- 1 Pros
- 2 Cons
- 3 Modern Looks and Streamlined Design
- 4 Performance and Brewing
- 5 Unique Features
- 6 Conclusion
If you have been reading Miss Mamie’s recently, you probably have noticed our new obsession with OXO products. They are perfectly designed, well made, and solve almost every little nagging issue in the kitchen and around the house. However, most people are surprised to learn that OXO makes some awesome kitchen appliances as well (especially if you are a coffee lover like we are), and the OXO Barista Brain 12-cup Brewing System sits firmly at the top of that list. There are a ton of features that make the Barista Brain really unique, but at the end of the day, great features don’t mean anything unless it can also brew great coffee and we are happy to report in does that very well, too.
Later on in our in-depth review we will go into each of these features in detail, but to offer you a sneak preview here are a few things that set the OXO Barista Brain apart in the increasingly crowded home coffee maker space. In addition to making great coffee, it comes equipped with an internal scale which we have never seen before, an electric kettle that’s great for making half coffee and half tea (how cool is that), and very precise temperature control that ensures the best cup of coffee possible.
The Barista Brain may be on the higher-end of what you will pay for a drip coffee maker, but you get plenty of features and really tasty coffee that come along with that price tag. If you are ready to upgrade your traditional drip coffee maker, read the rest of our review to discover why the OXO Barista Brain is one of the best buys for your money.
If you are interested in just the quick rundown, here it is:
- Specialty Coffee Association of America Certified
- Brews similar to a pour over resulting in evenly extracted grounds
- The coffee maker itself is very quiet
- Double-walled thermal carafe
- Integrated scale for making coffee and hot water for tea
- Programmable auto-start feature
- Intuitive one-dial control
- Extremely well designed and built to last
- Aesthetically pleasing
- 9-cup and 12-cup versions
- Unique mixing tube in the carafe
- Slightly longer brew times
- The coffee maker is somewhat large, making it difficult for smaller kitchen spaces
- Carafe doesn’t pour out the last few drops of coffee unless the lid is removed
As you can see, the pros are pretty great, and any cons we found really aren’t that big if a deal. For those of you that want to learn more about what makes the Barista Brain tick, read on for our very in-depth OXO Barista Brain review.
Modern Looks and Streamlined Design
Before we go deeper into the review where we look at the features and performance, let’s first explore how the Barista Brain scores visually, and why it’s going to look great sitting on your kitchen counter. When you take the coffee maker out of the box and set it up, the first thing that you will notice is that you aren’t dealing with your run of the mill drop coffee maker. Make no mistake about is, the OXO Barista Brain is large. To be honest, it’s probably the biggest coffee maker we have ever reviewed, but we also didn’t mind it’s size due to the fact that it was so beautifully designed and OXO clearly made an effort to limit it’s real estate as much as it could, while still offering the great features that make it so unique.
Base and Brew Basket
For example, when looking at the base of the machine, it only measures about an inch thick, despite the size of the unit overall. This helps it maintain a more streamlined appearance and trick the eye into downplaying its true size. You can see this same design philosophy in the decision to not include a central tower like other coffee makers, and instead the Barista Brain opts for a brushed metal tube the runs up the back of the unit and completely out of the way. The tube transports the water upward from the base of the kettle and connects to the brew basket capable of holding enough ground coffee for a large 12-cup carafe. The brew basket isn’t picky and will take pretty much any coffee filter you might have on hand. We tried a few different sizes and brands and that all seemed to work pretty well.
Naturally, underneath the brew basket sits the carafe, which is also made of a beautiful brushed stainless steel and has 60-ounce capacity. That’s enough for about 12 ½ cups of coffee. What’s really nice about the carafe is that the lid creates a vacuum seal and the double walled insulated sides keep brewed coffee hot for hours on end. At this point we can’t really stand the traditional class carafe that doesn’t keep coffee hot and does a great job of slowly burning your coffee over time when left on to warm.
On the other side of the Barista Brain is the large glass kettle made of BPA-free borosilicate glass that holds and heats the water used for your coffee and tea. This thick glass also provides shock protection so you don’t end up with a broken kettle or an odd plastic taste imparted into your coffee. Capable of holding 60-ounces of water for a full carafe, the kettle has clear markings (shown in cups) on the side that make it easy to know how much water you are filling up with. The fact that it can hold and brew with so much water is great, but if you are in a hurry, you might not want to brew a full carafe, as that amount of water can take about 10 minutes to heat up in the OXO.
We don’t have many complaints about the Barista Brain, but if we had to pick one it would probably be that the kettle at full capacity can take a while to heat up enough to brew with. However, the roiling boil effect is pretty cool and visually pleasing.
