Awesome, quirky, hands-on drip brewer capable of producing the best drip coffee possible. Worth the price, even in light of some astonishingly poor design choices, but if you're in for this much, may as well get a 3rd party carafe when you buy it.
Positive Product Points
The amount of control you have during the brewing process is unparalleled.
You can access any part of the machine during the brewing process, and during cleaning. Lots of entry points to get at the water & grounds during a brew, to stir grounds, scoop out excessive bloom, add a touch more water, or adjust the flow rate during the brew.
They don't lie, this makes some extremely hot coffee.
It's built like a tank. I have no doubt this thing will last many, many years.
Negative Product Points
I have no idea what the engineers were thinking with the new-style thermal carafe. With the stopper in, it's about 1/4" too high to fit in place under the filter holder. This is especially perplexing as the carafe holds somewhere around 6oz more fluid than the machine is capable of brewing with a single filling.
Some people will love the aesthetics, some people will hate the aesthetics. There certainly aren't too many modern appliances that this matches look-wise. I think it's really interesting to look at, personally: IF the carafe is in place, which it can't be with the stopper in, so it ends up looking awkward whenever it's in use. Which is pretty much 24 hours a day in this household.
If your counterspace depends on having a deep, instead of wide coffeemaker, you might suffer a bit in usability getting to the water tank without making a mess.
The machine really encourages more hands-on prep and change in your coffeemaking routine than most other machines. Lots of parts to remove to fill the machine, have to remember to close the filter valve when brewing is done. We'll see how many messes I make while half-asleep.
I'd really iike to see a replacement filter basket with both the manual flow switch AND a spring that stops the dribbles when the carafe is removed, and at this price point, a non-crappy carafe coming standard with the machine would be nice.
After about four years with a Mr. Coffee thermal model (which made lukewarm, at best, coffee), I felt it was time to invest in something that didn't infuriate me quite as often, and was capable of brewing a superb, hot cuppa.
After tons of research, I decided to go with the KVT-741 due to a few factors:
- It's an incredibly hands-on brewing process, so you can get as geeky as you like. Stir the slurry, add more water, cut the flow to slow. I've got lots and lots of different pieces of manual coffee making gear.. ibriks, presspots, moka pots. Hands-on is great as far as I'm concerned. It puts the operator back into the equation, much like an espresso machine.
- Overwhelmingly, everything I read about this model is that it does its job in spades, and there's a ton of information about these models in enthusiast circles online.
- I'm getting sick of the trend toward throwaway machinery. I really wanted a machine that was built to last a lifetime AND do its job without compromise, aesthetics be damned.
- My parents have an old bunn water dispacement brewer that they've had since I was a kid: 30 years or so, and I helped my father take it apart and clean it last weekend. I haven't seen many modern machines approaching that build quality or reliability, and it really galvanized me to buy something permanent this time out.
So, I had planned on buying a Technivorm thermal model after fairly exhaustive research. Was it as pretty and over-designed as those shiny machines in the big box stores? Hell no. I'm not going to lie: I'm an artist. Aesthetics play a bigger role in many of my purchase decisions than they should sometimes, although Francis Francis' lack of support and repair infrastructure taught me an important life lesson in that regard a year or so ago.
I think the machine has an extremely charming mad-scientist, 70's industrial quality to it, and I'm proud to have it in my kitchen, but do I think it's particularly pretty? No way. Interesting, and attention-grabbing, yes, but not pretty.
At any rate, as a surprise birthday gift, I got the model I was coveting about a month sooner than I'd have purchased it myself, although I did the ordering via Sweet Maria's.
As mentioned in other reviews: it's a lot smaller in person than it looks in those product shots you've been ogling. It's also deceptively light.
It took a bit of rearranging of my coffee/espresso station to get it situated at the preferred "sideways" configuration. I tried it placed like a normal coffeemaker, but I was slopping water around and knocking covers into hard-to-reach spots -- in addition, I couldn't clearly see the power or carafe contact lights.
First start-up, like any other machine, you run 2 or 3 clean-water batches through the unit. As I was using a new swissgold #4 permanent filter, I ran a "seasoning" pot of coffee through using oldish beans before making a pot for drinking.
The unit retains somewhere between 4 and 6 oz. of water, and you'll notice immediately that the "new style" carafe feels like an afterthought. It's about 6-8 oz larger in capacity than the machine can brew unless you add water during brewing, and it doesn't fit under the filter holder with the stopper in (it's about 1/4 inch too high). This falls in the "what on earth were they thinking?!?!" category, if you're keeping score. The carafe, while it pours *great* in my experience, and retains heat very impressively, is quite obviously a rebranded prefab from another manufacturer that just doesn't quite match. This bothers me so much that I'll be buying a Nissan Stainless or Zoji carafe with a brew-through stopper as a replacement (after some very careful measurements). I shouldn't have to do this with a $250 coffee maker, so points off for usability, value and overall just for that one issue.
