Coffee in Our Kitchen – Coffee Brewer Comparison Recap

Coffee in Our Kitchen Coffee Brewer Comparison

I have had so much fun inviting you into my home to chat about brewing coffee and this week was no exception! We had the joy of testing three different price points of home drip brewers, to determine if price and quality of cup were connected in any way. So let’s dive into how we pulled this off.

Coffee in our Kitchen: Drip Brewer Comparison

This week, Matt compares 3 drip brewers!

Posted by Driven Coffee on Saturday, May 2, 2020

 

The Lineup

Brewer #1: Black and Decker Mr Coffee 4 in 1 Coffee Station

  • Brew Capacity: 5 Cups
  • SCA Certified: No
  • Price: ~$20

Brewer #2: OXO Barista Brain

  • Brew Capacity: 9 Cups
  • SCA Certified: Yes
  • Price: ~$200

Brewer #3: Technivorm Moccamaster KBG

  • Brew Capacity: 10 Cups
  • SCA Certified: Yes
  • Price: ~$300

See the full SCA Certified Home Coffee Brewer list here.

The Test

For this test, we wanted to create control measurements that were the same for all of the brewers leaving the only variable to be the output from each brewer. To do this, we used the same coffee, coffee quantity, water, and water quantity for each sample.

  • Coffee: Driven Peru Cenfrocafe
  • Coffee Grind: Medium Drip
  • Coffee Quantity: 40g
  • Water: Filtered Water
  • Water Quantity: 25oz

The Process

  1. Test the Water Temperature: This was done throughout the brew process to determine lowest brew temperature, highest brew temperature, and average brew temperature. This was completed by placing a thermometer directly under the spray head and recording findings.
  2. Test the Brew Time: This was done by placing the water, coffee filter and coffee in the brewer and starting a timer simultaneously while pushing the brew button. The brew time was considered complete upon final drip out.
  3. Test the Extraction % of Each Sample: Extraction % is calculated by the following equation. TDS was calculated using a refractometer.
    Extraction %= Brewed Coffee (g) x TDS (%) / Dose Coffee (g)
  4. Blind Cup the Coffees: This was done by placing a 4 ounce sample from each brewer into a cup with the letter A, B, or C on the bottom. Each letter corresponded to one of the samples. The samples were then mixed up and tried at one minute intervals until cool. I used a 0-10 cupping scale based primarily on taste and rated each minute. Scores were then averaged to give a final 0-10 score representative of each sample.
  5. Findings:
Mr Coffee OXO Barista Brain Technivorm
Water Temp AVG 180 195 198
Brew Time 8:48 5:40 4:33
Extraction % 13.48 19.01 19.01
Cupping Score 4 out of 10 8 out of 10 9 out of 10

The Results

This experiment was a ton of fun and produced some really interesting results. I went into this with the hypothesis that the OXO Barista Brain would be the obvious choice for an excellent home brewer, with the Technivorm scoring slightly better but not being worth the extra money, and the Mr Coffee not holding a candle to the other two. I was right that the Mr Coffee is not a good brewer and is not even worth the $20 price tag, but I was wrong about the Technivorm. This brewer has long been the home brewing choice for industry professionals and with good reason. It produces an amazing cup of coffee and is really a fun experience every time. It’s heating element is by far superior and the flavor profile was outstanding. The OXO is a good brewer, but the cup lacked the top end flavors produced by the Technivorm. Although a $300 price tag may be hard to swallow, if you want the best cup possible at home, you should really give it consideration.

See the Brew Comparison Slide Deck here.

Thanks for tuning in and check out our episode bout the French Press this coming Saturday, May 9th!

Coffee in Our Kitchen – Coffee Brewer Comparison Live Stream Transcript

Good morning everyone, welcome to our 4th installment of Coffee in our Kitchen! If this is your first time tuning in, I’m Matt and I founded Driven Coffee.

I’m really excited for this week’s episode, as we’re doing a home brewer comparison. We’ve received lots of questions about brewers in the past, so we wanted to take this opportunity to test 3 different brewers starting from a beginning brewer and going up to what industry professionals use. Then, we took them through a rigorous scientific test followed by a cupping to see what brewer comes out on top and why.

