Crew Comparison: Chemex Ottomatic vs. Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup

How Does It Compare?

If you’re looking for hands-off brewing, then you’ve come to the right place. Sit back, relax and let the Chemex Ottomatic and Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup take the reins. The Bonavita Brewer acts like your typical drip brewer but the Chemex Ottomatic has branched off from the norm and married pour over with automatic functionality. What does that mean, you ask? Basically, the Chemex took their iconic carafe and created a brew system that pre-infuses and blooms coffee as you’d perform for a pour over. Traditional drip coffee makers feature a continuous drip and usually don’t pause to allow the coffee to bloom, which is the case for the Bonavita Brewer.

ChemexOtto_1 The Chemex Ottomatic with the Chemex Classic Coffeemaker Series carafe.

Bonavita8_Full The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup features the updated stainless steel-lined carafe.

How does the taste compare? We were curious if the Chemex's innovative automatic pour over would create a different tasting cup. Using a fresh bag of Zoka Coffee’s Tangletown Blend, we brewed a pot on each. Our first thoughts were the taste was the same. After a couple of sips, Gail noticed that the coffee from the Ottomatic was smoother while the Bonavita had brighter acidity. The bottom line is both brewers make a similar cup.

Brew

Now that we know the coffee tasted similar on the Ottomatic and Bonavita, we wanted to understand the brewing processes. The Chemex Ottomatic is a new way to brew and it does it rather elegantly—dinner and a show! There’s no clunky basket obscuring your view of the brewing process; you can see the brew head gently dispenses hot water and pauses occasionally to allow the grounds to bloom. With all that pausing on the Ottomatic, it took roughly seven minutes to get our coffee. The Bonavita Brewer got us a cup in five and a half minutes since it continuously drips. Bonus: The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup (model BV1900TS) is also SCAA certified, which means it went through rigorous testing on brew time, temperature, and overall quality.

ChemexOtto_4 The Ottomatic's shower head evenly wets the grounds and pauses to allow coffee to bloom.

Another well-known brewing step called pre-infusion is featured on both machines. The Ottomatic automatically pre-infuses before brewing, which we appreciate if it's truly trying to replicate pour over. The Bonavita's pre-infusion, however, needs to be manually started. To turn it on, you press and hold the power switch for about five seconds (or waiting until the light flashes) then release and press it again to engage. See? Not bad but we could see people skipping this step and going straight to brewing and missing out on utilizing a great feature on the Bonavita.

Use this button to turn on and activate the pre-infusion. Press and hold this button to activate the pre-infusion feature.

Brains

They might brew up the same cup, but they don’t think the same way. Besides the different brewing methods, the Ottomatic features a hot plate that's automatically turned on after brewing. The carafe gets pretty toasty and pour over fanatics might scoff at the heating element—you know, we sort of turned our nose to it too. It’s great when you’re moseying around in the morning, grabbing a cup of coffee here and there, but if you accidentally leave the house—the Ottomatic won’t turn off. We tested it ourselves with a full carafe and gave it five hours to turn off. When we came back it was still on and the coffee was ridiculously hot. Why Chemex left out the auto shut-off is mind boggling. They included so many brainy automated pour over features in the brewing process that we expected the full automatic deal.

ChemexOtto_3 The Ottomatic features a hot plate that turns off after brewing. The red light signals that it's brewing.

The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup also switches off brewing—which we’ll add saves your boiler. Thank you auto shut-off! There is no heating element, instead, it comes with a thermal carafe that can keep your coffee warm for about an hour give or take. For the best results, you’ll want to remove the basket and twist on the lid that comes with it. Speaking of the carafe, you might notice the new carafe is stainless steel lined. Bonavita has discounted the glass-lined and introduced this model instead. The coffee’s still hot and flavorful with the new carafe so it gets high marks from us! Overall, the brains of the Bonavita are not glamorous, but it’s practical and sufficient for getting a cup of coffee. And the Bonavita eliminates worrying about forgetting to turn the coffee pot off on hectic mornings.

The Bonavita's new stainless steel-lined carafe keeps coffee warm for about an hour. The Bonavita's new stainless steel-lined carafe keeps coffee warm for about an hour.

Beauty

Chemex is renowned for its elegant designs. The carafe’s iconic hourglass shape paired with the wood and leather makes a beautiful statement piece in your home. The history and following of the Chemex Classic Coffeemaker alone make it desirable. Looking at the Ottomatic brewing system without the carafe, the matte black and chrome will complement modern kitchens. It’s compact, smooth and designed to be seen from any angle—we had it lined up next to our Technivorm in the kitchen and then swung it around with the cord against the wall, it looked great either way. The one downside to its design is the plastic water reservoir, brew head, and hot plate surface. It cheapens the overall design of Chemex and one of the appeals of Chemex is the high-quality materials used in the carafe.

ChemexOtto_5 The Ottomatic doing what it does best—making a pot of coffee.

The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup is wrapped in brushed stainless steel and matte black like the Ottomatic. And just like the Ottomatic, the water reservoir, brew head, and basket are plastic—but were you expecting something else from a conventional drip brewer? Technivorm’s coffee makers are nearly identical in the overall structure and feature a stainless steel body with plastic brewing components. It’s a look that works and the materials function to make a good cup of coffee—plus, the Bonavita is SCAA-approved—so you know this coffee maker holds ups.

The plastic components, such as the reservoir, are expected on a conventional drip coffee maker such as the Bonavita Brewer. The plastic components, such as the reservoir, are expected on a conventional drip coffee maker such as the Bonavita Brewer.

Conclusion

Coffee is the most important feature you could ask for in a coffee machine and both machines deliver a robust cup. If you’re looking to replace your old, worn out drip brewer, then you’re probably not looking at the Chemex Ottomatic; it makes a great cup but you’re purchasing a coffee maker like the Chemex for the iconic design. The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup may be the least unique coffee maker on the market but its stainless steel body will look uniform with your stainless steel appliances—and the SCAA certificate pinned on it easily elevates its position.

Bonavita8_ShowerHead The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup (model BV1900TS) is SCAA certified, which means it's been rigorously tested for brew temperature, time and overall quality.

4 thoughts on “Crew Comparison: Chemex Ottomatic vs. Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup”

  • Jay

    Thanks for this great comparison. What have you found to be a good grind for the Ottomatic?

    Reply
    • Felicia Kloewer
      Felicia Kloewer May 5, 2016 at 6:34 am

      Hi, Jay!

      Great question! We've totally experimented with the grind and have a couple different settings you could try. Generally, we grind medium coarse for a pour over. We have one guy grind his beans to the size of iodized salt and granulated sugar! That honestly sounds too fine, but if you've tried your pour over grind setting in the Ottomatic and wanted to experiment, we recommend going finer first.

      Let us know how it goes!

      Felicia

      Reply
  • Bruce

    Hi, thanks for the review! But I believe you might be wrong that the Ottomatic hot plate shuts off, you know, ottomatically. If it did, I would buy one for sure, but alas I can't trust myself to remember to shut it down.

    Anyway, could you clarify this?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Felicia Kloewer
      Felicia Kloewer May 12, 2016 at 3:48 am

      Hi, Bruce!

      The hot plate on the Ottomatic doesn't shut off, unfortunately. We had it on for five hours and our coffee was still toasty. We totally agree with the name! Ottomatic...otto shut-off? It automatically switches from brewing to heating, so there's that!

      Cheers!
      Felicia

      Reply
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