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Breville products generally come with a heftier price tag than offerings from other brands, and the BDC400 Precision Brewer Coffee Maker with Glass Carafe and its sibling, the BDC450 with Thermal Carafe, are not exceptions to this rule.
But after a closer look, the features list for both models justifies the higher cost than what you’ll find with your run-of-the-mill appliance.
Yes, it’s JUST a coffee maker, but it’s also one of the few to earn certification by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). This means the brewers meet strict standards for water temperature, brewing time, and other parameters.
Beyond that, these are versatile units, with five preset brew options and one custom setting. You can even use these machines to make a cold brew concentrate and, with an optional adapter, to make pour over in your favorite pour over device.
This eliminates the need for two other appliances – a dedicated cold brew maker, and a kettle.
And, while all that might make these appliances sound complicated to use, the straightforward interface is simple and intuitive.
Here’s what we’ll cover in our review:
Breville BDC400 and BDC450 Review
Read on to find out why one of these Breville models might just perk up your coffee routine.
The Breville BDC400 and the Breville BDC450 are virtually identical, except for their carafes. The BDC400 has a glass carafe, the BDC450 has a thermal carafe (and costs a few dollars more from most retailers as a result).
In spite of the extra cost to buy the thermal model, in the grand scheme of things, neither of these types is superior to the other. Both are high quality, and the choice is simply a matter of personal preference.
With a glass carafe, after the coffee is brewed it sits on a warming plate that keeps the liquid in the carafe hot until you’re ready to drink it.
A lot of people prefer this, because they feel that the coffee is kept at a more consistent temperature. Others find that it can give their brew a slightly “burnt” taste, or make it seem stale or old, although we didn’t see any of those complaints regarding the BDC400.
With a thermal carafe, the layers of glass and steel insulate the liquid so it stays hot in the carafe without needing to sit on a heating element. Thermal carafe fans say it results in a smoother, more consistent pot, down to the very last drop. People also love being able to take the carafe to the table or out on a patio.
However, others feel that the coffee simply doesn’t stay hot enough in a carafe. In the case of the BDC450 specifically, however, we spotted a number of comments that the coffee stays hot for a couple of hours, and was still warm when the carafe was emptied at the end of the day.
All drip coffee makers do one thing: heat water and then release the hot water to “drip” through the grounds to the carafe below. The best drip coffee makers take the process a step further, using technology that makes the water even hotter, and optimizes the ability of the hot water to extract the flavor from the grounds without over-extracting.
In the case of both models, you can adjust the temperature of the water between 197 and 204 degrees. This is one of the features that qualifies both of these models for inclusion on the short list of the SCA’s certified home brewers.
In addition to the optimal temperature, both feature “showerhead” technology. That means the water is sprayed evenly over all of the grounds in the filter, rather than just dripping through a hole in the center – or a couple of holes spaced around the dripper.
Once the hot water hits the grounds, the brewing chamber holds the water for a short period of time to steep the grounds in the water. This optimizes “bloom,” which helps extract the full flavor of the grounds. The bloom time is adjustable, so you can tweak it to your precise taste.
The showerhead dispenser on these models adeuqately covered the grounds – more so than the well regarded Technivorm Moccamaster models but not quite as much as the massive showerhead dispenser found on the OXO On Barista Brain.
The Breville BDC400 and BDC450 Precision Brewer Coffee Makers both have six brewing modes – five presets, and a My Brew setting that allows you to customize each cup to your liking.
Here is an overview of the five preset brew settings:
Gold Cup: Automatically adjusts brew temperature and brewing time to meet the SCA’s technical requirements for home brewer certification. Just follow the included instructions for the proper grounds to water ratio.
Fast: Brews a full pot in about half the time of the regular settings. While Breville doesn’t specify times, owners say on the normal settings it takes 6 to 8 minutes to brew a full pot, but just 3 to 4 minutes on “fast.”
Strong Brew: Automatically increases the strength of your coffee, without having to do any manual adjustments. You can make it even stronger by adding more grounds than normal.
Over Ice: This makes an even stronger brew to counteract the effect of the melting ice when you drink it. Breville recommends using twice as much ground coffee as normal, and then cooling the brewed beverage for at least 2 hours before serving. You can make up to a 20-ounce cup on this setting.
Cold Brew: Cold brew is a coffee concentrate that results from steeping grounds in cold water over a prolonged period of time. It results in a complex flavor that can be used for a variety of purposes, from making iced beverages to desserts and cocktails.
As with the Over Ice mode, you can only fill the reservoir to 20 ounces on the Cold Brew setting. The cold brew process can also take up to 14 hours to complete (although you can adjust it for up to 24 hours for an extra strong concentrate). Plan accordingly, so your coffee maker’s not tied up when you’re most in need of a caffeine fix.
Single Cup Options
If you don’t need to brew a full pot, both units have a unique small cup technology that enables you to brew directly into a cup or mug. It can brew up to 20 ounces in this mode.
Even when brewing a single cup, users say this coffee maker’s automatic steeping technology makes a delicious brew just as quickly as a Keurig, without the pod waste.
