Writing from the nation's capital, this blog explores technology, telecommunications, national security, policy, and their impact on people, with an occasional rant.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bunn Phase Brew: Is this the new standard in home coffee machines?

Bunn Phase Brew HT
My blog doesn't pitch products or link bait, but I recently picked up what might be the next gold standard for home coffee makers: the new Bunn Phase Brew HT. To say I'm very serious about coffee is an understatement. I've studied at Counter Culture Coffee in DC and have an espresso machine bigger than a bread box. But basic coffee is my go-to beverage.

In recent months, my 5 1/2-year old Capresso MT500 was yielding worse and worse coffee. Temps were falling off, and the coffee grounds were sometimes not completely saturated in the basket. I'd started the search for a new way to start my day about a year ago--it ended in frustration. Based on research at CoffeeGeek.com, Home-Barista.com, and elsewhere, three machines were on the short list: Capresso MT500, the legendary Technovorm Moccamaster, and the Newco OCS-8 or -12. The three machines all could brew hot enough (around 200 F), would saturate the grounds effectively, and had insulated carafes (so the coffee doesn't burn). But all had drawbacks: MT500-short lifespan, reports of diminished quality; TVM-about $300 and several design compromises, OCS has a utilitarian design and some detractors. In the end I was ready to buy the TVM but didn't because of the non-brew through lid and some reports of plastic quality.

In October my MT500 performance took a dive. I was effectively wasting money on high-grade coffee being poorly brewed. I resorted to manual pour overs using a Melita cone. But this soon became tedious making 30 oz of coffee for 2 travel mugs each day. Back to my MT500... and bad coffee. Then back to the forums. I had considered a Bunn before, but wasn't crazy about the always on heated water tank. This time I thought I'd compromise.

At CoffeeGeek.com I learned of the new Bunn Phase Brew pair of machines. These were similar in appearance to my all time favorite machine the Capresso model 461 (aka Philips  HD-5400), but operated differently. The Phase Brew has a water tank on top, and circulates water to a heater at the base, then back up to the top. Repeat until water is about 200 F. Then the water begins to drain down into the basket and into the brew-through carafe (glass on the HG, stainless on the HT). I was hooked. But only the glass model seemed available. I watched the online sites for a week or so, and then an unlikely hit at bedbathstore.com. They had the HT machine -- not "pre-order" like most sites. I took a chance and placed my order (with a generous 10% discount offer). I kept reading the posts. People at Bunn and online were saying the HT wouldn't be available until mid Dec or Jan 2011!

Keep in mind that during this time I had very restricted access to coffee in the morning. I needed a solution quick! I emailed BedBathStore.com (great name?) and in two days got a call from Susan, who assured me the HT had just become available and would be shipped soon. The next day I had a shipping notice and in a few more I had one of the first 300 HT machines.

Let me say I could not be happier. [Except for the clock--I wish there weren't one. Or that you could turn it off. Instead, you have to set it or not look at it. Try that while pressing prepping the machine.] The Phase Brew is fun to listen -- it makes lots of sounds heating the water. And it produces a fine cup of coffee, and can keep the pot hot for quite a while. I brewed some water one night during a test and it was still 110F the next morning.

There's been quite a discussion over at CoffeeGeek.com. It may still be too early to tell, but soon coffee geeks everywhere may be adding the Bunn Phase Brew to the short list of automatic coffee brewers. If you know a coffee geek (other than me), there are still 17 days to fill his or her stocking.

No comments: