SCAA Coffeemaker Roundup: Bunn vs Cuisinart vs Behmor vs Kitchenaid

I can’t function without coffee. And as any coffee enthusiast knows, a handcrafted cup of coffee — such as what you get out of a pourover or French press — is the best way to go. Unfortunately, that’s not always practical. Some people might be able to carve out an extra 20 minutes for coffee zen during the morning rush, but I’m not willing to part with that much sleep.

For the past few months I’ve been testing a handful of coffeemakers that promise to come close to manual-brew quality while adding the convenience of an automatic drip. A far cry from your average $50 Wal-Mart coffeemaker, all of the coffeemakers in this group have to meet four criteria:

  • It’s SCAA-certified. The SCAA has some pretty strict requirements involving temperature, brew time, sediment, and consistency.
  • It’s programmable. This is all about balancing convenience with flavor, without compromising either.
  • It’s got auto shut-off. Because I like having an un-charred house.
  • It’s affordable. Specifically, priced under $200. Go any higher, and you might as well get a Moccamaster.

I used fair and consistent testing methods to gather my results in real-world, everyday environments. Here’s the scoop so far:

Cuisinart CPO-800

You can read my CPO-800 review here and here. The CPO-800 got strong marks for design and appearance. The controls were easy to use, and visually speaking, it’s got a funky retro-80s thing going on.

Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ends. The end result was consistently bad coffee. No matter what I tried, the final brew was always dull and/or sour. Repeated testing confirmed that the water entering the brew basket didn’t get hot enough until the carafe was about 25% full — an obvious recipe for bad joe.

As much as I loved that beautiful VFD display, the CPO-800 was knocked out early on. Next!

Kitchenaid KCM0802

Check out my KCM0802 review here and here. Like the CPO-800, the KCM0802 has a unique design that goes back a few decades. It’s kind of like a cross between a 40s soda fountain and ice cream machine.

The KCM0802 came in second place for final brew quality. However, the user interface is needlessly complex. For example, to start the delay brew cycle, you press menu, menu, set, set, set. The cafe’s handle is a tight fit for my apparently colossal hands. And based on my experiences, I have long-term concerns about reliability.

My unit began leaking water after about a month of daily use. Every morning I’d wake up to find a few ounces of water on the countertop. I could have returned it for warranty service, but given the design issues, I decided to pass.

Bunn HB 10-Cup Programmable

See my Bunn HB review here and here. The Bunn makes a very good cup of joe, and is a close third behind the KitchenAid KCM0802. This was surprising, as the Bunn is the only unit in this group that doesn’t pre-soak the grounds.

In fact, the Bunn HB is as basic as you can get. The interface could not possibly be any simpler, thanks to single-function buttons. There’s a certain elegance to simplicity, especially when it brews a consistently good cup of joe. It’s also worth pointing out that the Bunn is the only coffeemaker in this group that’s made in the US.

While the Bunn is third place behind the KCM0802, let’s keep this in perspective: it’s still light years better than your typical $50 Wal-Mart coffeemaker.

Behmor Brazen Plus

You can see my Brazen Plus review here and here. This is a true coffee geek’s coffeemaker. The brew was consistently outstanding, but this came at the expense of a few design issues.

The Brazen Plus has a lot of features you simply can’t find at this price point. Unfortunately, nearly all of them felt unfinished. Whether it’s the significant condensation problems, the sloppy pour of the carafe, the backwards instructions on the carafe lid, or the crude user interface, entire unit felt unrefined — like it was rushed into production.

But at the end of the day, the end result is an amazing cup of coffee — if you can put up with all its quirks.

Let’s Recap

If you can live with its quirks, the Behmor Brazen Plus makes the best coffee. Unfortunately, even its advanced features aren’t enough to outweigh its design shortcomings and “personality”.

The Kitchenaid KCM0802 offers a great balance of brew quality, visual appearance, and functionality. However, I can’t ignore the fact that my unit developed a serious water leak after only a few weeks of daily use.

