Bunn Trifecta - First Impression
The Bunn Trifecta is way more impressive in person than what I’ve read about or seen in pictures. The fact that this machine is hand-made and is primarily composed of metal attests to the craft and durability. This thing looks and feels sturdy. Many have said that the Trifecta is not a very attractive looking unit and I would have to disagree. The simple, gray, industrial look of this machine matches much of the aesthetics I’m seeing in more and more specialty coffee shops. The look of this machine will obviously fall under preference, but I felt the Trifecta’s design struck a balance between classy and sturdy. It’s not too flashy as to clash with any shop’s décor or machines, yet definitely too stylish to go unnoticed.
As for usability, it took some explanation but two of us here in the office were operating it with ease within 30 minutes. Operating and dialing in a specific coffee, however, are two different things. While letting it brew on the default settings will produce a decent cup on almost any given coffee, one needs to become familiar with the various brewing parameters before they can really dial in the machine for the coffee they are using. This brings us to the actual brewing functionality of the machine.
There really has been nothing quite like the Trifecta. The closest comparison in production would be the Clover brewer, a by-the-cup brewing machine that costs nearly three times as much. With the Clover brewer you only have three variables you can control: serving volume, temperature, and brew time; but the Trifecta has eleven controllable variables. These eleven variables are: Water Temperature, Brew Volume, Pre-Wet (time it takes to fill the grounds with the given water volume for pre-infusion), Pre-Infusion (% of total water volume that you want used to pre-wet the grounds), Fill Pause (how long you let it pre-infuse), Brew Time, Turbulence On (how long the air-bubble agitation lasts), Turbulence Off (how long between turbulence cycles), Turbulence Power (1-10 scale), Press Out Power (1-10 scale), and Press Out (how long the press out is).
The closest comparison to the Trifecta in brew method would be the Aeropress. To say, however, that the Trifecta is an automated Aeropress on steroids would be an understatement. The controls that a barista has on an Aeropress are all included within the ten brewing parameters of the Trifecta. Often these parameters are left to the barista’s memory to reproduce on any given brew attempt. With the Trifecta, these parameters can be stored on up to 26 different coffee profiles.
This machine did take me a couple of attempts to dial in on the coffee I was using. After a few attempts however, I brewed the best cup of Ethiopian Haile Selassie that I had tasted to date. The portafilter-like handle that the coffee is ground into uses a fine mesh metal which allows through some finer sediment (think French-press) on brews that used a longer brew time or finer grind. On this particular cup, however, the little sediment left in the bottom of the cup was barely noticeable with an already heavy bodied natural Ethiopian coffee. The brew really brought out the light, fruity, acidic notes on the front end of this coffee while tapering off to a bit of a toned-downed finish. Now the great thing about the Trifecta is that a cup of coffee can change on almost every sensory level by changing one of the ten parameters. If you want to tone down the acidity or bring out some sweetness, you can tweak the parameters until you get the desired result.
Rumor Mill: The Plastic brewing cylinder.
There have been some questions about the choice of the plastic cylinder brewing chamber on the Trifecta. Many have complained that it will be harder to clean and may start to cloud up over time. There is a good chance that there will be some clouding that occurs over time, but this can be combated by running the rinse cycle after every brew and cleaning the chamber a few times throughout the day.
As for the reason behind the heavy-duty plastic instead of glass, many have speculated that this was to prevent it from being easily broken when dropped. This seems to be only half the story according to our Bunn representative. The other (and possibly more important half) of the story was that the plastic had to be used in order to handle the amount of pressure being pushed through the chamber.
*During our experimenting with the device, we dropped the plastic piece while trying to remove it for a cleaning. While plastic may not be ideal for brewing, it does seem to be the wiser choice for the Trifecta brew cylinder. Only time will tell whether or not Bunn decides to experiment with designing a glass cylinder thick enough to withstand the pressure. I imagine the cost of replacing a glass cylinder or two after each breakage would convince any skeptical shop owners to stick with the plastic.
As of yet, I have been unable to find any other online retailer that sells the Trifecta besides us. At $3,190 (with free shipping), the Trifecta won't be breaking any home coffee maker selling records, but would be quite useful in a commercial setting. Trading out your auto-drip machine for two or three of these machines would deliver a drastic difference in beverage quality at a reasonable price point. In comparison to the other brew-by-the-cup machine on the market (the Clover), which appears to go for around $11,000, the cost on the Trifecta becomes more and more appealing. To view our online listing of the Trifecta for technical specs and purchasing, click here: Prima Coffee Bunn Trifecta.
From our quick look at and tasting from the Bunn Trifecta, it doesn't appear to be merely a step in the right direction for by-the-cup brewing, rather it looks like a revolutionary addition to the specialty coffee market. There are no other machines at the moment which give the barista the ability to control and save so many brewing parameters for brew-by-the-cup coffee. The machine looks well made and sturdy. The eleven brewing parameter variables give the barista an infinite amount of possibilities to bring out the best in their beans. With the ability to reach ideal extraction levels for a coffee in around two minutes, this machine would fit nicely into a medium to high volume shop looking to offer specialty coffees at higher price points for on demand brewing. While this method isn’t as “hands on” for by the cup brewing as a syphon bar or pour-over bar, it does look fancy, and there is no lack of skill or knowledge needed on the baristas end to dial in parameters that produce an incredible brew on any given coffee.