Better Than Average Joe
Tested: Brazen Coffee Brewer
Anyone can make a cup of coffee — just pour water over some beans. However, not everyone can make good coffee; that’s where baristas enter the picture. But what do you do if you don’t want to pay $5 for some mustachioed hipster to sneer at your order?
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It’s well known that home brewers offer quick, easy-to-make coffee from the comfort of your own kitchen. However, it’s been the long-standing opinion of industry professionals that they also deliver an inferior cup. Most disperse water at the same temperature, regardless of the bean type being brewed. As anyone who drinks a lot of coffee knows, the water temperature should vary depending on the bean. For instance, to get the best flavor from an Ethiopian bean it should be brewed at 198 degrees, while a Peruvian bean needs a temperature of 202.
Q. What was your inspiration for the Brazen Brewer?
A. After building two companies for other people, I burned out, and my friends said, ‘go to Costa Rica’. My wife and I brought coffee home that was unlike anything I’d ever tasted. A few years later, I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t get a cup of coffee like I got in Costa Rica, and that’s when I started learning more about the coffee industry. I looked at deficiencies in the market and tried to fix them.
Q. What was your goal in creating the Brazen?
A. I’m a kid from Ohio. I was raised around farms. In the fall, we picked corn that our parents canned. I haven’t forgotten that. I’m a passionate believer that the everyday Joe or Mary should enjoy the same thing as Donald Trump. Great coffee shouldn’t just be for people that have deep pockets.
A. What’s your next move?
Q. I’ve traveled 170,000 miles already this year, and probably have another 40-60,000 to go. I’m jetlagged as hell, but I’m having fun. There’s so much more to be done. We’re looking at so many products and saying, ‘here’s the deficiency with this, and here’s the problem with that.’ I want to continue addressing those inadequacies.
None of this may matter for the Average Joe, but for those who believe that little things make good coffee, the need for a solution is maddening — and expensive. The Brazen Brewer ($199) takes on the drip coffee brewer’s inherent issues at a mid-level price. In its creation — which follows on the heels of the award-winning Behmor 1600 coffee roaster, released in 2007 — inventor Joe Behm demanded a system that delivered extremely accurate water temperatures. Although higher-end brewers offer temperature control, even the best components available deliver water with an inaccuracy of plus or minus three degrees. In other words, your beautiful Ethiopian coffee may have just been brewed like a Peruvian.
Accounting for this variability becomes even more difficult when you consider that water boils at different temperatures at different altitudes — 212 degrees at sea level and 202 at 5,000 feet. And even if you do get the temperature correct, there’s still no guarantee that the water reaches all the beans. Most home brewers tend to run water through the center of the filter, meaning that some beans remain underextracted while others get overextracted.
But, after talking to Chinese engineers and working in a NASA-approved test laboratory, Behm developed proprietary heating technology and altitude algorithms that allow the Brazen to deliver water with a temperature variability of only .5%. He also created a custom dispersion system that mimics the pour-over method, delivering equal amounts of water throughout the grounds.
The result is a brewer that makes a moderately tasty cup of coffee and is far easier to use than our favored pour-over method, the Chemex.
“It’s almost intuitive,” says inventor Joe Behm. “The complexity is in what we’ve designed. For the user, we’ve made it as simple as humanly possible.”
As a result of that simplicity, the Brazen became the “go-to” maker in the office. We found it much easier to throw some grounds in a filter (the included golden basket filter is a nice touch), set our desired water temperature, altitude, and pre-soak time, and hit start than go through the process of pouring water over the Chemex filter, letting it drain, and then repeating the process until we filled the carafe.
If you ignore its eerie resemblance to Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, the brewer actually looks quite nice on a counter. It’s hard to make a drip coffee maker that doesn’t mirror every other drip coffee maker, but Brazen pulls it off with a sleek, futuristic and shiny look. Although traditionalists might want to look elsewhere, someone with a more modern kitchen will find that the Brazen matches the décor. As an added bonus, the stainless steel coffee pot feels solid in the hand and kept our coffee warm for over two hours.
Drip coffee is drip coffee, but if you’re looking for a mid-level home brewer with temperature accuracy and features similar to those of the big names, this is the machine for you.