OXO is a brand you may have seen in your local kitchen supply store over the past decade or two. Known for durable plastic and metal kitchen utensils, they have recently delved into the realm of electronic gadgetry with their new line called “OXO On“. In this line there are initially three products for coffee, and we got our hands on them to take a closer look and show you the features.
This review will look at the ‘Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Brewer‘, identify the features, and list the pros and potential cons to consider.
OXO seems to have taken a lot of cues from the Specialty Coffee industry, while still keeping the end user in mind. The result is an easy to use, elegantly designed coffee brewer which easily gives the best home coffee brewers a run for their money. The following features are designed to give you a great cup of coffee:
- Single Serve Capability – This brewer is designed to be able to brew as little as 2 – 5oz “cups” (basically just enough for a small cup of coffee), which can be convenient if you don’t need or want to brew a lot. Very useful for more expensive coffees which could be considered more of an indulgent treat than a morning fuel.
- Precise Temperature Control – The water is heated between 197-205°F, which is within the recommended range as prescribed by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). This temperature integrity is important for extracting all of the desired elements of the coffee, specifically body, sweetness, and acidity, without bringing out the more bitter flavors.
- Intelligent Microprocessor – Referred to as the Barista Brain in the brewer’s literature, the programming is designed to pulse the hot water slowly over the coffee grinds. This technique is meant to emulate the methods employed by baristas in cafes, which includes a “bloom” and a steady amount of water on the coffee as it brews.
- Intuitive LED Interface and Dial – OXO has made the 9-Cup brewer easy to use, from selecting the proper brew to programming the auto-start time. The dial turns smoothly and features a single push button in the center for activation. Again the brewer takes care of the details of brewing, and starts a count up timer (that goes to 1 hour) after brewing so you know how long the coffee has been sitting there.
- Removable ‘Rainmaker’ Shower head – Designed to allow the hot water to drip evenly onto the coffee grinds, the shower head is simple in design and easy to remove for cleaning. A well designed water pour is vital to making the best brews of coffee.
- Cone-Shaped Brew Basket – The “truncated cone” shape has been established as a great way to brew coffee over then years. OXO has implemented this standard “#4” sized basket for the 9-Cup brewer, and the filters are easy to find in most places that sell coffee. The basket, which the filter is placed inside of, is fully removable for cleaning.
- Removable Silicone Internal Mixing Tube – When drip coffee brews, different elements are extracted from the grinds at different times as more water is poured through. OXO has utilized a tube which allows the freshly brewed coffee to go to the bottom of the carafe (shown below). This forces the brew to mix better than simply dropping it into the top of the carafe.
- Vacuum-Insulated Carafe with Brew-Through Lid – While a thermal carafe is not a new concept, it is simply one of the best ways to keep fresh coffee hot. External burners essentially reduce and burn coffee over time, so simply preventing the heat escaping with a well designed carafe is typically the best solution. In this case, the carafe is sealed and the coffee is allowed to brew through the top to try and prevent losing any extra heat.
With all of these features, it is easy to assume that this brewer is going to make an amazing product. While we feel that the OXO On 9-Cup brewer is a worthwhile product, we also wanted to give you our in-depth findings in a pros and cons format. Some of these are not directly related to the finished brew but may be a product of convenience, usability, or overall functionality.
- Grind Saturation – The grinds are very evenly saturated, indicating a quality brew. No problem has been observed in creating the ideal water dripping pattern.
- Consistent Brewing – Brew results have been very consistent when tasting. This is a reflection of the saturation, and means that this 9-Cup brewer is capable of making your favorite cup time after time.
- Quiet – This brewer is QUIET! Almost disturbingly so. All you hear is a soothingly soft gurgle at the end of brewing. You might end up brewing a pot just to listen to its peaceful brewing.
- Programmable Auto-Start – Like many contemporary brewers, the 9-Cup has settings to start your brew at a specific time, ensuring you have a fresh pot first thing in the morning. Double bonus: After brewing finishes a 1 hour count-up timer begins to show you how long it has been since your pot brewed.
- Thermal Carafe – Thermal carafes have become rather standard, and this is one of the best we have seen. Easy to open and close, pourable without adjustments or levers, great heat retention, clean and easy pouring. We love it!
- Ease of Use – This brewer has one button/knob for all functions. While programming the auto start is a little tricky at first, the other functions are extremely simple. Fill the water, put in your filter and grinds, select how many cups you are brewing, and push the button. The “Barista Brain” takes care of the rest.
- Pulse Brewing – The for-mentioned Barista Brain takes care of the details of brewing for you. It implements a pre-wet at the beginning and gradual pulsing of water throughout the process.
- Solid Construction – Who says that plastic has to be cheap? OXO has built this brewer with high quality, sturdy parts. It feels substantial, sleek, and well designed. Will it hold up over time? It is hard to tell immediately, but we feel the answer is yes.
- Tall Design – This is a tall brewer. It measures 15 inches (38cm) normally, which likely makes it a poor fit under kitchen cabinets. Add in that you must be able to fully open the top doors to fill water and access the coffee filter basket, which increases the needed clearance to 22 inches (56cm), and you may realize that accounting for proper counter space is a must with this brewer.
- Long Brew Time – We started by brewing a standard 1 liter (@6.5 cup) batch of coffee, which took 6.5 minutes to brew. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is a full 2 minutes longer than other comparable brewers. If you are not using the auto-start timer, that extra time could feel like an eternity waiting for your first cup of the day. Another big concern is the potential over-extraction of grinds due to the long contact time.
- Lack of Brew Time/Pulse Adjustment – This is a bit of nitpicking, but the ability to adjust the overall brew time or pulsing of water was something we found ourselves wanting. Not having this feature makes for simpler product use, but sacrifices some functionality for more advanced users.
- No Metric Measures – Another con that is less than dire. Since this is an American made brewer, it makes sense to use the standard “cups” (which is 5 fl oz per cup in this case). Non standardized cup measures have been an endless point of confusion in coffee brewing, and having a metric counterpoint is sometimes helpful. It would also make product use easier for folks who grew up outside of the US.
The OXO On – Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Maker is a formidable entry into the auto-brewer market. With tons of features and a reasonable price point ($199), this coffee brewer is set to blow away the competition. In our taste tests, the 9-Cup brewer was superior or equivalent to most other brewers we tested. Overall, if you are interested a fully functional coffee brewer and have the appropriate counter space, this is a smart buy.
We will do a full side-by-side of all of the SCAA certified coffee brewers in a future article to compare and contrast your options.