However, a few note that, while this works great with larger cups or travel mugs, it can splash when brewing into a smaller cup. At least one user solved that problem by placing his small mug on an inverted bowl.
There are three different filtering options available.
For brewing larger quantities, you can use the reusable mesh filter in the filter basket. Or, if you prefer paper (which tends to result in a cleaner brew), the brew basket accommodates an 8- to 12-cup, 3-1/4-inch flat base basket filter. Ten are included.
For small quantities of up to 8 cups, the cone filter basket insert is recommended with a cone paper filter. Cone paper filters are not included.
Size and Capacity
They can make up to 60 ounces at a time, which Breville says is equivalent to 12 cups. That’s because an official “cup” of coffee is just 5 ounces, not 8 ounces. Going by that 8 ounce measure, this makes about 7.5 cups of coffee.
The Breville BDC400 and Breville BDC450 are not as fully-featured as some models. There’s a delay brew so you can set the machine to start brewing before you wake up, as well as a child lock, but no pause brew feature so that you can sneak a cup; although, it’s so fast you probably won’t need to.
Surprisingly, this was one of the only models that forces us to run a flush cycle before brewing.
The one difference between the two models is that the BDC400 with the glass carafe has a hot plate. It activates automatically for brew volumes of more than four cups, but you have to turn the knob to the “keep warm” setting if you’re brewing four cups or less into the carafe. That’s to keep it from getting hot if you’re using a mug for a single cup.
Although there aren’t a lot of features on these brewers, both do come with a decent package of accessories. This includes the cone filter insert, flat-bottomed filter basket with 10 paper filters, reusable mesh filter, a measuring scoop, and a water hardness test strip that lets you adjust the settings to your water’s hardness level for best results. .
The Pour Over Option
One of the most unique aspects of these coffee makers is their ability to be used in conjunction with a wide variety of pour over devices to make a true pour over, without having to heat the water separately.
However, using this feature requires an adapter that’s available via Amazon as an optional purchase. We saw a lot of confusion about this as the owner’s manual (and some product descriptions at retailers) imply that this adapter is included with purchase – it is not.
The pour over adapter is included with the pricier Breville BDC455 Precision Brewer Coffee Maker, which is also referred to as the Brewers Cup Tribute edition. That model is only available on Breville’s website and is a pricier choice. The BDC455 also has a thermal carafe.
Use and Care
These Breville coffee makers can do a lot, but all that versatility means there might be a learning curve for some to figure out how to use all those different brew options.
Owners say the instructions, while thorough, can feel a bit overwhelming. Most agree that it’s worth figuring it out, though, especially if you like to customize your brew.
On the plus side, the interface, which is just two knobs and an uncluttered, easy-to-read screen, is very simple and intuitive to use.
To clean either unit, just wipe down the exterior with a soft cloth. The removable parts, like the reusable filter and carafe, can be washed in warm, soapy water.
Breville recommends at the very least emptying and rinsing the carafe and lid after each use, and descaling the coffee maker when the “descale” light flashes.
There are no specific instructions regarding descaling solutions in the owner’s manual, so we contacted Breville. A customer service rep there told us that you can use any commercial descaling solution meant for use with coffee pots, or a 50/50 mixture of white distilled vinegar and water.
Unlike some coffee makers that take hours for the descaling process, descaling these Breville models only takes about 15 minutes.
A Customized Cup, in Thermal Carafe or Glass
Breville touts these appliances as “craft filter coffee makers,” and rightfully so. Owning one of these machines means you can make the wide variety of drip coffee brews that you normally would only be able to get at the local cafe, but in the comfort of your own home.
- Build Quality
- Temperature Control / 200 Degree Brewing
- Water Dispersion
- Advance Features
A top of the line coffee maker in all respects. The BDC450 Precision Brewer felt more "solid" than any other brand or model that we tested. The carafe is made of thick double-walled stainless and will keep your beverage piping hot for hours. Fit, finish, and materials seemed to be better than all others - including that of the Technivorm Moccamaster. Water temperatures were consistent and the showerhead dispenser adequately soaked all areas of the coffee grounds. You can't go wrong in purchasing one of these for your home or small office.
Unlike many products that we have reviewed, there are almost no “cons” mentioned here, because we really didn’t spot any with a unifying theme. While there were those who said their beverage “wasn’t hot enough,” or “didn’t taste good,” it’s hard to qualify those subjective opinions.
Objectively, with temperature and brew settings that meet SCA requirements, we’re confident that either of these coffee makers will produce a cup of joe that will satisfy even the pickiest connoisseur.
Looking for more coffee maker choices? Read our buying guide for summaries of all the top models and selection tips.
BDC450 photos by Mike Quinn, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. BDC400 and pour over adapter kit photos courtesy of Breville.
About Kelly Burgess
Kelly Burgess is a product review specialist who loves food, kitchen gadgets, gardening, and writing. She was born and raised in Southern California, raised her kids in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Spokane, Washington with her husband and three cats. When she’s not cooking, eating or writing, Kelly likes to read, hang out with friends, hike, and explore the great Northwest.