I’ve spent the last week putting the Behmor Brazen Plus through its paces as my daily driver coffeemaker. My first review focused on the basics of the machine, and today I’m going to focus on the end product: does it really stand out as an excellent coffeemaker?
In a word, yes*. It can produce an amazing cup of coffee, but there are a few caveats that may turn off some buyers.
Since this series is titled “Everyday Coffee”, I’m going to focus on things like design and ease-of-use over technical specifications. While those things are important, the whole point of this series is to find that perfect balance between the quality of a pourover or French press and the convenience of a programmable coffeemaker.
Amazing Flexibility, Amazing Coffee
The Behmor Brazen Plus produced the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had from a home coffeemaker. In fact, it was better than the coffee I get at most coffeehouses. Flavors are rich and vibrant, and it produced both the delicate notes of the Sidamo and the bold power of the French roast equally well.
Remember my Coffee from Hell? That’s supermarket-bought pre-ground coffee that’s been left out in the air for a week. The Brazen Plus was the only coffeemaker capable of breathing life back into that awful stuff. Cranking the temperature way up helped coax every last bit of flavor out of the neglected grounds, and the end result was a drinkable (though admittedly not great) cup of joe.
This is all because of the Brazen Plus’s ridiculous level of customization. Brew temperature can be set anywhere from 190 to 210 degrees (yes: if you ask it to destroy your coffee at 210 degrees, it will happily do so). Pre-soak time can be set anywhere from 15 seconds to four minutes, or disabled entirely.
You can even calibrate the unit to match your elevation. Since water boils at lower temperatures the higher up you go, this is actually a pretty important step that more coffeemakers should perform. The process slowly ramps up the temperature in the reservoir, comparing expected water temperature with actual water temperature. The entire process takes about five minutes and only has to be done once.
And if that’s all too confusing, the manual helpfully suggests a brew temperature of 202 degrees and a pre-soak time of 45 seconds. This is a good starting point for most coffee. I found that if I’m using fresh, locally-roasted beans, cranking the pre-soak up to about 90 seconds seemed to yield the best flavor.
A Coffee Geek’s Coffeemaker
It’s not just the extreme levels of customization that make this a great coffeemaker. A lot of unique ideas went into the design and, in a bold departure from most manufacturers, actually made it to the final product.
Like the KitchenAid KCM0802, the Brazen Plus brews in waves. Once the pre-soak is complete, the water flows in 15-second cycles. This gives the water time to extract the full flavor from the grounds, and helps guard against under- or over-saturation. You can actually (barely) hear the valve clicking open and shut as the brew progresses.
The stainless steel reservoir is capped by a massive 7″ lid. This makes filling easy, and also lets you clearly see when calcification becomes an issue. That’s a big deal unless you’re using filtered or bottled water every single day. Mineral deposits build up on the heating elements, causing a reduction in efficiency and temperature. At least in the Behmor, you can easily see when it’s time to clean.
There’s also a manual brew feature. This heats the water to the programmed temperature, then holds it for up to ten minutes. Pressing the “manual” button toggles the water flow on or off. The idea here is that you can use the excellent heater to make a perfectly-temped French press or pourover.
That Asterisk, Though
Unfortunately, the Behmor Brazen Plus has a few irritating quirks. Some of these are so basic, I can’t help but wonder if this thing was rushed into production without any real-world user testing.
See all that water on the front of the unit? That’s not spillage or splashback; that’s condensation from using the manual mode. All of that developed in seconds, long before the French press was full. As the hot water is dispensed, steam escapes up the front of the unit and leaves water all over the control panel and LCD screen. Here’s hoping they’re both waterproof.
It’s the same with that oversized 7″ reservoir lid I mentioned earlier. After every brew cycle, condensation develops on the flat bottom of the lid, meaning that no matter how careful you are, you’re going to spill some water when you open it up later. And since it’s airtight, this happens whether you let it sit for a few hours or a few days. Cracking the lid slightly after a brew cycle can help, but doesn’t fully alleviate the problem.
Let’s talk about the carafe for a moment. I have a love-hate relationship with carafes. On one hand, they keep the coffee hot without the use of a warming plate, so coffee that’s been sitting for an hour is still just as good as coffee that was just brewed. On the other hand, they’re opaque. Unlike a glass carafe, you can’t tell at a glance how much coffee remains. Nothing like coming down to a coffee-soaked countertop in the morning because you forgot to empty the carafe last night.
To be clear, those aren’t problems unique to the Behmor. Those are problems with every thermal carafe out there. But this is, without a doubt, the worst carafe I’ve ever used. The pour is uneven and tends to splash a lot. Once the carafe is about half empty, you have to tilt it past 90 degrees to get any coffee out. And the “open / close” arrows are actually screened on backwards. How does that escape detection?
And then there’s the manual. Mine arrived somewhat wrinkled and crumpled, as if it was from a returned unit. It reads more like a Word document slapped together by an engineer rather than a manual put together by a writer. Some basic formatting would go a long way here. And because it’s printed on double 8×10 glossy paper, it feels like paperwork for someone’s school science project.
Granted, that’s not a reflection on the quality of coffee it brews. But combined with the poor carafe design, the critical condensation issue, and the sloppy lid design, it really drives home the notion that the Behmor Brazen Plus was rushed out the door.
Daily Usage and Operation
Despite all the amazing customization options, daily usage is actually very simple. Once you program in you preferred settings, they stay there for every subsequent brew cycle. You only have to set them once.
Programming a start time is easy. Once you’ve got the time set, simply touching the “auto” button starts the timer.
Brew time is about 8 minutes for a full carafe. Power draw is about 1300 watts during the heating cycle and just under 1 watt at idle. Thanks to the thermal carafe, there is no “keep warm” cycle, which normally draws about 40 – 50 watts.
There’s minimal heat leakage and almost no steam leakage, so you can probably get away with placing this under a kitchen cabinet — though I wouldn’t. Just be prepared to pull it back out to fill the reservoir.
The blue LCD display is a little bright for my tastes. This shouldn’t be a problem in a kitchen, but if you’re looking for something to bring into your Dimly-Lit Den of Geekdom, you’re going to notice it. Fortunately it dims after a few minutes, but it’s still pretty jarring.
So What’s The Verdict?
There’s no question about it: this makes the best coffee out of any coffeemaker I’ve ever used. Period. If that’s all that matters to you, buy this coffeemaker. I got mine on sale for $159 at Bed Bath & Beyond. At that price, it’s a steal — as long as you can overlook some issues.
The issue is going to be how you feel about those quirks. Since this series is titled “Everyday Coffee”, I’ve been focused on ease-of-use and practicality. And as fantastic as the coffee may be, the Brazen’s controls and setup are significantly more complex than your standard coffeemaker.
But then again, your standard coffeemaker is pretty simple to begin with. And it’s not like you have to set the temperature and pre-soak time every time you brew; those settings remain until you change them.
The Behmor Brazen Plus is a coffeemaker for coffee enthusiasts. It’s fun to use, can handle some serious tinkering, and can bring abused coffee back from the dead. It’s as close to the brewing process as you can get while still using a machine. And in case you hadn’t picked up on it by now, the end result is an amazing cup of joe.
But it’s not exactly convenient. It meets the requirement for my tests — it’s under $200, it’s programmable, and it’s SCAA-certified — and it’s not difficult to use. However, there are some serious design shortcomings that quickly became irritating — and may compromise the longevity of the unit.
So is this the right coffeemaker for you? It depends. My next post will put this head to head against the KitchenAid KCM0802.