The Bunn HB brews a very good cup, and comes in third place behind the Behmor and the Kitchenaid. What it lacks in bells and whistles it makes up for in durable design and a simple-but-effective, easy-to-understand interface.

The Cuisinart CPO-800 was a massive disappointment. It wins in the design department, because who doesn’t want their kitchen to look straight out of 1985? Unfortunately the final result was dull, sour coffee — completely unacceptable at this price.

Since this series is called “Everyday Coffee”, I took a subjective look at each unit to see how it would hold up to real-world usage and expectations. Yes, factors like total dissolved solids and holding temperature are important, but it’s the end result that matters: does it produce a consistently superior cup of joe, is it easy to use, and will it stand up to real life?

And the Winner Is

Say hello to my new daily driver: the Bunn HB!

While it lacks advanced features like presoak and pulsed brewing, the Bunn HB delivered a consistently excellent cup of coffee. It won’t match a pourover or French press … but it’s close. So close that it makes a perfect daily driver when you want to wake up to freshly brewed coffee every morning.

The Brazen Plus came in a very close second. If you can live with its quirks (and they are substantial), it produces a cup of joe that puts the Moccamaster to shame.

The Kitchenaid KCM0802 was originally the winner. It offered a brew quality very close to the Brazen, but without all the issues. However, the needlessly complex UI combined with the reliability issues knocked it out of the running.

At the end of the day, what really matters is that you drink what you like. If your idea of the perfect cup of coffee is Folgers in your grandparents’ circa-1979 Mr. Coffee, go for it — but do yourself a favor and at least try a manual brew with fresh, local beans.

But if you’re looking for a better coffee experience, you need to check out the Bunn HB.

9 thoughts on “SCAA Coffeemaker Roundup: Bunn vs Cuisinart vs Behmor vs Kitchenaid”

  1. Where to start? It feels like an overambitious coffeemaker. It tries to do a lot of neat tricks, but has a few fundamental shortcomings.

    The water reservoir is airtight. Unless you crack the lid after every brew, it will never dry out and you’ll condensation on the underside of the lid. That condensation will run off the next time you lift the lid, which means there’s a good chance it will land on your not-watertight control panel.

    The manual mode generates a ton of steam when you use it. During normal brew cycles this isn’t a problem, since the brew basket catches it all. But without that basket, the steam just billows up the front of the unit — and condenses on the display and control panel. Did I mention neither is waterproof?

    The carafe pours very sloppily. Unlike every other coffeemaker I’ve ever owned, it doesn’t give a steady stream of coffee. The channel was poorly designed, so you get a lot of splashing.

    Then there are all the minor things. The carafe instructions are backwards (close is open, and open is close). The display is frustratingly bright. The instruction manual is just 8×10″ high-gloss paper typed up in Word — complete with lines of asterisks to mark off sections. And given that it isn’t waterproof, the control panel feels like it won’t last very long.

    Behmor is well respected due to their home roasters. I feel like they tried to make “the Tesla of coffeemakers”, and it was just rushed into production without much real-world testing. Which is a real shame, because this made the best coffee of the batch.

  2. Thanks for your reviews! This is a very very helpful series.

    I assume from your recommendation that you buy freshly roasted beans and grind them yourself. Any home roasting? Given that reality, and therefore the need to bloom so as to off gas properly, I am surprised that a presoak feature isn’t mandatory for you, and that therefore you really like the Bunn over the Brazen.

    Soon, I’m going to adventure into home roasting. I want it fresh but don’t want to shell out at the local shop for the beans, and so I’d rather buy the beans green. I bought a Korean hand roaster, which you use to roast over an open flame. It was $26 so I figured it was worth the try. Anyway, assuming I’m successful, I’ll have very freshly roasted coffee to consume.

    In the end, I want to get the Bunn for it’s ease of use, am wary of the Brazen for the reasons you give, but don’t want to miss out on flavor for lack of presoak with freshly roasted beans.

