Breville Precision Brewer Review
Pros: Great taste, almost endless adjustability
Cons: Surprisingly loud, very expensive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Breville Precision Brewer is a fantastic coffee maker that brews delightful coffee, but we don't think it differentiates itself enough from the rest of the field to justify the $300 list price.
Thanks mostly to a stellar taste quality score, the Breville Precision Brewer occupied a podium spot after the completion of our exhaustive tests, losing out only to the OXO Barista Brain.
Regarding taste quality, the Precision Brewer's only real competition is our long-time Editors' Choice recipient, the OXO Barista Brain.
In our testing the Precision Brewer consistently unlocked the subtle nuances of whatever roast we were using, while still imparting a strong and bold taste profile. We also never had to deal with an overly bitter cup, something many machines that lean towards a bold flavor profile often do. If you like your coffee on the mellower side, we found that reducing the number of grounds in the machine still brought some great flavors wafting to the surface, but without quite as much bite.
Overall the Precision Brewers coffee isn't quite as robust or nuanced as coffee made in a pour over style, but it gets very close. The only other model that could get close to the pour over gold standard in our testing was the OXO Barista Brain. Coffee made in this machine is of as high a quality and tastes incredibly similar to coffee made with the Precision Brewer, and it costs a more palatable $200.
If you're willing to take a slight step down in taste quality, the Cuisinart 14-Cup Programmable is a relative steal at $100. It does lose some of the subtle flavors present in a Precision Brewer cup, and you'll probably need to use a little extra coffee if you like it strong, but it's still good enough to warm the heart of even the most critical caffeine addict.
Unique Brew Modes
The Precision Brewer offer a few unique brew modes. For one, you can place a traditional pour over rig on top of the carafe and have the Precision Brewer do the pouring instead of yourself. It even offers precise temperature controls so you can exactly replicate your standard pour over process. However, we didn't find that automating the pouring part of the pour over process added any speed or convenience, so we would call this more of a gimmick than a selling point.
The Precision Brewer also offers a cold brew setting where cold water sits in the brew basket with the grinds for a set number of hours, until an automatic valve releases it into the carafe. This might be convenient if you like to make cold brew and are constantly forgetting to filter it once it's done. However, this brew method has a 20-ounce limit, and will tie up your machine for a full 10+ hours. Most cold brew aficionados we know like to brew more than 20oz of concentrate at a time, so the usefulness of this feature will depend upon your cold brew preferences.
This, in our opinon, is the most enticing brew option of the Precision Brewer. This setting lets you customize things like preinfusion time, extraction time, and temperature. If you're a pour over zealot who would like to transfer that kind of control to a drip maker that can make larger batches and trun on automatically in the morning, this setting may be exactly what you're looking for.
We wouldn't call the Precision Brewer difficult to use, but it it doesn't exactly provide the most streamlined experience either.
Breville's large LCD display and knob/button selector offer a very intuitive way to navigate through the Precision Brewer's myriad of menu options. What makes it slightly less than intuitive are the actual options you're presented with, which include: fast, gold, strong, over ice, my brew, and cold brew. You probably noticed the conspicuous absence of a 'standard' or 'classic' setting in that mix. The closest thing would be 'gold,' which uses the ideal setting set by the Specialty Coffee Association as a baseline. That in and of itself is kind of cool, but we would have preferred not to have to consult the manual to figure out which setting would make a standard cup of coffee. The OXO offers a very similar interface with less adjustability but also less confusion.
Continuing on the slightly overcomplicated trend, the Precision Brewer provides a number of extra filter baskets, shower heads, and other accessories for making a pour over brew or brewing smaller batches in a drip style. While it's nice to have more options, a lot of this stuff seems superfluous and adds unnecessary confusion between you and a good cup of coffee. For instance, making a pour over cup requires that you install 3 different attachments and converters to the machine. Doing so, in our opinion, requires just as much if not more effort than simply pouring water into the pour over maker yourself.
Like pretty much all of the insulated carafe models we tested, the Precision Brew does offer a bit of a slow pour. If an insulated carafe isn't your style there is a glass carafe version that has a traditional heating plate under the carafe.
Finally, the one big complaint we have with the Precision Brewer is the noise that it makes. Somehow this devices manages to sound more like an espresso machine than a drip coffee maker. Even when hidden in a kitchen nook, the noise this machine made was still very noticeable at the extreme opposite end of our 40-foot long office space. This is the only drip maker we've ever come across that might be able to wake up a light sleeper in the next room. If you grind your own beans every morning, the grinder is still going to be the loudest part of your coffee making process, but the Precision Brewer will likely be a close second.
We didn't find that the Precision Brewers's various bells and whistles led to an extra level of convenience, as it earned an average score in this metric.
In our testing it took the Precision Brewer 5 minutes to brew 6 cups of coffee. Add in 2 minutes for filling the water tank and loading in grounds, and 3 minutes for cleanup, and you have 10 minutes from deciding you want a pot of coffee to having a piping hot one ready to drink. This is about standard for machines of this caliber, as the OXO took 10.5 minutes and the Cuisinart 14-cup Programmable took 12 minutes. To go much faster you'd have to go with a pod machine, which automatically brings a big sacrifice in taste quality.
You can opt for the 'fast brew' option if you need a faster fix. This machine pumps water through a heating coil, which is how it controls temperature so precisely. The fast method basically maxes out that pump's capacity. While this does make a faster brew, it alos leads to a shorter extraction time and thus a slightly weaker cup.
The Precision Brewer also has a programmable function, allowing you to pre-load the water and coffee the night before, then wake up to an automatically brewed pot. Both the OXO and Cuisinart can do this as well.
Ease of Cleaning
Here again the Precision Brewer is fairly standard. The carafe and brew basket offers easy access for cleaning, and the long-term descaling process is relatively straightforward. You also have the option of using paper filters or a reusable gold filter. The removable shower head is even silicon, which makes it easy to dislodge any built-up mineral deposits.
The biggest annoyance in cleaning the Precision Brewer comes from condensation that often forms above the brewing baskets. This leads to water being spilled when you open the basket to dispose of the spent grinds. This generally only necessitates some wiping of the machine and possibly counter with a rag, which isn't too onerous, but it isn't ideal either.
At $300, astronomical would not be a hyperbolic phrase with which to describe the Breville Precision Brewer's cost, especially considering the $200 OXO Barista Brain makes just as good of a cup. Therefore, we only think the Precision Brewer is worth the cost if you're definitely going to take advantage of the endless adjustability of its "My Brew" function.
The Breville Precision Brewer is a fantastic coffee machine, but it is only worth the extra cost if you're going to endlessly tinker with is numerous brew settings in search of the perfect cup.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata