After reading the strong recommendation given by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, I elected to purchase the Technivorm Thermo KB741 brewer over the Internet from the importer Boyd Coffee Company. This unit has been in constant daily use at my construction company office brewing 2 to 4 10-cup pots per day during the week, and sometimes a pot or two on Saturday. It has performed flawlessly under conditions that are certainly beyond that of most home users for nearly a year now.
The Technivorm is not for everyone. It is a rather unconventional, sort of Art-Deco looking device, and its simplicity (oddly) stymied the majority of the folks in my office. It took weeks before anyone dared operate the thing without my help and I caught office workers sneaking pots in the infinitely more complex Krups Coffee/Espresso combination brewer that the Technivorm was suppose to retire. My wife took one look at it and told me it would NEVER appear on a counter in HER kitchen—simply too ugly. (My current home brewer is a Kitchenaid Pro Line that does a darn good job—and looks great doing it—but does not quite measure up to the quality of brew delivered by the KB741.) So, if a clock, convenience features, timer features, and fine styling are important, no need to read further into this review.
As alluded to above, the Technivorm is about as simple a device as can be built and still be called an automatic brewing machine. It sports a single on/off switch and a second fail-safe switch that will not allow brewing unless the carafe is in place under the brew basket. The open-top filter basket has a 3-position mechanically operated output valve that allow the user to set the drip output to full open, half open, and closed. For those of us who like to tinker, the open top basket and switch allows one to begin the brew cycle with the output closed so the user to stir the blooming grounds. Once saturated, the switch can be then be opened to allow the coffee to drip through into the carafe.
The robust heat pump and the short water path to the brew basket allow the Technivorm to deliver water at the ideal brewing temperature. I measured the output temperature using an instant read probe thermometer at a beginning temperature of 196 degrees Fahrenheit and maxing out at 203 degrees Fahrenheit. After preheating the thermal carafe with hot water from the tap, the final brew temperature was 182 degrees Fahrenheit. This could probably be improved by using boiling water to preheat the carafe, but I can’t see the need, especially as fast as the coffee goes around my office. Brew times are also short enough to allow near perfect extraction when the grind size is optimized. I measured the brew time on the Technivorm to be just over 6 minutes for a reservoir filled to the rim (just over the 10-cup line).
My standard of comparison is a French Press, and I engaged a comparison between the two. For the test I used fresh, locally-roasted (Dallas) White Rock Coffee Colombia Supremo Full City Roast and a Swiss Gold #4 filter (with a top extender to contain bloom) in the Technivorm. I used the same ratio of coffee to water for both, which is 64 grams of coffee in the 8-cup French Press and 80 grams in the 10-cup Technivorm. The coffee for the Technivorm was ground using a Baratza Virtuoso at the 15 setting and the 36 setting for the press. If I had to split hairs, there IS a distinctive mouth feel and body that no drip machine can match, but for many the lack of those French Press characteristics might be considered a positive. Otherwise, the flavor of the coffee brewed with the Technivorm is virtually indistinguishable from the press.
Update May 3, 2007: After 370 days of heavy use, the manual cut-off switch on the brew basket now drips in the off position. Not a big deal, and it is the only sign of wear since its purchase. Still makes great, hot, coffee. Also, it should be noted that my unit, now just over a year old, is reviewed with the old style carafe, not the new--more angular--one that lacks the spout. As long as the lid is on the carafe it keeps coffee hot for hours and I have had no serious issues with dribbling.