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Norelco Dial A Brew The Original Chemex Ottomatic

Norelco 12 cup Dial a Brew

Norelco Dial A Brew is The Original Chemex Ottomatic. In the 70’s Phillips Norelco had a line of coffee maker that was called the Dial A Brew. There were varying sizes available, but the 12 cup model is the most infamous today. The 1500 watt of power ensures that the coffee is brewed at the optimal temperature. And the Dial a Brew filter basket lets you adjust how strong or weak you want the coffee.

At the same time, Phillips Norleco did a collaboration with Chemex. They released the very first automatic Chemex Drip Coffee (Chemex Automated). It came with a white body that had Chemex stickered on the side. Today, expect to spend 500 dollars and up for a brand new version. Quite a lot of money for an automatic drip coffee. This review will take a closer look at the design and history of the Norelco Dial A Brew and see how it became an icon.

Norelco Dial A Brew The Original Chemex Ottomatic Quick Summary

Norelco Dial A Brew The Original Chemex Ottomatic
Country of ManufacturerUSA
Brand AwarenessAmerica
Water Temperature Output200 Degree Fahrenheit
Release Date70’s
Average Price in the 70’s30 Dollar
ThoughtsOne of the few coffee maker that outputted water at 200 degree fahrenheight. Chemex user love the 12 cup model because it can be used with a 8-Cup chemex. Essentially giving you a automatic chemex machine. A much cheaper alternative to the ottomatic.
Companion AccessoriesChemex Pour-Over Glass Coffeemaker – Classic Series – 8-Cup

Getting the Perfect Brew

There are various factor that accounts for getting the perfect brew. Beans needs to be freshly roasted, grinds need to be the right size, the water needs to be at the right temperature and the coffee grind needs to be saturated correctly. All these variables will affect how the coffee taste. Coffee Afficionado will fight, debate and get angry if somehow these things are off. For this reason, making the perfect automatic drip coffee is so difficult.

One of the biggest problem that modern coffee makers have these day is simply power. Most automatic drip coffee makers are under power and simply do not get water hot enough. The Best Coffee Maker will get the water to brew at 195-205 degree Fahrenheit from start to finish. However, because of the cost conscious manufacturer, we cant even get that.

Norelco Dial A Brew was made during a time when drip coffee maker was coming to prevalence. It featured a 1500 Watt heating element that churn out water at 200 degree. This was confirmed with the use of my thermometer. As a result, you get the perfect extraction from the coffee bean.

Dial A Brew?

Norelco Dial A brew Basket

This was the gimmick that these coffee maker have. Depending on the setting, your coffee can range from a light to strong coffee. What it really does is control the flow of water. Based on where you set the thing, the opening will vary, controlling the flow of water. To me this feature isn’t really necessary, but it is great for those who like to really dial in their coffee.

Norelco Dial A brew Inside

At the bottom of the basket, there is a circular vented hole. You place a paper filter there to stop the ground from seeping into your coffee. Since these models are not made anymore, a good alternative is to just use a regular coffee filter. This would be more logical and economical then trying to find and source the old one.

Aside from that, these coffee makers were pretty good. They made strong coffee and it was moderately priced. In the 70’s you can find them for around 30 dollar which in today money is roughly 140 dollars.

The Original Chemex Ottomatic

The Original Chemex Ottomatic or Chemex Automated as it was called. Is based on Norelco 12 cup dial a brew model. It features some additional features that the original model doesnt. Most importantly is the water distribution shower head. In the original one, water flows from only one point. The Automatic version disperses water across the ground, this gives it a more even saturation of water.

Some of the other features that it had was a pause function to let you bloom the coffee, a on/off switch, and a temperature control for the hot plate. Overall, these were well built and designed to work exclusively with the chemex. But that isnt to say that you cant use the regular 12 cup Dial A Brew.

Using a Chemex with Norelco Dial a Brew

Norelco Dial A brew with Chemex

The original Chemex Automated came with a 8 Cup Chemex and that is the version you should get. The larger model wont fit due to the height. The biggest issue that you face now is water distribution.

Norelco Dial A brew Water Distribution

If you look at the spout, its just a circle and water flows straight down. However, I find the results to be acceptable even without the distributor.

Norelco Dial A brew with Basket

A good alternative it to use the dial a brew basket. That basket distributes water evenly so that you get similar results. All you need to do is place the basket on top of Chemex Filter. The water should disperse a little more evenly.

While its not perfect, its better than nothing. I imagine there are some crafty engineers out there that can make an attachment that pops right in. This will give the original 12 cup dial a brew similar performance to the original ottomatic.

Bunn has a Water Sprayer Attachment that can be adapted modified to fit. If you get a two sided thread, you can probably screw it on.

Norelco Dial A Brew The Original Chemex Ottomatic Thoughts

The Norelco Dial A Brew was and is a pretty good coffee maker. The heating element is strong at 1500 watts and it gets water to the optimal brewing temperature at 200 degree Fahrenheit. If you really want to, you can even convert it to be used with a chemex flask.

If you would like to see more articles like this Norelco Dial A Brew The Original Chemex Ottomatic, please visit our Vintage page.

13 Comments on “Norelco Dial A Brew The Original Chemex Ottomatic

January 16, 2021 at 11:59 am

I was looking on the internet for a comment on the fact that you cannot turn off the power on the dial a brew 12. You have a great description on this machine but you did not address that flaw. I would like to dialog with you on the matter. Please respond.

Curated Cook
January 16, 2021 at 12:11 pm

Hi Walter,

Can you clarify the issue. Is it not possible to flip the switch. That should turn it off.

~Curated Cook

February 4, 2021 at 8:12 pm

The Dial-a-Brew machines had no switch — you just plug it in to power it on, and unplug it when you’re done. Not really a “defect,” in my opinion.

I’ve configured my Dial-a-Brew HB5140 (10 cup) with a Wyze smart plug. I prep it the night before. It clicks on for 60 seconds at 7 am, then back off — long enough to wet the grounds. Then it comes back on three minutes later and stays on until 3 pm.

Thanks for this informative post. It’s the only one of its kind I’ve been able to find anywhere.

Curated Cook
February 5, 2021 at 12:35 am

Interesting, mines has a switch on the power cord. I guess the previous owner installed it.

February 6, 2022 at 1:12 pm

I have had five Chemex Ottomatics. I use them in an office setting, brewing maybe 4 pots a day each. I also have one at home. They work great, but with heavy use they break within 2 years (I have one left that works). The plastic around the heating plate cracks, or the plastic reservoir cracks, or the indicator light stops working, or they start brewing cold, or the entire thing just quits and does nothing. So I moved on to the Dial-a-Brew. I just got a stainless steel threaded jar lid, drilled holes in it, and screwed little brackets to the underside of the Dial-a-Brew. The lid screws on, stays put, and does the job as a shower head. I’ve run the Dial-a-Brew side by side with the Ottomatic. The dial-a-brew does pause its water distrubution in the exact same way as the Ottomatic. I think it just needs to to heat the next spurt of water. Works great, coffee is hotter (which I like), and you just use a smart plug to turn it on/off. The only advnantage of the Ottomatic is that it won’t burn the last 1/2″ of coffee in the pot; the Dial-a-Brew is much hotter.

Curated Cook
February 10, 2022 at 12:49 am

Hi John,

Thanks for your feedback and experience. I am sure that it will convince others that this works just as well if not better!

~Curated Cook

July 14, 2022 at 3:54 pm

Wait so do I just smoosh my coffee filter in and make a hole, I whipped the ol one from the rv and can’t find the dang Manuel’s with the dang instructions

Curated Cook
July 15, 2022 at 2:52 pm

No need to smoosh, pack it lightly. As for the filter, they dont make it anymore so just make a hole in the center. I just push it through.

June 24, 2023 at 10:18 am

I also have a Dial A Brew and there is really no need for a filter as it has another little cup with finer holes that the grounds go into and then that is in the other coffee area. I didn’t see that in your photo. But a paper filter would work the same.

February 9, 2023 at 6:35 am

These filters fit almost perfectly: “Percolator Filters for GSI and Faberware 3.3” Baskets – Premium Disc Coffee Filters (Pack of 100)”

August 6, 2023 at 3:37 pm

Melitta still makes the proper filter for a 3.5″ drip basket. Available from Amazon.

Mary Franco
May 5, 2024 at 12:25 pm

I just found the pit at the flea market where can I buy the base

Mary Franco
May 5, 2024 at 12:27 pm

I have the pot but not the base where can I buy it at?


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