This Bonavita coffee maker produces good, hot coffee for determined coffee drinkers who are up for the challenge.
SHORT VERSION: If you want great coffee and aren’t worried about features or value, this Bonavita coffee maker is for you. Coffee doesn’t stay hot for very long despite the thermal carafe (about 1 hour or so) and there aren’t many other features to discuss. Not recommended for cluttered kitchens as there are a few parts to juggle after brewing.
At about 12 inches tall, this Bonavita coffee maker (BV1800SS) should fit nicely under your kitchen cabinets. The reservoir lid flips up and is easy to fill, and it comes with one of those pretty stainless steel carafes that look so fancy in a world full of glass. Here’s a weird thing, though: the filter basket sits directly on top of the carafe itself. It’s not attached to the coffee machine in any way. Big deal, right? Well, maybe. We’ll talk about that later.
REASONS TO BUY THIS BONAVITA COFFEE MAKER (BV1800SS)
Owners of this coffee machine on Amazon.com generally agree that it makes great coffee and brewing is relatively fast. Even the reviewers who gave it a low rating for one reason or another typically say they really like the coffee, as well they should: this Bonavita coffee maker has been named a Certified Home Brewer by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). As of this writing, only seven coffee makers have earned this certification, and three of them are Bonavitas. Coffee nerds who want to know more can read about the SCAA certification criteria (PDF file) and their testing methods.
One of the features Bonavita brags about in their product description is the “powerful and precise 1400-watt heater” that produces a proper brew temperature. Even Consumer Reviews, whose opinions (in my opinion) are often suspect, found that the brew temperature was “close to recommended guidelines” of 195-205° F, yielding a “very good” rating in brew performance. If there’s one thing Consumer Reviews can be trusted to do, it’s sticking a thermometer in water. A lot of coffee makers claim to heat water to this temperature range and, by many accounts, fail. Thanks to one particular reviewer on Amazon, however, we have proof that this Bonavita coffee maker lives up to the claim. On Amazon she is known only as “Elizabeth,” and she really went out of her way to recommend this coffee maker to others. Lots of pictures, a short and very boring video of the machine in action (complete with title graphics!), and a review that’s 1,086 words long. Yes, I counted. Elizabeth loves loves loves this coffee maker, and her proof of temperature is below.
This Bonavita coffee maker also comes equipped with a shower head that evenly distributes water over the coffee grounds. This feature can also be found in the Cuisinart DCC-1200 (read the review here) which is also reported to make great coffee.
So, to summarize, (properly heated water) + (even shower head distribution) = great coffee. What, you knew that already? Ok smartypants.
Oh, there’s one more “feature” on this Bonavita coffee maker and then we’re done with features: “one touch brew.” In other words, pour the water in, push a button, and you’re done. After putting filter and grounds in the basket, that is. But what about setting the machine to brew before you wake up? Don’t worry about it. That function isn’t part of the package.
Bonavita’s “specially engineered” stainless steel carafe could also be seen as a feature, but keep reading and you’ll see why maybe it isn’t.
REASONS TO NOT BUY
Some owners of this Bonavita coffee maker complain that the coffee comes out bitter or weak no matter what they do. There are lots of possible causes of this, so it’s hard to pin the fault entirely on the machine. If you started reading this review from the beginning, you’ll recall that most people love the coffee this machine makes, including people who don’t like the machine itself. That’s a huge vote of confidence in this coffee maker. And there’s another opinion that seems very common among both lovers and haters of this Bonavita coffee maker…
The 8-cup carafe sucks. Yes, it’s stainless steel and yes, Bonavita thankfully did away with the glass-lined carafe that was reported by way too many to implode glass shards inside itself. This carafe is stainless steel inside and out. No implosions possible! Hooray. Forget that 8 cups is probably less than you’re used to. The bigger issue is the very common complaint from both sides of the aisle that it doesn’t keep coffee hot for very long. One customer claims she was told by a Bonavita customer service rep that the carafe is designed to keep coffee hot for one hour. I’m sorry, did that news just make you spit coffee all over your computer monitor? It sounds entirely plausible given the general consensus that 60 to 90 minutes seems to be the outer fringe of how long this carafe will do its thermal duty. That time can be extended a bit by “preheating” the carafe with hot water, but that adds another step that some may not be excited about. The stainless steel carafe on the Cuisinart DTC-975BKN (read review here), by contrast, is said by many to keep coffee hot “all day.” That unit has its own shortcomings involving a complex lid design, but perhaps that’s why it retains heat so well. While Cuisinart’s lid may be an imperfect but thermally-effective piece of engineering, Bonavita’s lid is a low-tech design that many owners have trouble threading properly. It may take new owners a few tries before they’re able to master the process.
