The OXO On Barista Brain 9-Cup is the perfect machine for those with discerning taste. It led our taste tests with a rich, complex flavor that was almost as good as a pour over brew. In fact, this machine is great for those that prefer the taste of manual brews like pour over, but want the convenience of a machine for those rushed weekday mornings. On top of that it boasts a simple interface, an insulated stainless steel carafe, and a design that is relatively easy to clean. The only downside is that it's a bit pricey, but we doubt you'll regret the purchase after enjoying your first delicious pot.
OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup Review
Pros: Great taste, well designed interface, easy cleaning for a drip machine
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The OXO On Barista Brain 9-Cup produced the best tasting coffee in our testing and has a sleek, easy to use design. This is a great machine for those that are serious about their coffee.
The OXO On Barista Brain 9-Cup was the top overall scorer in our tests. Below we discuss how the Barista Brain fared in each one of our individual testing metrics.
The Barista Brain made our testers' favorite coffee. It's method of dosing the coffee grinds with water in discrete bursts produced a bold, rich brew that really brought out the subtle flavor notes in the coffee. In fact, the professional coffee roaster we recruited as a tester remarked that is was the only machine that got close to how the coffee was supposed to taste. It was the only machine that rivaled our pour over control sample in terms of taste. If we're splitting hairs the pour over was noticeably richer and more nuanced, but the Barista Brain was close. Close enough that we feel pour over aficionados will be satisfied using this machine on those rushed mornings when they don't have time to break out the Chemex. As a bonus, the Barista Brain was one of the few machines we tested that didn't create a plastic taste in the first few pots that it brewed.
The Barista Brain earned a score of 8 out of 10 in our user friendliness testing. This put it right at the top of a metric where scores ranged from 4 to 9. The descaling process took about 60 minutes to run, which was on the longer side, but it was easy to initiate. The Barista Brain is the only model we tested that indicates when it needs to be descaled, so when the little red exclamation point pops up you just fill the reservoir with descaling fluid, turn the knob to the right until it turns bright red, and press the button. If you want to run a descaling cycle before the warning appears you can, you just have to unplug the machine, and then plug it back in while holding down the button.
The only models that bested the Barista Brain in this metric were the ridiculously simple pod machines. In terms of drip machines that can make more than one cup of coffee at a time, the Barista Brain was our favorite to use, along with the Ninja Coffee Bar. We've been impressed with the streamlined and intuitive controls on every OXO product we've tested, and the Barista Brain was no exception. The single knob/button control allows you to easily scroll through options and set schedules on the large LCD display. That same display also starts a timer the minute the coffee is finished brewing, so you know at a glance whether the coffee is fresh or stale. The filter basket and water tank both have large openings and are easily accessible. Our only real complaint was with the thermal carafe. Its design forces you to tip it quite a bit before you get a good pour. While this design does seem to keep coffee warm and tasting good longer than other models, it is a bit annoying when you're trying to get that last cup out.
The Barista Brain was an average scorer in our convenience testing, picking up a 6 out of 10 in a metric that saw scores from 3 to 9.
This relatively mediocre score was mostly due to the Barista Brain's slow brew time. Including prep and cleanup, it took this model 11.5 minutes to make 6 cups of coffee. This is largely because of its stepwise, pre-infusion brewing style, which adds water to the grinds in stages. While this clearly has a positive impact on taste, it does slow things down a bit. This can largely be rectified if you use the programmable function to set the coffee to brew automatically. Then it's just a couple minutes of loading water and grinds the night before, ad a couple of minute in the morning disposing of grinds and cleaning out the carafe.
Ease of Cleaning
The Barista Brain earned a 7 out of 10 in our ease of cleaning testing. This was the best score amongst the drip coffee makers and was bested only by the single serving pod machines.
The stainless steel carafe must be cleaned by hand, but the opening is large enough that this isn't too difficult. It uses paper filters, so disposing of spent grinds is easy. Additionally, it is one of the few machines we tested that actually warns you when it needs to be descaled. The descaling process itself was easy to set up and took about 60 minutes to run its course, which was about average.
At a list price of $200 the OXO On Barista Brain 9-Cup is definitely on the expensive side. If you're not too fussy about how your coffee tastes, you can get a much better value in something like the BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Programmable. However, if you want the best tasting cup of coffee that a machine can provide, then the Barista Brain is worth every penny.
The OXO On Barista Brain provides top-notch taste, but at a premium price. It is a great investment for those that want the best tasting cup of coffee to start their day but is more than you need to spend if you just want a caffeine boost and aren't too picky about how your coffee tastes.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata