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May/June 2018

Behmor Connected 8-Cup Brew System

Does it matter if your coffee maker is smart?

How We Tested

The Behmor Connected 8-Cup Brew System ($167.00) promises to be a “smart” coffee maker with an app that lets you turn on the machine from a smartphone or tablet using Wi-Fi, conjuring up cozy thoughts of brewing coffee before getting out of bed. What also makes this machine unusual is that it encourages the coffee geek in you to customize how it operates. You can adjust the temperature of the brew water and the length of preinfusion, when it gently moistens the coffee for better flavor extraction before the rest of the brew water starts flowing. Depending on the type of coffee you are using—anywhere from freshly roasted “within the last three days” to packaged preground; light, medium, or dark roast or a handful of “featured brews,” including Starbucks Caffe Verona and Dunkin Donuts' Original Blend, among others—you can select convenient recipes for water-to-coffee ratios, and the app sets the machine for appropriate temperatures and preinfusion times. You can also link to Amazon's Alexa devices to start the machine using voice commands and to Amazon Dash Replenishment to automatically reorder coffee.

Curious whether it lived up to its promises, we purchased the brewer, downloaded the app, and tried to connect. After some struggling, we got it running and brewed pot after pot of coffee, setting a range of temperatures and preinfusion times. The app could be a little easier to navigate; we found some labels unintuitive, such as “brew” and “buzz” for two different pathways to making coffee. However, it never lost Wi-Fi connectivity and our learning curve was fairly short. We appreciated that you could also skip the app and brew coffee simply by pushing one button on the front of the machine, which you can program to default to your favorite settings. We also asked Alexa to make coffee.

As we tested, we used a thermometer to confirm that the brew water temperatures were what we'd set, and we conducted a blind tasting to compare the Behmor's coffee to the same coffee brewed in our top-rated automatic drip coffee maker, the Technivorm Moccamaster ($299.00). We also evaluated the design, pouring control, and heat retention of the Behmor's thermal carafe and whether the machine was easy to fill, brew, and clean.

Similarities to an Electric Kettle

The Behmor is nicely compact, 15 inches tall by 9 inches across, with its water reservoir stacked directly above the brew basket and carafe. It operates like an electric kettle, preheating all the water to the selected temperature before brewing begins and the water flows straight down onto the coffee. This is a huge plus since the water spends 100 percent of the brewing time in the selected temperature zone. By contrast, most automatic drip coffee makers work by heating water in the base of the machine next to the carafe; the warming water travels up through a narrow tube and then drips down over the grounds. Unfortunately, this system typically means that water starts moving as soon as the heat begins to rise, so it hits the coffee when it isn't yet within the target temperature zone of 195 to 205 degrees, where the most favorable flavor compounds are extracted—and by the end of the brew cycle, it's boiling. The result? Bad coffee. Our winning coffee maker by Technivorm uses the tube system, but it makes good coffee since its powerful copper heating element transfers heat very quickly, bringing water into the ideal temperature zone before any hits the coffee grounds.

The downside of the Behmor's stacked-kettle design is that it's much slower, since it must finish heating all the water before brewing; we timed brewing cycles that took upwards of 13 minutes to go from heating water to a finished pot, about twice as long as the Technivorm. The Behmor offers the option of “delayed brewing,” in which it keeps the chamber of water hot until you want to make coffee—even if that's the next morning—but this strikes us as wasteful of energy. On the plus side, if you don't mind waiting for its longer brew cycle, the Behmor guarantees that your coffee won't be over- or underextracted, as long as you set the temperature within the ideal range of 195 to 205 degrees.

Customizable Coffee

In our testing, we found that the Behmor accurately heated the water to within 1 degree of the temperature we'd set. Like the Technivorm and a handful of other home coffee brewers, the Behmor machine is certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) to meet brewing standards for time, temperature, and thorough water distribution over the coffee grounds; in fact, the SCAA standard “recipe” is one of the choices on the app. When we used this setting in a blind comparative tasting, our panel declared the Behmor's coffee to be on par with the Technivorm's.