The ritual for making coffee in this machine has been covered in-depth... just about everywhere, so I'll be brief:
- Add water to hopper (replace lid that comes off completely) - Rinse filter and place in removed filter holder - Fill the thermal carafe with hot water and let it sit - Grind and add 6-6 1/2 *level* technivorm scoops of coffee -- if you do the golden rule 1 tablespoon per 4ish oz of water / 2 per 8oz "cup", you'll overflow the filter holder with bloom if you're using good coffee, and get overextraction AND a mess. After a few fillings, you'll be able to eyeball the amount in a permanent filter. - Replace all the (completely removable) lids and parts on the unit, dump the hot water and put the carafe in place - If you're brewing hands-on, make sure the flow switch is set to "closed" and turn the machine on - If you're brewing hands-off, make sure the flow switch is set to "open" and turn the machine on - If you're hands-on, wait about 30 seconds then stir the slurry a touch. You can set it to slow flow now, if you'd like, for a minute or so, but the coffee I've been using blooms so much that I'm afraid of making a mess. Replace the lid after you stir it up. - Wait 7ish minutes for the brew to complete, and turn the flow switch to off on the filter holder so you don't get random dribbles while you're making your coffee.
The main takeaway is, there are a LOT of removable parts, and you have to remember to open/close the flow valve in the filter holder while you're half-asleep or risk a big mess.
I do wish there was a single "brew complete" beep or buzzer in the unit -- as it stands, the thing will dribble for 10 minutes or so after brewing is complete (requiring you to manually close the flow to pour), and the open carafe design means a ton of heat is escaping if you're not babysitting the unit waiting for it to complete.
I love being completely involved in the process of making the coffee, but sometimes I'd just like to pour water in, add grounds and forget the thing, you know? As an artist and programmer, I know that you *don't* have to sacrifice utility for usability if thoughtful design is applied. I would describe this machine as extremely spartan and utilitarian, and it really could use some real interaction design love: not just a rounded, prettier column (the CD "pretty") model.
I've been hard on the design shortcomings of this machine, but the fact remains that it's still an amazing machine, warts and all. I'd buy it again, but I'm not sure I'd pay a premium ($250 for machine $20 for a permanent filter $50 for a replacement carafe that fits) for this particular model, although I knew about all the faults of the unit before I made my purchase.
Technivorm, if you're listening:
- The carafe. Seriously, replace it, or make the brewer 1/4" higher. Or place the filter holder 1/4" higher. It's a nice carafe, but the fact remains that it just doesn't belong with this brewer, and there are a crapload of easy fixes that don't involve me building a custom platform for the unit.
- Include a permanent filter in the box.
- Add a buzzer and hook it to the boiler switch to alert for brew done.
At any rate, if you like to be extremely involved in making your coffee, this is the machine for you. It's the most utilitarian machine I've ever seen, it brews at ideal temperatures, and you can very easily get to, if not remove every part in the machine that comes into contact with water or coffee. If you're an obsessive, that will make the sale.
I'm an obsessive about half the time, and I'm a guy who needs a kickstart in the morning to even put a coherent sentence together the other half of the time, and this amount of hands-on prep might annoy me or cause a fair amount of mess. Time will tell.
I got exactly the product I knew I was getting, after research, although the carafe issue bothers me to an enormous degree. If I had it to do over again, I might actually get a hotplate model (and I despise hotplates) due to the more unified design, and also the flow spring when the carafe is in place.
I'll always pay a couple dollars more on equipment to support Sweet Maria's. I think the world of those guys, and they run a first-class operation. Some days I wish that someone would redesign their site so you can actually find stuff like tracking info in their huge wall of text, but I've never EVER had a complaint with their service or delivery times.
Three Month Followup
Condensed into 1-year follow-up.
One Year Followup
One year on, it's still rock-solid.
A few months back, I'd had enough with the carafe that shipped with it, and went ahead and picked up a 51oz Nissan Thermal replacement, with brew-through lid option, and it makes all the difference in the world (from baldmountaincoffee.com).
Technically speaking, the 51 is about a millimeter too tall with the brew-through screwed in, but it slides under and tucks right into the brew basket just fine, and very very little heat is lost during brewing. There's also a 50 oz. model available that's actually marketed as a direct replacement for the TV's carafe, but it wasn't shipping yet at the time I ordered mine.
The brew-through not only minimizes escaping heat during brewing (because it fits so snugly), it also catches the post-brew dribbles too, and the carafe overall is slightly thinner in diameter than the original, allowing the carafe to sit directly under the basket without hitting the brew switch -- win, win, win all around.
Since this purchase, I've yet to overflow a pot due to leaving the flow valve shut -- no dribbles to worry about, no need to shut it after brewing. I'm much happier with the setup now as a result, and my counter is much cleaner overall. No drips, no sloppy pours.
So, a year on and I'm really pleased with it -- but for the price, I still wish I didn't have to resort to an aftermarket carafe. It's a really glaring weakness.