My old coffee maker is a Krups machine with a thermal carafe. Prior to buying the Bunn, I was preheating filtered water to 140F prior to brewing so it would hit the 200F brewing temperature (a little trick I read from this website). Although this improved the coffee flavor, I'm simply not a fan of this cumbersome, and often messy, process.
So, why did I select (and pay for) a very expensive Bunn commerical brewer, versus getting an slighly less but still expensive Technivorm or Capresso unit, or even a less expensive Bunn? As I was reading the CG Consumer Reviews, everyone raved about the Technivorm, but had some issues with the robustness of the plastic parts and the designed-in issue of not being able to have the lid on the carafe in the home position. It seems that the basis for most reviewers' love of the machine was it's capability to heat the water to about 200F when brewing... said to be the perfect brewing temperature.
Then comes the Capresso. Most folks seemed to really like these units (at least the MT500), but there were some mixed reviews. By far it has the best industrial design of the three units and would look the best in my kitchen. The Technivorm looks like a high school science lab kit and the Bunn is the epitome of industrial boredom... square, stainless, old style switches.. but, they are made in America so I'm helping keep a couple folks in Illinois employed.
In general, the holy grail of coffee makers would seem to be a unit that is made of ceramic or glass (versus metal or plastic), that can heat water to 200F, and brew in 3-5 minutes. And while typical pour-over or vacuum pots fit this bill, I didn't want a coffee maker that required that much effort. Therefore, I decided the next best thing would be to get a coffee maker that controls water temperature to 200F consistently, has at a minimum a thermal carafe (vacuum preferred), and is built to last. This last requirement is really just my own idiosyncracy. I don't like putting money into something that I can't see lasting for years. It is also this last requirement that swayed me from the much lauded Technivorm and Capresso units to the Bunn, specifically the Bunn CW15-TC. This is a commercial unit, all stainless construction, controls water temperature to 200F, and has absolutely NO bells and whistles. It's a pour-over unit designed as a 12 cup unit (64 oz), and designed to work with the Bunn Thermal Carafe (vaccum). Bunn has a couple of at-home units that are similar in design, but without the industrial flare. From a "built to last" standpoint, I also like that Bunn warrants the unit for 2 years parts, 1 year labor, and 3 years P&L on the electronics. Even further, if something does break, there is such a HUGE installed base of BUNN units across America that finding replacment parts is relatively easy (at least this is my logic).
In total, I've spent about $435 for this brewing system ($310 for the brewer, $75 for the carafe, $50 for the stainless steel brew basket). I ordered the brewer and carafe from www.coffeemakersetc.com, which is the website for Great Life Resources, LLC, which in turn, I think, is just an ordering and billing engine for Bunn, as all of the equipment direct shipped from Springfield, IL, where Bunn is located. I ordered the SS brewbasket from www.bunn-store.com.
Here are the overall specs for the unit:
Brew Temperature capability 200F
Brew Capacity (water in) 12 cup: 64 oz
Brew Time 3-4 min
Brew Basket Design Conical = 7" diameter
Brew Filter Design Oxygenated Paper (Bunn)
Water Filtration No
Country of Origin US
Primary On/Off Yes
Carafe Heater No - not required - thermal carafe
Auto Shut Off after brewing No - not required
Safely remove carafe while brewing? No. If you remove the carafe, the coffee will keep on flowing.
What moves the water Gravity
What controls water temperature? In tank water heater with thermostat
Water heating power 1370W
Max Amperage Draw 11.4 A
Carafe Style Double walled stainless steel, Vacuum Insulated, Zojirushi SH-DE19-XA"
Brew-through carafe lid? Yes
Water Receiver: Stainless Steel
Water Piping: SS
Spray Bar: SS
Filter Basket: Plastic (SS optional for $50)
Exterior Housing: SS
Heating Element: SS
Heating Element Shielded No - not required
Brewer Weight 28 lbs
Dimensions, in normal counter position 9" wide x 18.5" deep x 17.9" tall
Manufacturers Warantee 2 years
All arrived fine. The unit is shipped in a heavy cardboard container, with styrofoam blocks keeping it protected. Included in the box: the brewer, plastic brew basket, a 64 oz water pitcher, 50 filters, the operating/service manual (in 2 languages), and something that appears to be a spring like cleaning device for the routing out the internal plumbing. I put the unit on my designated coffee brewing table, and then leveled it (stinking old house with uneven floors). The unit weighs 28 lbs and is all stainless, so it is rock solid, which I would expect from an industrial brewer. The carafe weighs 3 lbs.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a no frills unit, which makes it very straightforward to use. I put three 64 oz pitchers of water into the unit and flipped it ON. There is only 1 switch on the rear of the unit, so it is either On or Off. Nothing in between. After 15 minutes, the green "ready" light came on, so I poured the first pitcher of water into the brewer in order to pre-clean the piping and to heat up the carafe. I measured the water temperature in the carafe after this first pour, and it read 185F. Good sign.
A quick run-down of my other hardware:
- Scale for dosing coffee: 6kg digital Uber scale.
- Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso
Using the guideline of 7g of coffee per cup of coffee, I dosed 84g (for 12 cups) of Stuaf's Costa Rican coffee (roasted dark - Vienna roast). At a setting of 11 on the Virtuoso, I ground the coffee. I used the standard Bunn filter that came with the unit.
A quick note on how BUNN technology versus most other consumer brewers. Most consumer brewers use localized boiling at the bottom of the unit to both heat the water and drive the water up a tube and into the brew basket. Bunn, on the other hand, has a heated tank inside their unit, where three pots of water are kept at 200F at all times via a closed loop control system. When water is poured in the top of the unit, it pushes the hot water out of the reservoir into the brew basket. This technology difference is why Bunns brew coffee in about 3 minutes (from the time you start pouring till the brewing cycle is complete) versus a 4-8 minute cycle for conventional brewers. To start brewing, you just pour your water into the top of the unit. The water inlet is located at the front of the unit and offers a very large area for pouring. I haven't spilled any water yet.
The brewed coffee temperature, measured at the inlet to the carafe using the digital thermometer, read 200F on the nose (PERFECT, according to the SCAA) during my first brew. After the brew cycle was complete, I measured the temperature in the carafe: 194F. After brewing, I also pulled out the funnel/basket and inspected the filter. It looked like the water level stayed about 1/2" below the top of the filter at all times, which is a healthy margin of safety from overflows. After having the unit for a few weeks, I measure the water temperature throughout the entire brew cycle, and the temperature remained above 195F throughout the entire cycle.
The unit has a 6 hole spray nozzle that sprays water uniformly within the round brew basket. The spray pattern and water flow rate seem to be optimized in concert with the brew basket geometry to provide the best overall water distribution. Since the purchase, I've experimented with a 5 hole (BUNN OEM part) nozzle, I've plugged a couple of holes on the stock 6 hole nozzle, and tried the Bunn high lime nozzle. Overall, the stock 6 hole spray nozzle has worked the best.
First Cup Impressions: Great! Even though this was a very dark roast, the coffee still had a very smooth yet flavorful taste. This has also been the case for every cup since.
I really love the Zojirush SH-DE19A carafe. On my old Krups unit, I found it difficult to pour the coffee out of the carafe without spilling it. This Zojirushi carafe is very good at pouring in a smooth and directed way. Also, there is some built-in flow limiter, so you can't really pour too fast. You can turn the unit 90 degrees on it's side and it pours at the same uniform and even rate. Very nice. Also, when you attempt to stop pouring, the coffee flow stops immediately. No drips or time lags.
Oh, I did a little economic analysis to further justify this purchase. My old Krups unit cost $20 per pound (based on the weight of the brewer and carafe). The Bunn cost me a mere $11.75 per pound. So, I saved almost 50%.... right???
At the time of this writing, I've had the unit for about a month and have really enjoyed using the machine and drinking the coffee.