Before we start, I want to give you a little bit of information about each of these.

Entry Level: Mr Coffee 4 in 1 Coffee Station

  • Not SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) certified
  • SCA sets the industry standards for all things coffee (whether that’s the extraction percentage, brew time, etc., and as a specialty coffee roaster, we need to make sure that our coffee falls within those guidelines)
  • 5 cup brew capacity
  • 5 hole brew head
  • $20 brewer
  • About as entry level as it can get

Mid Range: Oxo 9 Cup

  • Unlike the Mr. Coffee which has a basket bottom, this one uses a #4 Filtropa/Melitta filter with a cone shaped basket
  • Improved heating element that gets water up to temperature quicker
  • Insulated carafe
  • 6 hole brew head
  • 24 hour programmable feature
  • No hot plate
  • SCA certified
  • About $180

High End: Technivorm Moccamaster KBG

  • Gold standard for the coffee industry since 1969
  • Copper heating element heats water up very quickly
  • 10 hole brew head
  • SCA certified
  • Starts around $300

Prior to this, I had never brewed on the Technivorm, as I only had an OXO at home, so I was very excited to run this test and learn more.

In order to test this evenly, I created an experiment with controlled variables that we kept the same throughout each brewer. In other words, I had 25oz water, and 40oz medium grind coffee (Peru, to be specific). Prior to brewing, I took the temperature of the water when it came out and got some of those key data points.

Then, I went through and brewed them simultaneously, keeping an eye on my timer to track the brew time and let it run its cycle. From there, I poured each coffee into a labeled cup so I could do a blind cupping. This is important because you don’t want to have any bias towards any brewer.

You’ll notice I have some slides here to aid in comprehension too. I will admit, this information can get a little bit geeky, so I hope these slides alleviate that!

Brew Temperature

The brew temp for each of these was dramatically different. To measure this, I opened up the top part of each brewer and stuck my thermometer under the water coming out of the brew head.

SCA recommends brew temp to be between 195 and 205. If you change that, you’re not gonna get good extraction. If you watched previous videos, you’ll remember that with cold brew, you have room temperature water but brew for 20 hours. Since we’re only brewing this for 4 minutes, we need the water to be hot. If not, the coffee will be under extracted and sour.

The Mr. Coffee was kind of all over the place. It started at 156 degrees and its top temperature was 190 degrees.

The OXO did a lot better, with an initial brew temp of 175 for the first ~15 seconds but then got within the range, staying between 195 and 203 for the remainder of the brew. Compared to the Mr. Coffee, this brewer had very good temp control!

Finally, the Technivorm was amazing in this area. Its initial spurts of water were at 190 and it held a 198 average thereafter. I was very impressed with this, as having good temperature control will give good extraction in a shorter amount of time, which becomes increasingly important as I run calculations.

Brew Time

The best home brewers have a brew time between 4 and 6 minutes.

Our Mr. Coffee came out at 8:48, which yielded a sour and bitter cup.

In contrast, the OXO came in at 5:40, which is at the higher end but still not bad, as Joey from Friends would say.

The Technivorm had an amazing brew time of 4:33, which is strikingly close to what a pourover would be. It was after this reading that I started to become a believer in what this brewer would do.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

This is a measurement of weight by volume, wherein you take the extraction percentage. Basically, that’s just a fancy way of saying the percentage of the drink that is the coffee. SCA’s range for TDS is 18-22% to get that perfect cup.

Mr. Coffee had a low TDS of 13.48%, which is practically in “gross” territory, followed by the OXO and Technivorm with 19.01%, respectively.

By calculating the TDS/extraction percentage, you’ll know the strength of the coffee you’re drinking. Note: this doesn’t affect the taste, which is a common misconception.

Cupping

After I did some math, I did a blind cupping. Normally, we cup with the SCA cupping sheet, which has numerous characteristics. To make it easier, I dumbed it down. Specialty coffee scores between an 80-100, but I changed my scale to 0-10 by taste.

When you’re drinking coffee, you’ll notice changes in the taste as it cools. There’s a saying in the industry that says “A good cup of coffee will get better as it cools”. Hot coffees will taste the same, but as a cup cools, you’ll be able to notice some of the intricacies.

