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Zojirushi Fresh Brew Plus review: Keeps coffee hot all day but makes a very bitter brew

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The Good The Zojirushi Fresh Brew Plus Thermal Carafe keeps its coffee hot all day. It also has a removable water tank and controls that are easy to operate.

The Bad Zojirushi's drip brewer consistently makes bitter, over-extracted coffee, and it's expensive compared with better-performing rivals.

The Bottom Line If you have $200 to spend on a drip coffee-maker, pass on the Zojirushi Fresh Brew which makes pots that are much too bitter; buy a Bonavita BV1900TS instead.

6.0 Overall
  • Performance 5
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Maintenance 7

Zojirushi isn't exactly the first brand name that comes to mind when you think of coffee machines. If you've shopped for rice cookers within the last 30 years though, chances are good you've spied the company's cute elephant logo. The cartoon animal enjoys a dominant presence in retail and is well represented on store shelves. Zojirushi hopes to extend this success into the realm of coffeemakers with the $190 Fresh Brew EC-YSC100.

Promoted for its ability create gourmet pots of coffee by brewing with piping hot water, Zojirushi also touts the machine's ability to keep java hot for a full 24 hours. Even so, while the Fresh Brew's thermal carafe does an outstanding job of preserving heat, the coffee it makes misses the mark. It's a fatal flaw in any drip coffeemaker, especially for one this expensive.

Design and usability

A black rectangular box with a few stainless steel highlights, the Fresh Brew EC-YSC100 looks similar to countless coffee machines occupying store shelves. Standing 15 inches tall and measuring 10.5 inches wide by 7.75 inches deep, the Fresh Brew is also average in size compared to similar devices, such as the Capresso MT600 and Melitta 10-Cup Thermal Coffeemaker . That said, the Fresh Brew will eat up more of your kitchen countertop than the compact Bonavita BV1900TS .

The water tank is removable for easy access. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Unlike the Capresso and Melitta appliances, which use fixed reservoirs, the Fresh Brew comes equipped with a removable water tank. The handy container has a detachable lid, and it's designed for easy, hassle-free filling at the sink or directly on your countertop (the square tank's flat bottom gives it plenty of stability). The tank holds a maximum of 10 "coffee cups," or 1.5 liters of water when measured out.

The machine uses standard basket-style flat bottom paper filters. Brewed coffee then drips down into a fancy stainless steel thermal carafe which sits below it. In between the filter basket and carafe is a spring-loaded valve mechanism designed to prevent leaks and drips when you remove the carafe. The system works well even during the brewing cycle; just remember to replace the carafe quickly while brewing (since the valve will remain closed) or risk the basket overflowing.

The thermal carafe has a thumb release button for mess-free pours. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

I also appreciate the carafe's thumb-activated pour button located on its handle. With it, you can pour coffee with a minimum of mess or spills. The button also lets you pour without needing to open the carafe lid, thus losing heat.

The controls are dead simple. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Fresh Brew's controls are a cinch to operate, too. To the left of the carafe is the machine's push-button panel, populated by just four oversize keys. Chances are you'll only use two of the Fresh Brew's buttons regularly. Specifically, the "Start" key that kicks off the brew cycle and the "Cancel" key, which resets the machine for the next batch. Below these buttons are keys for "Timer" and "Time Setting" to schedule brewing ahead of time.

Performance

Zojirushi certainly talks up the Fresh Brew's coffee-making prowess, stating in both printed marketing material and on the product website that it brews at 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius) for "superior flavor extraction." Indeed, I confirmed via thermocouple measurements that it does consistently heat its water supply to that magic number, as recommended by the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America).

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