    Thoughts? Am I putting needless stock in the presoak function?

    Thanks man!

    Andrew

    1. Both the Behmor and the Kitchenaid delivered slightly better coffee than the Bunn, and that’s likely attributable to the presoak and/or pulse brewing. You simply can’t discount the bloom.

      However, keep in mind the perspective of this series: I’m balancing the final brew quality with everyday usability. The Behmor just had too many irritating flaws to live with. The sloppy pour of the carafe was definitely the biggest fault, which is unfortunate: even if you ignore all of its other gee-whiz features (such as the steam issue with the hot water dispenser), that’s a pretty fundamental flaw. Getting droplets of coffee all over your countertop in the morning outweighs the slight brew quality advantage over the Bunn.

      As for the KitchenAid, I was able to live with the needlessly complex operation — five button presses just to turn on the timer, let alone program it — but the water leak indicated poor quality control. Is it possible that I just got a single dud unit? Yes, absolutely. Hopefully others will have better luck.

      At the end of the day, the final brew quality was very close between all three. If you ignore all the design flaws and focus solely on the brew, I’d put the Brazen up against the Moccamaster any day. It’s that good. So if you consider that an A+, I’d rank the KitchenAid an A and the Bunn a B+ — but the Bunn blows them all away in terms of usability.

      The Behmor Brazen was so frustrating because all of its flaws are simple oversights that could be easily fixed. If they resolve those and release an updated model, the Brazen Plus would easily be the best coffeemaker on the market — period.

      As for home roasting, I haven’t ventured that far yet. Brazen makes affordable home roasters that seem to get rave reviews. Maybe that will be my Christmas present this year!

      1. thanks so much for your reply! I really appreciate it. About two years ago I made a mistake and bought the Breville GrindControl (not scaa rated, and not consistent in its production of quality brew), not to mention it’s too high maintenance, and so I’m eager to not repeat that mistake. It sounds like the Behmor may similarly high maintenance.

        It looks like, from CNET, that there will be some more SCAA rated brewers coming out in September – I should probably wait and see what those bring to the table.

      2. do you have any experience with the Behmor Connected? Wondering if it improves on any of the downfalls of the Plus.

      3. Nope, I haven’t tried the Connected. If they redesigned the carafe to have a smoother / more consistent pour, that would go a LONG way towards resolving all its little quirks!

        The only thing I’m skeptical about regarding the Behmor Connected is how long they’re committed to maintaining the app. What if a future Android update breaks it?

  3. Thanks for your reviews. I found them looking for a review of the Bunn HB. It seems the model isn’t widely known or easily available. A Bunn rep had trouble finding it on her own company’s website.
    You seem to know your stuff. But one of my biggest frustrations with virtually all coffee reviews is that people tend to ignore the temperature of the coffee AFTER it is brewed. When Starbuck’s was in its early stages you could go there and always get a piping hot coffee brewed at over 200 degrees. It was so hot they served it with two cups.
    I’ve spent years searching for a home coffee maker that can brew coffee at the temperature Starbuck’s is supposed to be served. I will sacrifice some taste if it means the coffee is hotter. The folks at Bunn assured me I will get a commercial temperature served coffee. I’m praying they are right.

    1. Very interesting! I see the Bunn HB is listed as discontinued on both Williams-Sonoma and Amazon. Bunn’s website now describes it as the “Heat & Brew”, or at least that appears to be the exact same model. What can I say — Bunn does a terrible job of marketing to consumers.

      As far as your drinking temperature, I’ll check mine in the carafe the next time I brew. It’s definitely brewing in the magical 195- to 205-degree range when the water hits the grounds, but I believe it drops considerably sitting in the pot. Even with a thermal carafe, you’re going to drop a few degrees from the brewing process (as the heat radiates out through the grounds, brew basket, and air) and the carafe itself (every carafe leaks some heat).

      Good luck — let me know how you like it!

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