So does it matter if you tweak brew temperatures? We brewed pots of the same freshly ground coffee beans in the Behmor at three different temperatures and compared the results. We chose 190, 200, and 207 degrees, intentionally going outside the SCAA's recommended zone of 195 to 205 degrees. Tasters could easily perceive very distinct differences among the three samples, though the group reached no consensus on which one they preferred; each sample had supporters. For those interested in exploring the possibilities of brewing at different temperatures, it can be done with a thermometer and a manual pour-over setup, but the Behmor offers push-button convenience.

Easy Handling; Good Access for Filling and Cleaning

Handling was easy with this coffee maker. We liked the two vertical bars on either side of the machine that let you grab it and slide it around as needed: Since it's 15 inches high and has a top-filling reservoir, you need to pull it out from under standard 18-inch cabinets to add water. Fill lines for 6-cup (30-ounce) and 8-cup (40-ounce) batches, the only two choices, are very clearly marked inside the big stainless-steel reservoir. The petite carafe is fairly easy to pour from (although slightly splashy when completely full and a smidge slow to pour), with a wide opening for easy cleaning. Its thermal construction kept coffee hot: A freshly brewed batch that started at 191 degrees was still a drinkable 161 degrees after 2 hours. Its brew basket is a simple drawer in the front of the machine that comes with a reusable metal mesh filter, though you can substitute paper if you prefer, since paper holds back the oils and tiny coffee particles that pass through metal mesh.

We recommend the Behmor Connected 8-Cup Brew System. It's a good choice for an automatic drip coffee maker, particularly if you often buy different varieties of coffee and would enjoy tinkering with temperatures and brew settings or if you'd like to use a voice command or an app to start a pot of coffee while you stay tucked in for a few more minutes in the morning. And even if you don't use these extra features, the Behmor makes good-quality coffee with the push of a button.

Methodology

We tested the Behmor Connected 8-Cup Brew System ($167.00), comparing its functionality and coffee flavor with those of our winning automatic drip coffee maker. We listed its water capacity in ounces because the definition of a “cup” is not standardized throughout the coffee industry. Coffee maker “cups” range from 4 to 6 ounces; this brewer makes either six or eight 5-ounce cups.

Rating Criteria

Brew Flavor: We followed the manufacturer's directions to brew a full pot and held a blind taste test, assessing flavor, bitterness, and overall appeal and comparing it with the identical coffee brewed in our top-rated automatic drip coffee maker, the Technivorm Moccamaster. We also tasted the same coffee brewed in the Behmor at three different temperatures (190, 200, and 207 degrees) to assess whether adjusting temperature affected flavor.

Brew Time and Temperature Accuracy: We brewed three 8-cup pots at 190, 200, and 205 degrees, adjusting the desired brew water temperature using the app and checking that the water was accurately heated. The app notes how long each cycle will take, and this time frame was accurate.

Design: We assessed the coffee maker's and the carafe's construction and user-friendliness, including how difficult it was to fill the water reservoir; load the coffee and filter; set up and start the machine; monitor its progress; open, close, and pour from the carafe; and remove the used grounds and clean up.

Carafe Temperature: We took the temperature of the coffee immediately after brewing and at 1-hour intervals thereafter. Our goal was a carafe that kept coffee above 165 degrees, a pleasantly hot drinkable temperature, for 2 hours after brewing.

App: We rated how easy it was to connect, operate, and interact with the machine through the app and through Amazon Alexa. We did not test the Amazon Dash feature, which offers automatic coffee replenishment.

Durability: We brewed more than 20 pots of coffee over the course of testing, cleaning the machine and carafe by hand after each use and looking for signs of wear and tear.

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Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

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Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

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Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

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Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

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Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.