top dog, I'd bet dollars to donuts Technivorm would be the first name that crossed their lips. But is this reflex warranted? If my experience with the Moccamaster KBT 741 is any judge, I'd emphatically say yes. I admit that this machine is very expensive, and at $300 US (£200, AU$379) it's sure to be way out of many people's budgets, especially for a luxury appliance. Be aware, though, that other devices are hot on the Moccamaster's heels, specifically the Bonavita BV 1800TH ($180), which is built to offer similar drip brewing performance but for less.
That said, with its compellingly thoughtful design, metallic good looks, and consistently delectable batches of drip coffee, the Moccamaster should be on any coffee lover's short list. Throw in its ability to keep coffee hot for a lengthy 6 hours, and yes, its bubble-filled brewing process, and you've got one machine that's hard to top.