BraZen about to ship

24 Sep

It’s really kind of silly to think that, until now, none of our home coffee brewers informed us of the temperature of the water used for brewing. Doesn’t it seem slightly unbelievable that by this juncture, when we are raising coffee brewing to an artisan level, that we don’t even know this basic information? Wouldn’t you think we would want to know the temperature of the water, since it happens to be just about all of a cup of coffee, except for one and a quarter percent? Well, the wait is nearly over as the BraZen Coffee Brewer is being shipped to customers the end of the week. Will your House Blend taste different at 196, 200 or 203 degrees? If the answer is yes” we’ll be kicking ourselves for not having this idea first!

BraZen Coffee Brew System

Features like temperature selection (1 degree increments from 190 to 210F) and pre-soak have been reserved for professional coffee brewers, and just the higher end ones at that. The BraZen puts brewing variations in your hand, giving you the tools to tweak your brewing, and doing so in an easy to use package that looks a little space age, but classy in an interesting way. Other features include temperature glide, temperature calibration with altitude correction, ‘auto’ setting for when you want to wake up to a fresh pot, a stainless steel, water heating reservoir, and, a host of other enhancements.

The BraZen Coffee Brewer is $199 including free shipping, a pound of coffee and more from our main site.  There you will also find a more in-depth discussion of features as well as photos.

As I am writing this I am in the Adirondack mountains at the home of friends, where I have brought a BraZen and a Technivorm brewer along with a pro digital thermometer.  I calibrated the thermometer to 208 degrees for this altitude after a minor adjustment for barometric pressure.  Altitude here is 1980 feet so I calibrated the BraZen to 2000 feet.  When calibration was complete the usable temperature range became 190 to 206 degrees (attainable temperature less 2 degrees).  I brewed a full pot of coffee with a target temp of 200 degrees, same as I had last done at home.  When the water reached its target temperature and started brewing I measured the water temp in the reservoir using the separate digital thermometer and found it to be precisely 200, verifying that the calibration process had perfectly done its job.  Separately, I brewed a pot on the Technivorm model and it was able to attain a brew temp of 197 degrees with an occasional spurt reaching 198.  This is very respectable and makes sense.  The target temperature range of Technivorms is 195 to 205 degrees but attempts to hold 200, so at this altitude that 200 was reduced by about 3 1/2 degrees.  The BraZen is accurate to within 2 degrees but was spot on during this test.  A point worth noting is that I could have cranked the Brazen brew temperature up as far as 206 degrees at this altitude, had I wanted.  In that case the coffee temperature would have been about 10 degrees more than the Technivorm, or for that matter, any fixed temperature brewer.

This somewhat unscientific experiment was conducted with the bewildered gaze of my friends, who wondered while the hell I came for a relaxing visit to their mountain home bearing an armada of coffee brewing and lab equipment.  But, all was well as we enjoyed some fine cups of coffee each day brewed with an accurately calibrated BraZen brewer, which was making coffee in the mountains to the exact recipe as that used at our sea level home.



Electric Kettle Showdown

28 Aug

Hario and Bonavita are both about to release new electric kettles, the Hario V60 Buono Electric Power Kettle and the Bonavita Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle. They both feature a stainless steel finish, a gooseneck spout for controllable pour-over dispersion, electric base plate, and cordless capabilities. Both have knobs on the lid and a plastic handle to make pouring easy and safe.

Hario Electric Buono

Bonavita Variable Electric Kettle

The real battle of the kettles arises when one considers the differences. Priced at $75.00 the Hario provides ease of operation, key in an electric kettle. There aren’t many bells and whistles here, with an auto-shut off and a “boil dry protection” feature, the kettle will automatically cut off power if it’s turned on without any water inside. Aesthetically, it has a cool factor, with a ribbed body and a classic kettle shape. The design matches other Hario V60 pieces. Maximum capacity is just under a liter at 27 ounces.

On the other hand, the Bonavita is priced at $89.99, but for the extra money you get a whole set of features that could be worth your while. This kettle offers you the option of Fahrenheit and Celsius, and a “hold” button will maintain any temperature for up to an hour. The most significant feature is the ability to set a target temperature, starting at 140F and continuing in 1 degree increments. Temperature can also be set with any of 6 presets. It is also equipped with a count-up timer for accurate timing of coffee brewing or steeping tea. The maximum capacity on this kettle is 1 liter (33.8 ounces).

Temperature is adjustableYesNo
Temperature presetsYesNo
Fahrenheit & CelsiusYesNo
Count-up timerYesNo
Gooseneck SpoutYesYes
Boil dry protectionNoYes
Cord coils underneathYesYes
Stainless finishYesYes
Our Price:$94.99$74.99
Free ShippingYesNo

To purchase:  Bonavita Variable Electric Kettle or Hario Electric Buono.

