Thought I'd give my $.02 on the Brew Express coffee maker. I've been using pour-over drip for the past couple of years and really like that method. But truth be told, it grows a little old having to heat the water up and wait another several minutes for coffee to brew. More of an issue for my wife than me. And more importantly having to worry about potential accidents from having an open container of scalding liquid ready to get knocked over. Accidents with burns have happened and I'm probably due for another.
So I've been keeping my eyes open for a drip coffee maker. I roast my own coffee and am a bit picky about brew methods with the confinements of being married to a tea drinker and having a small kitchen. I like to have two or three bean varieties each morning so brewing small batches is important to me. Cabinets are on the low side, so I need to pull out a coffee maker to fill it out unless it has a removable reservoir (ie the starbucks aroma I used to have). Technivorm is a great choice but for $300 it has too many open niggles for me considering I'm relatively happy with my current method.
I noticed costco has the Brew Express for about $200. I had never heard of it -- it's not listed on this site and a search found only a few instances of it several years ago. Their forte is built in units. The unit at costco is just a standalone version. What caught my interest were 1) direct connect to water supply via ice maker hose - ultra convenient 2) correct brew temperature 3) two baskets supplied (one open cone #4 and one flat bottom bunn with valve) 3) electronic position detect that cuts off water supply when carafe / cup is removed in addition to basket stopper on flat bottom basket. 4) three selectable brew amounts. It seemed interesting enough to try so I bought one.
Installation Hooking it up was pretty easy. I had to drill a hole in my counter which took a bit of courage to pull off, but once the hole was drilled it was essentially invisible. I figured I'd plug it and fill it with epoxy if coffee maker did not work out for some reason. I have an in-line filter as well. The tubing is not visible and I have ~4ft of play in the hose to move it around for cleaning, etc.
Water temperature I measure 200F coming out of the sprinkler head with a meat thermometer. Temp seems to be right on the money.
Brew options You can adjust the amount of water for the three different brewing options. It defaults to single cup (~8oz or so - 70s brew time), half a carafe (~23oz - 3min brew time) or full pot (~50oz - 6min brew time). You can change the time (in seconds) for each option. My favorite part is that I can get good brews for small amounts of coffee like I did with pour over brewing...I use the flat bottom basket and run a single cup into it with a dummy cup under basket (to keep water flowing into basket while the plunger on basket is closed. Coffee maker detects a carafe so keeps the water flowing). This fills up the basket with 8oz of water and coffee and it stays filled indefinitely. I then remove the cup and insert the carafe. Coffee starts draining into the carafe. I then run another single cup cycle to finish it off. This gives me the same amount as my pour over and a 4min brew time. All times are programmable as well so you can fine tune to your needs. I think it's pretty slick for the small batch brewer.
Performance Coffee is just fine as you'd expect with good extraction times and temperature. It's also very quiet when it runs -- I hear relays clicking and the stream of water is steady. It does not have the gurgling / bubbly , so it's obvious that the water path is different than most coffee makers. It also does not leak steam everywhere while brewing. This is important when running under cabinets. The basket has a rubber gasket and seals quite well. Carafe seems to hold heat well for larger brew amounts. I measured 184 in the carafe after 40min which seems fine.
Reliability Too soon to tell, but company (Lance Larkin) says they rate it for 18000 brew cycles. Unit is surprisingly heavy (heaviest consumer drip I've seen) and seems well made. All plastics are thick; there are gaskets and fit / finish is good. They also sell replacement parts at their online store -- sprinkler head, basket stoppers, baskets, hose valves, carafes...so seems like it should last a while.
I think it's worth a look if you're considering a new drip brewer. I'm surprised it's not more common but maybe the the in-line water supply scares people off? It's very nice to just grind into the basket, load the basket and press a button. I often run a rinse / pre-wet cycle on the filter because it's so with the the in-line water supply.
Technivorm problems for me are mainly the way I have my kitchen set up. Counter space is at a premium and coffee maker is stored on counter and under cabinets. To fill with water I would need to slide it out into prime counter space where it usually stays for the morning. I would also need to keep a filtered water container to fill it (more counter space taken...).
I like to make a lot of single mug batches with different beans in the morning. So it's a kind of pain sliding out, filling, sliding back, etc. Not a big deal since i did this with pour over, but if I were to spend about $300 I would like to gain some convenience over what I'm doing now.
The other thing I was worried about was being distracted when pre-wetting the grounds leading to an overflow. Being able to shut the water flow off (at the sprinkler head) in the middle of brew cycle on Brew Express is really nice and something I've always disliked with drip makers. Pause and serve seems like an accident waiting to happen. At least with the Technivorm you can look into the basket to see how full it is which helps. The Brew Express sprinkler head is large enough that blooming has been under control with fresh roasted coffee. I could probably stir if I really wanted to but no need thus far.
Not problems for most people, but things I was looking for that are not issues with the Brew Express.
Biggest niggles with Brew Express thus far -- carafe is hard to fully empty. You almost need to take it upside to get the last half ounce or so out of it. It pours nicely until the end though. The lid on carafe was hard to remove when new. It's much easier now, but the gasket is a tight fit. Programming is not very intuitive. You need to press and hold buttons unrelated to function to set clock, etc. It's also wider than most coffee makers. Similar to technivorm but visually it's a solid piece vs. separate interconnected pieces. I think it's decent looking though. Having it plumbed in is a concern for having a leak, but no worse than an icemaker. Of course you need to install it to an icemaker line as well. That's about it so far.
Paul, I appreciate your honest review of the Brew Express. I would like to reach out to you and know more about your background and also Coffeegeek.com. Wondering how I can further utilize this site and reviews for our product.
If you can spare the time, please send me an email at email@example.com. I would like to eventually have a conversation with you.
For some reason I am getting these notifications on a backdoor email account??
Yes, we have certified our prior machine model BE-112 while were under Lance Larkin, LLC. We redesigned the BE-112 and now have BE-110. This machine works very similar but we made several improvements. We believe it fully meets the SCAA requirement, and tried to have it tested by SCAA but there were issues within SCAA that they were not able to test our machine. We waited several months for the results, and found they hadn't tested our machines. Something to do with no testing equipment? I think it was lack of internal support. I am re-considering approaching SCAA again, but not sure if they are as organized as the website shows it. I am open for giving second chances.
Thanks again for your great comments. I think it would be good to talk some time. Feel free to call me at the office. 866-268-5953
I have been using a BE-112 since 9/06 and have been pleased with it. I also went that route since counter space was limited. Bill, if you see this, what are the improvements you have made with the BE-110 and how difficult is it to retrofit it to the BE-112 wall box?
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