Another common complaint with this Bonavita coffee maker is that it breaks down far too easily for a coffee machine that costs this much. Thankfully, despite mixed reviews on Bonavita’s customer service quality, most owners report being able to get a replacement without much trouble. The warranty is good for two years, and at least one Amazon.com reviewer believes that regular descaling is the key to longevity after finding heavy calcium buildup in his broken coffee maker’s hoses. The machine apparently comes with a packet of Urnex Full Circle Biodegradable Coffee and Espresso Equipment Descaling Powder and Bonavita recommends descaling every three months or 100 brews, whichever comes first. Some reviewers, btw, have not reported getting this descaling powder with their Bonavita despite writing a list of everything else in the box. Hmm. Anyway, using filtered water is probably also a good idea since this coffee maker lacks a filter of its own.
The poor thermal performance of the carafe and common reports of breakdowns are both big concerns, especially if you’re stretching the budget to afford this Bonavita coffee maker. However, even if the price is no big deal, there’s one more issue to be aware of: convenience, or the lack of it. “One touch” brewing is great, but we already know that means the machine is not programmable. The process of pouring a cup immediately after brewing is complete is kind of a chore, especially if your kitchen counter tends to be cluttered. Here’s what you have to do after brewing is complete:
- Remove the spent coffee grounds and filter from the brew basket
- Remove the brew basket, which will probably be a little drippy, from the carafe
- Screw on the carafe lid (if you can)
That doesn’t sound so bad if your kitchen is clean and orderly. If it’s not, imagine doing this in your kitchen as it stands at this very moment. Now, double (or triple?) the difficulty if you have kids running around getting ready for school, or just running around for no reason at all. Simply pulling the carafe off the machine and pouring isn’t possible. It’s a two-handed job unless you don’t mind dripping trails of hot coffee here and there.
And finally, as with most coffee makers, some owners of this Bonavita have complained about coffee overflowing all over the place. Someday I’m going to write a whole post about this. For now, let’s chalk it up to variations in grind coarseness, quantity of grounds, water quality, paper filters, and probably some human error here and there. It’s a problem for some, indeed, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem for many.
Long story short (I know, way too late for that): this Bonavita coffee maker makes great coffee. No features, no frills, just great coffee that doesn’t stay hot for all that long. The design isn’t terribly convenient, but I have a little theory on why that is…
Let’s say this Bonavita coffee maker was designed by an engineer we’ll call “Coffee Snob.” Coffee Snob, you see, would scold you for “sneaking a cup” in mid-brew, and many coffee makers are built to enable this very sin without a drippy mess. Anyone who is serious about the taste of their coffee, as Coffee Snob is, knows that you should let the entire pot brew before enjoying your first cup. Flavor profiles differ with water temperature which, in most coffee machines, varies over the duration of the brew cycle, and contact time with coffee grounds also has a big effect on taste. Hence, Coffee Snob dictates that the whole pot must brew. This Bonavita coffee maker won’t let you sneak a cup because, as we know, the filter basket sits atop the 8-cup stainless steel carafe. Remove the carafe, and you remove the filter basket with it. This isn’t especially convenient for impatient coffee drinkers, but Coffee Snob has effectively ensured that your Bonavita coffee maker finishes the brew cycle before you take a sip. The carafe, of course, is only 8 cups which takes less time to brew than 10 and 12 cup carafes. Coffee Snob is good at math. Shorter brewing time means less likelihood of over-extraction of grounds. The carafe also eliminates the need for a warming plate. This is good because warming plates turn good coffee into bad coffee with each passing minute. Coffee Snob knows this. Coffee Snob is also aware that, for coffee to taste its best, it must be consumed as soon as possible after brewing. Keeping coffee hot in an all-day carafe would be unconscionable, so the Bonavita carafe really doesn’t need to keep it hot for more than an hour or so. According to Coffee Snob, coffee that’s older than that isn’t worth drinking anyway.
If you accept my Coffee Snob theory on Bonavita’s construction of this coffee machine and carafe, and if you think you and Coffee Snob could be best friends, then you might be the right buyer for this machine.
This was a very close call. I very nearly went with “Don’t Buy” this Bonavita coffee maker because it doesn’t seem like a great value, but for some people great coffee is more important than product features.