Everyday Coffee Review: Life With The Bunn HB

Bunn has a long history of building indestructible industrial-strength coffeemakers. You see them everywhere: restaurants, travel plazas, hospitals, convenience stores … anywhere coffee is a critical part of day-to-day operations, you’ll find a Bunn.

A few years ago, Bunn entered the home market. Back then I actually purchased one of their earlier models — the Bunn Velocity Brew. At the time, I wasn’t impressed. The coffee was good, but it lacked a lot of basic features that we take for granted such as auto-off and a drip stop. But that was a good six years ago, so it was time to see if the Bunn HB had improved anything.

A Whole New Thing

Like all the other coffeemakers I’m testing as part of my Everyday Coffee series, the Bunn HB is SCAA-certified. This means that it meets certain standards (such as brewing in the magic 195- to 205-degree range) and is engineered to produce a really great cup of coffee. It costs a little more, but the flavor is vastly improved. If you’re serious about coffee, SCAA certification is well worth the price.

But I also have three additional requirements: it must be priced under $200, it must be programmable, and it must have auto-off. Let’s face it: I’m not exactly operating at full capacity first thing in the morning, so being able to set things up the night before — and having it shut itself off if I forget — is crucial.

The Bunn HB hits all those features — and nothing else. It’s a basic coffeemaker that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “fluff”. There’s no pourover cycle, no innovative display, no presoak. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it does represent a shortage of features compared to other coffeemakers in the same price range, such as the KitchenAid KCM0802, the Behmor Brazen Plus, and the Cuisinart CPO-800.

Daily Use and Design: The Good

The Bunn HB is straightforward easy to use, thanks to its basic control panel. Bunn has taken an interesting, sole-function approach: each button has only one purpose. One to set the clock, one to set the program, one to set the hour, one to set the time, and one to toggle brewing (and the warming plate) on / off. There’s no “menu”; it’s single-function design, and it’s beautifully easy to figure out.

As I mentioned in my last review, the water reservoir has a stepped “ladder” inside that makes measuring water far easier than any other coffeemaker I’ve ever used. More coffeemakers need to implement this immediately!

The brew basket slides out for easy cleaning. It’s a solid piece of plastic with an oversized handle, making it a snap to dump out used grounds. The filter tends to stick to the basket, though.

And check out this carafe! The handle is large and sturdy, making it easy to work with first thing in the morning when my brain isn’t exactly what you’d call “on”. Plus, it’s got a unique “snout” (I’m calling this “the aardvark”) that all but eliminates dribbles. I couldn’t make the thing leak no matter what I did.

Daily Use and Design: The Bad

But the Bunn HB isn’t perfect. It has a few shortcomings and lacks some features that we take for granted in a typical coffeemaker.

For starters, there’s no pause function. When you remove the carafe, the drips keep coming. This isn’t necessarily a problem if you’re brewing coffee far ahead of when you want to consume it — as long as you don’t mind the coffee sitting on the warming plate all that time. But this is the only coffeemaker in the test group that lacks this feature. At this price, it’s inexcusable.

There’s no way to select your brew size, although Bunn gets a pass here due to their innovative measurement levels in the water reservoir.

You can’t set the auto-off time. The hotplate timer is set at the factory and can’t be changed.

The Bunn takes more time to brew than any other coffeemaker I tested. Several of my one-liter tests ran over ten minutes. Again, not a major issue if you’re using the time and start far enough ahead, but a mild irritant if you’re looking for a quick fix on a Saturday afternoon.

There’s no presoak. Given the final results, the merits of a presoak are debatable, but this drives home the fact that the Bunn HB truly has no options whatsoever other than a timer. If the end result is great coffee, then that’s forgivable, but those of us who like to tinker will feel let down.

And then there’s this:

I noticed water drops forming between the brew basket and the reservoir. This resulted in a little bit of countertop mess during the brew cycle. I confirmed that this wasn’t the result of the basket overflowing, and it happened about 50% of the time. This seems relatively minor, but will it get worse over time? It’s a pretty annoying engineering fault from such a reputable manufacturer.

Flavor and Everything Else

Here’s what really matters: the Bunn HB brews a very good cup of joe. It’s not quite perfect: the high notes of the Sidamo beans didn’t quite come through. The same was true with the Starbucks French Roast: the brew was bold, but felt like it was just being held back a bit. But at the end of the day, it’s vastly superior to what my old daily driver (a Cuisinart DGB-550BK) could crank out.

Power draw is almost exactly 1250 watts while heating, about 50 watts during the keep-warm cycle, and just under one watt while idle. This is on par with the rest of the test group.

Curiously, Bunn sells this for $300 on Amazon. But if you purchase it retail through Williams Sonoma, the price is only $179. Bunn may make great coffeemakers, but they’re not very good at marketing to consumers.

Worth mentioning: the Bunn HB is the only coffeemaker in this series (and probably at all) that’s made in the US. It’s backed by a three-year warranty. Given their reputation for impossibly durable equipment, it’s unlikely you’ll ever need it, but it is the longest warranty of any coffeemaker I’ve ever owned.

The Bottom Line

It’s an upgrade from you everyday store-bought coffeemaker — no question there. It’s solidly built (aside from the few issues I described above) and backed by a manufacturer with a legendary reputation. It’s got a unique, industrial design. And the end result is a strong (but not perfect) cup of coffee.

However, that all gets offset by the lack of basic features. Ten years ago that might be forgivable, but today there are other SCAA-certified coffeemakers that do include these features.

So is the Bunn HB worth buying? If you love the styling and want to support a made-in-the-US coffeemaker, and can live without the missing features, yes. You are absolutely not going to dislike the coffee that comes out of it.

But the brew quality is very, very close to the KitchenAid KCM0802, which offers far more convenience and can be found for quite a bit less.

Next up, the Behmor Brazen Plus!

This is part of my Everyday Coffee series, in which I review five affordable SCAA-certified coffeemakers: the Cuisinart CPO-800, the KitchenAid KCM0802, the Bunn HB, the Behmor Brazen Plus, and the OXO On Barista Brain. Read more about my testing procedures, and check out the entire series here!

 

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