An Excellent Home Brewer
September 16, 2014
I've had my Phase Brew HG brewer for just over six months now, sufficient time to find it's strengths and weaknesses. Let me start with a summary for people with ADHD - BUY IT! Great coffee maker for the right person.
Here's the detail:
Construction is solid as a brick. Made of a molded synthetic material and aluminum, the feel and heft is solid but not too heavy. The water heating element sits on top of the unit and is made of this synthetic material, all one piece - nothing here to remove. Access to the element is by means of pushing a swinging trap door left or right to expose the water element interior. Pour in water, close door, move to next step.
The coffee filter container is located just below the water element. The filter/coffee container is the best I've seen anywhere at any price. It is made of aluminum almost entirely. The basket itself is aluminum with only the handle and a small upper lip being of the synthetic material. That means that NO CONTACT with any "plastic" or other material is made with the coffee. A previous review stated that they were having a problem with a "plastic smell" and flavoring of the brewed coffee. I can't figure out how that could happen unless it's coming from the water heating element. I've had no such problems. Whatever, the inside of the filter container has a solid wire net of sorts at the bottom to prevent the coffee filter from coming into contact with the bottom of the container. This reduces drip and the resulting bitterness that can result from old coffee sitting in a little water and dripping into the new brew. There is a small channel at the bottom of the basket that catches any runoff and holds it until you empty the basket of old grounds.
After you place a #4 flat-bottom filter in the basket and load your coffee, the basket slides into two grooves below the water heater. You're now ready to brew.
These two components, the water heating element and the brew basket, are attached to the base unit by means of two very solid, integrated posts on each side. The back of the unit is fully open, so you can grasp the entire unit with two hands by the posts, lift it, and move where you need it to go. No heat here, no burns, secure grip, unlike units with solid sides and backs that don't give you a good way to pick up the whole thing and move it securely. This is handy for me since I have to move the unit in and back under a cabinet to prepare and brew.
The bottom, the control center if you will, is also a very solid piece. The warming plate is of standard materials and the sides - part of that two-pillar construction - are aluminum. The operation and controls are very simple and all one needs with nothing unnecessary to eventually break, There is an illuminated clock dead center with clock set buttons to left and right. You can set current time or a "wake-up" brew time if you use that. There is an "on" button and that's it. There is nothing else to confuse or confound you. I love the direct simplicity of this setup.
When you push "on" the clock becomes a racetrack with a series of dashes chasing themselves round and round. As long as this racetrack is moving, DO NOT MOVE THE POT OR DO ANYTHING ELSE. This unit IS NOT made with any sort of "shut off" plunger. If you pull the pot out from underneath the brew basket prior to the full brewing cycle having completed (racetrack stopped and time reappears in clock window) you are going to have a mess on your hands, The coffee will continue to flow out, so get a handful of paper towels ready,
That is not meant as a drawback. This brewer requires a bit more patience on your part than what you may be accustomed to. If you or some other household member is accustomed to just grabbing the pot out from under the basket and pouring themselves a cup before the cycle is complete (Flavor Robbers - shame on them!!) then this might not be a brewer for you. Or you need to retrain that slob you live with to LOOK before they pour. Your call.
There is a half-carafe minimum water fill that must be met before it will brew. Put in less water than that and nothing will happen. So don't think of this as a fast, one-cup system. It isn't.
I have brewed both the half carafe and full carafe pots and found it makes little if any difference in brewing time. That's due to the way the water heater empties all at once after the sensors tell the brewer the water has reached optimum brewing temp. That's different from the way most drip brewers work - they release the water in a slow flow over several minutes resulting in some coffee being brewed at different temps based on how hot the water is when released. This "all at once" approach gives much more consistent results and flavor.
Expect to wait 10 to 12 minutes for a full brew cycle to complete, the racetrack disappear, and you being able to remove the carafe with no spills of drips. But be advised - remember what I said about the wire stand-off at the bottom of the brew basket to catch the dregs? Well, that water is still in there, so when you pull out the brew basket to empty grounds and clean, if you tip it too much you will get a drop or two on the floor. Just keep it level as you move it and no problem. It took me awhile to figure out how to prevent this little drip but I now know how and haven't spilled even a drop in months. But here again, like the thing about pulling the pot out early, how sloppy are you? Or how much attention do you pay to detail? Sloppy will be, well, sloppy. If that's you, expect a little dripping from time to time.
Last, the unit has a sensor that tells it when it is becoming clogged with hard water residue and will alert to the need for a cleaning with a message in that clock window. Just do a standard cleaning with your product of preference and that's that. I've not yet seen that message, probably because I only run filtered water in the brewer, not tap water. Suggest you do the same - keeps the brew unit working right, coffee tasting better.
Last, I got mine on sale for about $89.00, a very reasonable price for a quality brew system such as BUNN makes. It's a sturdy, attractive bit of kitchen machinery, works great, makes wonderful coffee, and should last a long, long time with proper care and attention.
I highly recommend this for people that seek quality, want a medium priced brewer, like simplicity in operation, want to brew good coffee, and are willing to pay just a bit more attention to things like brew cycles than others might. I give it 9 of 10 stars.