Help me dial in my Bonavita BV1500TS 5 cup thermal carafe brewer

billinlouisa

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Hey, all.

I just joined specifically to post this request for assistance. I posted an Intro thread if you're interested (can't link to it, I'm too new.)

I recently purchased a Bonavita BV1500TS and have wasted so much coffee trying to get something drinkable out of it. I purchased this machine because when I've lost power and done a makeshift pour-over (boiling kettle water poured over the Mr. Coffee basket of grounds and into the pot), the coffee was incredibly good. So I purchased this machine that brews in the proper temp range.

I had used a blade grinder for years, then bought a Black & Decker grinder at Goodwill several years ago, and just purchased a Cuisinart DBM-8 grinder.

I have tried all sorts of coffees (whole bean) and all sorts of grinds, always weighing it, sometimes adding chicory in an attempt to take the bite out of it. I am on well water with a softener, and have used that water as well as made my own (distilled water+epsom salts+calcium chloride+baking soda.) Nothing seems to work.

I've worked with Bonavita who says I'm "doing everything right," and who offered to exchange it. But the water temp from the machine is fine. It's functioning properly. Even though lots of folks recommend this model, I've also read that this machine is "very sensitive" to the grind you use, even requiring tweaking when you switch from a paper filter to a mesh filter.

I'm on the verge of returning it. I have until late January to get my money back and potentially buy a different machine.

Is this machine worth messing with? Am I gonna go through these pangs with every brand of coffee I buy? Are all "proper temperature brewers" this finicky? This Breville has so many good reviews, I'm beginning to feel foolish even asking for help in making a pot of coffee...but I'm asking for help in making a pot of coffee.

Thanks for any advice you may offer.
 
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billinlouisa

billinlouisa

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Hey, Musicphan.

I've tried the cheap 8 O'Clock original bought from the grocery store, White Monkey from Amazon, and Peet's Major Dickason Blend, also from the grocery store.
 

PinkRose

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Hey, Musicphan.

I've tried the cheap 8 O'Clock original bought from the grocery store, White Monkey from Amazon, and Peet's Major Dickason Blend, also from the grocery store.



He probably won't say it, so I will.

I'm thinking you should get in touch with Musicphan, and order some coffee from him.

~ Rose
 

Musicphan

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May 11, 2014
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Hey, Musicphan.

I've tried the cheap 8 O'Clock original bought from the grocery store, White Monkey from Amazon, and Peet's Major Dickason Blend, also from the grocery store.

Well, that's most likely the issue... Your brewer is very nice (unless it's defective but I doubt it), the grinder is OK - not great but should brew a good drip coffee. In my business, I sell only one consumer brewer and it's the larger version of your brewer. The Bonavita's are rock solid and brew great coffee. I can't imagine there is a significant difference between the two models except for server volume. You have covered water with the same results. And I assume that you are using the correct out amount of coffee since you covered the basics with Bonavita. Make sure starting w/ 55g of coffee / 1 liter of water. The last thing you haven't played around with is coffee. Have you ever had a cup of coffee from any of those three that you enjoyed?
 
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billinlouisa

billinlouisa

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Well, that's most likely the issue... Your brewer is very nice (unless it's defective but I doubt it), the grinder is OK - not great but should brew a good drip coffee. In my business, I sell only one consumer brewer and it's the larger version of your brewer. The Bonavita's are rock solid and brew great coffee. I can't imagine there is a significant difference between the two models except for server volume. You have covered water with the same results. And I assume that you are using the correct out amount of coffee since you covered the basics with Bonavita. Make sure starting w/ 55g of coffee / 1 liter of water. The last thing you haven't played around with is coffee. Have you ever had a cup of coffee from any of those three that you enjoyed?

Well, I have had reasonable results from those coffees in other brewers. When I've done the ad-hoc pour-ver, the 8 O'Clock has been pretty good....that's why I went to a high-temp machine.

I have yet to have a drinkable cup from the Bonavita, and I bet I've made over 20 pots of coffee between those 3 and buying ground McCafe to try. I weigh the coffee and keep track of how much I use of each. I change the quantities to make it weaker/stronger, but there is always this nasty bite to it. It just tastes bad...never full-bodied or mellow.

Do these high-temp machines exaggerate the bad characteristics of the marginal coffee I'm using? Of course I've thought of trying higher-end stuff, but I don't want to waste $50 trying to dial in a decent pot of coffee if these machines are finicky. And I know this is mostly hearsay that you and I can't really verify...but there are so many positive comments about this machine on Amazon, and those folks are not using expensive coffee. BUt tastes and perceptions certainly vary.

So what's your experience with these? Does the grind really make a ton of difference? What grind do you recommend for the Bonavita? And where is your store's website?
 

Musicphan

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I would certainly try freshly roasted coffee before your return policy is up. A quality brewer will extract more coffee solids due to the higher temp. It may be extracting flavors you don't like (or the coffee is not quality). I can assure you that Bonavita does make really quality brewers for the money. You state that the water temp is fine - how did you measure? The basic variables you want to control - water quality, water temperature, grind size, coffee & coffee freshness, and the most important ratio of coffee/water. Regarding grinder making a difference. Yes, they can if your grinder is way off (but I don't think it's your issue). The key to a grinder quality is how uniform it cuts the coffee. The more consistent size of the coffee is the better/more uniform it brews. Compare the grinder to a chef knife... any knife will cut a potato but a good chef knife makes it easy to dice into uniform sizes. Similar concept to a grinder.

My site is www.encorecoffeeco.com
 
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billinlouisa

billinlouisa

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I measured the water temp in the carafe right after a 5 cup pot finished brewing. It was 191' when I preheated the carafe, and 187' when I started with a room-temp carafe. I used an insta-read thermometer and measured the temp of the brewed coffee when the pot was finished.