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Weird season for incoming coffee

19 Jul

Typically new crop coffees arrive over many months and it is not uncommon to see the Central American coffees arriving together, or,  East African coffees during a separate time period.  But this year there a ton of them that are clustered together and from different world growing regions.  In other words, a lot of coffees are showing up about the same time.  We have just listed the long awaited Amaro Gayo Natural from Ethiopia and know of other naturals arriving in the US from the same region.  A half dozen choice, boutique lots of coffee that we sourced from Costa Rica have now arrived and several have already made their way onto our list;  the others, including a yellow honey and two high altitude (and awesome) fully washed ones will be posted soon.

From Panama we will shortly list two more coffees including  Elida Estate Reserve fully washed, and, their terrific natural.  Both are in short supply.  We just listed Carmen Estate from their highest altitude parcels, grown by another longtime friend.  In addition, several lots of Panama’s famous Hacienda Esmeralda are due to arrive.  Some of these may be offered off-list due their very limited availability but the Esmeralda Select, geishas that did not make their way into the private auction, represent a real value for this expensive coffee.

Also expected at our warehouse next week are two auction lots purchased directly from top sources in Kenya.  We will have at least one and possibly two auction lots arriving soon that we purchased in the El Injerto auction.  A favorite from El Salvador will arrive soon too.

We are not sure why the timetable is so skewed this year, be it weather or the coordination of shipping, but a cornucopia of great coffees is coming through the door.  Keep an eye on our New Arrivals section for the latest, as each is listed on our site.



Bonavita brewer joins SCAA short list

10 Feb

The Bonavita coffee brewer, new to the market, has become one of four coffeemakers to receive certification from the Specialty Coffee Association of America.  Each must be capable of brewing coffee to the standards set by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Manufactured by the German company Melitta, this 1.2 liter brewer is capable of maintaining brewing temperatures in the 200 to 205 degree range. Brew times are 5 to 6 minutes and the brewer has a small footprint 12″ high, 11″ length, 6″ wide.  It has no timers nor programming features, functioning simply.

Bonavita Thermal Coffee Maker BV-1800TH

The Bonavita releases water only after it has attained the proper temperature. The spray head completely saturates coffee grounds and produces an ideal extraction. This brewer comes with a high quality 8 cup glass lined thermal carafe that will maintain the coffee temperature for longer. While glass lined thermal carafes have the possibility of breakage, they are also easier to clean than all steel models and do not stain internally; replacements, should they be needed, or additional carafes, are not expensive.

At our selling price of $149.99 including free shipping, the Bonavita 8 cup Thermal Coffeemaker represents a quality home brewer at a fair price. See our site for details or to order


Baratza Virtuoso updated

21 Dec

Baratza has upgraded the Virtuoso grinder by using the same burr set found in their more expensive Preciso model. This change happened in December 2011 and all of the Virtuosos now for sale on our site are the latest model. The new Virtuoso model is #586 which replaces #585.  These new burrs reduce the ‘fines’ in all levels of grind and nearly double the speed of grind from about 1 g/second to about 2 g/second.

Virtuoso burrs compared

Virtuoso burrs compared

In the photo below the lower burrs are shown by themselves, without the upper burrs in their working position.  This shows off more of the differences in the burr design.  The lower burr set of the model 586 can channel coffee better and more quickly.

Virtuoso lower burrs compared

Virtuoso lower burrs compared

The Preciso grinder has been paired in some cafes with the Esatto base for a Grind-By Weight system which allows users to grind and weigh simultaneously, mostly for use with manual brewing stations.  Because some of the Preciso’s micro adjustments were overkill, Baratza started producing custom Virtuoso grinders with Preciso burrs for cafe brew stations.  After awhile it became apparent that the Preciso burrs would make sense as a permanent upgrade.

The price has increased and minimum selling price of the model 586 is $229.  We include free shipping in the continental US.


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Hottop adds new thermocouple

20 Sep

The newest shipment of Hottop KN-8828B-2 roasters, known more affectionately around here simply as model B, will now be equipped with a K-style thermocouple. The new thermocouple replaces the original button style thermal sensor that was on the back wall of the roaster. This new thermocouple, which is extended away from the rear wall, will give more accurate temperature display and faster response time. Die to the cost and complexity involved, Hottop will not make an upgrade available for older roaster models. Roasters equipped with the thermocouple are now designated as model KN-8828B-2-K. All B roasters in our inventory are now this model.

Hottop has, at the same time, changed some of the programmed safety features of the roaster.  The programmable P model, formally KN-8828P-2, does not get the thermocouple at this time.