Trifecta = Coffee HD

I reported I’ve had one of the best-ever cups of coffee three times this year. Each time it happened to be after drinking coffee brewed in a new technology, one I think is destined for greatness. The Bunn Trifecta promises to be the reinvention of brewed coffee that many of us have been hoping for since the introduction of specialty single-origin coffee in the 1970s.

In case you haven’t noticed, the emphasis on most coffee served at cafes is on espresso. Now, the reality is that most people don’t drink espresso, they drink espresso-injected milk-based Café lattes or mochas. I speculate that most Americans would not like espresso if they sampled it au naturel.

What happened to so-called regular coffee? Just that, it became tagged as the routine, the average the mundane. It just didn’t make sense to drive to an upscale café and order something you could get free while your car’s oil was being changed.

Too bad, because I’m going to suggest that a properly-brewed drip cup of coffee is just what Americans would drink, if only it were just that… properly brewed. Now, I am one of the few who regularly achieves brewing a great cup of coffee. It has aroma, sweetness, texture and it lasts around twenty glorious minutes as I sip it. Filtered coffee is also the home of most single-origin specialty coffee – that is the enjoyment of tasting around the world through the beans of one region at a time.

Most coffee in cafes is made in large batches. While it is possible to brew any volume of coffee properly, it is not possible to store it beyond around twenty minutes. That means, at best, you have to time things just right as a consumer. Who wants to do that?

Bunn solved many of these problems with the new Trifecta machine. It is designed to custom brew one cup at a time. But, they did more than that. They took the whole brewing method apart and put it back together, addressing all the little factors that make coffee perfect.

Here’s the list of things they addressed and appear to have fixed:

Floating grounds no more – Everyone who is into brewing knows that coffee grounds don’t like to get wet. They tend to float on top of the water, especially if they’re fresh. One reason the press pots are popular is they have a screen that comes down and forces the grounds under the hot water, The Trifecta does this and in a more sophisticated way, pre-infusing precisely heated water while the grounds swell up and fall, then adding the rest of the water and keeping the grounds submerged through the extraction process.

Agitation – Anyone who’s used a vacuum or siphon coffee brewer observes what a strong cup of coffee it makes and how powerful it agitates the grounds as the water bubbles during brewing. What’s natural in the vacuum is unnatural in drip – the water just falls through the grounds by gravity. Some hobbyists brewing drip manually find they can stir the coffee and increase the flavor strength. Bunn went one better and introduce air to agitate the grounds.

Contact time control – If you studied drip coffee (okay so you have a life and I don’t) you’d discover that drip brewing is basically predictive engineering. You grind the coffee for approximately how long you speculate it’s going to take for the water to drip through the grounds. That final number is called contact time and it’s all that matters. But, it drifts, depending upon a lot of variables. Even the grind being off can affect it. Bunn made a controllable, closed-loop system where the exact contact time is user-selected. This is a biggie my friends.

Filtering – The Trifecta has just the right filter. It allows more flavor and oils through than a paper filter, but less than even the finest mesh gold filter. The finished coffee is also forced through the filter, which gives an extremely thorough extraction. Other methods, such as vacuum, match it, but none betters it.

Single serve – This is not inherently an advantage. By that I mean there’s no reason brewing one cup will taste better than brewing 10. But, the problem is that culturally, we don’t all drink coffee at the same time. Cafes and restaurants brew twelve cups at a time and then must wait for someone to come and purchase them. Bad idea. Espresso proved that. Trifecta allows brewing just one cup. Coffee is never held, meaning you get the cup at its peak, every time.

Control – Every single variable of the Trifecta’s brewing cycle is user-controlled. This is unlike any other method. Wait, there is one, the Clover. The Clover allows the same control and has many of the Trifecta’s virtues, but it does not offer the agitation feature. I’ve also had coffee from the Clover, and while I consider it an admirable engineering step towards the goal of an end-user controlled brewed cup of coffee, its end product tastes nothing like the Trifecta. I intend to do a comparison in a future article. This control introduces the importance of having someone tweak the Trifecta for the beans being used, for the customer’s tastes preferences.

The Bunn Trifecta is truly coffee’s answer to HD, or high-definition. It will, for many people, be their first experience tasting such a large palate of flavors from a coffee bean. For many it will be a revelation. For me, it was as good as it gets. I will stop short of saying it replaces all other brewers.

Check into your local café and find out where you can get your hands on a truly superb brewed-to-order Trifecta.

It truly is coffee in high-definition.

©2010 Kevin Sinnott


About coffeekevin

Kevin Sinnott, host of the how-to video “Coffee Brewing Secrets”, author of The Art and Craft of Coffee and curator of website is America’s foremost consumer coffee authority. His groundsbreaking newsletter THE COFFEE COMPANION was the first-ever consumer publication about finding and brewing the world’s best coffee. The COFFEE COMPANION, which achieved a readership of more than 10,000 coffee lovers, offered Sinnott’s unbiased evaluations of what he calls “hardware” – all the equipment necessary to brew great tasting coffee, from water filters to coffee bean grinders to brewers. Since then, he’s made more than 100 media appearances, in USA TODAY and The Chicago Tribune, OPRAH WINFREY, 20/20, and The FOOD NETWORK and has done countless talk radio shows. Kevin Sinnott lives with his wife and three sons in Warrenville, Illinois.
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6 Responses to Trifecta = Coffee HD

  1. Kirk Williams says:

    Prima Coffee sells the Trifecta here: Bunn Trifecta for about $3700

  2. Wheres the video of this thing in action!!

  3. coffeekevin says:

    Here’s a page of clips, including the Trifecta.

  4. Rick says:

    This sounds fantastic, good to see a big company like Bunn finally taking single cup brewing seriously. I can’t wait to try it.

    However, you said “Every single variable of the Trifecta’s brewing cycle is user-controlled. This is unlike any other method. ” Were you referring only to electric drip brewers when you said “any other method”? I’d think that many manual methods -the siphon and french press come to mind- give you control over everything, from agitation, to contact time, to water temperature, to grounds saturation, and so on.

    • coffeekevin says:

      Yes, of course this should be identified. Compared to any electric so-called automatic method, the number variables under user control is increased. To say every variable might be a bit over the top, but let’s say more than ever. Also, manual brewers such as the vacuum/siphon brewer are by no means responsive to every whim of their masters. For instance, it appears the conclusion of a Trifecta’s contact time between the grounds and water can be precisely chosen, where in a vacuum there’s always a lag and one that varies unreliably in my experience. The press offers the chance to stir or gently shake, but how repeatable is this? I think the Trifecta may happily surprise with the extent of its variables and the ability to dial them to precision previously unavailable.

  5. We are also happy that more attention is being spent on the brewed cup rather than Just espresso. Check out our post on the trifecta.

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