Due to that, I cupped this at several points during the cooling process: when it was very hot, and every minute after until it got cold. From there, I averaged those scores and gave each brewer its official score.

The Mr. Coffee came out on bottom, with a score of 4/10. This tasted over extracted but not sour, which is unusual. It hit the back of my mouth with almost no flavor.

Next was the OXO, with a score of 8/10, which is pretty good, but the flavor tasted muted.

Coming out on top was the Technivorm, with a score of 9/10. The difference between this score and the OXO was pretty dramatic, as this cup had so many flavors due to the stats we pulled and the brew specs.

As I cupped all of these, I had a hard time believing this was the same coffee throughout, due to the variance in flavor.

This is a prime example of a coffee not tasting good with one brew method, which we’re asked a lot. I attribute this to the brew temperature and the amount of holes in the spray head. With all things considered, the Technivorm shined in all of these fronts.

Takeaways

Prior to this, I didn’t want to like the Technivorm since its $300, which is a lot for a drip brewer. However, I was surprised to see that it works great and is fun to brew on. If I were to buy this one again, I would buy the model that has an insulated carafe, like the OXO, rather than the hot plate. If you have the money, this is awesome and the closest you can get to a pourover.

The OXO came in at a close second. There are some things that I’m not crazy about, the first being the filter basket. Because of the conical shape, you can’t set it down on a scale without it tipping to weigh your coffee. The programmable feature isn’t something I use all the time, but it is nice if you’re the kind of person who likes having coffee ready before you get out of bed.

That leaves the Mr. Coffee in third place. While it’s hard for me to think of many positives, one unique thing is that it has a removable base so you can fill up a to go mug, or pour straight into your other mug. However, for this being $20, I wouldn’t expect this to have all of the bells and whistles.

Personally, I would much rather put the money I would spend on a Mr. Coffee and buy a Chemex instead.

All in all, this was tons of fun and I learned a lot about the brewers. Michaela, what do we have for questions?

Brewing Questions

Michaela (MJ): Derek asked what is the difference between brewing on a Chemex vs one of these?

Matt: The short answer is that the Chemex is more customizable. While the Technivorm does a good job of starting the bloom, we know from experience that you can optimize your extraction with the Chemex. With these brewers, they’re ultimately just dumping water into the basket, whereas with a Chemex you have more assurance. Besides that, the Chemex has a thicker filter to pull out oils and particulates.

MJ: If someone is buying their first brewer, what do you recommend?
Matt: That’s hard to say, but SCA does have a list of approved brewers. Know that you’ll be spending a minimum of $100 to get a certified brewer that meets their standards.

MJ: Fitting with our motto of “Experience Better Coffee” what is the best brewer for the coffee experience?

Matt: The Technivorm, for sure. Since I’ve bought this, I’ve had fun brewing on this every morning. I know it sounds cheesy, but there’s something to be said about it, and the fact the machine hasn’t changed in 50+ years. Also, the speed it takes to brew is huge, which I know is a big component for many people. If I can save 2 minutes brewing with this, it’s well worth it.

MJ: That brings up a good point that you and I discussed yesterday…in the kitchen tool community, if something is made well, it won’t change and be timeless. I thought of the Technivorm like the Kitchenaid stand mixer of coffee brewers..

Matt: For sure. People always say that they don’t make things like they used to, and this is absolutely true.

MJ: Can you also tell the viewers about how Toddy reached out to you last week?

Matt: Yes! In our cold brew video, Derek had asked about paper filters. While we are one of their distributors, I hadn’t seen their home brewer paper filters, as they had previously only had them for commercial use. After seeing our video, they reached out to us and to my surprise loved our video and sent some goodies, including a paper filter! Using a paper filter in combination with the felt filter makes cleanup a lot easier and can serve as a double filtration system.

Additionally, they sent us a silicone lid to put over the brew chamber to keep foreign objects out, being that it brews for 20 hours on your counter top. I was pleased to learn something new so we can brew better and share the news with you all!

Thank you so much for tuning in this week, stay tuned for next week’s episode!