The Cuisinart seems to be cutting uniform grind to my eye. When I first got it I did the finest grind, the coarsest grind and a medium grind and lay them out on a paper plate to compare them. Each grind seemed uniform (the Black & Decker was not.)
Coffee grinds.jpg
I only mentioned grind before because (a) an Amazon reviewer said that Bonavita helped get his coffee quality corrected and grind size was on issue, and (b) I read elsewhere that someone said quality in the smaller Bonavita was sensitive to grind size, supposedly being sensitive to the filter material (paper of mesh), and (c) Bonavita says that next to quantity, grind size was the other control point to a quality cup. Keep in mind that I've got the 5 cup model, so "water contact time" is [obviously] gonna be shorter than the larger one.

I just placed an order from you. I told Bonavita the brands I was using and asked for a recommendation. They merely said "medium roast," and made no comment on brand or quality. Of course, there may be business reasons for neither slamming nor endorsing.

So I ordered the Symphony [medium] blend.
The smaller Bonavita holds 28 oz. (I just measured.)
Can you give me a starting point on how much coffee to use and the grind size (if the above pic is even meaningful at all)? Again, those are the extreme ends of an 18 grind selection.

Thanks for the help.
 
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billinlouisa

billinlouisa

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"Dialing In Your Bonavita Brewer" article on Prima-Coffee.

This was sent to me via email from Bonavita Customer Service.

This article also states
Grind size, relative to the total dispensing time, is the user's opportunity to control the flavor of coffee and create harmony with those pre-determined variables.

The "pre-determined variables" are:
  • Time — The duration of the brew.
  • Temperature — How hot the brewing water is.
  • Agitation — Physical force applied to the grounds.
 

Musicphan

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It sounds like your temps are right (or close) - most measurements are at the head of the brewer but it's common to see those temp in brewed coffee. I think your brewer is OK. Your grinder appears to be doing a good enough job - the ones where you can really taste the diff is going from a blade grinder to a Burr grinder. I'm convinced it's your coffee or finding a coffee you like brewed at the proper temperature. When it comes to the grind size 'medium' is about right - you do have to sometimes adjust the grind size for your coffee.

For grind size - grind medium:
https://ineedcoffee.com/coffee-grind-chart/

One thing to make sure you have turned on is pre-immersion when using my coffee. There is a way to turn them on/off on the Bonavitas. What that does it dispenses a small amount of water and lets the coffee soak up that water for a few seconds before brewing. It helps when using freshly roasted coffee - it allows the coffee to degas and expel excess CO2. It doesn't think you would see much of diff with commercial coffee - it's already aged and degassed.
 
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billinlouisa

billinlouisa

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Interesting point that the pre-immersion does not affect commercial coffee. I turned that feature on when I first got the machine (hold the power button down for 5 seconds in the BV1500TS.) I think I tried a pot or two with it off to see if that made a difference (it did not.)

I noticed that your website tips recommend using cold water. I understand why I would not use tap water that has gone through the water heater, but it seems that refrigerated water would lengthen the brew cycle in anything but a Bunn machine (which does not start brewing until the entire reservoir of water is heated.) Anyway, I just put a jug of my coffee water in the fridge to chill while waiting my first coffee delivery.

Thanks for that grind chart. I've seen others, and it seems that the most coarse I get out of the Cuisinart is everyone else's Medium-to-Medium Coarse. Here's a pic of the coarsest grind from the Cuisinart DBM-8.

Cuisinart DBM8 coarsest.jpg
What do you think? Start with this grind for the Bonavita, or dial it back a little?


Just to refresh my frame of reference, I made a few different pots of manual pour-over this morning. The same nasty aftertaste is present in all of them. It's been at least 5 years since a power outage has forced me to use this method. I'm wondering if something has changed in the off-the-shelf coffee I've been buying over the years. This method used to produce a really good brew. In any event, your initial assessment was spot-on (I'm sure no one here is surprised.) ;)

Bonavita would be doing itself a favor by having their lawyers craft a low-risk way to point out a coffee quality issue. I shared with them the brands I've been using, and they were offering to exchange the machine (which would have done nothing) rather than point out a "cheap coffee" problem.

I eagerly await my first delivery of real coffee.

ps: I have noticed that the Bonavita extracts a lot more caffeine than the Mr. Coffee...a lot more.
pps: Where does chicory fall in your toolkit? I've not searched here to see what folks think. Will "that word" get me banned?
 
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Musicphan

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Well - degassing typically is at its peak the first few days but sheds CO2 for a bit (which is why there is a valve on most coffee bags). Since the CO2 has already dissipated from commercial brands (they are typically MONTHS old). Coffee is a bit like a sponge, it takes a bit of water for it to soak up before it will extract properly. Here is a video I found that give a little more info:

https://youtu.be/4gjtBZhadV0

Cold water has a bit more oxygen which is why most people recommend cold/cool water... I doubt this has a huge impact on flavor.
 
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billinlouisa

billinlouisa

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Thanks for the vid. Fascinating stuff. Now I'm thinking I need to do a manual bloom/stirring and then go right to the brew cycle (skip the pre-immersion cycle.)

So I spat out a lot of verbiage in my prior post (I really do not have a "Succinct" mode)...what do you think of that Coarse grind I posted as a starting point? Is it too coarse for my machine?

(This all reminds me of the Asian teas I used to make. I had nearly 20 different types, each requiring their own temp and steep times.)
 

Musicphan

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Well, the pre-immersion cycle on your Bonavita essentially does the blooming process for you... hard to see the grind to be honest... just do your best to get like the medium example (often people compare to sand)
 
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