Base, Heating Elements and LED
The OXO is rounded out with a shiny, black base which houses all the critical mechanical elements, specifically the heating coil, the brains of the coffee maker and the LED display which control the amount of water used when brewing (a feature we will talk about later in the review). Overall, this 12-cup coffee maker is really beautiful and will have a place in any modern kitchen, or a traditional one with a modern flare. Also, not lost here are the OXO Good Grips signature rubber accents which line both the kettle and carafe.
Performance and Brewing
We were happy to learn that the OXO Barista Brain is part of a small group of drip coffee makers to receive the Specialty Coffee Associations of America (SCAA) Seal of Approval and made up even more excited to review it. To receive this seal, the coffee maker has to undergo a rigorous series of tests that are based on years and years of putting coffee makers through the paces. They assess a variety of factors important to brewing great coffee such as reaching the proper water temperature within a certain time period, how long it takes to brew, and the ability to brew within SCAA Golden Cup guidelines. Needless to say, it’s a short list and the Barista Brain is on it.
When testing coffee makers for our reviews, we like to use subpar beans to see how the maker stands up to the challenge, and the OXO did quite well in this regard. It was able to take some inexpensive, slightly stale darkly roasted coffee beans and still produce a great tasting cup of coffee. To put this in perspective, we used the same exact beans in a much cheaper Hamilton Beach coffee maker and the result was a very bitter, acidic brew that you wouldn’t want to wake up with every morning.
We also decided to test out a light roast as well as these can brew differently and we always want to get as thorough a review as possible for our readers. After comparing the two, the light roast was also quite tasty, and produced 12 cups surprising clean and refreshing cup of java.
What makes this coffee maker so special is it’s long list of unique features, many of which we have never seen before.
Very Precise Water Temperature Control
The Oxo Barista Brain would not have received the highly regarded SCAA Seal of Approval if it wasn’t able to exhibit precise control over the water temperatures it uses for brewing coffee. Per the SCAA guidelines, the water should be able to heat up to 197.6 degrees within the first minute of brewing, but never go higher than 204.8 degrees, as this is where you will run into problem with over extracting and even burning the coffee. The brewing system passed this test and as a result makes precisely extracted coffee that’s never bitter.
Pause and Pour
This is a pretty standard feature in most drip coffee makers, but convenient enough to point out. The pause and pour feature means that when you remove the carafe from the base, the brewing will stop immediately without spilling an extra drop so you can get your cup of coffee before the full carafe is finished brewing. As soon as you place the carafe back, the brewing starts again. While we found that pulling out the carafe still let a drop or two escape, the OXO Brewing System performed well here. One thing to note is that you’ll want to place the carafe back before 60 seconds is up, or else the brewing cycle starts over again.
Who doesn’t love the satisfaction of coming down in the morning to an already brewed, piping hot pot of hot coffee? With the Barista Brain, setting your coffee for the next morning couldn’t be easier. Simply press and hold the dial on the face of the coffee maker, and then spin it until you reach the time when you start brewing. It’s that simple!
Internal Mixing Tube
Now this is a feature that we have never seen before and really sets this coffee maker apart. Inside the carafe there is a mixing tube that the coffee is sent through that mixes the coffee as it brews. This means that the coffee that comes through in the beginning, which tends to be under-extracted, and the coffee at the end which tends to be over-extracted, will be mixed together, making every cup perfectly balanced. These are the little touches that we have come to expect from OXO and it really does make a difference in the coffee.
This is another feature that’s very unique and help set the Brewing System apart from the crowd. With the integrated scale, the OXO acts as a kettle for tea, as well as hot water for coffee. The scale will measure the amount of water needed for the amount of coffee you have selected, and leave the rest in the kettle for tea or other hot beverage. This is a great feature for entertaining when not everyone wants coffee, and OXO has made this super easy and intuitive.
Rainmaker Shower Head
Just like the rainmaker feature of the OXO Cold Brew Coffee Maker (review coming soon), the Barista Brain features a rainmaker showerhead that evenly disperses the coffee over the grounds, making sure that they are evenly saturated. It many not seem like a big deal, but if your coffee maker just dumps or spurts large amount of hot water over your coffee grounds at one time, you are going to end up with coffee that hasn’t been fully extracted. The showerhead feature ends up producing coffee that is closer to the pour over method win your local high-end coffee shop.
Another awesome feature is that the water doesn’t disperse over the grounds all at one. Again, more like a pour over coffee, the Barista Brain will wet the grounds, wait 15 seconds as the grounds become saturated are release their flavors, and only then resume the brewing process. A very nice touch which is a requirement for that SCAA Seal of Approval.
The OXO Barista brain is one of a kind. Not only is it great for home use, but produces coffee that’s good enough to be certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, too. With the unique features that only the OXO has and a perfectly executed design that we have come to expect from OXO, it makes great coffee and does it in style. The only real downside to this coffee maker that we found while doing this review is that it takes slightly longer to brew due to the heating up of the hot water, but it’s nothing we can’t deal and is only an issue when making a full 12 cups. If you are looking to upgrade your old drip coffee maker, you can’t do much better than this.