I’m a big fan of the Bunn home coffee brewer. I use mine every day — several times a day, most often. Among the available auto-drip brewers on the market today, I think it stands head and shoulders above the competition. It has a fairly large brew basket, it offers pretty good brew turbulence, and, it consistently brews at an optimal temperature… usually right around 195°-197° F. Even so, it’s not without its quirks.
For one thing, its brew time is just a bit too fast. While this does minimize the morning wait for that first cup of strong, black coffee, it does so at the expense of optimal flavor extraction. And while the brew basket is passable large, it’s not quite large enough to contain a filter filled to SCCA recommended proportions of eight standard coffee measures [SCM] for a full 8 cup pot. [Since most folks tend to use half of that amount of coffee – or less – this isn’t an issue that affects everyone.]
I’ve collected a number of tricks along the way that I use to get the best possible coffee from the Bunn. And while each is little more than a minor tweak, together they can add up to a substantial improvement in your coffee cup.

  1. Keep the exposed bits clean. Really clean. While the shape of the Bunn carafe is something of a challenge, it’s nothing a flexible brush can’t handle, and baking soda makes an easy-to-rinse scrubbing agent. Every now and then, give the works a good soak with Urnex or Purocaf, commercially available coffee cleansers. Don’t forget to scrub the filter-basket, which has lots of nooks and crannies where old coffee oils can collect. You can attack this with a stiff nylon brush, or again go for a good soak and scrub with a coffee cleanser.
  2. Keep the inside clean, too. Especially if you’ve got hard water. Lime-scale buildup is an almost certain eventuality… it likes to collect in the spray-head where it will block the spray outlets and diminish turbulence in the filter basket. Lime-scale can also build up in the water reservoir, effectively insulating the heating elements. Serious build-up can reduce the brew temperature of your Bunn, which will result in underextracted [weak, bitter] coffee.

    To de-scale the water reservoir, unplug the brewer, pour in two quarts of white vinegar and let it soak for at least three hours to loosen the scale. When it’s done soaking, flush the vinegar [and dissolved scale] out with at least a dozen pots of water–and be prepared to keep flushing with fresh water till you can’t taste vinegar anymore.

  3. Use good water. Bad tasting water makes bad-tasting coffee.
  4. Grind your coffee as fine as you can without the grounds spilling over the filter into the brew basket [and eventually into the carafe.] Because the Bunn’s brew cycle is so short, it’s important to maximize the extraction that does happen. Finely ground coffee helps. If you see coffee grounds in the carafe, grind a bit more coarsely next time.
  5. If you’re using very freshly roasted coffee [for example, coffee you’ve roasted yourself] allow a few extra minutes between grinding and brewing. By allowing the ground coffee a bit of extra time to out-gas CO2 you decrease the likelihood of creating carbonic acid in your brew — a sharp-tasting compound that is just spiffy in soft drinks, but not so good in coffee.
  6. Use the Bunn brand coffee filters, which are a bit taller than their generic counterparts. Taller filters mean you can grind more finely, or load more coffee in the filter, or both.
  7. Rinse the paper filter in fresh water before you load it with coffee. While there’s no particular reason to believe there are nasty chemicals and such in the filter, there’s every reason to believe that it’s coated in paper dust that would eventually find its way to your cup.
  8. When your coffee has brewed, pour it into a pre-heated thermal carafe — don’t use the built-in warmer. There are few flavors worse than coffee that’s been cooked for an hour on a warmer plate [except maybe coffee that’s been cooked for two hours on a warmer plate.]
  9. While you can’t brew a full 8-cup pot at the specialty coffee trade recommendations of two tablespoons per cup [the filter basket will overflow – big time] you can brew a 6-cup pot. Use a Bunn filter [for the added height] and load your filter basket with six standard coffee measures [12 tablespoons of ground coffee] and pour 36 oz. of water. If you’ve been grinding very fine [see #4] you may need to back off a bit, and grind a smidge more coarsely to keep the basket from overflowing.
  10. While loading the basket to specialty coffee proportions for a 6-cup pot will give you the best extraction possible in your Bunn, the resulting brew may taste a bit strong. Simply dump the used grounds from the basket, reinsert the empty basket, and pour over another 6 ounces of water. Voila! You now have 8 cups of great-tasting, perfectly extracted coffee.

That’s all… for now.

There you have it… ten tips for brewing better coffee with your Bunn. If you’ve got tips to contribute, I’d be happy to increase this list accordingly. After all, the world doesn’t need another top ten list… it needs better coffee.

More: coffee | brewing

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